Malcolm McLaren, who was a British manager/impresario/fashion designer/promoter, formed Bow Wow Wow in 1980 (partly to cross-promote his and business partner Vivienne Westwood's New Romantic fashion lines). His initial claim to fame was managing the Sex Pistols (and recruiting Johnny Rotten to front the group). From the ashes of the band's implosion (for numerous reasons that will be left for another blog :-), he was approached to managed Adam and the Ants. Shortly after this encounter, McLaren encouraged guitarist Matthew Ashman, bassist Leigh Gorman, and drummer David Barbarossa to leave Adam Ant and form a new group. The new band embarked on a six-month audition process to find a lead singer. A mutual friend of McLaren's had stumbled across a 13 year old girl singing while she was working at a local dry cleaner. Her name was Annabella Lwin. Liking what he heard, he brought her in to try out for the band. McLaren loved it, and Bow Wow Wow was born. Initially, Boy George (then known as Lieutenant Lush) was going to join as a second lead singer. However, he was deemed 'too wild' for the band. Of course, Boy George would move on to Culture Club and other various escapades. The band's sound was an eclectic mix of New Wave, African Tribal, surf instrumentals, and girlie pop vocals. This blend created a unique, explosive vibe that resonated through the 'hey day' of New Wave.
Unfortunately, the band was short-lived. Their influence, however, is far-reaching (most notably with bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers and No Doubt). They released a couple of records in the early 80s. By 1983, Annabella Lwin was ousted from the band. The remaining members formed a new group called Chiefs of Relief with Ashman taking over lead vocals. Lwin moved on to a solo career. In 1995, Matthew Ashman died of complications from diabetes. There have been various incarnations of Bow Wow Wow since their split. However, they never featured the original line-up (with the exception of a 2010 reunion tribute concert on the anniversary of Ashman's death). As of today, Leigh Gorman owns the name Bow Wow Wow and has reformed an entirely new band.
Stateside, they were known for their hit 'I Want Candy' (which is a cover of the 1965 hit performed by The Strangeloves - which, in my opinion, is a far better version). The song I always felt exemplified the group, however, is 'Baby Oh No.' The lead guitar work layered over the huge, tribal drums is enough to get anyone going. Sprinkle Lwin's exquisite vocal work glued together by Gorman's slap bass, and you've got yourself a stew going!
Today McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, would have turned 100 years old. Whenever anyone asks me to rank my 'top 5 musical influences,' Muddy Waters ALWAYS makes that list. I know I'm not being original. I mean, the man has influenced so many legendary artists: The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Cream/Eric Clapton, Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughn...the list goes on and on and on. Although all these artists can be considered legendary, Muddy Waters is a LEGEND. He is an once-in-a-lifetime entity, an original. Well before the 60s electric blues movement occurred (as well as before Dylan went 'electric'), Muddy Waters was a pioneer of plugging in and lettin' 'er rip! His voice commanded one to take notes and pay attention. His guitar ached, screamed, hummed the Blues. When Muddy played, you weren't an audience member, a voyeur, of the process; - you lived the music with him. He is a lifestyle and an attitude onto himself. His songs, music, feel of the Blues are unmatched anywhere in the scope of auditory history.
When I first started to learn guitar, this was the man I turned to. Two records in particular were in constant rotation: Muddy 'Mississippi' Waters - Live and a European release of material from the late 50s/early 60s that I had found in Greece (I can't recall the title). I would play along to these records before I went to bed - almost nightly - for a solid year. One song in particular, 'Streamline Woman,' always struck me as the quintessential Muddy Waters track. Off the Live album, this song has it all: the right lyrics, the perfect feel, on-point blues guitar. It is the first song I ever learned how to play, and it's still a song I routinely perform live.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find a live performance (visually) of 'Streamline Woman.' I did stumble upon this:
Happy Birthday, MUDDY!!! - love gypsy.
Hailing from Swindon, England, XTC is one of those great bands with fantastic tunes, a storied history, critical acclaim, influential for many bands (including me), yet seem to be 'known' and simultaneously 'not known.' Reasons are varied. However, it all begins and ends with Andy Partridge, the lead singer and primary songwriter. By the early 1980s, XTC was gaining moderate success (especially in the UK; per usual, the US was behind the musical times). They were frequently touring and even garnered a number one album in Australia. All this came crashing down when Andy Partridge developed a severe case of 'stage fright' and suffered a massive nervous breakdown. It was reported that this event was precipitated by Andy's wife throwing away his supply of Valium (apparently, he was prescribed the medication as a teenager during his parents' divorce and eventually became addicted). The band abruptly ceased touring after this. However, XTC did continue producing great music. In fact, some great albums followed post-breakdown: Mummer (featuring the awesome tune, 'Love On A Farmboy's Wages'), Skylarking (produced by Todd Rundgren), Oranges and Lemons (featuring such great songs as 'The Mayor of Simpleton,' 'King for a Day,' 'Poor Skeleton Steps Out'). With all these great records post-breakdown, I believe that XTC's 1980 release, Black Sea, is their best album. This record is a great combination of New Wave, post-Beatles Pop sprinkled with very astute social and political commentary. The big 'hits' off this record are 'Generals and Majors' and 'Sgt. Rock (Is Going To Help Me).' However, I have chosen to post the video for my favorite tune, 'Respectable Street' (as a side note: my other favorite tune from Black Sea is 'Living Through Another Cuba;' however, I couldn't find a good video for it :-). Do yourself a favor and check out XTC's catalog of fantastic albums & phenomenal tunes. ENJOY!