Bow Wow Wow are an English 1980s new wave band, created by Malcolm McLaren to promote his and then girlfriend/business partner Vivienne Westwood's New Romantic fashion lines. The group's music has been described as having an "African-derived drum sound".
In 1980, McLaren persuaded guitarist Matthew Ashman, drummer David Barbarossa (also known as Dave Barbe) and bassist Leigh Gorman all then members of Adam and the Ants, to leave the founder of the band, Adam Ant, and form a new group. After a six-month audition process for a lead singer, the band enlisted Annabella Lwin. Musician David Fishel, an acquaintance of McLaren's, discovered 14-year-old Lwin while she was working a Saturday job at her local dry cleaners.
The group's sound was a mix of her "girlish squeal," chants, surf instrumentals, pop melodies and Barbarossa's Burundi ritual music-influenced tom-tom drum beats.
They released their debut single, "C·30 C·60 C·90 Go", in July 1980 on record label EMI, originally solely as a cassette single and then also as a 7". A cassette-only album, Your Cassette Pet, followed in November.
In 1981, after splitting with EMI after a dispute, Bow Wow Wow signed with new A&R head Bill Kimber at RCA Records in the UK where they had their first UK top 10 hit with "Go Wild in the Country" in early 1982.
The band's biggest hit in the US was "I Want Candy", produced by Kenny Laguna, (originally a 1965 hit by The Strangeloves) which was featured in a popular early music video on MTV. Bow Wow Wow's recording of "I Want Candy" also appeared in film soundtracks and media and advertising events such as the 2005 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.
Their most notorious recording was arguably "Sexy Eiffel Tower," with excitedly heavy breathing and moans; this was a song that went far beyond the slightly later Cyndi Lauper hit "She Bop", about the subject matter of female masturbation.
By 1983, the group had released three full-length albums, and were due to embark on a world tour, but tensions in the group were rising, as the members were suffering from illness and exhaustion after intense US touring. After a rest, the band ousted Lwin to form a new group, Chiefs of Relief, with guitarist Ashman as its lead singer.
Ashman later played with other groups such as Max, Rams and Agent Provocateur. He died in 1995, at age 35, from diabetes complications.
Barbe later worked on other musical projects such as Beats International, Republica, dance band Chicane, the London-based Faith music collective and Amber Gate. He also performed live with Adam Ant in 1995, and wrote a novel titled We Were Looking Up.
Gorman continued to perform and had success as a record producer and composer for films and advertising. He joined the rave band Electric Skychurch in 2006.
In 1997, Lwin and Gorman reformed Bow Wow Wow, adding guitarist Dave Calhoun (from The Vapors) and drummer Eshan Khadaroo. They embarked on the "Barking Mad" tour in 1997-1998, which produced a compilation CD, Wild in the USA (Cleopatra Records), that included live material and remixes of previous Bow Wow Wow tracks.
In 1998, they collaborated with DJ Swedish Egil on the track "Eastern Promise", released as part of Egil's Groove Radio Presents: Alternative Mix CD by Priority Records. They contributed the song "A Thousand Tears" to the 1999 film Desperate But Not Serious (retitled Reckless + Wild in the US), starring Christine Taylor and Claudia Schiffer, and appeared in the film.
Bow Wow Wow performed at the KROQ Inland Invasion festival in September 2003, with a lineup including Los Angeles guitarist Phil Gough (of Novacaine) and drummer Adrian Young (of No Doubt). In September 2005, Philadelphia native Devin Beaman was brought in as the new drummer.
Bow Wow Wow songs "Aphrodisiac", "I Want Candy" and "Fools Rush In" (the latter two remixed by Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine) were included on the soundtrack of the 2006 Sofia Coppola film Marie Antoinette. The band performed on 2 November 2006 at the Maritime Hotel's Hiro Lounge in New York City to promote the film.
In 2006, Bow Wow Wow recorded a cover of The Smiths' song "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish", which appeared on three 2007 releases: a new three-track I Want Candy EP (Cleopatra), compilation album Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before: A Tribute to the Smiths (Cleopatra) and the soundtrack to the film Blood & Chocolate: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Lakeshore Records).
On the 15th anniversary of Ashman's death, the band, featuring original drummer Barbarossa, performed at a tribute concert for Ashman on 21 November 2010 at the Scala in London. The show was headlined by Adam Ant and also featured Ashman's other bands Chiefs of Relief and Agent Provocateur.
With a new guitarist (Jimmy Magoon) and drummer (Dylan Thomas), Bow Wow Wow played shows in California and toured the UK during 2011-2012.
In December 2012, Gorman began performing under the name "Bow Wow Wow" without original lead singer Lwin, against her wishes., and launched a new band Facebook page. This incarnation also included new singer Chloe Demetria, formerly of the band Vigilant as well as guitarist Matthew Fuller and drummer Shaun Winchester. In 2014, actor/musician Zachary Throne (Sin City Sinners) took over on guitar, and Les Warner replaced Winchester. Lwin has continued to perform billed as "Annabella Lwin of the original Bow Wow Wow".
In 1980, their label at the time, EMI, refused to promote the cassingle "C·30 C·60 C·90 Go" because it allegedly promoted home taping, as Side B was blank. EMI dropped the group after releasing their second single, "W.O.R.K. (N.O. Nah, No No My Daddy Don't)".
Coinciding with Lwin's posing nude for a proposed album cover, her mother alleged exploitation of a minor for immoral purposes, and instigated a Scotland Yard investigation. As a result, the band was only allowed to leave the UK after McLaren promised not to promote Lwin as a "sex kitten". This included an agreement to not use the nude photograph depicting Lwin as the woman in Manet's Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe, though the picture was used as the cover of the band's 1982 RCA EP The Last of the Mohicans, which became their best-selling record in the US (The photo was originally intended to be used for 1981's See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang, Yeah. City All Over! Go Ape Crazy album, and the cover was used as planned in some European countries – such as the Netherlands – though not for the US versions of the album.) Lwin was almost made to quit the band by the controversy over the publication of the photo, particularly as she was only 15 when the photo was taken.
The degree to which Bow Wow Wow were influenced by—rather than plagiarised—the music of native African nations and tribes such as the Royal Drummers of Burundi and the Zulus has been a matter of debate. It is thought that when McLaren started to advise Adam and the Ants on the direction they should take after Dirk Wears White Sox, he gave the band (the instrumentalists who would eventually become Bow Wow Wow) a variety of recordings of world music from which to draw inspiration. When the Ants dropped out to form Bow Wow Wow, Adam Ant took the recordings from the band's early work in this new direction to start his new incarnation of the Ants. This is how it ended up that both bands made music influenced by the recordings offered by McLaren. Among the recordings was one titled "Burundi Black". The story of "Burundi Black" and the origin of the "Burundi Beat" and the associated controversy is told in the following excerpt from a 1981 New York Times article by Robert Palmer:
It was also charged that Bow Wow Wow plagiarised melodies from Zulu jive songs and Zulu pop songs and turned the original Zulu lyrics into English mondegreens. This is the charge made for the origin of the lines "See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang, Yeah! City All over Go Ape Crazy!", "Golly! Golly! Go Buddy!" and "Hey i-yai-yo". In answer to this issue, the 1981 Times article offered the following statement in Bow Wow Wow's defence:
In an RCA radio promo vinyl recording, guitarist Ashman responded:
No Doubt's Young said of the opportunity to play drums for Bow Wow Wow from 2003–2005, "It is a dream come true to play with a band I grew up idolising. I feel like a kid back in the sand box."
Film director Coppola drew inspiration from Lwin when conceiving the style for her film, Marie Antoinette . Said Bow Wow Wow's tour manager in 2006, "They actually based Marie Antoinette, from a styling point of view, on Annabella Lwin. They drew parallels from the fact that they were both young girls who found fame and fortune at a ridiculously early age."
Chloe Demetria - vocals (2013-present)
Leigh Gorman – bass (1980–1983, 1997–1998, 2003–present)
Zachary Throne – guitar (2014–present)
Les Warner – drums (2014–present)
Annabella Lwin – vocals (1980–1983, 1997–1998, 2003–2013)
Matthew Ashman – guitar (1980–1983; died 1995)
David Barbarossa – drums (1980–1983)
Dave Calhoun – guitar (1997–1998)
Eshan Khadaroo – drums (1997–1998)
Phil Gough – guitar (2003–2011)
Adrian Young – drums (2003–2005)
Devin Beaman – drums (2005–2011)
Jimmy Magoon – guitar (2011–2012)
Dylan Thomas – drums (2011–2012)
Matthew Fuller – guitar (2012–2014)
Shaun Winchester – drums (2012–2014)