First, a message for the kids: there is nothing here about Bow Wow. Sorry, blame Google.
Now then: Raise your hand if you ever bought those K-Mart blank cassette tapes that were a buck each. Ah, what a relic this song is.
Or is it…
It’s impossible to be a consumer of music these days, and not think this song has a renewed relevance. Back in the 80s, the record industry was freaking out because people were recording music off of records and the radio, and onto magnetic cassette tapes. Yes, kids, off the radio, and didn’t I saw there was no Bow Wow here? Consider it the very first version of time-shifting programming. Nevermind that music on the radio was – and largely still is – often of lesser sound quality than most records. And nevermind that more often than not, you had to put up with inane DJ chatter that made Eric and Kathy sound like Rhodes scholars. Or at least scholars from the Rhode Island School of Design.
No matter: record execs were convinced they were going to lose scads of money. Needless to say, it didn’t happen. But what it did lead to was a new format: the compact disc. Eventually, the CD led to the downfall of the cassette format, but home taping (or mixtape making, if you will) continued apace until the arrival of recordable CDs and then came MP3s and…well, you know the rest of that story.
But the salient point here is this: people will not be bound by formats and technology when it comes to the consumption of music. Especially now. And this doesn’t just extend to music. The iPhone was barely a week old before someone cracked the encryption on it that forces the user to activate it with AT&T. Building a business model around a format just doesn’t work anymore.
As for the song, Bow Wow Wow had one trick, but Lord, it was a good one.
BWW was another of Malcolm McLaren’s pre-fab rock acts. Three-quarters of the band were once Ants of the Adam variety, and its lead singer was Annabella Lwin, a brash 14 year old who managed to fashion her own personality, despite MacLaren’s Swengali routine.
BWW had a knack for reflecting culture back at itself. The songs were a mish-mash of pop touchstones, with an immediacy delivered through Lwin’s me-me-me vocal style and an insistent island rhythms straight out of a Sandals resort. Not the first band I’d pick to represent the 80s, but an apt one.