Bow Wow Wow's second release, Your Cassette Pet, continued to exploit the underage-sex angle. In "Sexy Eiffel Tower, singer Annabella Lwin plays a suicidal girl about to leap from the top of Paris's most famous landmark. She gets implausibly horny in the proximity of death: 'Feel my treasure chest/Let's have sex before I die/Be my special guest'. Plunging through the air ('Falling legs around your spire') she enjoys a petit mort or two before the grand mort of hitting the ground. Annabella claimed, with apparent sincerity, that the panting sounds she expertly imitated weren't meant to be orgasm but the sound of panic.
Bow Wow Wow - Sexy Eiffel Tower 1980
"Louis Quatorze" concerns a pervy bandit-of-love who surprises Annabella with unannounced visits and ravishment at gunpoint. The music, though, almost vanquished any moral reservations: Bow Wow Wow had developed an exhilarating and unique sound, all frolicking polyrhythms, twangabilly guitar and frantic-but-funky bass. Add Annabella's girlish, euphoric vocals - especially charming on a cover of the Johnny Mercer standard "Fools Rush In" - and the results were irresistible.
Bow Wow Wow - Louis Quatorze 1980
Bow Wow Wow - Fools Rush In 1980
More striking than its contents, though, was Your Cassette Pet's radical format: a cassette-only release midway in length between an EP and an album, it retailed at only £1.99 (half the price of a traditional vinyl album) and came in a 'flip-pack' carton similar to a cigarette packet.
McLaren's contrived controversies kept backfiring. Desperate to stir up some buzz for Bow Wow Wow's debut album proper, he designed its cover as a simulation of Dejeuner sur l'Herbe, Manet's 1863 painting denounced as 'indecent' by Napoleon III for its image of a naked woman surrounded by fully clothed men. Annabella posed nude (under duress, she later revealed) but because she was still just under sixteen, her mother managed to stop the cover from being used.
Another blow for McLaren came with the commercial failure of "Chihuahua" - simultaneously Bow Wow Wow's most seductive single to date and their manager's most blatantly cynical gambit. Mouthing McLaren's words to a wistful, Blondie-like melody, Annabella sang about being 'a rock 'n' roll puppet', confessing, 'I can't dance and I can't sing/I can't do anything' and warning, 'I'm a horrible idiot/So don't fall in love with me'. You could mount a defence of "Chihuahua" as a sly deconstruction of the pop industry's machinery of star-lust and fantasy. But if you consider McLaren's genuine anti-feminism, his real-world treatment of Annabella as meat, and the way he ventriloquized those humiliating words through Annabella's own lips, "Chihuahua" leaves a bad taste.
Bow Wow Wow - Chihuahua 1981
Finally, Bow Wow Wow scored their UK pop breakthrough in early 1982 with "Go Wild in the Country", an anti-urban fantasy featuring risqué lines about swinging naked from the trees and romping in fields 'where snakes in the grass are absolutely free'. "Go Wild" exhorted youth to spurn KFC and McDonalds and go 'hunting and fishing'.
Bow Wow Wow - Go Wild in the Country 1982
On the sultry, bossa nova-inflected "Hello Hello Daddy, I'll Sacrifice You", Annabella played the role of devouring earth-mother goddess as a coquette with a knife behind her back. The sweetly crooned lines about woman being 'more body than soul and more soul than mind' were vintage McLaren misoginy cobbled together from Lévi-Strauss, Jung and The Golden Bough.
Bow Wow Wow - Hello Hello Daddy, I'll Sacrifice You 1982
By the time Bow Wow Wow scored their second UK Top 10 hit and American breakthrough with "I Want Candy" - an exciting but vacuous remake of a sixties bubblegum tune - McLaren had pretty much ceased managing the band.
Bow Wow Wow - I Want Candy 1982