This past summer (2019), someone showed one of those online deals through a site called Goldstar. He thought I would be interested in a concert featuring ’80s New Wave bands. He wasn’t wrong. When it comes to music, my tastes are a bit frozen in time. While I listen to all genres, my favorite style of music is anything from the 80’s Post-Punk era. That’s right, I’m the queen of knowing who all these obscure musicians are. So he’s showing me the concert ticket deal, where tickets prices were slashed to ten dollars. The event was called The Lost ’80s. Once I saw that Annabella Lwin, former vocalist from Bow Wow Wow was on the bill, it was a done deal.
The rest of the bill didn’t seem bad. Most were acts from my adolescence; The Motels and Flock of Seagulls stood out the most. The venue was located in Coney Island, Brooklyn, at the Ford Amphitheater. That way if the show tanked, Ben and I could always head over to the boardwalk instead.
Annabella Lwin was the performer I was most excited to see live. I had a few Bow Wow Wow releases in my teen music collection. Everyone now associates the band with their biggest hit, a cover of I Want Candy. Before they first arrived on the U.S. airwaves, they were already causing a bit of a ruckus. Bow Wow Wow was a product of Malcolm McLaren, the former manager of The Sex Pistols. Not one to rest on his volatile laurels, he moved on to the next British youth movement. This time, it was the New Romantics. McLaren collaborated with his then girlfriend, designer Vivienne Westwood to create the band’s look. The majority of Bow Wow Wow was the band McLaren swiped from Adam Ant. Annabella was the last piece of the puzzle. Word had it that Lwin was only 13 years old when she was initially discovered. A talent scout stumbled upon her singing along to the radio at the laundromat she worked at after school.
McLaren was never afraid of controversy. This could explain why Annabella was seen posing nearly naked next to her fully clothed band mates on the infamous album cover for See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gand Yeah, City All Over! Go Ape Crazy! It was a recreation of the painting Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass) by Édouard Manet. Lwin was only 14 years old when that photograph was taken. By today’s standards (2019), being 14 and posing nude would not be acceptable. That same photograph would be used for the U.S. release of the E.P. The Last of the Mohicans.
I remember the cover very clearly, thanks to my mother’s reaction. During my preteens, my mother used to go shopping at the department store Alexander’s. It was a quick ride on the subway from Astoria, Queens to Manhattan, 59th Street and 3rd Avenue. My favorite section of Alexander’s was their small record department. One day while my mother and I were shopping, I pull out a copy of Last of the Mohicans. My mother was horrified because she could clearly see how young Lwin was. She ordered me to put the record back. Which I did, but it should be noted that I eventually brought a used vinyl copy of that EP a few years later. My mother had no knowledge about that purchase. (My mother was also repulsed by a record cover by Nina Hagen – Nunmonsexrock. Later brought that one too.) As a middle aged adult, now I can see my mother’s POV. After all, a fourteen old teen should not pose nude.
In another post I’ll discuss Annabella and Bow Wow Wow some more. Back to the Lost ’80s concert. Because I wanted to see Annabella, we showed up early to the concert like two nerds. Most of the people on the bill would be categorized as ‘one hit wonders.’ We’re talking about acts like Real Life, When In Rome UK, etc. The audience trickling in was lackluster. I’m not sure if they were there for the music, or was it something to do on a Friday night. The venue itself wasn’t much to write about either. Seating was bare minimum. The white ceiling was looked like heavy camping material. The sound itself was sub-par. It wasn’t impressive. Forest Hills Stadium was a much better venue than this. It’s only saving grace was the scent of the beach trailing in from the boardwalk.
Annabella Lwin was on the very beginning of the bill, in which she only performed three songs: “I Want Candy”, “Go Wild In The Country” and “Do You Want To Hold Me.” Afterwards, she was off stage in a flash. That’s how the Lost ’80s concert went for most of the night, until The Vapors came on stage.
The best band of the night, in my opinion was The Motels. Like Annabella, Martha Davis and her crew only performed three songs. Yet Martha’s voice was on point. It was a pleasant surprise, leaving me wanting a bit more than what Boys Don’t Cry had to offer. I thought The Motels had gotten the shaft on this bill. They performed “Only The Lonely”, “Suddenly Last Summer” and my favorite, “Take The L”. Just like Annabella, The Motels were gone in a flash.
What we didn’t know was in-between sets, you had a chance to take photos with various artists. I found out too late than Annabella was doing a signing after her set. So we jump on line, but time was limited. I was the next person up when security came down and told Annabella she had to stop. That was rather disappointing. As they whisked her away, I gave the middle finger behind security’s back, which wouldn’t helped my case anyway. There were other bands offering to do signings and photos, but I lost interest.
I managed to see Ben smile two sets: during Real Life when doing “Send Me An Angel” and When In Rome’s set as they performed “I Promise.”
Don’t ask me how Boys Don’t Cry was. I went to the bathroom during their short set.
As the night wore on, the amount of songs during sets increased. The Vapors, who were the textbook definition of a New Wave one hit wonder managed to get four songs instead of three. Of course they did “Turning Japanese.”
Then to my annoyance, Dramarama got a full set! They weren’t bad, but in my eyes, they were more of a late ’80s/early ’90s ‘Alternative’ band. Around this time, people that were originally sitting near us had moved up to the front. The venue wasn’t being strict on seating. Ben and I decided to stay where we were at because we were too comfortable to move. From there we could do our reenactment of Standler and Waldorf. Hey, those are my childhood heroes. As Dramarama was performing a tune called “Last Cigarette”, Ben goes “Last Cigarette? They’re smoking the whole pack! Why do they get a whole set!?!”
Later on I found out the venue itself were desperately trying to fill up the seats. At the last minute, they were letting people in for free.
Last band of the night was Flock of Seagulls. This was the third act I was waiting for, after Lwin and The Motels. Flock of Seagulls got a full set, but they were beset feedback issues. The sound mix at the Ford Amphitheater was pretty poor. It wasn’t a total lost. Flock of Seagulls did all my favorite songs, like “Photograph” and their biggest hit “I Ran.”
Hey. Not going to complain over a ten dollar ticket. After all, the New Wave style continues to have some kind of influence over me. Ford Amphitheater itself was poorly run. In the NYC summer months, Forest Hill Stadium is the much better choice. We still managed to have fun. After the show we walked along the boardwalk, before heading back to Queens. It’s nice to visit the past, but one can’t stay there.
On that note, here’s my quick sketch of Annabella Lwin. Pen and ink. I did not want to draw her as barely clothed New Wave Lolita. Instead, my choice was her dressed in classic 1981 Westwood pirate gear. As an adult, I would still love to own a Vivienne Westwood “squiggly line” shirt. A bit of nostalgia while trying to live in the present.