Pop oddballs Stavely Makepeace teamed Rob Woodward and Nigel Fletcher, a pair of Joe Meek-obsessed eccentrics who first began collaborating in the early '60s. While Woodward later enjoyed limited success as a solo singer under the alias Shel Naylor, eventually mounting a one-man cabaret show, Fletcher spent the middle of the decade serving in the British Merchant Navy, settling in London following his 1967 discharge. In late 1968 Woodward and Fletcher resumed their creative partnership, decamping to the former's mother Hilda's Coventry home and setting up their own studio in her living room. Dubbing the project Stavely Makepeace, the duo added bassist Pete Fisher and drummer Don Ker to flesh out the sessions, releasing their debut single, "I Wanna Love You Like a Mad Dog" on Pyramid Records, in mid-1969.
Combining rough-edged electronics, traditional and found instruments, and tape-machine sleight of hand, Stavely Makepeace quickly emerged as a singular presence on the British pop landscape, earning a devoted cult following as well as the nickname "the Scrap Iron Band," a nod to their anything-goes aesthetic. After their second Pyramid single, "Reggae Denny," was scrapped at the 11th hour for reasons unknown, guitarist and woodwind player Steve Tayton joined the lineup in early 1970, and with the exit of Fisher, new bassist Steve Johnson signed on as well. This new lineup made its bow with the Concord label single "Edna," a minor hit that won Stavely Makepeace an appearance on television's Top of the Pops. "Smokey Mountain Rhythm Revue" soon followed, its tongue-in-cheek instrumental flip side, "Rampant on the Rage," inspiring Woodward and Fletcher to form an instrumental side project, Lieutenant Pigeon, its lineup the same as Stavely Makepeace's but for the addition of Hilda Woodward on piano.
While 1971's Stavely Makepeace single, "Give Me That Pistol," sank without a trace, Lieutenant Pigeon's 1972 debut, "Mouldy Old Dough," went on to become the best-selling U.K. single of the year, winning Woodward and Fletcher the Ivor Novello Songwriting Award in the process. Both bands coexisted for several years to follow, with violinist Owen John replacing Tayton in time for Stavely Makepeace's 1972 Spark Records debut, "Walking Through the Blue Grass." "Slippery Rock 70s" soon followed, and in the wake of 1973's "Prima Donna" the group was again in search of a new label, landing at Deram for "Cajun Band." Again the mainstream listening public wanted no part of this nonsense, and following 1974's "Runaround Sue," Woodward and Fletcher mothballed Stavely Makepeace to focus all of their efforts on Lieutenant Pigeon.
In 1977, Unigram Records released the previously unissued SM cut "Baby Blue Eyes" to little notice, and a year later Chas Chandler's Barn label likewise dusted off another forgotten track, "No Regrets." Neither single charted, but proved enough to convince Stavely Makepeace to re-form full-time. However, 1980's Hammer Records single, "Songs of Yesterday," flopped, and after one last gasp three years later with the self-released "Just Tell Her Fred Said Goodbye," the band itself bid its final adieu. In addition to the long-lived Lieutenant Pigeon, which continued touring into the next century, Woodward and Fletcher continued their partnership as producers of radio jingles and voice-overs, even publishing the joint autobiography When Show Business Is No Business in 2001. Three years later, the British reissue label RPM compiled Stavely Makepeace's singles as The Scrap Iron Rhythm Revue. ~ Jason Ankeny