The Woodentops

The Woodentops were an English art-pop band that released four 1984–85 maxi-singles compiled on Straight Eight Bush-Waker. On Rough Trade, they released the 1986–88 albums Giant and Wooden Foot Cops on the Highway and scored indie hits with “Good Thing,” “Give It Time,” and “Maybe It Won’t Last.”

Members: Rolo McGinty (vocals, guitar), Simon Mawby (guitar), Alice Thompson (keyboards, 1983-87), Paul Hookham (drums), James Rawlings (bass), Frank de Freitas (bass), Benny Staples (drums), Anne Stephenson (keyboards, 1987-?), Skip Macdonald, Yovo M’boueke, Murray Gold, Aine O’Keeffe (keyboards), Paul Ashby (drums)


Background

The Woodentops formed in 1983 in South London when singer–guitarist Richard Ian “Rolo” McGinty enlisted keyboardist Alice Thompson, bassist Frank DeFreitas, and journeyman drummer Paul Hookham (Redskins, The Lemons).

Rolo’s background extended to Northampton post-punks The Institution, which cut the 1979 single “Jane and Jon” (b/w “Stephanie”) on Industrial Accident. He then surfaced in The Innocents, a London-based Advertising offshoot responsible for the 1980 single “One Way Love” (b/w “Every Wednesday Night at Eight”) on Kingdom Records.>

In 1982, Rolo joined Liverpool’s Wild Swans for their 1982 Zoo single “Revolutionary Spirit” (b/w “God Forbid”). He then appeared on two singles by Teardrop Explodes alumnus Troy Tate and reconnected with Institution colleagues in The Jazz Butcher. As King Rolo, he appears on their first two singles (“Southern Mark Smith,” “Marnie”) and one track (“Grey Flanellette”) on their 1983 debut album In Bath of Bacon, which features Thompson (as Alice Suicide) on the track “La Mer.”

Liverpool heavyweight David Balfe (onetime Teardrop and Zoo co-founder) signed The Woodentops as the second act on his Food Records label. Hookham cleared for Kiwi drummer Benny Staples, a onetime member of Auckland skasters Newmatics who played on 1983 albums by Avant Garage and The Miltown Stowaways.


“Plenty”

In July 1984, The Woodentops debuted with the Food Records single “Plenty” backed with “Have You Seen The Lights.” Rolo (credited here by his surname) wrote both sides and all subsequent material. The 12″ includes a third track, “Everybody.”

A. “Plenty” (3:16)
B1. “Have You Seen The Lights” (3:05)
B2. “Everybody” (2:26)

“Plenty” was the second Food release (FOOD 002) between the first two singles by Brilliant, a funk-pop trio funded by Balfe’s business partner Bill Drummond. The picture sleeve depicts wood imagery with etchings (a theme of Woodentops sleeves).

The Woodentops signed with Rough Trade for their subsequent output.

On September 8, 1984, The Woodentops cut their first of three sessions for BBC Radio One DJ John Peel. The 9/19 broadcast introduced four new songs: “Get It On,” “Well Well,” “Everything Breaks,” and “The Last Time.”


Straight Eight Bush-Waker

On April 19, 1985, The Woodentops released their second single “Move Me” backed with “Do It Anyway.” The 12″ includes a third track, “Steady Steady.”

A. “Move Me” (3:30)
B1. “Do It Anyway” (2:40)
B2. “Steady Steady” (6:10)

On August 16, 1985, The Woodentops released their third single “Well Well Well” backed with “Get It On.” The 12″ includes a third track, “Cold Inside.”

A. “Well Well Well” (4:18)
B1. “Get It On” (3:21)
B2. “Cold Inside” (6:40)

On August 27, they cut their second Peel session. The 9/9/85 Woodentops broadcast featured “Plenty” and the upcoming songs “It Will Come,” “So Good Today,” and “Plutonium Rock (Godzilla).”

In November 1985, The Woodentops released their fourth single “It Will Come” backed with “Special Friend.” The 12″ includes a third track, “Plutonium Rock.”

A. “It Will Come” (3:10)
B1. “Special Friend” (4:08)
B2. “Plutonium Rock” (4:12)

In late 1985, Rough Trade gathered both sides of the “Move Me” single with the two subsequent a-sides () and the first and third 12″ extra (“Steady Steady,” “Plutonium Rock”) on Straight Eight Bush-Waker, which appeared in France, Japan, Brazil, Spain, and Australia.

In 1986, the American indie label Upside Records gathered eight of the Woodentops’ 1985 Rough Trade sides (everything barring “Plutonium Rock”) for their first US album, Well, Well, Well… The Unabridged Singles Collection.

On March 20, 1986, The Woodentops recorded their third Peel session. The 4/7 broadcast featured “Move Me,” “Special Friend,” and the earlier “Have You Seen The Lights,” plus one new song (“Give It Time”) from their upcoming album.


Giant

The Woodentops released their debut album, Giant, in June 1986 on Rough Trade.

1. “Get It On” (3:15)
2. “Good Thing” (3:41)
3. “Give It Time” (3:40)
4. “Love Train” (3:04)
5. “Hear Me James” (3:36)
6. “Love Affair with Everyday Living” (3:58)
7. “So Good Today” (2:56)
8. “Shout” (2:06)
9. “History” (3:15)
10. “Travelling Man” (3:12)
11. “Last Time” (4:07)
12. “Everything Breaks” (4:48)

Recorded 1985
Studio The Roundhouse, Camden; Power Plant Studios, Willesden

Rolo McGinty – vocals, guitar
Frank de Freitas – bass, voice
Simon Mawby – guitar, voice
Benny Staples – drums, voice
Alice Thompson – keyboards, voice

Chucho Merchan – double bass
Jack Emblow – accordion
Bob Sargeant – marimba
Steve Sidwell – trumpet
Danny Schogger – strings

Rough Trade lifted “Good Thing” as a single (b/w “Travelling Man”).


“Everyday Living”

On September 29, 1986, The Woodentops released the standalone single “Everyday Living” backed with “Why.”

A. “Everyday Living” (3:42)
B. “Why” (4:25)


Live Hypno Beat Live

In 1987, The Woodentops released Live Hypno Beat Live, a document of their show at the Palace Theatre in Los Angeles in November 1986. It features renditions of five Giant numbers (“Love Train,” “Travelling Man,” “Get It On,” “Last Time,” “Everything Breaks”) and both sides of the recent single (here titled “Everyday Livin”’) and the earlier non-album songs “Well, Well, Well,” “Plenty,” “Good Thing,” “Move Me,” and “Plutonium Rock.”


Wooden Foot Cops on the Highway

The Woodentops released their second album, Wooden Foot Cops on the Highway, in the spring of 1988 on Rough Trade.

1. “Maybe It Won’t Last” (3:05)
2. “They Can Say What They Want” (4:15)
3. “You Make Me Feel” (3:09)
4. “Wheels Turning” (5:17)
5. “Stop This Car” (3:21)
6. “Heaven” (4:05)
7. “What You Give Out” (3:26)
8. “Tuesday Wednesday” (3:29)
9. “In a Dream” (3:27)

Producer Rolo McGinty, Scott Litt

Rolo McGinty – vocals, acoustic guitar, song writing
Simon Mawby, Anne Stephenson – guitar, vocals
Frank de Freitas – bass guitar, vocals
Benny Staples – drums, vocals

Doug Wimbish – additional bass
Bernie Worrell – additional Clavinet
Fred Maher – additional percussion
Gary Lucas – additional slide guitar
June Miles-Kingston, Mark Lussana Tunkara – additional vocals

January 1988
A: You Make Me Feel
B: Stop This Car


Discography:

  • “Plenty” (12″, 1984)
  • “It Will Come” (12″, 1985)
  • “Move Me” (12″, 1985)
  • “Well Well Well” (12″, 1985)
  • Straight Eight Bushwaker (EP, 1986)
  • Giant (1986)
  • Live Hypno Beat Live (1987)
  • Wooden Foot Cops on the Highway (1988)

Sources:

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