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Bow Wow Wow’s forgotten ode to the cassette single

The band's "C-30, C-60, C-90 Go" single was a stunt, but a fun one.
Published Jan. 5, 2018

Our history columnist Kevin Wuench is feeling particularly nostalgic today:

Who doesn't remember as a kid taping songs off the radio? I still have cassettes of American Top 40 in my collection ranging from 1978 to 1982 as it was a good way for an underage kid to have access to the music we loved when we had little money (or transportation) for actual records. It is that sentiment that encapsulates Bow Wow Wow and C-30, C-60, C-90 Go as we reminisce about taping off the radio and graduating to the Columbia Music Tape and Record Club in today's Lost and Found.

This is the third time we've featured Bow Wow Wow and their infectious drum beats and that doesn't even include everybody's favorite I Want Candy. In 1980, Bow Wow Wow hit the charts for the first time with C-30, C-60, C-90 Go and it was historic as the world's first cassette single – another promotional stunt by maverick manager Malcolm McLaren. Their label, EMI, didn't push it hard since the topic of the song was about taping off the radio instead of buying records. When it was finally released as a traditional 7-inch single, it became a minor Top 40 U.K. hit.

The video is not only energetic with Annabella Lwin and Bow Wow Wow's dancing, but it also pulls the curtain behind how a 7-inch single is pressed and shows the difference between an American radio and English radio that has presets for the four BBC radio stations. As '80s generation got older and we started to explore our musical tastes, it was the boom time for the Columbia House Record and Tape Club.

I feel pity for any person in the '80s who didn't participate in the record clubs as it was so much fun taking the album stamps and pasting your first order of eleven or twelve albums for a penny. How many albums can you remember by name on your initial order? Starting out with phonographs, the cassette-boon of the early '80s doubled the Columbia House Tape Club from 3 million members in the '70s to 6 million by the '80s. By the end of the '80s, CDs started to emerge and the music industry started going into its malaise. Still, the Columbia House Record Club did not shut down until 2009 – many years after the emergence of downloaded music.