Bruce Woolley

Bruce Woolley

Bruce Woolley, (11 November, 1953) is an English musician, songwriter and record producer.

Early History

Bruce Woolley was born in Loughborough, England on 11 November 1953 and was educated at Loughborough Grammar School where he learned electric guitar, began to write songs and where he met his future wife, Tessa. He lived in Shepshed, playing the UK pub and club circuit extensively for some years, before landing his first professional engagement in 1974, with Ivor Kenney’s Dance Band at Leicester Palais. After a transfer to Derby Tiffany’s, Bruce left Ivor and the Mecca circuit for London in 1976 to pursue a career in song writing, after being offered a publishing contract with Everblue Music, in Piccadilly.

10 year's writing finally paid off with his first hit ‘Dancing With Dr Bop’ for Australian group the Studs – a number one record. After a short tour of the Orient as guitarist for Tina Charles, this was followed by his first English hit “Baby Blue” for Dusty Springfield, co-written with Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, and soon after that in 1979 he had his first international hit, the Ivor Novello-nominated “Video Killed The Radio Star” – also co-written with Horn and Downes who later became The Buggles. Although Woolley owns a 50% writing share of the song and the trio wrote the band’s third hit “Clean Clean”, Woolley was never a member of The Buggles. He was, in his own words, merely "on the design team". The Buggles duo later joined Yes, while Bruce toured England, America and Canada with his New Wave music outfit The Camera Club.

The Camera Club notably included a young Thomas Dolby on keyboards, Matthew Seligman (The Soft Boys, Bowie) on Bass, Dave Birch (Squeal) on guitar and the late Rod Johnson on drums. The Camera Club disbanded after 2 years largely spent on the road and disagreements with CBS records who refused to release their second album.

During this record company conflict, Bruce wrote and directed the cult animation movie “GOG” and produced a single and EP for Firmament and The Elements, a group formed under a pseudonym with his brother Guy. Woolley also teamed up again with Trevor Horn to co-write and produce “Hand Held in Black and White” – a hit for Dollar in 1981 and the pair also co-wrote their follow up hit “Mirror Mirror”.

In 1983 Magnus Uggla, the biggest rock/pop-star in Sweden, recorded a cover of 'Blue Blue Victoria' with new lyrics in Swedish. The song was the first single on the album called 'Välkommen till folkhemmet'. It sold 20,000 copies becoming a gold single.

Success came again with 1985’s Slave to the Rhythm album for Grace Jones – (also a No 1 Dance record in America) originally intended as a track for Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Island Records’ founder, Chris Blackwell, suggested using the title for Grace. Almost a year in the studio, using the then revolutionary Synclavier system, subsequently produced the eponymous, ground-breaking LP.

Song Writing – continued

For the next few years, Woolley temporarily abandoned live work and concentrated on production and writing for other artists, including Grace Jones with whom he collaborated on all the songs for her next album, Inside Story, working closely with ex Chic guitarist and producer Nile Rodgers. (Duran Duran, Madonna & David Bowie) During this period, Bruce spent time with Andy Warhol, Timothy Leary and also Keith Harring, who designed the sets for the video of I'm Not Perfect (But I'm Perfect For You).This song received the ASCAP award for Black Music in 1987 – presented to Bruce by Cab Calloway.

Artists to record Bruce Woolley’s songs have included John Farnham (another No 1 Australian record with “Two Strong Hearts”), Shirley Bassey - 2007’s Get the Party Started (album) was her highest charting album since 1978, and featured a cover of “Slave To The Rhythm”) The Orb, The Feeling (No 1 UK Gold album February 2008), Jason Donovan, Cliff Richard, Tori Amos, Yes, Tom Jones, Cher - “Love is The Groove” featured on her Multi-Platinum album Believe (Cher album) & Bebel Gilberto. To date, Woolley has sold over 25 million records Worldwide.

Films and TV

Written Film music contributions include: Toys (film), The Wedding Singer, Hearts Of Fire, Electric Dreams (film), Veronica Guerrin, The Avengers (the Radio Science Orchestra wrote, co-produced and performed the title track “Storm”) Caddyshack, Underground, Supergrass, The Business, Rough Diamonds, She’s So Lovely and Empire Records. As a player, Bruce performed all the Theremin parts in Baz Luhrmann's classic, Moulin Rouge!. In addition to Film work, during the 1990s Bruce became heavily involved with the world of Advertising – specialising in creating music and sound design for Animated Commercials, eventually overseeing, in collaboration with London's Larger Than Life agency, a number of major, high-profile international campaigns for clients which included Bell Atlantic, Unilever, Saab and Coca Cola.

The Radio Science Orchestra

In 1994, Bruce returned to the stage with the Radio Science Orchestra – a Theremin-led ensemble which included founder members composer/arranger Chris Elliott (Moulin Rouge!) and Andy Visser (ONL). Since then, the ensemble has given numerous performances – always promoting the Theremin - the World’s first and only truly Space Controlled instrument (ie. the only instrument to be played without physical contact, and not to be confused with Sound or Light beams).

These events have included the Glastonbury Festival, with Moscow’s Lydia Kavina (inventor genius Leon Theremin’s great niece), a special live score for the first public showing of Ray Santilli’s notorious Alien Autopsy film, an interactive soundtrack for the Turner-nominated [ Superstructure With Satellites] at the Tate Gallery, and a three month installation on London’s South Bank in 2004. Shell commissioned the weather-dependent “Electric Storm” which featured a 24 hour interactive soundtrack & 40 loudspeakers across the famous post- war site, with lights, music and artificial fog created from water which was pumped from the Thames. All the power for the show was derived from a huge Wind Turbine, specially installed alongside the Waterloo footbridge.

Also in 2004 Bruce and his son Kit took the Theremin and the Radio Science message to China, for a hugely successful series of outdoor shows, attended by thousands of people, during Shanghai’s first International Pop Festival. The pair were presented with a special award of excellence to mark the occasion. This was the first time that the Theremin had been played live in front of a Chinese audience.

Shortly after that, the RSO scored a three minute viral commercial for [ Greenpeace] featuring a ‘Galaxy’ of British stars.

The association with Grace Jones continued with the RSO co-writing and producing the title track for The Avengers movie, sung by Miss Jones. When Grace appeared with Luciano Pavarotti, it was to sing the duet "Pouquoi Ma Reveiller" arranged by Bruce and the RSO.

Bruce has demonstrated the Theremin in numerous Radio and Television broadcasts with appearances on MTV, EBN, BBC 1, BBC 2, BBC World Service Television News, ITV, Channel 1, Channel 4, Radio 2, (including the Chris Evans Drivetime show in February 2008) Radio 3 and Radio 4.

Switched On Radio

In 2005 Bruce wrote and presented radio shows for the first time, co-producing with Miss Hypnotique, a series of documentaries for London’s Resonance FM under the banner of [ Switched On Radio] . The series looked at the development of Electronic Music in the 20th Century. Notable subjects included Leon Theremin, Jean-Jacques Perry and of course Dr. Robert Moog. Bruce interviewed Gershon Kingsley - of Popcorn (instrumental) fame, Keith Emerson and developed a working relationship with Bob Moog, who gave one of his last interviews for the Switched On series.

The Prince’s Trust

On November 11th 2004, The Prince's Trust staged a concert at Wembley Arena to celebrate Trevor Horn’s production career, and 25 years of “Video Killed The Radio Star”. Bruce was invited to sing and play with a few of the artists for whom he has written and with whom he has performed on record, including Buggles, Dollar, Grace Jones, The Pet Shop Boys and Seal. That night, as well as helping to raise £100,000 for The Prince’s Trust, Bruce also had the honour of being introduced personally to Prince Charles.

Recent History

2007 witnessed the first UK Theremin Symposium “Hands Off 2007”, where Thereminists from around the World gathered for a three day festival of esoteric electronica. The event, organised by Gordon Charlton, culminated in a public concert which featured, among others, The Radio Science Orchestra, UK’s Charlie Draper, Germany’s Barbara Bucholz and Carolina Eyck, with Lydia Kavina at the helm.

That same year, Woolley was invited by Thomas Dolby, recently returned to England, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik and the beginning of the Space Age. Bruce and Thomas shared the stage for the first time in 27 years, and, with The Radio Science Orchestra at London’s ICA, performed a specially written live score for a film by David Hoffman, accompanied by Lydia Kavina on Theremin, with live narration from Science Fiction writer Ken Hollings

Video Games

Music features in the following Video Games:

Sony Playstation Dancemat, Alvin And The Chipmunks, and Grand Theft Auto.

Gramophone Records

In late 2007 the label Gramophone Records was formed (Bruce Woolley is a director of the company). The label released “One” - the debut album of progressive Jazz outfit ONL - and “Robotika” – an EP of "Electrophonic Sounds" from Robot DJ VTR. The first album by The Radio Science Orchestra, "Memories Of The Future" - a retrospective collection, came to the marketplace on May 5th 2008.

Post Script

Bruce and Tessa live in Surrey, England with their three sons.


[ Partial Discography]

[ Gramophone Records]

[,,2234783,00.html Arts Guardian 2008]

[ Ether, Music and Espionage] Albert Glinsky's definitive biography of Leon Theremin

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