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Bow Wow Wow

Bow Wow Wow

Formed in London, England in 1980 by former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, Bow Wow Wow comprised three former members of Adam And The Ants: Dave Barbe (b. David Barbarossa, Mauritius; drums), Matthew Ashman (b. London, England, d. 21 November 1995) and Leigh Gorman (bass). This trio was called upon to back McLaren’s latest protégée, a 14-year-old Burmese girl whom he had discovered singing in a dry cleaners in Kilburn, north London. Annabella Lwin (b. Myint Myint Aye, 31 October 1965, London, England) was McLaren’s female equivalent of Frankie Lymon, a teenager with no previous musical experience who could be moulded to perfection. Bow Wow Wow debuted with ‘C30, C60, C90, Go’, a driving, Burundi Black-influenced paean to home taping composed by McLaren. Its follow-up, the cassette-only Your Cassette Pet, featured eight tracks in an EP format (including the masturbation ode ‘Sexy Eiffel Tower’). In addition to the African Burundi influence, the band combined a 50s-sounding Gretsch guitar, complete with echo and tremolo. Although innovative and exciting, the band enjoyed only limited chart rewards during their stay with EMI Records, who objected to ‘C30, C60, C90’ because of its celebration of home taping, and, like the Sex Pistols before them, soon sought a new record company.

After signing with RCA Records, McLaren enlivened his promotion of the band with a series of publicity stunts, amid outrageous talk of paedophiliac pop. Annabella had her head shaven into a Mohican style and began appearing in tribal clothes; further controversy ensued when she was photographed semi-nude on an album-sleeve pastiche of Manet’s Le Déjeuner Sur l’Herbe. A deserved UK Top 10 hit followed with ‘Go Wild In The Country’, a frenzied, almost animalistic display of sensuous exuberance. An average cover version of the Strangeloves / Brian Poole And The Tremeloes’ hit ‘I Want Candy’ also clipped the Top 10, but by then McLaren was losing control of his concept. A second lead singer was briefly recruited in the form of Lieutenant Lush, who threatened to steal the limelight from McLaren’s creation and was subsequently ousted, only to reappear in Culture Club as Boy George.

By 1983, amid uncertainty and disillusionment, Bow Wow Wow folded. The backing musicians briefly soldiered on as the Chiefs Of Relief, while Annabella took a sabbatical, reappearing in 1985 for an unsuccessful solo career. Matthew Ashman died in 1995 following complications after suffering from diabetes. At the time of his death he was working with Agent Provocateur. Lwin and Gorman reunited in 1997, touring America with new members Dave Calhoun (guitar) and Eshan K (drums) and releasing a new album. Another tour was announced in 2004, with No Doubt drummer Adrian Young and Common Sense guitarist Phil Gough joining Lwin and Gorman.

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