Sep 08

ANITA WARD – “Ring My Bell”

FT + Popular84 comments • 4,530 views

#438, 16th June 1979

“Ring My Bell” is a disco masterclass in how to use the treble – the bell itself (sounds like it’s off a bicycle!), the laserbeam bleeps, Anita Ward’s impishly breathy voice, and the skritch-skratch guitar in the middle of the stereo pan, halfway between a mouse and a typewriter.

This emphasis on the treble is worked so “Ring My Bell” sounds tiny, not tinny: Ward – and particularly her backing singers – sound more elfin than sexual in their allure, and “Ring My Bell” has an eerie tint to it, like a fairyland temptation. As the song progresses the backing elves come more to the fore, their gleeful chatter and strange clipped shrieks – “Ding-dong-ding! Wheeeee!” – tilting the song further from its expected axis. Ward herself gives a terrific performance, of course, following the lyrical shift from housewifely smoulder – “while I put away the dishes” – to the second verse which makes it a lot clearer who’s taking the lead: “ring my bell”* becomes a command. The whole package is deceptively familiar and giddy – listen closer and you hear something fey in the old way.

*(…or wonder, till it drives you mad, what would have happened if you had!)



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  1. 51
    rosie on 19 Sep 2008 #

    Has Peter Frampton really been erased from rock history? Not from my copy he hasn’t.

    Is it coincidence that, round about now, pubs everywhere[*] are being filled with ‘space invaders’ machines making annoying electronic throbs and whoops? Annoying to those sitting nearby anyway. I tried one once and quickly realised that when actually playing you didn’t actually hear the throbs but they sure make you feel tense

    [*] By ‘everywhere’ I mean that they may well have been in London and Tokyo for years but they were now everywhere in Hull.

  2. 52
    Billy Smart on 19 Sep 2008 #

    I reckon that if you were a young person with a historical curiosity about rock/ pop today, Peter Frampton would be just about the very last thing to which your attention would be drawn by anyone. The only way in which you’d be aware of him would be through the episode of The Simpsons that he appears in.

  3. 53
    LondonLee on 19 Sep 2008 #

    I particularly liked the Space Invaders machines that were built into a glass tabletop, meant you could have a game while sitting down with a pint and a fag.

  4. 54
    wichita lineman on 19 Sep 2008 #

    Space Invaders, yes. Novelty Rock, indeed. To clear up my comments on the syndrum, I’m referring to the ‘boooo’ sound, squarely on the beat, for 3+ mins – Love Don’t Live Here Anymore (RIP Norman Whitfield) had more than that sonic trick up its sleeve. Drum machines per se don’t equate to Ring My Bell’s hook.

    I think Anita Ward and Peter Frampton’s immediate fates after their biggest hits are analogous to Lt Pigeon’s.

    DJP, I love your anger, but the ‘boooooo’ noise isn’t really comparable to the saxophone on The Wanderer, is it? Ewan MacColl probably thought the guitar was a gimmick on folk songs unless you were Spanish, and I’m guessing you might not want to ally yourself with that righteous, divisive grouch.

  5. 55
    mike on 19 Sep 2008 #

    #48 – God, were Match on TOTP? I’ve got a 7″ called “Boogie Man”, bought as part of a cheapo sealed “mystery pack” in the Doncaster Arndale Centre. The same pack concealed a Brotherhood Of Man single called “Goodbye Goodbye”. Both were utter utter rubbish.

    #52 – I became an absolute Space Invaders addict during 1979, and have the Piranhas cash-in single to prove it. And also another rubbish 10p bargain bin job by Alpha Beta, also called “Space Invaders”.

  6. 56
    intothefireuk on 20 Sep 2008 #

    #50 Fortunately that particular venue escaped my patronage although I lived only a few miles away.

    Peter Frampton was never really that big in the UK – I imagine he plays a bigger part in US rock history. He played guitar & briefly sang on Bowie’s Glass Spider tour in 1987. Did ya know that his Dad, Owen Frampton, taught both Bowie & Frampton jnr at Bromley Tech ?

    Space Invaders – the glass table versions were marvellous but that joystick took a hell of a pounding, especially after a few jars.

  7. 57
    LondonLee on 20 Sep 2008 #

    True, ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ is a huge pop cultural touchstone here in the US, but I don’t remember it making much of a dent back home.

  8. 58
    Malice Cooper on 20 Sep 2008 #

    My sister had the 12″ single of this before it charted and played the bloody thing over and over again. The intro seemed to go on for hours and I hated it by the time it charted.
    By today’s disco standards it’s a fantastic song but her vocals are appalling and the repetitive nonsense that the song is, just leaves me cold and why it was so successful simply boggles my mind…

  9. 59
    rosie on 20 Sep 2008 #

    The Herd made quite a dent in the 1960s (amongst the cognoscenti anyway).

  10. 60
    crag on 20 Sep 2008 #

    The thing i love about RMB is its slight cheapness and “tinniness” (as mentioned above). If it had been a hit today one could easily assume it was an amatuer bedroom-recording, a self-produced white label picked up by a major, rather than professionally recorded and released by a fairly sizeable company like TK. Its quirkiness, combined with the sparse sound, lacking any Chic-style orchestration and Ward’s pleasingly soulless vocal always links it in my mind less with the BeeGees or Sister Sledge than with another predominant pop sound of the late 70s- the scratchy punk-funk of the Flying Lizards, Talking Heads et al. A strong 7 for me almost an 8.
    And Tom, regarding the “Woo-yeah” hook mentioned earlier surely the first record to use it(apart from the original Lynn Collins track) is an all-time 10 out of 10er?

  11. 61
    Lena on 21 Sep 2008 #

    The synths on the next song (now, now, SB, I’m not giving anything away here) are the complete opposite to “Ring My Bell” in many ways, though it sounds as if it could have been recorded in a certain studio by a certain producer who had long since ceased recording…”Ring My Bell” sounds cute and sparkly and winking, and the next song is utterly different….

  12. 62
    Waldo on 21 Sep 2008 #

    Phew! To and from Brussels with less fuss than I could have hoped for. Lucky Waldo!

    I found this surprisingly good. Anita Ward may never have been heard of again but she was an interesting if not unique character, having graduated with a degree in psychology prior to becoming a recording artist. Much was made of this at the time.

    “Ring My Bell” for me is certainly one of the finest tracks of the Disco period. It grabs attention from the start with the “boing-boings”, allied to a sharp fast drum beat and well-positioned bass line. Anita’s performance is also excellent, following the arrangement just nicely on the verse before raising the pitch on the chorus. The result is first rate and the disc soared high not only here but in the US, Canada and all over Europe. Back in the day, I was in the other camp (New Wave, as opposed to “Soul-heads”) but this one captivated me, and when I hear it today, ma feet start a-tappin’ and ma fingers start a-clickin’ in reaction to the impressive piece of music that it is. As with Freda Payne with “Band Of Gold” at the top of the decade, if Anita Ward was only going to have one hit, it was just as well that it was this. Very good indeed.

    Oh, and of course I took it as read that Anita was not inviting the guy round to test her doorbell. She was more interested in him knocking her up. Wey-Hey-Hey!

  13. 63
    lonepilgrim on 21 Sep 2008 #

    #61 I guess Tom’s a bit too busy with his DJ gig today to get on to that. Does he get a lot of passing trade or would it be a case where the majority of the crowd are friends? Electric atmosphere I would imagine, nevertheless.

  14. 64
    SteveM on 21 Sep 2008 #

    re #52 it’s true that my introduction to Peter Frampton came from that Lollapalooza episode of The Simpsons.

  15. 65
    crag on 22 Sep 2008 #

    Reading back i notice i foolishly got my “woo yeah” sample and my “Ah Yeah” sample mixed up and called Tom to task incorrectly -sorry!
    One classic with the “Ah yeah” sample does spring to mind though- “Do the Right Thing” by Redhead Kingpin which sadly never got anywhere the ‘top slot’ and therefore wont be detaining us in the future…

  16. 66
    DJ Punctum on 22 Sep 2008 #


    The strange thing is that I couldn’t recall any sax on “The Wanderer” at all. I remember it for Dion getting his tongue twisted around his “round”s at the end of the second chorus and for “with my two fists of iron and I’m going nowhere.” Also I note he had Rosie on his chest but perhaps best not to go there.

    On refreshing my memory the sax is there but it hardly plays a role of “Baker Street”ite centrality. So the “boooooo” wins.

    Regarding Ewan MacColl; if I’d been able to write a song a millionth as good as “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” I’d have been happy to have been given licence.

  17. 67
    rosie on 22 Sep 2008 #

    Marcello @ 66: I have no recollection of being on Dion’s chest, but then I would have been six years old and he would have been a filthy pervert. So yes, best not go there my little caramel wafer ;)

  18. 68
    Waldo on 22 Sep 2008 #

    Yes, the character portrayed by Dion in “The Wanderer” was certainly an oddball, hopping into that car of his and driving round the world as soon as he starts falling for some girl, going from place to place and town to town and this that and the other. Rather insecure, if you ask me and certainly no vehicle for bragging rights to the backdrop of a sax. A bottle job, fearful of women. The moment he senses interest, he does a Kevin Keegan.

    “Wanderer”? Wanker, more like.

  19. 69
    Glue Factory on 22 Sep 2008 #

    But at least the Wanderer was nothing like that nasty Runaround Sue character Dion sang about, who just loved him and left him.

  20. 70
    Tom on 22 Sep 2008 #

    #63 – very elegant! That is how it’s done, everybody.

  21. 71
    Waldo on 23 Sep 2008 #

    #69 – Hmm, I can’t help thinking that had it been Runaround Sam instead of Sue, he would have been deemed a top geezer instead of a slapper. And let’s face it, Dion fully deserved to get turned over after what he did (or in fact didn’t do) to all them birds, that’s assuming that “The Wanderer” preceded “Runaround Sue”. If it did not, Dion’s encounter with Sue might, in fact, explain why he was such a eunuch later. Either way, the boy’s a numptie.

  22. 72
    wichita lineman on 25 Sep 2008 #

    Yep, his Wandering days followed Sue, and the double A of Lovers Who Wander/Born To Cry completed the trilogy. The kid was confused, developed a smack habit soon after, and cut some blinding folk/blues sides (scattered on Sony cds, concentrated on the original Wonder Where I’m Bound LP) for Columbia: Sue, Mary, Rosie etc were notably unappreciative.

    Can’t believe anyone could forget that rasping, particularly coarse saxophone break.

    Re 66: If Ewan MacColl was running Popular he’d only allow us to comment on records produced within a three mile radius of where we live, the hypocritical git.

  23. 73
    Mark G on 25 Sep 2008 #

    You know, for a folkie, what was so wrong with the name Jimmy Miller? I’d have understood if he was Phil Targett-Adams or something…

    #71, and lest us not forget, the Ted Chippington version which turns it all about-face.

  24. 74
    rosie on 25 Sep 2008 #

    72: Well yes, a man called James Miller from Salford giving himself in in-yer-face Scots name and then demanding such a thing is a bit rich.

  25. 75
    Erithian on 25 Sep 2008 #

    You’ve maybe seen the obit programme for Kirsty MacColl in which Steve Lillywhite recalls playing her latest album (“Kite”, IIRC) to her dad. Ewan MacColl first asked for it to be turned down a bit, then said “Do you have the text?” Lillywhite passed him a copy of the lyric sheet and he read attentively, nodding and um-humming here and there, and eventually gave a fairly gruff approval. Scary. He seems not to have treated Kirsty’s mum very well either.

  26. 76
    DJ Punctum on 25 Sep 2008 #

    So I guess he wouldn’t have been too bothered at Kirsty falling one place short of number one on two separate occasions (one as writer, one as performer) then?

  27. 77
    Conrad on 25 Sep 2008 #

    Enjoyable record, but I can take it or leave it.

    Wasn’t she a school teacher?

    Didn’t Blair Cunningham drum on this?

  28. 78
    DJ Punctum on 25 Sep 2008 #

    Another great 1979 record with brilliant use of syndrums – “Is That All There Is?” by Jean Carn.

  29. 79
    mike on 25 Sep 2008 #

    A pedant writes: Jean Carn’s TOTAL AND UTTER CLASSIC! CLASSIC! CLASSIC! is “Was That All It Was”… as opposed to Cristina’s equally CLASSIC! CLASSIC! CLASSIC! 1980 re-working of “Is That All There Is?”…

  30. 80
    DJ Punctum on 25 Sep 2008 #

    Carlin, my office please…

  31. 81
    Pop-o-matic on 18 Jun 2009 #

    (Guess everyone moved on this ages ago, but nevermind…)

    There are two versions of this song, and one of them doesn’t have as much syndrum or treble all over it. Anita also sings it a bit less impishly. I love both versions, but prefer the other one (by which I mean the one that didn’t get to number one). It kills when I play it whilst dj-ing too…


  32. 82
    www.sbwire.com on 20 Jun 2013 #

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  33. 83
    Mark G on 20 Jun 2013 #

    yaka ta yaka ta ta ta, when I’m tinting windows…

  34. 84
    hectorthebat on 6 Aug 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 6
    Paul Williams (USA) – Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1993)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

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