Can you believe it is now less than 3 months until August?! Of course, this means that it is also less than 3 months until the next Rewind Festival South takes place in Henley-on-Thames. I have once again been asked to interview some of the acts in the lead up to this years festival which takes place on the weekend of 19th t0 21st August 2016.
First on my list was a lady who, back in the ’80s, I have to admit that I was a little bit scared of! She was one of those girls who, at school, would have been one of the ‘cool kids’. The ones who were always popular but you were a little bit apprehensive in approaching. Annabella Lwin, at the tender age of fourteen, was one of the most photographed, talked about and popular vocalists in the early 80’s with her band, BOW WOW WOW, who enjoyed success with massive hits such as ‘I Want Candy’, ’Do U Wanna Hold Me?’, ‘Go Wild in the Country’, ‘C30, C60, C90, Go!’.
Her unique vocals, which swung between sweet fourteen and a balinese banshee squeals, defined the sound of a new and energetic pop culture; her memorable performances influencing and inspiring a brand new wave of up‐and‐coming artists such as the ‘Red Hot Chilli peppers’, ‘No Doubt’, ‘Smashing Pumpkins’ & ‘Greenday’ amongst others.
How did you start out with Bow Wow Wow?
I was the child of a single parent of 4 children and I wanted to buy make-up and clothes of my own but my mother couldn’t afford to do this. She was a nurse and this isn’t one of the most highly paid professions so I used to work a Saturday job in the local dry cleaners to earn some pocket money. Whilst I was there I would sing along to the top 40 every week and I was discovered by one of Malcolm McLaren’s scouts. He heard me singing and asked me along to one of their auditions. I was really surprised to be asked as I wasn’t professional and hadn’t had any training but I would sing to things all the time! Singing is my first love and passion.
How did it feel to be in the band?
There was a lot of stuff happening in the band and so the first big hit did not come along for a while. The rest of the band were male adults and I was the only female and teenager so it was difficult to be around them as they were very different to me and the kind of things I was interested in. I met Malcolm McLaren and found him fascinating. I liked to listen to what he had to say and he took an interest in what I said as well which I really appreciated. It was because of him ‘Go Wild in the Country’ came about. Malcolm asked me what I did to relax and I was a very hyper teenager! I said I used to go to places like Dartmouth, Devon and Somerset – all the beautiful English countryside – for my summer holidays.
How did you cope when the hits stopped coming?
Our guitar player, Matthew Ashman, passed away in 1995 but prior to that I was asked to go and write our last album with him ‘When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going’. I had not had a hand in any of our early songs and he asked me if I was sick of singing things other people had written. I told him that I was and that I would like to sing some things of my own so we sat down at his flat in Notting Hill Gate and we started writing. I didn’t realise that when he died a couple of years later that I would become a practising Buddhist which helped me get through not only everything I had been through as a teenager, which obviously meant missing out on my teenage years because I was working, but also all the craziness that went along with the helter-skelter ride of being in the public eye. It was because of Buddhism that I was able to cope.
How did it feel after the band split up?
There were a lot of fans of ours that were still around after the band split up who went on to do better things. People like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Gwen Stefani and No Doubt and all the people I met along the way in those different situations. It was quite interesting to me that we were in this bubble much of the time. I felt like I was in a goldfish bowl looking out at people and because of my age I felt like people used to treat me like I didn’t know what I was doing and I had no respect for the people I worked with apart from Malcolm. It was very much a learning experience for me and I had done some serious groundwork.
Do you have any regrets?
No. I am very appreciative and grateful for my life so far. Grateful that I have ended up where I am. When I was at school I wanted to be an air stewardess but now I understand that travel isn’t that glamorous! I am thankful that I wasn’t just your a-typical teenager. It wasn’t until I was kicked out of the band at 17 when I was engaged and had a mortgage to pay, that I realised life existed and I wondered what the hell was going on. I started questioning things in my life as I had given up everything to be in the band. I think fate played a big part and now I understand it fully. I took time out and get on with working, earning money to pay bills and experiencing life. Not being on a magazine cover, in the public eye or on TV.
What do you think of today’s pop stars?
When you are in the public eye, you are ‘safe’. Safe from real life. I find it a little horrifying with some of the role models around today because they can be on stage and be as outrageous as they like as they have great big bodyguards and record labels and all the rest of it. I don’t think I was a bad role model in comparison to what goes on today but I did not realise the enormity of the power you have over the influence of young people. Young girls see all of this and they want to be like you.
What would you have done differently?
I would have stopped eating burgers. I really don’t believe in killing animals and how they do it at such a rate. I find it really inhumane. I have found that with the position I am in, I am able to have a voice and express my opinions. I am very influenced by everything in my life and how can you ever stop writing when there is so much to say?
So, what is next for you Annabella?
I recently did a song for the Bob Marley tribute album for the Teenage Cancer Trust called ‘Specialized’ which is a project based in the UK. They are doing some shows on the 11, 12 and 13 November in the UK. I am a big fan of Bob Marley so was honoured to be asked to write a song for this. There will be many other artists on stage at the festival. I also have an EP out which you can find over on my website. Plus, of course, I am looking forward to performing at Rewind this year.
Annabella’s Bow Wow Wow plays “Rewind South” at Temple Island Meadows in Henley-on-Thames on Sunday August 21st.
Ticket info: www.rewindfestival.com