14 May 2016 (released)
14 May 2016
When 14-year-old Annabella Lwin of Bow Wow Wow first burst onto the scene in the early 1980s, controversy was never far behind.
Scouted from a dry cleaners in North London and then nurtured by the eccentric Malcolm McLaren, Annabella's time with Bow Bow Bow was unsurprisingly explosive .
Bow Wow Wow's first single C·30 C·60 C·90 Gob was banned for allegedly condoning audio taping, and then there was uproar when young teenager Annabella was photographed naked for the front cover of their first album.
But their tribal beat songs, and the unique sound and look of Mohawk-styled lead singer Annabella, meant that Bow Wow Wow soon made their mark on the UK Top Ten with Go Wild in the Country reaching No 9 in the charts, and I Want Candy making it to No 7.
Releasing three full-length albums from 1980-83, their rise to fame was rapid but also shortlived with the band disbanding in 1983, after ousting Annabella as the lead singer.
Since then, Annabella has mostly pursued her own music career, releasing her own album, featuring as a vocalist on numerous transatlantic dance tracks, songwriting, performing in tribute concerts and even acting.
Annabella will now be bringing her unique Far Eastern inspired fashion and sound to the UK as she embarks on a summer of gigs including appearances at all three Rewind Festivals.
Are the Rewind Festivals the first 80s festivals you've done?
I've never done Rewind so its a whole new experience for me. I wonder if there will be any guys or girls with Mohawks. Let's see if they remember me, shall we? That's part of the reason I'm doing these shows is because I have a few questions in my own mind, so I'm doing some shows and doing what I've always done really.
You're appearing on the same line-up as Adam Ant, who you've got a long-standing connection with, seeing as his original band ousted him in the 80s to become your band? Is there any history between you two?
I know that the guitar player and the drummer, who was his best friend, were his original band and they kicked him out and he went off and did his own thing. All power to him. And what an amazing thing to happen coz that's what happened to me in 1983; they kicked me out of the band at the age of 17 to form another band. I know exactly what that's like so we'll have that in common at least.
When you first started out, what was it like to suddenly be performing on Top Of The Pops alongside acts like Adam Ant, at the tender age of 14?
It was a big whirlwind, I like to call it a helter skelter ride. I never thought about it because I loved singing so much. My first love and passsion was and is still is music, which is why I'm still doing it, and I try to carry on.
You were scouted by a friend of Malcolm McLaren's from a dry cleaners in North London, How did that happen?
It was Shamrocks Dry Cleaners in North London which is no longer there.I wanted to get a Saturday job to earn some pocket money, I wanted clothes and makeup. My mum was a single mum with four children, and it's hard enough bringng up one child let alone four so she worked as a nurse. My parents were divorced and my dad, a navy man, stayed in Burma which is where I was born.
I used to sing along to the Top 40 radio every Saturday monring, and the scout came in to the dry cleaners and I guess he heard me singing to the radio. He came in quite often and one day he asked if I sang professionally, and I said no. He said "There's a band looking for a singer, and you sound like you can sing. Would you come to an audition?". I said "I'm at school and I'm 13 and a half." I thought he was a mad axe murderer and as I was told never to talk to strangers, but he said I could take a friend, so I did, the rest is history."
What was Malcolm Mclaren like to work for?
I found him fascinating, very intellectual, a very interesting man. He was so full of ideas whenever we did songs, I can't take credit for the early stuff. Most of the ideas for that came from his ideas for a French movie. Songs like the Sexy Eiffel Tower were supposed to be in a movie, but I didn't know any of this until after the event. He was a funny man with orange hair, who used to wear pin stripe and talk very posh in the Queen's English. He was incredibly fascinating to listen to. Vivienne Westwood was his partner at the time, and they had a son, who was a similar age to me.
Were you aware of just how controversial the naked album cover shot was?
No I wasn't but it was difficult to sit there stark naked amongst grown men (her fully-clothed band-mates) in the middle of no-where on a cold early morning. It was a recreation of a Manet painting called Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe. The actual painting was also rejected in France when Manet painted it. It's interesting that Malcolm recreated that. I realised that Malcolm must have known this was going to happen to a certain degree. Back in the 80s, it was shocking.
Do you see yourself as a fashion icon?
I think young people get lost in all of that. You don't have to conform. I remember Malcolm telling me back in the day "Sink or Swim", and just be yourself and use your imagination so I'm hoping that I've proved that I kind of did that.
I'm not trying to be the next fashion icon, but I do pride myself on having my own style beause I don't really follow the fashion. In fact I'm probably the most unfashionable fashionable person you could know.
Since the 80s, you've done a wide range of things from releasing your own album, being a vocalist on numerous transatlantic dance tracks, songwriting, appearing at benefit concerts....what do you enjoy most?
It's great working with people like songwriter Guy Chambers. I like music in all shapes and sizes. I love classical. I am a little bored of the rap thing now. Malcolm helped to introduce that when he was working with a band called Zulu Nation.
I have a new EP called Willow Tree that has just come out on itunes and Amazon. I've also recorded a song on a wonderful tribute album to Bob Marley which is coming out in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust.
I did a cameo role last year in a movie called Entertainment, blink and you miss me, which was in the Mohabi desert. I am very interested in moving into that area of film. It's a complete contrast to music happens quick. Film happens a lot slower so you have a little time to take things in.
You toured the UK in2011-12 with original Bow Wow Wow bassist Leigh Gorman, but now you're appearing at Rewind supported by Rewind's own band. Is it right there was a rift with you and Leigh, and has it been healed?
I did try to work with one of the members of the old band but unfortunately, things have happened which I cannot talk about for legal reasons, but everything he's done has been without my knowledge or permission. I'm trying to clarify that I'm still doing what I did, I just have a different bass player. I'm also not lying about the fact that it's not the original band which is why I have to perform under the name Annabella Lwin of Bow Wow Wow so fans know what they're paying their hard earned money on.
Why do you think the 80s festivals are so popular and why was the 80s decade of music so special?
I think it's because it was colourful and there were some really good artists and singers. Most of the successful 80s bands came from the UK. You can only capture a moment in time but isn't it wonderful that music continues thoroughout, time immemorial.
Who are you looking forward to seeing perform at Rewind?
I'm looking forward to seeing Living in a Box as I've never seen them, and of course Roland Gift from Fine Young Cannibals. I hear that Marc Almond's voice has gone from strength to strength over the years so I can't wait to hear him.
Finally, if you could see any other 80s act appear alongside you on the bill, your own favourite act of the 80s, which 80s band or singer would it be?
Adam Ant is on the same stage as me, and I would love to do some shows with that guy. I think we could do an amazing set of shows together, and I've heard that he plays guitar so that would be great. Back in the 80s, I loved Voice of the Beehive, they were American girls, a bit like the Bangles. I also loved Kajagoogoo. Oh and as a child, I loved Leo Sayer, and Kate Bush...what a beautiful talent.
Find out about Annabella's gigs this year by visiting her website at Annabellalwin.com