“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!)