18
Sep 08

ANITA WARD – “Ring My Bell”

FT + Popular84 comments • 4,594 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!)

8

Comments

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  1. 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….

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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…

  6. 66
    DJ Punctum on 22 Sep 2008 #

    #54:

    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.

  7. 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 ;)

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 70
    Tom on 22 Sep 2008 #

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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?

  17. 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?

  18. 78
    DJ Punctum on 25 Sep 2008 #

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

  19. 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?”…

  20. 80
    DJ Punctum on 25 Sep 2008 #

    Carlin, my office please…

  21. 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…

    Also:

  22. 82
    www.sbwire.com on 20 Jun 2013 #

    I will be highly pleased together with your writing expertise and as well using the structure for a blog site. Is it a paid for subject matter and also would you personalize it by yourself? In any case stay up the wonderful quality crafting, it truly is unusual to look a terrific web site exactly like it right now.

  23. 83
    Mark G on 20 Jun 2013 #

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

  24. 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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