Unauthorised item in the bagging area

Sunday 5 March 2023

Half An Hour Of The Woodentops

In the mid 80s The Woodentops arrived, formed in South London by Rolo McGinty, Simon Mawby, Alice Thompson, Frank De Freitas (brother of Bunnyman Pete) and Benny Staples. The early sound married acoustic guitars, marimbas, trumpets, strings and accordion with indie- pop songwriting, hooks aplenty. Around 1987 they shifted gear, speeding up and becoming a frenetic, dance- pop group. Drummer Benny Staples played standing up with a kit that included hub caps giving them a definte rhthmic change other groups at that time just didn't have. Their live album, recorded in decidedly un- indie Los Angeles, Live Hypno Beat is a classic, the band not just playing their guitars but scrubbing them. The arrival of ecstasy may have been a contributory factor. Over in the Balearics Why became a much played song. I bought their second album when it came out Wooden Foot Cops On The Highway in 1988 and it's stuck with me ever since in one way or another (although, strangely looking at it now, the mix below has no songs from that album contained within it). They were a step ahead of their contemporaries, never quite making the crossover to the big success. No matter- they remained unaffected and have a back catalogue without any weak spots- the thirty minutes below could easily feature twenty more songs without any dip in quality. Click play for an upbeat and uptempo half hour to kick start Sunday morning with a spring in your step. 

Half An Hour Of The Woodentops

  • Why (Hypnobeat Live)
  • Good Thing (12" Mix)
  • Travelling Man (12" Mix)
  • Give It Time (Adrian Sherwood Remix)
  • Plenty
  • Love Train (Janice Long Session Version)
  • Move It (Hypnobeat Live)

Why and Move It are both from Live Hypno Beat Live, a twelve song live album, recorded in Los Angeles in 1986 for a radio station. Frenetic, hyper- speed, supercharged and upbeat indie- pop. The pile up of guitars, drums and whatever else is being played towards the end of Move It is a manic thrill. In recent years Why has been remixed time and time again, almost always successfully, a song that loses none of its impact.  

Good Thing, a delicious blend of late 80s indie-pop and African highlife guitars, was a 1986 single and was on their debut album, Giant, also out in 1986. Travelling Man was the B-side. Both are essential Woodentops. The 12" mixes are a minute or two longer in both cases, stretched out at breakneck speed.

Give It Time was also on Giant. The Adrian Sherwood mix, one of several he did for the band, is from a three CD compilation of rarities, remixes and remasters that came out in 2013. 

Plenty was the debut single, released on Rough Trade in 1984 which caught the eyes of a certain Mancunian singer who was reviewing the singles in Melody Maker that week. Morrissey's name followed them round for several years. 

Love Train, a rockabilly shuffle played faster than any train could move, was a 1986 single and also on Giant. The Janice Long session was recorded in June 1986. They'd previously recorded a session for Janice in 1985 as well as sessions for Peel and Simon Mayo.


Khayem said...

Yes! Great selection, Adam, by a truly great band.

Nick L said...

Where to start with The Woodentops... discovered them in early 84 supporting Julian Cope (at the infamous Hammersmith Palais gig where he slashed his stomach with a broken mike stand) and Rolo acted like they were already headliners, finishing the gig naked if memory serves. I thought the John Peel sessions were actually better than some of the stuff that ended up on record but their first 2 albums are still good if not quite perfect for me. Probably the first indie type band to embrace dance vibes, they'd been going that way at gigs for a while so it wasn't a major surprise. They did it well though.The reformation album from a few years back is worth hearing too. Did you know Simon Mawby ended up as one of House of Love's post Bickers guitarists?

Adam Turner said...

Yes, made that connection about the House of Love but thanks for the reminder. By the time he joined I'd lost interest in the House of Love so don't think it really registered. I didn't see him play with them. The reformation stuff is good, agreed. Their most recent gig in Mcr was a victim of the first lockdown and was never rearranged. Think some of the band now live abroad so reunions are more difficult to pull off regularly

JC said...

Great selection of tunes.

May I please be allowed to say how sporting of you to have a tune for each goal????

Swiss Adam said...

JC- You. Are. Not. Funny.