Bow Wow Wow -
then and now


Annabella Lwin and Leigh Gorman of Bow Wow Wow

At Dylan's Candy Bar on the upper East Side, "I Want Candy" is that song you catch yourself singing.
Tonight, on the group's first tour in six years, you can hear Bow Wow Wow do its 1982 classic at the B.B. King Blues Club and Grill.

The reunion tour for this nearly 25-year-old British New Wave act was a long time in the making.

In 1980, the Ants from Adam and the Ants - Dave Barbarossa, Matthew Ashman and Leigh Gorman - consulted Malcolm McClaren, the former manager of the Sex Pistols, and decided to go off on their own. Then McClaren discovered 14-year-old Annabella Lwin singing in a dry cleaner where she was working.

"Annabella was incredibly brave coming in to a bunch of guys who were fresh out of a hard-core punk-rock band, and then singing with a live band," Gorman told The News. "I would challenge any of these teen pop stars today to do that kind of thing and succeed at it."

It wasn't always easy. "For our first performance, I was standing on a box in a roller disco," Lwin recalled. "It was a little bit scary."

She eventually adjusted to the limelight, and the foursome, which took influences from African rhythms as well as spaghetti-Western guitars, released several successful singles.

Then Bow Wow Wow decided to cross the Atlantic. "Our label couldn't stomach putting out some of our U.K. hits like 'Go Wild in the Country,' because it had lots of crazy bass and drums," Gorman explained. "We needed to find a three-minute pop wonder."

The group met with producer Kenny Laguna, who was responsible for Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," and came up with the idea of covering the Strangeloves' "I Want Candy." The record became a top-40 hit.

Lwin and Gorman are the only original band members taking the stage tonight. Ashman, the lead guitarist, died in 1995 of complications from diabetes, and drummer Barbarossa was unavailable. Instead, notoriously naked Adrian Young from No Doubt will hit the skins.

"He came and jammed with us. Our drumming style is a bit difficult and not normal, but eventually, he caught on like a house on fire," Gorman explained. "He totally gets the whole spirit, and brings his own thing to the table as well."

As for his unclothed antics, Lwin added, "He's not doing anything new in my books."

Originally published on July 16, 2004