Catch up with John Rivers


Catch up with John Rivers

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I am delighted to report that this week a plaque was erected on the original site of Woodbine Street Recording Studio by Leamington Town Council, with Horace Panter of The Specials, whose masterpiece "Ghost Town" was the final recording made on those premises forty years ago, carrying out the unveiling.

Although this single recording was more than sufficient to put the site on the map, as Horace is quite rightly keen to point out, the studio, created by John Rivers, was absolutely central to the local music scene and emerging talent (often of a style far too idiosyncratic for major record labels to contemplate) of the late 1970s and John deserves huge credit for not just seeing the potential in bands like the Shapes, Swell Maps, School Meals etc, but helping build their confidence and mentoring through their earliest studio time: it was this of course which led The Specials at the zenith of their initial fame to this relatively obscure location rather than the glamour of London studios.

John is of course still going strong & I had the pleasure of spending yesterday afternoon at the new Woodbine Studios, congratulating him on being honoured & catching up on his current recordings.

His enthusiasm for music, especially grassroots and emerging artists remains at exactly the same high level as it was forty plus years ago and once he started telling me about some of his current collaborations, he could not help himself playing the music of many of them (plus many blasts from the past of bands he'd recorded at Woodbine from back in the day  we'd been chatting about) and so my stay went on far longer than I'd dared imagine (fortunately I wasn't particularly distracting him from "real" work as I found him busy updating professional studio software: and boy do some of the programs take a while to download).

 I knew some of them as it happened, but as is always the case, his antennae and connections had led me to artists I'd never heard of and introduced me to, Some were remasters of older material: I was particularly pleased to learn that he has worked on the legacy of the late Nikki Sudden as I knew how close John was to him and his family from teenage years, through Swell Maps and on into his cult solo career. He also has worked on old Cult Figures tracks which had been found hidden at the end of an old Swell Maps tape.

He also raved (as well he might) about working with "Hot Music Live Presents" artist YNES: one of those highly individualistic and feisty spirits he so enjoys.

Otherwise, on John's recommendation, I'll be checking out (and I suggest that you do) artists such as Daniel Barrie, Aaron Iken (from Australia), William William Rodgers, the Accused, Daniel Barrie and  Coventry's Eyes of Isabel plus the Guttercats from France. He also enjoyed working with Tony Barber of Buzzcocks (who, along with Paul Weller can be listed among the more well known of the artists his reputation has drawn to Leamington).

Generally, during the pandemic, John has been able to do less work with bands than solo artists, but is greatly looking forwards to adjusting things. Given his current work and joy in what he is doing, who could bet that in time his current studio might merit a plaque of its own for what is going down in there?

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