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Vow Wow

Possessors of a rather confusing history, Vow Wow originally got its start as Bow Wow -- a name under which the quartet of vocalist/guitarist Mitsuhiro Saito, lead guitarist Kyoji Yamamoto, bassist Kenji Sano, and drummer Toshihiro Niimi blazed a legendary trail as Japan's most exciting and successful homegrown heavy rock band of the second half of the 1970s. But Bow Wow's fortunes began to turn at the dawn of the '80s, when they experimented with softer rock sounds over several albums, finally recovering their common sense once heavy metal grew into one of the new decade's most popular musical styles. So in 1984, following a few high-profile performances at London's Marquee Club, the Montreaux and Reading Festivals, and beyond, Bow Wow decided to take a stab at cracking the international market, not without some dire consequences. To begin with, founding member Saito was made a scapegoat in order to make way for a singer -- Genki Hitomi -- with better command of the English language, and then a strategic decision was made to change the group's name to Vow Wow, so as to avoid confusion with then popular British new wave act Bow Wow Wow.

Having thus reconfigured themselves to properly assault the West, Vow Wow embarked on a positively hectic recording schedule, which, over the next few years, saw them releasing numerous studio albums like Beat of Metal Motion (1984), Cyclone (1985), III (1986), V (1987), Vibe (aka Helter Skelter, 1989), and Mountain Top (1990), as well as a smattering of EPs, singles, live, and compilation releases. But the band's retooled pop metal sound did not sit particularly well with their original Japanese fan base, nor did it manage to stand out in what was now a very crowded and competitive heavy metal arena. What's more, Vow Wow's decision to move their base of operations to the U.K. in 1986 led to the departure of longtime bassist and key songwriter Kenji Sano, and his subsequent replacement by Scottish-born journeyman Neil Murray (Whitesnake, Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, etc.) didn't help ingratiate the band with western audiences, as expected. Heck, most of Vow Wow's albums didn't even received official release, never mind proper distribution and promotional support in the U.S., where onetime Bow Wow disciples like Loudness, Anthem, and EZO had already begun enjoying greater success and luck. Dispirited and defeated, the members of Vow Wow eventually gave up the fight, turned tail, and slowly made their way back to Japan, and, presumably, into retirement. But it didn't take long for guitar wizard Kyoji Yamamoto to get antsy and resurrect the Bow Wow name with a new group of backing musicians, and he has continued to record and tour regularly ever since. As a result, Bow Wow's name has remained, if not a household proposition, then a respected underground institution, while he and his former bandmates' brief sojourn as Vow Wow is now but a vague memory. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia
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