Monday, May 25, 2009

'80s Monday: Bow Wow Wow

My three biggest celebrity crushes of the '80s were actress Phoebe Cates, Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go's, and Annabella Lwin of Bow Wow Wow. Annabella had the world's most beautiful Mohawk, and an awesome English accent -- one video and I was in love. But Bow Wow Wow suddenly broke up in 1983, and that was pretty much the last anyone heard of her in the USA for many years, except when MTV happened to play a Bow Wow Wow video. (Remember, there were no interwebs in the '80s, kids.)

There was always an aura of hype and artificiality about Bow Wow Wow. They were put together by Malcolm McLaren, who previously managed the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols. He somehow got all the entire band from Adam and the Ants to defect en masse and join Bow Wow Wow instead. He was one of those guys for whom any publicity was good publicity, and his strategy for hyping the band was to exploit Annabella's underaged sex appeal. She was 14 when the band formed, and around 16 during their heyday. (And, BTW, I'm only four years older than she is, so there was nothing creepy about me crushing on her back in the day.)

Many of Bow Wow Wow's songs were about sex, with titles like "Mile High Club" and "Aphrodisiac." Their most over-the-top song was "Sexy Eiffel Towers," which is so exaggerated that it's funny (probably unintentionally) rather than sexy. (It may not be safe for work, but it's a lot of fun to play at parties.)

She was 14 when she recorded that, BTW.

But McLaren's most notorious act was producing this album cover. That's 15-year-old Annabella naked in the photo. It's an artistic pose -- a homage to Manet's The Luncheon on the Grass -- and all Annabella's naughty bits are strategically covered, but still, she was only 15 years old. Understandably, Annabella's mom went ballistic, and she even managed to get a police investigation going, but that was all just good publicity as far as McLaren was concerned.

Anyway, as I was watching these videos, I realized that Bow Wow Wow was actually a lot better than I remembered. It'd been years since I heard anything but their "I Want Candy" cover, which is a catchy tune but not their best. They weren't just hype after all, but in fact were actually a pretty tight band. The guys were good musicians, and Annabella could sing just fine. And damn, she was pretty. (And still is actually. She's still quite good-looking in her 40s.)

On to the videos:

"I Want Candy" (1982)

"Do You Wanna Hold Me?" (1983)

"Aphrodisiac" (c. 1983)

Here's a little bonus. Annabella's on some music show hosted by a guy named B. A. Robertson, who apparently was some kind of English pop star himself back in the day. He gives a very patronizing intro, and the thoroughly pissed-off Annabella goes off on him before storming off the stage. Sure, she took herself a little too seriously, but hey, that's what's being young is for (see Dylan, Bob). She was fierce as well as beautiful. And poor dorky Robertson was probably having flashbacks to high school, when all the pretty girls used to make fun of him. Served him right for dissing her though. (Guess you can tell whose side I'm on. ;) )

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