Taking punk’s DIY ideal and applying it to stripped-down acoustic pop, South London five-piece The Woodentops achieved a great deal of critical success in the short time they were together.
Formed in 1983 in Northhampton, England – and named after the vintage family of Watch With Mother TV puppets – the band released their debut single Plenty on Food Records, and the record led to a contract with Rough Trade.
Throughout 1985, The Woodentops released a series of singles, all written by Rolo McGinty, that began to attract an audience in the UK.
Somewhere between an elf and a satyr, McGinty may well have been the individual for whom they invented the word ‘fey’ and his breathy charisma pervaded every Woodentops song.
The group released their acclaimed debut album, Giant, in 1986, and spent the following year experimenting with their sound, adding tougher guitars and electronics, augmenting their sound with increasingly complex instrumentation and infectious beats.
These changes were particularly evident in their live show, as shown by their 1987 live recording, Hypno-Beat – a showcase of their new-found sound which found appeal amongst the Ibiza club crowd. Also in 1987, Alice Thompson left to be replaced by Anne Stephenson of The Communards.
Featuring the contributions of professional studio musicians keyboard-wizard Bernie Worrell and bass-ace Doug Wimbish among others, 1988’s Wooden Foot Cops on the Highway continued the group’s experimentations with rhythmic and sonic textures.
Unfortunately, the band were unable to gain much of an audience anywhere outside Japan, although they managed low key world tours in 1991 and 1992.
The band resurfaced in 2006 with a new drummer and keyboard player.
Frank de Freitas