Formed in 1980, Bow Wow Wow were a band you tended to read far more about than actually get to hear for yourself thanks to the influence that Malcolm McLaren had over them.
Having convinced himself and many others, thanks to the Great Rock’nRoll Swindle that he was the master of hype, the svengali of new wave persuaded the original Ants of Adam & The Ants to form a new group. He told them they’d be famous and rich but he had to have the responsibility of finding the perfect lead singer. Six months later, the then 13-year old Annabella Lwin, daughter of a Burmese father and an English mother, was unveiled as the singer with the claim (true as it turns out!!) that she was discovered in a dry cleaners shop in London after she head been heard singing along to tunes on the radio.
The debut single C30 C60 C90 Go followed in July 1980 and immediately caused an outcry as it actively promoted the use of home taping to save money at a time when the industry was mounting a large awareness campaign against the practice under the slogan ‘Home Taping Is Killing Music’. Despite a lack of promotional support from the record label, the single charted at #34 in the UK, although the two follow-ups stalled outside the Top 50. When McLaren then insisted that the debut LP be released only on cassette this was the last straw for EMI and they let the band go. Cue more publicity……
Within days Bow Wow Wow were signed by RCA and McLaren really went into overdrive with the campaign to gain prominence/notoriety. Word got out that Lwin, who by now was around 14 and a half years of age, would be posing nude for the covers of single and LPs. McLaren argued there was nothing perverse or pornographic about it and that the poses would be similar to famous paintings that hung in art galleries the world over. Cue outrage from the tabloid press who of course fell into McLaren’s perfectly laid trap of getting the band talked about.
Before you knew it, Lwin’s mother had made a complaint to the police that her daughter had been exploited as a minor for immoral purposes. More tabloid media frenzy……
Meanwhile, the singles continued to stall just outside the Top 50….a run that eventually came to a halt in early 1982 when Go Wild In The Country, was issued with the cover being the infamous promised nude shot of Lwin. True enough it was a replica of a famous painting, that of Le Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe, painted by Edourad Manet in 1863 and which was considered highly immoral at the time. Say what you like about Malcolm McLaren, but he was brilliant at this sort of thing…..
Certain stores refused to display the single on the grounds of indecency and so special plain bags, with the sleeve contained inside, were produced to overcome such problems. Whether the sales were boosted by perverts only interested in the cover we can only speculate, but in reaching #7 it was the biggest hit in the career of Bow Wow Wow.
mp3 : Bow Wow Wow – Go Wild In The Country (12 inch version)
mp3 : Bow Wow Wow – El Boss Dicho!
The band enjoyed some success throughout 1982 but tensions quickly emerged as the outside world focussed almost exclusively on Lwin and the musicians were largely seen as a mere backing band for the vocalist. By September 1983, just a month shy of her 17th birthday, she was ousted from the group who reformed under the name Chiefs Of Relief – an act that had a bit of critical acclaim but no commercial success.
The thing is…..Go Wild In The Country is a cracking bit of music and probably would have been a hit notwithstanding the furore over the cover. Yes, it has dated a bit and can be seen as very much of its time. But its got a memorable and catchy chorus and is a track brimming with energy. And I’m not alone in thinking it wonderful….why else would Mr Gedge have covered it in 1992?
mp3 : The Wedding Present – Go Wild In The Country