Wednesday 5 January 2022

The recording of Ghost Town by the Specials

A Special Interest Plaque was unveiled recently in a small Victorian house in Leamington. The Coventry-based two-tone and ska revival band The Specials recorded their UK no. 1 song Ghost Town at 27 Woodbine Street, the original location of the Woodbine Street Recording Studio in 1981.

In 1973, John Rivers bought the house because 'it was the cheapest house in Leamington'. It had all the problems of old houses, but it also had a redeeming feature,  a cold, dark, damp and windowless cellar. Rivers bought an old Sony valve tape recorder and started recording musician friends in the front room of his new house. His growing reputation led to more ambitious recordings with even more musicians. In 1975 he bought a 4-track tape machine to improve the quality of his recordings. The problem was that the front room was too small to cope with the increasing number of musicians and the complexity of John's recordings. He consequently converted the windowless cellar into a recording studio. The new studio was incredibly successful with many new artists recording there, including The Shapes, Swell Maps and Eyeless in Gaza.

Most groups recorded playing live, squashed together in the studio's tiny space. However, this was not possible in the case of the most famous group, The Specials, as it was impossible for all seven members of the group to perform together, so each was recorded separately in the studio. The result was Ghost Town - 'one of the most evocative and provocative singles of all time and a graphic depiction of the inner city-deprivation and urban unrest prevalent throughout the UK in the early 1980s'.

Horace Panter, bass player in The Specials, who attended the unveiling said: 'The Specials recorded one of the most iconic pieces of 20th century pop music in a studio in the basement of a small Victorian house in Leamington. It was not only a snub to the unnecessary extravagance of the music industry, but a homage to the music that influenced us'.

Ghost Town was the Specials' most successful single ever, spending three weeks at No. 1 in July 1981. However, the ten day session in John's studio was the last time that The Specials would record together as they separated later that year.

At this point I would have liked to post the track of Ghost Town, but new blogger does not allow me to do that anymore.  

You can read more about 2 Tone  here


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