I Want Candy

Album: I Want Candy (1965)
Charted: 11
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • This was originally recorded in 1965 by a group called The Strangeloves. The group was actually three producers from New York - Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer - who put this song together and made up a story about the band. They claimed to be from Australia, and said they were shepherds who got rich by crossbreeding sheep. The story made them sound much more exotic than the truth, and this hit #11 in the US.
  • When The Strangeloves recorded this, it started out as a cover of the song "Bo Diddley." They made it into an original with the help of songwriter Bert Berns, who wrote "Twist And Shout" as well as songs for The Drifters and Van Morrison. The distinctive Bo Diddley beat remained the focus of the song. Writing credits on the song go to Berns and the three members of The Strangeloves.
  • Lyrical inspiration for the song came from the 1958 book Candy by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg. The book is about a young naif who has a series of adventures with older men.
  • The three Strangeloves producers (Bob Feldman, Richard Gottehrer and Jerry Goldstein) all sang on this track. The session musicians who played on it were:

    Eric Gale - guitar
    John Shine - bass
    Herb Lovelle - drums
    Richie Lauro - saxophone
  • A generation after this song was first released, it became a hit once again (#62 US, #9 UK) when it was released by the band Bow Wow Wow on their 1982 album The Last of the Mohicans (a reference to the Mohawk hairstyles the band wore). Bow Wow Wow was put together by Malcolm McLaren, who is famous for creating The Sex Pistols. The lead singer was Annabelle Lwin, who came to England from Burma when she was five years old. When McLaren discovered her, she was 14 and working in a dry cleaner. She had the look he wanted, so he teamed her with former members of Adam And The Ants to form the band.

    Bow Wow Wow came across the song when producer Kenny Laguna was brought in to work with them. Laguna had recently helped Joan Jett establish herself as a solo artist and wanted to concentrate on working with her, but Joan thought he should do it, so Kenny agreed to produce their album. Laguna told us: "I went to Florida and they flew Bow Wow Wow from England. They had some great songs, but I didn't hear the hit. That pissed them off. My deal was, I would produce them, but I would bring one song to the table. I had a couple of ideas, I finally talked them into doing 'I Want Candy.'"

    After talking Bow Wow Wow into recording the track, Laguna realized he didn't have a copy of the song and didn't know the lyrics. There was no easy way to get the original song (this was before the Internet), so he called a friend who got him in touch with Richard Gottehrer, one of the producers who wrote and recorded this with The Strangeloves. Richard was cutting the song "Vacation" with The Go-Go's when Kenny called him. Kenny explained that he was in a bind and asked Richard if he remembered "I Want Candy," and fortunately, he remembered every word and helped Kenny through the song by singing the melody over the phone. Said Kenny, "I learned the song, then I took what I had gotten over the telephone and I recorded it on a little tape recorder. Then I went in the studio and taught it to the band Bow Wow Wow. We cut it and learned it right on the spot. I've never compared it to the original."

    Laguna almost left out the guitar part that makes up the intro of the song because he couldn't remember it. After completing the basic track without the guitar, he called back Gottehrer, who sang him the guitar part and made sure Kenny knew it was a very important part of the song.
  • This song is a classic gender-bender, with hit versions by male and female lead singers. Since it was originally written for a male singer, Bow Wow Wow had to change the gender. It became "I know a guy who's tough but sweet."

    When he worked with Joan Jett, Kenny Laguna had her switch the gender on songs like "I Love Rock And Roll" and "Do You Wanna Touch Me," which were previously recorded with male singers.
  • With the mesmerizing Annabelle Lwin fronting the band, Bow Wow Wow was video-ready, and their version of this song got significant airplay on MTV, which launched a year earlier. The clip was directed by Steve Kahn, who also did the Run-DMC video for "Rock Box."
  • In the UK, The Strangeloves version didn't chart, but Brian Poole & The Tremeloes took it to #25 in 1965.
  • The photo used on the Bow Wow Wow single was a recreation of Manet's 1863 painting "Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe" (Lunch on the Grass). The photo was taken when Annabelle Lwin was 15, which caused some controversy because she was naked. Malcolm McLaren wanted to use the photo on their first album, but Lwin's mother brought charges against him for exploiting a minor. For the US version of the cover, Lwin was wearing a dress in the photo.
  • The Bow Wow Wow cover turned out to be their only hit. The following year, they released a hitless album called When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going, which was produced by Mike Chapman instead of Kenny Laguna, who continued working with Joan Jett. Said Kenny, "I didn't get to do the next record, they were angry with me for bringing them a bubblegum song."

    When the going got tough, lead singer Annabella Lwin left for a solo career and the remaining members changed their name to Chiefs Of Relief.

Comments: 15

  • Musicnerd94 from Eustis,flBow wow wow is a band... Lead singer is a girl.... I always thought the song growing up was about a boy or girl possibly even sex the older I've gotten the more I think that they we're just being straightforward and we're talking about drugs.... Just a thought have never been confirmed but I'm pretty sure they were just being blunt honest.
  • Susan from Illinois I never heard of The Strangeloves or the song I Want Candy. I first heard the song in 1982 by Bow Wow Wow. Aaron Carter did his version of the song in 1998. The song is about sex. Just substitute the word sex for candy. That’s the song!
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenUsed in a memorable scene in the raunchy (but occasionally funny) 1983 teen sex comedy, "Private School."
  • Dan from DetroitYou have gold on your plate & mom thinks bronze is good enough. She must have slept through the '60's & '70's! Well, in his day Monet & his artistic style were chastised, so getting grief 100+ yrs later..... drop in the bucket in time.
  • Babbling Babette from Tulsa OkI recall buying this single back in '65 as it was climbing the charts. I do remember seeing The Strangelove's photos in "Song Hits" magazine and they were some pretty bizarre looking dudes. Anyway, it's been a long while, but I think it was released on Bang! Records. Anyway, it had a yellow label. Thanks to Songfacts about their other releases because I never heard of any others back then. My brother Max said he never saw them perform on TV or heard of them touring & he was a big fan of those shows like American Bandstand, Shindig, Hullabaloo, & Ed Sullivan. After I bought that single, I never kept up with them. Actually, I thought they were so-called "One Hit Wonders." The record had a heavy drum sound on it that I liked, but those lyrics were pretty basic and weren't Grammy-worthy.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn June 20th 1965, "I Want Candy" by the Strangeloves entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #69; and on August 8th it peaked at #11 (for 1 weeks) and spent 10 weeks on the Top 100...
    The trio had three other Top 100 records; "Cara-Lin" (#39 in 1965), "Night Time" (#39 in 1965), and "Hand Jive" (#100 in 1966).
  • Alex from New York, NyRichard Gottehrer (one of the songwriters behind "I Want Candy", and a member of The Strangeloves) recently did a segment called "Cover Story" by Limelight (www.songclearance.com). In it, he talks about why they chose to "Aussies" for purposes of the record. Really funny story.

    The video is on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPNL6ICpHg8).
  • Krista from Carbondale, PaI only know Aaron Carter's version of this song..never heard of Bow Wow's version!
  • Jeff from Liverpool, Englandbow wow wow were a new wave band in the early 80's whose first single c30 c60 c90 go was the first record released on cassingle (cassette) to you and me,they had one other uk top 10 hit with go wild in the country peaking at #7 in 1982 annabella l'wins real name is myant myant awe and she was born in burma
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesCasie - Bow Wow Wow were a New Wave band of the 1970s/1980s - nothing to do with rapper (Lil) Bow Wow. Aaron Carter did cover this in 1998 though
  • Tyler from Tempe, AzI love you!!!
  • Caitlin from Upper Township, Njthis song is almost as annoying as Barbie Girl!!!!
  • Rachel from Anchorage, AkYeah, steph, they're singing about war. It's an anti-war song, according to VH1.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScThe song was recorded originally by a group called the Strangeloves in 1965. It's not the best song in the world, but the original is better I think. The lead vocal on this version was done by a guy so obviously the lyrics are different on this version. Some of this info is in the songfacts above.
  • Casie from Denver, CoI thought this song was sang by Aaron Carter but Lil Bow Wow? Or who is it Bow Wow Wows? Never heard of him.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Chris Rea

Chris ReaSongwriter Interviews

It took him seven years to recover from his American hit "Fool (If You Think It's Over)," but Chris Rea became one of the top singer-songwriters in his native UK.

Who's Johnny, And Why Does He Show Up In So Many Songs

Who's Johnny, And Why Does He Show Up In So Many SongsSong Writing

For songwriters, Johnny represents the American man. He has been angry, cool, magic, a rebel and, of course, marching home.

Maxi Priest

Maxi PriestSongwriter Interviews

The British reggae legend tells the story of his #1 hit "Close To You," talks about his groundbreaking Shabba Ranks collaboration "Housecall," and discusses his latest project with Robin Trower.

Jon Oliva of Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Jon Oliva of Trans-Siberian OrchestraSongwriter Interviews

Writing great prog metal isn't easy, especially when it's for 60 musicians.

Rush: Album by Album - A Conversation With Martin Popoff

Rush: Album by Album - A Conversation With Martin PopoffSong Writing

A talk with Martin Popoff about his latest book on Rush and how he assessed the thousands of albums he reviewed.

Petula Clark

Petula ClarkSongwriter Interviews

Petula talks about her hits "Downtown" and "Don't Sleep In The Subway," and explains her Michael Jackson connection.