Bow Wow Wow / The Strangeloves: “I Want Candy”
Bow Wow Wow (1982)
The Strangeloves (1965)
It’s hard to imagine too many people who dislike Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” — it’s one of those songs that’s cool enough to appeal to the most stalwart indie rock lover, while being harmless enough (at least now, 30 years after its 1982 release on their I Want Candy album) to be found on the MP3 players of the most casual mainstream music listeners. I could be wrong, but it seems like it has entered the common music consciousness (of the Western world, in any case). Its high-energy drumming and guitar riff, along with Annabella Lwin’s potent vocals, make it an unstoppable force from the New Wave era.
The same can’t quite be said about the original version of “I Want Candy,” a 1965 hit by the Strangeloves that reached number 11 on the U.S. charts. While side-by-side the songs are remarkably similar, the Strangeloves version didn’t leave the same kind of mark on that common consciousness — it’s still a great song, but it lacks the kineticism of the Bow Wow Wow cover, not to mention lacking Annabella Lwin. And even though it may have still gotten some airplay between its original run as a hit and 1982, it has since been so superseded on the radio by the BWW cover that you probably will only hear the original on the most comprehensive of oldies radio stations, or occasionally mixed in on a related Pandora-type radio stream. However, the Strangeloves are interesting for another reason: they were actually a trio of songwriters, in the Brill Building tradition, also well-known for writing “My Boyfriend’s Back.” One of them, Richard Gottehrer, went on to later fame as the producer of albums by Blondie, the Go-Go’s, and Marshall Crenshaw, among others; he has most recently produced albums by the Dum Dum Girls.
But it’s a great song in any case, well worth hearing in both of these incarnations; there are other covers of the song, to be sure, but there’s a very good reason that you probably haven’t heard most of them — they either just aren’t very well done, or they do nothing differently enough from one of these versions to make them stand out. And considering that Bow Wow Wow has already done what can only be considered the definitive version of the song, that’s really not a problem.