Lost in the ’80s: Wide Boy Awake
Here’s an example of a great song that couldn’t be confined to a B-side. Wide Boy Awake was Adam & the Ants bassist Kevin Mooney’s first project after splitting from the Ants following 1980’s Kings of the Wild Frontier. While his new group only released a handful of tracks, two became club hits, one of which is still fondly remembered and played on “retro” club nights to this day.
“Chicken Outlaw” (1982) was not that song.Â It was, however, the first official Wide Boy Awake single and did fairly well in the UK, charting decently and getting the band on a few TV shows where they mimed the song in the usual fashion. It also got some scant airplay on new-wave radio stations and in progressive clubs in America, but it wasn’t exactly the group’s best tune.
Wide Boy Awake’s best song was hidden on “Chicken Outlaw’s” flip side, just waiting to be spun: “Slang Teacher” is a funky new-wave number that couldn’t be denied, as club DJs gladly flipped the disc to spin this dance-floor favorite. Years later, as the ’80s were fading into memory, it was still played every Saturday night at my favorite local goth/alt club in Cleveland, Ohio, the Nine of Clubs, particularly the superior extended version, complete with breakdown and hand claps.
The 12-inch version was notoriously difficult to find, as I discovered firsthand at the dawn of the ’90s. I searched for a few years, until I finally gave in and ordered it from a rare-records dealer (by mail!) I found in the back of an old issue of Goldmine. Total price, including shipping: $30, an astronomical amount by my meager living standards in 1991.
I found another copy last week at Freakbeat Records in Van Nuys, California. Total price, with tax: $7.49.
“Slang Teacher”/”Chicken Outlaw” peaked at #12 on the Billboard Club Play chart in 1983.
Get Wide Boy Awake music at Amazon.