Uploaded tonight is the debut LP by Bow Wow Wow released on cassette only. I think this ‘LP’ was actually marketed as a single at the time and I have a vague memory of the release being deemed not an LP or a single by the powers that be in the music industry at the time. The chart return shops of those days agreed, or had no choice but to agree, and the cassette got a low placing in the singles chart and nothing whatsoever in the albums chart! Only McLaren could pull off a non existent number one record on the week of the Queens jubilee in 1977 and this confusion with his next band Bow Wow Wow!
Anyhow at the time, as a much younger Penguin, I enjoyed this cassette only release. Although it must be stated that even at that age the lyrics to the first track on each side of this cassette struck a rather odd note with me. Maybe I was just painfully shy and easily embarrassed at that time. I thought at the time, and still do, that underage rape should not be a subject tolerated in pop culture, even if the lyrics are meant to be a little tongue in cheek. Shame really as they are both great tracks, and I like them a lot, but I find myself always feeling a little guilty in doing so!
The KYPP browsers are old and wise enough to check and decide for themselves.
A chunk of the essay below is from scenesfromripitupandstartagain.blogspot.co.uk which is allied to Simon Reynolds book of the same name and worth checking out. The McLaren obituary from Annabella Lwin is thieved from music-mix.ew.com.
In the summer of 1979 Virgin released Some Product: Carri On, a hastily assembled album of Pistols radio interviews, complete with a cover depicting imaginary Sex Pistols spin-off merchandise – ‘Fatty Jones’ chocolate bars, a ‘Vicious Burger’, a Sid action doll complete with coffin.
The Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren ended up half-heatedly managing a London band called Adam And The Ants. Adam was an ex-art-school punk who’d built up a devoted cult following with mildly kinky songs like “Whip in my Valise” and “Beat My Guest”.
But the singer also had a mind of his own, and McLaren flinched from the prospect of dealing with another Johnny Rotten. Sensing that the band would be far more malleable, he connived with the Ants to sack their leader, and at the end of 1979 he gave Adam the bad news at a rehearsal.
McLaren proposed the new band, now called Bow Wow Wow, as a victory over Thatcherism. Rather than take the obvious post-punk path and bemoan mass unemployment, though, he mischievously framed the absence of work as liberation rather than affliction. Bow Wow Wow’s “W.O.R.K. (N.O. Nah NO! NO! My Daddy Don’t)” declared, ‘Demolition of the work ethic takes us to the age of the primitive’. Going to school was pointless because its function (socializing youth for a life of labour) had been outmoded. ‘T.E.K. technology is DEMOLITION of DADDY / Is A.U.T. Autonomy’, goes the chorus chant, taking the Situationist fantasy of automation enabling a Utopian future of perpetual play and updating it for the microchip era.
McLaren penned lyrics praising cassette piracy and got the ex-Ants to write Burundi-rumbling backing music. But in July 1980, despite getting acres of press and hours of radio play, the debut single “C-30, C-60, C-90 Go!” stalled just outside the Top 30.
In the meantime, towards the end of 1980, Adam Ant’s singles “Kings of the Wild Frontier”, “Dog Eat Dog” and “Ant Music” all smashed their way one by one into the UK Top 10. Adam’s sheer self-belief lent a weird sort of conviction to ludicrous lines like ‘Don’t tread on an ant / He’s done nothing to you / Might come a time / When he’s treading on you’.
Bow Wow Wow’s second release, Your Cassette Pet went on to exploit the underage-sex angle. In “Sexy Eiffel Tower”, singer Annabella Lwin plays a suicidal girl about to leap from the top of Paris’s most famous landmark. She gets implausibly horny in the proximity of death: ‘Feel my treasure chest / Let’s have sex before I die / Be my special guest’. Plunging through the air (‘Falling legs around your spire’) she enjoys a petit mort or two before the grand mort of hitting the ground. Annabella claimed, with apparent sincerity, that the panting sounds she expertly imitated weren’t meant to be orgasm but the sound of panic. “Louis Quatorze” concerns a pervy bandit-of-love who surprises Annabella with unannounced visits and ravishment at gunpoint. The music, though, almost vanquished any moral reservations: Bow Wow Wow had developed an exhilarating and unique sound, all frolicking polyrhythms, twangabilly guitar and frantic-but-funky bass. Add Annabella’s girlish, euphoric vocals – especially charming on a cover of the Johnny Mercer standard “Fools Rush In” – and the results were irresistible.
More striking than its contents, though, was Your Cassette Pet’s radical format: a cassette-only release midway in length between an EP and an album, it retailed at only £1.99 (half the price of a traditional vinyl album) and came in a ‘flip-pack’ carton similar to a cigarette packet.
McLaren’s contrived controversies kept backfiring. Desperate to stir up some buzz for Bow Wow Wow’s debut album proper, he designed its cover as a simulation of Dejeuner sur l’Herbe, Manet’s 1863 painting denounced as ‘indecent’ by Napoleon III for its image of a naked woman surrounded by fully clothed men. Annabella posed nude (under duress, she later revealed) but because she was still just under sixteen, her mother managed to stop the cover from being used.
Another blow for McLaren came with the commercial failure of “Chihuahua” – simultaneously Bow Wow Wow’s most seductive single to date and their manager’s most blatantly cynical gambit. Mouthing McLaren’s words to a wistful, Blondie-like melody, Annabella sang about being ‘a rock ‘n’ roll puppet’, confessing, ‘I can’t dance and I can’t sing / I can’t do anything’ and warning, ‘I’m a horrible idiot / So don’t fall in love with me’. You could mount a defence of “Chihuahua” as a sly deconstruction of the pop industry’s machinery of star-lust and fantasy. But if you consider McLaren’s genuine anti-feminism, his real-world treatment of Annabella as meat, and the way he ventriloquized those humiliating words through Annabella’s own lips, “Chihuahua” leaves a bad taste.
Adam Ant’s zenith came with “Prince Charming”, his September 1981 UK chart topper, and one of the strangest hit singles ever. Its keening coyote-yowl melody resembled a Native American battle cry; the beat lurched disconcertingly, a waltz turning into an aboriginal courtship dance. For the video, Adam glides between a series of arrested poses, frozen tableaux of defiance and hauteur that weirdly anticipate ‘vogueing’, the New York gay underground’s form of competitive dancing inspired by photo spreads in fashion mags. At the end of the video, Adam impersonates a gallery of icons – Rudolph Valentino, Alice Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Marlon Brando. Song and video both expose a certain empty circularity to Adam’s neo-glam idea of reinventing yourself: imitate me as I’ve imitated my heroes. The chorus is oddly brittle and defensive (‘Ridicule is nothing to be scared of’) while the ultimate message – dressing up in fancy finery as a way of flaunting self-respect – feels distinctly trite.
Finally, Bow Wow Wow scored their UK pop breakthrough in early 1982 with “Go Wild in the Country”, an anti-urban fantasy featuring risqué lines about swinging naked from the trees and romping in fields ‘where snakes in the grass are absolutely free’. “Go Wild” exhorted youth to spurn KFC and McDonalds and go ‘hunting and fishing’.
McLaren obituary from Annabella Lwin
1980, a fourteen year old girl named Myant Myant Aye was plucked from life working at a dry cleaners by former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, who died in April 2010 at age sixty four. He changed her name to Annabella Lwin, and hired her to front new wave world music act Bow Wow Wow.
Annabella shared her memories of the late impresario.
“I knew him when I was in my teens, and he’s the one that started me as a singer in a band many years ago. I was working in a dry cleaners, and he actually got me fired. But bless his sweet cotton socks, because little did I know what was to happen after that. I was auditioned, and I met Malcolm McLaren the same day I auditioned for the guys in the band. I didn’t know who he was or anything. I was just told he was the manager of the band, and he was putting together something new”.
“On the day, I thought he was a strange creature from another planet. He had a chat with my mother, and asked her — well, he didn’t ask. He said, ‘We need her for this band.’ And the rest of it was pretty much an everyday thing. We got to work together on songs, and I was told to sing certain things, and he was the one that really gave me encouragement in that situation, as opposed to the band. He was the one that said, ‘Use your imagination,’ which is something that will never leave me”.
“If it hadn’t been for Malcolm, I don’t think I would have sustained my existence with the three guys in the band. I can’t explain it any better. I was a young girl, and he was an authority figure for me. He was an intellectual to me. He used to know about fine wines and stuff like that. And he used to always talk with this really posh accent, which I couldn’t quite get over. I had no idea what the music industry was about at that time, and he would encourage me to be more me, and told me that I shouldn’t change to be something I wasn’t. He used to tell me to keep it real, and use my imagination, and to have fun. He said it was an adventure”.
“It was interesting to note that when I worked with Malcolm, he seemed very shy in dealing with me one on one. We were always surrounded with other people. I don’t know how many females he’d worked with, but he was — I can’t say a father figure, but he was someone I would look up to. Because he obviously had a lot of experience doing whatever he’d been doing, and he encouraged me, so that was a good thing”.
“Malcolm McLaren recognized something within me I didn’t even know I was capable of. I don’t think I would have been the singer that I am today, if it hadn’t been for him, even long after I had an association with him on a professional level. I’m so grateful to have known somebody like him. I would have been a different kind of artist — I would have been a put together, pre-packaged kind of artist, and I’ve never been like that since I was in the band Bow Wow Wow that I was lucky enough to be in for a hot minute, before they kicked me out. And I would not have been the singer of that band, because I think the guys wanted to get someone more attractive or something”.
“Down the road, I discovered the other stuff he’d done, and I realized that he was like a big schoolboy, and he was having a bit of fun with these building blocks. And if it didn’t go his way, he’d knock ‘em all down and start all over again with some other situation. It’s great to know that he did so much in his life. I mean, what an accomplishment! He started the punk rock movement, and there are a lot of groups out there that have him to thank for them being so big today in the industry. Maybe they don’t take that into consideration because they were little boys or little girls watching the telly, but if it hadn’t been for Sex Pistols and the whole punk movement, there wouldn’t have been bands like Spandau Ballet. A lot of people will definitely be feeling the loss of this genius. Because he was a genius. He saw such great potential in people. He just went all these different directions. You can’t really say any less than that: The guy was a genius.”