Labor Day Special: Bow Wow Wow – W.O.R.K.

EMI | UK | 12" | 1981 | 12 EMI 5153

EMI | UK | 12″ | 1981 | 12 EMI 5153

Bow Wow Wow: W.O.R.K. UK 12″ [1981]

  1. W.O.R.K. (N.O. Nah No! No! My Daddy Don’t) [12″ remix]
  2. C-30, C-60, C-90 Anda!

I remember where I first heard Bow Wow Wow; on RCA’s “Blitz” compilation. I later received the long-winded “See Jungle, See Jungle…” album as a Xmas gift from chasinvictoria in 1981. Actually, I was immediately smitten by “Chihuahua” and had planned to buy the Bow Wow Wow album immediately, just as I did for Landscape, but chasinvictoria cleverly talked me out of it since obviously, he had already done his Xmas shopping, or at least had planned it in advance.

I later received the wonderful album, but I never managed to get any of the singles or subsidiary releases, like “Your Cassette Pet.” It remained until a few years later that I finally got the “Prince Of Darkness” 7″ with poster sleeve! to be the only Bow Wow Wow single to this day in the Record Cell. it was on a later cassette tape letter that chasinvictoria had sent me after purchasing the 12″ single “W.O.R.K. [No No My Daddy Don’t].” If memory serves correctly, he included the “C-30, C-60, C-90 Anda” Spanish language B-side on the tape as well.

To say I was bowled over by the recordings was an understatement! As much as I felt that the debut album was fantastic, the sound and production of the “W.O.R.K.” 12″ was easily Bow Wow Wow’s finest hour. The Alan Tarney production was clean and powerful in ways that left other contemporary recordings in the shade. The massed vocal chants of the male members of band sounded as if they were multi-tracked five or six times, with as many as 30 people chanting “Work,” while the use of digital noise gating gave it an added impact that would not have been there a few years prior. The result was a solid, immense slab of vocal sound.

As usual, the BWW rhythm section propelled the number barreling forward with breathtaking velocity. The 12″ remix was amazing, but the truth is that 33 years later, I have never heard he 7″ version of this song. I was somewhat trepidatious that it would in no way measure up to the unchained fury of this version, so I never made it a priority to hear it. Instead, I kept looking for the 12″ single. Unfortunately, I never saw a copy of this release. I soon discovered that the A/B-side were included on the US compilation “12 Original Recordings” but he thought of this track groove crammed to fit an an LP was just wrong! So years went by until I could listen to this immense track in the comfort and safety of my own home.

It remained until 1993, when Sir Vinny Vero compiled the magnificent “Girl Bites Dog: Your Compact Disc Pet” CD that I finally had this track in house. That CD also helpfully included the original B-side, “C-30, C-60, C-90 Anda.” Which was a kindness because I have never seen this 12″ for sale to buy! When I looked on Discogs.com to mention this record earlier on the blog, I was spellbound when I noticed that the cover seemed to feature a bold, magenta swastika formed out of the cover type.

One should never underestimate Malcolm McLaren’s proclivity for provocation! Speaking of which, the lyrics to “W.O.R.K.” bear mention for their juxtaposition of Old Labor welfare state sloganeering mated with the then-current toil-free Utopianism found within the pages of Alvin Toffler’s “Third Wave,” which I should re-read now that we’ve had a generation to grow into the post-industrial future that he posited in that tome. It’s true that many people are working less than their fore bearers, but that’s because they can’t find meaningful work. On the other hand, there are workers on the third shift in China assembling your smartphones who would beg to differ with his predictions of increased leisure time. When it comes to predicting the future, I’ll put my danger money on DEVO instead.
-30-

About postpunkmonk

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8 Responses to Labor Day Special: Bow Wow Wow – W.O.R.K.

  1. Tim says:

    Great post and solidarity.

    I’m more of a Future Shock fan myself. Some of the forecasts in there are spot on.
    There’s a great little book out there called “The Wonderful Future That Never Was.” It’s a collection of olde Popular Mechanics articles about how the future would be. When I first read it years ago I had a chuckle over the section on the postman using a bi-plane to parachute drop your mail into your back yard but now Amazon is talking drones. so…..

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – Memo to self: time to finally read “Future Shock!” The only thing that reminds me I’m currently living in the 21st century is the Newspad I’m currently replying to your comment on!

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      • Tim says:

        My school district was obsessed with a movie adapted from Future Shock and I swear that they must have showed it to my class every year from 4th grade until sometime in high school.

        I was re-reading it when my wife and I availed the use of a place to help us become pregnant. He has a section in there on how technology was going to revolutionize things for people that were once called barren. I had a good conversation with the people who own the place about that. They said that they were today (today being circa 2009) helping people get pregnant who five years earlier they couldn’t, and the folks five years ago they probably couldn’t have helped five years before that.

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  2. Echorich says:

    First – Toffler may have been the first to recognize what we no jokingly call “First World Problems.” Yes I know it’s deeper than that, but Western thinkers, educators, economists seem to have had their blinders on in the 20th Century when it came to predicting the future. I don’t pretend to know a lot on the subject but most seem to have dismissed the notion that Communism might fail or that the Asian subcontinent could actually become an industrial power.
    Now as for Bow Wow Wow… W.O.R.K., C-30…, Chihuahua are their stand out tracks. I have always prized my Cassette Pet – it sits next to Bunnymen Shine So Hard Cassette Single, Kraftwerk Pocket Calculator, Edwyn Collins – Girl Like You, and Bowie’s Up The Hill Backwards – all in cigarette box style cases.
    What separated Bow Wow Wow from Adam And The Ants was their DIY sound. They always came off more Punk to me than the Ants (not to give the impression that was anything other than a huge fan of the first 3 Ants albums). By the time of W.O.R.K. I have to agree that the production gains were massive. But they still felt a lot edgier than a lot of their contemporaries. It also became unfashionable to like Bow Wow Wow by if you read NME, but that didn’t stop me from buying everything they would release. I think Ashman and Gorman deserve a good deal of credit for creating a New Wave sound that began to include elements of rapping, funk and electronics.
    As for the subversiveness of the single cover – the further away from it you get the easier it is to see that Indo-Iranian symbol of Vishnu and Eternity…I grew up around the symbol as my grandfather was Iranian-Indian. It was never on anything displayed in my house, but it wasn’t until Junior High School World History that I realized why.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – What? You don’t have the Spandau Ballet “Musclebound” and Lene Lovich “New Toy” cassette singles? I kid, because those wee the only two that filtered down to sleepy Central Florida back in the day. I never bought cassettes, except for The B.E.F. “Music For Stowaways” tape and Mari Wilson’s “Born Lucky” EP. Bully for you on getting so many of the rare formats, but that’s to be expected in the City That Never Sleeps, I guess.

      After hearing your explanations for the cover, I’m inclined to agree with your call out to Vishnu and Eternity. It makes better sense than sheer shock value… though that may be an extra layer of ambiguity labeled on by the wily theorist McLaren, who cannot be said to have anything but an intellectual ingest in rock music post-1957.

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  3. JT says:

    Tech nitpick… that gate was probably not digital. Noise gate effects have actually fallen out of favor in the digital realm because there are other, better ways of achieving the same effect (which was originally to lower background noise between sonic events on a track; the gated drum effect was a later innovation/mutation of the processor’s intended purpose). Most gate processors you hear in early 1980s drum records are analog.

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  4. You do remember correctly about the tape and the “Anda” b-side. Geez, where does the time go? I still thrill to the sounds of early BWW, and agree wholeheartedly that Ashman and Gorman should get a lot of credit — but more for introducing us white boys (and presumably Adam Ant) to the Barundi beat and two drums setup!

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