A HISTORY OF BOW WOW WOW (1980-2003)
Bow Wow Wows history may be short but its complex. Over their four album life span, Bow Wow Wows music ranges from simple, goofy, non-sensical tunes to complex, crisp pop masterpieces. Bow Wow Wows music has been described as a pastiche of Latin and African beats, 50s rock-n-roll, and spaghetti western soundtracks. The band packaged all of this together with an incredible sense of humor and vigor.With thundering African/Latin percussion and twangy, Duane Eddy guitars, Bow Wow Wow struggled to maintain a consistent image and sound through a host of record producers in their short life span. But despite the numerous people who shaped their sound from 1980-1983, a strong Bow Wow Wow identity remained intact. That unique style created a wonderful antithesis to the gloom of the London and U.S. music scene in the early 80s. Unemployment and inflation were at record highs in both countries. As Annabella Lwin (lead singer) said in 1981: I hate London. Its just really horrible. I just really hate it. Its depressing, you know. At the moment anyway, its depressing.Lets start at the beginning.
The year is 1980 and the place is London. Adam and the Ants were moving away from their Dirk Wears White Sox punk days, adopting the driving rhythms of the central African Burundi tribe, the war paint of Native Americans, pirate costumes and swashbuckling antics. This change came about through the mechanisms of the ex-manager/image consultant of the Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren. According to legend, after charging 1,000.00 for his advice and consultation, the Ants (Dave Barbarossa, Matthew Ashman, and Leigh Gorman) fell prey to McLarens charm and left Adam to find other Ants. As Matthew put it: I was an Ant. It was a horrendous experience. Im really glad Im out the band. McLaren came along to be our manager in the Ants and he told us to kick Adam out. So we did. Adam was writing all of the songs before McLaren came alongand Adam wasnt very good really. Didnt really like him really. He wasnt very good at dancing and I thought he was a bit old. He was 25so, we kicked him out.
McLaren knew the group needed a lead singer. Legend has it that McLaren discovered the 14-year-old Myant Myant Aye (Burmese forcool, cool, high) singing in a north London (Kilburn) dry cleaners. Actually, according to Annabella, one of McLarens people came in to the dry cleaners where she was working part-time after school and asked her if she wanted to audition for the band. She showed up at the audition and got the part. McLaren changed her name to Annabella Lwin (pronounced Lu-win) for English-speaking palates. Annabella was born in Rangoon (the capitol of Burma) and had migrated to England.
With Annabellas voice, smarts and charm, she fit McLarens vision of a musical experience that would be part high camp and high concept, with a huge dose of adolescent sex and innocence. Bow Wow Wow was now ready to record. With Annabella Lwin (vocals), Matthew Ashman (guitar), Leigh Gorman (bass), and Dave Barbarossa (drums), the group christened themselves Bow Wow Wow. According to most accounts the name means nothing. It was rumored that they came up with their bizarre name as a homage to the trademark of the RCA label-the dog listening to the phonograph. However, Bow Wow Wow were not on RCA when they named themselves. Their first contract was with EMI. So that theory doesnt work. When asked about the groups name Leigh Gorman said, a dog came up and said it to me one day. Ill leave that for you to interpret.
Bow Wow Wows first release came in the form of the worlds first-ever cassette single. In July 1980, EMI released C30, C60, C90, Go only on cassette in the U.K. with Sun, Sea, and Piracy to accompany it. The single was followed by another cassette-only, U.K.only release, Your Cassette Pet, an extended cassette EP featuring eight snappy tracks. One featured vinyl single came from this EP, W.O.R.K. (N.O. Nah No No My Daddy Dont), which was released in March of 1981 with C30, C60, C90, Anda to accompany it. Though McLarens weak production on the EP and singles make the band sound a little cheap and undeveloped, the bands energy and potential make up for the lack of quality recording.Lieutenant Lush arrived on the scene. A camp follower of the group. Lush began co-fronting the group with Lwin and was booed off the stage at the Rainbow Theatre gig in 1981 and was dropped from the line-up. Lieutenant Lush changed his name to Boy George, and created Culture Club.
SEE JUNGLE! BOW WOW WOWS FIRST ALBUM
In 1981, McLaren, unhappy with the bands limited success on EMI, took the gang (now sporting Mohawk hair cuts) over to RCA. The band's first full album was released on RCA with possibly one of the most bizarre titles ever to grace any album cover: See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang Yeah! City All Over, Go Ape Crazy.
According to Matthew Ashman, the original title of the album was Ronnie Reagan, Sue Ellen, Cassanova, Botticelli, in a time, never, never, Queen Diana, Rockefeller (a line from T.V. Savage which includes Sue Ellen, who was the wife of J.R. on TVs Dallas, a big hit in the U.K. and U.S. at the time of the albums release). But, Ashman said, Thats what we wanted the album to be called. But people at RCA just, I dont know, they didnt like the idea of Ronnie Reagan being on the album cover. Just his name. We werent slaggin the bloke, I dont mind Ronnie. Hes alright.
The album cover art caused quite a stir. For the cover of See Jungle!, the group decided to photograph a living recreation of the 1863 Manet painting, Dejeuner Sur LHerbe (Lunch on the Grass). The photo featured Annabella in the nude, tastefully turned away from the camera. Since she was only 15 at the time, Annabellas mother tried to stop the release of the cover. McLaren won and the cover was issued amidst controversy of child pornography. The U.S. version of the album would not feature this photo but still presented Annabella only slightly covered in a see-through, white dress. The Dejeuner Sur LHerbe cover would not see U.S. presses until the Last of the Mohicans EP in 1982.
The album spawned Bow Wow Wows first U.K. top 10 hit, Go Wild in the Country. McLaren stepped down from the producer's post for this album and hired a host of other producers. The band was slowly developing a unique style. The album received great critical reviews and was a success in the U.K.
This album was finally put onto compact disc in the early 90s by a small British company called Great Expectations and contains a wonderful set of mixes. The U.S. version of the album was finally put onto CD by One Way Records in the summer of 1997 but lacks the extra mixes on the U.K. version.
I WANT CANDY BOW WOW WOWS SECOND ALBUM
Bow Wow Wows first (and only) U.S. hit would have to wait for the release of the EP, Last of the Mohicans in 1982. That same year, McLaren terminated his involvement with the band and went on to record his own albums. Producer Kenny Laguna, who had worked with Joan Jett, was brought in to record I Want Candy and to re-record and fix Louis Quatorze (which McLaren had originally produced using a weak mix).
The single from the EP, I Want Candy, was a top 10 hit in the U.K. However, it barely made it into the top 40 on American charts. Yet, the song remains one of the icons of 80s pop and still receives airplay today on radio and in soundtracks, and it appears on numerous 80s compilation CDs. Somehow, looking back, that song seems to define something essential about the early 80s. One, it marked a return to the 3 (actually 2:44) minute pop song. Two, the look of the band was just right for MTV and the beach party video received much-needed airplay. Three, it offered a wonderful, much-needed optimism for pop and new wave fans.
With the success of the single, the band needed to release a full-length album. The compilation LP I Want Candy was released immediately in two different forms (the U.S. and U.K. version). The U.S. version included all of the music from the Last of the Mohicans EP, some remixed songs from See Jungle! and new songs like Baby, Oh No and El Boss Dicho. This album featured a total of four producers: Kenny Laguna, Brian Tench (who later remixed Kate Bushs Hounds of Love album), Colin Thurston (who worked with Talk Talk and Duran Duran about the same time), and Ritchie Cordell (Joan Jett). With a mix of producers, the album itself had mixed results. This album was digitally remastered in 1993 and released in its entirety on CD by RCA (BMG).
12 ORIGINAL RECORDINGS BOW WOW WOWS THIRD ALBUM
Also in 1982, EMI wanted to cash in on the U.S. success of RCAs I Want Candy. So, Harvest/Moulin Rouge/EMI released the compilation album called 12 Original Recordings. This compilation would take the original 8 tracks from Your Cassette Pet and the 2 tracks from the C30, C60, C90 Go cassette single and add the tracks Mile High Club (different version w/longer spoken intro) and the extended (disco) version of W.O.R.K. 12 Original Recordings features songs that were produced mainly by McLaren but with others involved. This album essentially is the British I Want Candy LP minus several tracks.This LP would eventually go to CD on EMIs 1993 release, Girl Bites Dog: Your Compact Disc pet. Six other tracks were added to the lineup, including Bow Wow Wow, Sex, W.O.R.K. (single version), Theme A, Cast Iron Arm, and C30, C60, C90, Anda (the Spanish version of C30).
WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH THE TOUGH GET GOING BOW WOW WOWS FOURTH AND FINAL (?) ALBUM
For their final album in 1983, the band brought in the wonderfully talented producer Mike Chapman, who had been having great success with bands like Blondie (who had just split up). The result was the bands first album to have a clean, unified sound. However, Bow Wow Wow fans did not like this new, more mature, polished pop sound and left in droves. The album was a miserable failure. This album was finally put onto compact disc in the early 90s by Great Expectations. The U.S. version of the album was finally put onto CD by One Way Records in the summer of 1997.In 1983, tensions in the group were rising. Suffering from illness and exhaustion after intense US touring, they went there separate ways.
Tuesday 24th April 2012
Price: £16.00 advance