Bow Wow Wow singer Annabella Lwin: ‘I was scouted at a West Hampstead dry cleaners’

Annabella Lwin. Picture: Dano Perez

Annabella Lwin. Picture: Dano Perez - Credit: Archant

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 West Hampstead and then nurtured by the eccentric Malcolm McLaren, Annabella’s time with Bow Bow Bow was unsurprisingly explosive.

But their tribal beat songs, and the unique sound and look of Mohawk-styled lead singer Annabella, meant the band soon made their mark on the UK Top 10 with Go Wild in the Country reaching No 9 in the charts, and I Want Candy making it to No 7.

Now Annabella, who has pursued her own musical career since the late 80s, is back and looking forward to a summer of gigs and festival across the UK, including The Garage in Highbury on August 20 and the Rewind 80s Festivals across the UK.

She says: “I’m really looking forward to the shows. I’ve never done Rewind so it’s 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, because I have a few questions in my own mind, so I’m doing some shows and doing what I’ve always done really.”

Annabella will be sharing the bill at Rewind in Henley with, among others, Adam Ant, whose original band dumped him to form a band with Annabella back in the 80s.

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“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, I’ve heard that he plays guitar so that would be great,” she says.

“I know in the 80s that his original band kicked him out and he went off and did his own thing.

“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.”

Annabella’s rise to fame in the 80s was an unusual one, being spotted by a scout and friend of the legendary Malcolm McLaren in the now-closed Shamrocks Dry Cleaners in West End Lane, West Hampstead.

“I used to sing along to the Top 40 radio every Saturday morning, 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.’ But he said I could take a friend, so I did, and the rest is history.”

Her three years with Bow Wow Wow were full of controversy. Their first single C•30 C•60 C•90 Gob was banned for allegedly condoning audio taping, and then there was uproar when the young teenager was photographed naked for the front cover of their first album.

“I didn’t realise how controverisal it was at the time,” she says, “but it was certainly 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.”

Releasing three albums from 1980-83, their rise to fame was rapid but also shortlived, 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 now has a new EP called Willow Tree that has just been released on iTunes and Amazon, and has also recorded a song on a new tribute album to Bob Marley in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust.

It’s looking like a busy time for Burma-born Annabella, who is looking forward to bringing her Far Eastern-inspired fashion and sound to stages this summer.

“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. My first love and passion was and is still is music, which is why I’m still doing it, and I try to carry on.”

Rewind Festival