Bow Wow Wow – Go Wild In The Country

19th July 2023 · 1980s, 1982, Music, Punk

Bow Wow Wow were formed by Malcolm McLaren from the ashes of Adam & the Ants, with 13-year-old singer Arabella Lu-Win.

After the failure of Dirk Wears White Sox, the first album by Adam & the Ants, Adam approached his mentor Malcolm McLaren in January 1980 for help reviving his career. Instead the fickle svengali ditched Adam, whom he had once steered towards stardom, but took on his band for an entirely new project – Bow Wow Wow.

Auditions were held for a singer and after some 200 rejections he settled on 13-year-old Annabella Lwin – discovered singing along to the radio in a dry cleaner’s – and teamed her with guitarist Matthew Ashman, bassist Leigh Gorman and drummer Dave Barbe/Barbarossa.

The new group were given a powerful image by McLaren, ranging from Mohawk hairstyles to a typically controversial sleeve for this, their second and most successful single, Go Wild In The Country. It depicted a recreation of Manet’s famous painting Le Déjeuner Sur L’Herbe, with a naked Lwin – still a child, although “tastefully” placed in the foreground.

Probably to McLaren’s delight, her mum publicly accused him of exploiting a minor for immoral purposes, and an investigation by Scotland Yard began, helping boost the song’s popularity in the same way that the Pistols had benefited from being arrested on a boat on the Thames, and vilified for swearing on TV.

Bow Wow Wow’s songs were initially constructed from Ants rehearsal tapes, mingled with samples of African drummers from Burundi who had been recorded in the Sixties by a team of anthropologists (and had previously been sampled by Joni Mitchell on The Jungle Line).

The new band had a minor hit with their first single C-30, C-60, C-90 Go! – the first single ever to be released on cassette – followed by an eight-song tape called Your Cassette Pet, featuring songs written by McLaren himself for an intended musical – and promoted by McLaren as “a celebration of under-age sex.”

Predictably, the group became a live draw, and early in 1981 McLaren brought in a second singer billed as “Lieutenant Lush”, who would soon become known as Boy George and form his own band, Culture Club. Late that year they released their attention-grabbing debut album, See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang Yeah, City All Over! Go Ape Crazy! – and produced this top ten hit, as well as a cover of I Want Candy.