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Saturday 24 February 2024

V.A. Saturday And The Woodentops Live

Back in 1988 Trevor Fung, Pete Tong and Paul Oakenfold came home from a summer on the White Isle and filled with the spirit of Ibiza, the anything goes approach of the DJs out there and the desire to do it in London. In September of 1988 they complied a Various Artists compilation record, Balearic Beats Vol. 1 (complete with legendary Dave Little sleeve art, multiple acid coloured single eyes and some Terry Farley liner notes). Balearic Beats Vol 1 pulls together what have become ten set texts of late 80s acid house, with Mediterranean house, Stock, Aitken and Waterman pop stars, industrial groups, Belgian New Beat and  EBM rubbing shoulders with proto- indie dance, Code 61 and Thrashing Doves, Nitzer Ebb and The Residents, Mandy Smith and Fini Tribe, Electra and The Woodentops. Play whatever you like as long as people can dance to it. 

Balearic Beats is a classic VA compilation, an attempt to pull together the sound and energy of a time and place onto black vinyl. For those of us in the UK who didn't make it to Amnesia or Pasha and who soaked this sort of thing up second or third hand, here was a primer, a record or tape to play over and over and a raison d'etre. In some ways, the anything goes spirit of this album, is what this blog and what the  compilation tapes, mix CDs and attempts at DJing I've messed about with ever since, are all about.

Incidentally, at Ban Ban Ton Ton Dr. Rob posted an extensive interview with Trevor Fung and a follow up post where Trevor outlined the tracks he submitted to Oakenfold's label FFRR for the album, some of which didn't make the cut. Trevor's Balearic Bonus Beats can be found here

Of those songs on Balearic Beats Volume 1 the one I was most familiar when it was released was Why Why Why by The Woodentops, a track that appeared on the album as live recording. The manic energy of The Woodentops, the acoustic guitars not so much being played as scrubbed, the hubcap and wood block percussion hits and Rolo McGinty's chanted lyrics, 'Are you ready now?... why? why? why?', was a step away from the indie world that they seemed to come from in 1986- it was t- shirts and shorts, sunglasses and suntans, a song made for dancing to as well as for listening to in a bedsit/ halls of residence. 

Why Why Why (Live)

The Woodentops are currently part way through a short tour of the UK. They opened it with a gig at Night And Day in Manchester on Wednesday night, a cold and wet night lit up by Rolo and the band who gave their all and looked like they were enjoying themselves. 

The first couple of songs felt a bit like it was the first night of the tour, a little time needed to warm up possibly, but they kicked into gear and kept going, quick fire drums bubbling basslines and Rolo's rapid strumming. In the midst of guitars, drums, keys and cellos and the group's songwriting chops, the sounds of influences such as Can, The Clash and Talking Heads can be heard. Why Why Why gets a cheer mid- set and Love Train rattles by like 1986 was just a few days ago. The recent single Ride A Cloud, surely a chart hit somewhere, is a delight, the chilled guitar lines and breathy feel changing the energy and feel completely, a Rolo spoken word section describing the actions of astronaut Mike Massimo, a man with a lifetime ambition to work on the Hubble Space Telescope and who at the moment of achieving his lifetime ambition, broke the hatch and watched the screw float away into the depths of space. I guess it's still out there somewhere. My memory of exactly what they played on Wednesday night is patchy and I wasn't taking notes but near the end they played Good Thing, a stand out from 1986's Giant album, the African highlife guitars sparkling. This version is from the 1987 live album Live Hypno Beat, an album recorded live in Los Angeles in '86, a live album that can be returned to and played over and over again. 

Good Thing (Live)

My friend Darren and came with me took this photo of Night And Day,, a small venue that is a Manchester institution and that has played host to some amazing gigs over the last three decades, from bands big and small, known and unknown. I've seen Carbon/Silicon (Mick Jones' post- BAD group), Pete Wylie, The Orb and Damo Suzuki play there among others. Doves, Johnny Marr and Manic Street Preachers have all appeared on the small, square stage. It's currently awaiting a legal hearing about it's future due to a complaint from a resident who bought a flat above Night And Day, a bar and live venue, and then complained a bout the noise. I really hope it wins and stays open. 


John Medd said...

Great photo of the venue by Darren. Does he want to join Photo Challenge Club?!


Swiss Adam said...

He's into his photography John, I'll ask him.