A guest posting from strictly rockers.
The Woodentops formed in South London, 1983. Singer/Songwriter and top ‘Top, Rolo had previously played with The Jazz Butcher and The Wild Swans. Their sound was described by the Guardian as ‘a mix of 80’s skiffle, Rockabilly, Bo Diddley riffs played with semi-acoustic guitar and synthesisers’ which just about covers all bases. Their debut single, ‘Plenty’ (1994), on Dave Balfe‘s Food label, earned a ‘single of the week’ from Morrissey and radio plays from John Peel. After moving to Rough Trade, they released seven more singles, and two studio albums including their classic debut ‘Giant’ (1986).
A phenomenal live band, as captured on the ‘Live Hypno Beat’ album (1987), they embraced remix and dance culture many years before any of their contemporaries. They played the main stage at Glastonbury, the 1985 Miner’s Benefit in Brixton with Aztec Camera, Everything But The Girl and Orange Juice, a 1992 CND benefit with Big Audio Dynamite, collaborated with On-U Soundsystem, and supported both Prince and David Bowie.
The second studio album, ‘Wooden Foot Cops On The Highway’ (1988), was christened during an unplanned jam session with Lee Perry having mistakenly been dropped at their rehearsal space.
‘Why Why Why’ was belatedly picked up by DJ Alfredo in Ibiza, spawning remixes, covers and interest in the UK from UK DJs Oakenfold, Weatherall and Rampling. In 1991, The Woodentops headlined their own club night at the Empire in London’s Leicester Square, just two months after Primal Scream‘s Screamadelica club launch at the same venue. The all-nighter featured support DJs and an expanded Woodentops line-up including Tackhead‘s Skip MacDonald was captured on the long form video ‘Smokin’ the Empire’. The eagle-eyed will see the 23-year-old me, gurning top right at about 29′ 34″.
After Rough Trade went into receivership in 1991, The Woodentops self-released three minimal white label 12″s. The band disbanded and Rolo concentrated on more studio-based projects such as Pluto and Dogs Deluxe.
2006 saw the live return of The Woodentops. They released the comprehensive, career-spanning 3CD ‘Before, During, After’ and a new studio album, ‘Granular Tales’ through Cherry Red (both 2013), and are currently touring, including 21 April at the iconic 100 Club. See you down the front!.
All the Woodentops record sleeves feature the beautiful visuals of Panni (Charrington) Bharti. Primitive, organic and instantly recognisable, her artwork is the perfect visual representation of the band and has grown and evolved alongside the music.
The gratuitous Julian Cope link:
Rolo once unsuccessfully auditioned for the Teardrop Explodes and, when supporting Cope on his first solo tour, fuelled the infamous ‘Reynard’ belly-slashing incident by ‘out-performing’ the Archdrude on stage.
And now, to the music…
Timber: An Imaginary Woodentops Compilation Album for The (New) Vinyl Villain
1) Plenty (Single, Food 1984)
Debut single produced by Dave Balfe. ‘This one fades in gently…’
2) Move Me (Godwin Logie Mix) (Single, Rough Trade 1985)
Produced by Andy Partridge of XTC. The song has an amazing barely restrained rumble. ‘You do it once. Do it twice. Every single time will be twice as nice’
3) Good Thing 12″ (Single, Rough Trade 1986)
Produced by Bob Sargeant. The heart-warming first single off ‘Giant’. ‘Sometime you try harder for me than I try for myself’
4) Why Why Why (Adrian Sherwood Mix) (2×7″ Single, Rough Trade 1986)
Remixed Adrian Sherwood of On-U Sound. The song that spawned many remixes – none that better this though!
5) Well Well Well (From Live Hypno Beat Live, Rough Trade 1986)
From ‘Why Why Why’ to ‘Well Well Well’ – the live version of the 1985 single – hold tight!
6) Stop This Car (Motor Mix) (B-Side of ‘You Make Me Feel’, Rough Trade 1988)
Remixed by Ian Tregoning and Rolo at Yello’s studio in Zurich. A song of two-halves, a bit like the Woodentops career in a song – the first at half speed, the second a full-on, down-hill, no brakes joyride! ‘I said, ‘What’s your sign?’ He said ‘No Parking’’
7) You Make Me Feel (Single, Rough Trade 1988)
Just beautiful. ‘No one makes me feel like you make me feel’
8) Travelling Man 12″ (B-Side of Good Thing 12″, Rough Trade 1986)
‘The’ song about ‘being on the road’. Kicking extended mix. ‘Can’t stop, won’t stop’
9) Tainted World (Kid Batchelor/Frankie Foncett Edit) (12″, Hyperactive Records 1991, credited to ‘The Woodentops vs Bang The Party’)
Bang The Party, Rolo and Ian Tregoning make an underground record. One of three white labels released in the early 1990s.
10) Stay Out Of The Light (From Granular Tales album, Cherry Red 2013)
Originally released as ‘barely-there’ minimal white label (1991), this vocal version was remade for the ‘comeback’ album (2013).
mp3 : The Woodentops – Plenty
mp3 : The Woodentops – Move Me
mp3 : The Woodentops – Good Thing
mp3 : The Woodentops – Why Why Why (remix)
mp3 : The Woodentops – Well Well Well (live)
mp3 : The Woodentops – Stop This Car
mp3 : The Woodentops – You Make Me Feel (remix)
mp3 : The Woodentops – Travelling Man (12″)
mp3 : The Woodentops – Tainted World
mp3 : The Woodentops – Stay Out Of The Light
10 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #70 : THE WOODENTOPS”
Fucking love the Woodentops. Extremely pissed off that I missed the recent Glasgow gig.
good things indeed… 29’34” made me chuckle… they are playing at the 100 club soon…
So so good. This could well be my favourite compilation so far. Barring BJ obv.
Other bits – Alice Thompson, formerly of that keyboard, went on to be a successful writer. And bassist, Frank, is Pete de Freitas’s brother.
Thanks Jacques. That means a lot!.
An early draft had the line-ups in full… got just a little confusing!
See, here’s why I love TnVV: I remember ‘Move Me’ and bought it as a single on a mid-80’s trip to England. The band got no play in the US (naturally) and I never heard another song by them and, to be honest, forgot all about them. And here we have an outstanding collection (‘Cracking’, JC might say) of songs I get to hear for the first time! An excellent assortment — I’ll be spelunking into this band’s catalog starting immediately. Well done, SR.
I was luck to have several college radio stations in the Boston area that would play The Woodentops, and all sorts of other stuff as well. I’ve been listening to them ever since the first single, and now my 6 year old son likes them too.
Loved them forever and was in awe of Granular Tales after decades away. Something else to like about Live Hypno Beat Live… finally knocked Erasure’s The Circus out of the indie chart top spot after a whopping 16 weeks there. At the time, no album had occupied that slot longer since the indie chart began. Way to go, Woodentops! The Stone Roses would break that record a couple of years later. As for inclusions, I have to make room for Give It Time. Conversations is my favorite from Granular Tales. I know, can’t have them all. Your list is tough to criticize.
Great post on a great band , should have got loads more recognition. Prompted me to seek out the come back lp
Found this after reading the Plenty Post. What a great band. ❤️