Another song that’s somehow become a retroactive hit 25 years after it floundered in the lower half of the Hot 100 is Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy”. Long-time readers of Lit80s know how I love to rant about songs like this that everyone today seems to know and love, but at the time were unjustly ignored and sneered at (see also, “I Melt With You”, Alphaville’s “Forever Young”, blah blah). “I Want Candy” is another sterling example of this rewriting of pop history – as much as you hear it on flashback radio today, you’d think it was in the Top Ten, nestled snugly next to Journey and Michael Jackson.
Make no mistake, Bow Wow Wow were scary to American ears in the early ’80s. “I Want Candy” made plenty of noise on the west coast and some pockets of the nation, thanks to a fun video that MTV battered us with relentlessly, but the U.S. as a whole had no time for the weird “punk” band with the jailbait singer. This was never better reflected by not only “Candy’s” failure to crack the Top 40, but the failure of its superior follow-up “Baby, Oh No” to even make a token appearance in the Hot 100. “Baby, Oh No” is one of those truly lost smashes, a surf-guitar meets tribal drum hookfest, complete with a vocal from Annabella Lwin much more assured than the band’s early, Malcolm McClaren-led yelpings. Partial credit must go to new producer Kenny Laguna, who transitioned over from helping launch Joan Jett’s stellar career.
The I Want Candy LP was a strange beast, a compilation of various recordings over the prior year made with several producers – it became even more cut & paste when you found out the American and U.K. versions track listings differed as well. For example, the U.S. version featured a re-recording of an early single, “Louis Quatorze” with a hugely improved vocal (I mean, Lwin was a much older 16 years old at this point!) and beefier production. Lyrics about sexual assault on a minor aside — “Cuz I’m just 14! Gasp!” — “Louis Quatorze” would have made a great third single had the album taken off. As it was, Bow Wow Wow would record one more full-length release before taking a nearly twenty year break, reforming in 1997 to tour sporadically, which they continue to do to this day.
“Baby, Oh No” peaked at #103 on the Billboard Bubbling Under Chart and at #55 on the Dance/Club Play Chart in 1982.
“Louis Quatorze” was not released as a single.
Most of Bow Wow Wow’s catalog is out of print, but you can find some great used deals on Amazon, plus some songs on