Wood Wharf Studios and Billy Jenkins

Photo: Simon Thackray
I always find it very illuminating what people seek out on YouTube. I’m guessing that Scared of Chives was not actually looking for “Wharf Studios” when he came across them on a docco about Kate Bush (tee hee, SoC) – but hey – here they are, in misty-moisty, grainy-form, circa – heavens – looking at her in that vid, I’d guess late 70s/early 80s.

Of course I couldn’t leave it like that. I had a great deal of trouble finding anything about “Wharf Studios” – well, you try googling anything with the words ‘wharf’ and ‘studios’ in the title; all you’ll find are microscopic Docklands apartments. But I finally found Wood Wharf Studios, in a Wikipedia article about Billy Jenkins, a name that was clanging enormous bells in my head.

The studios seem to have been at their zenith around 1986, and I found bands such as Mark Knopfler, Iron Maiden and Dire Straits recording there, but as I delved deeper I became more and more interested in their owner, who was variously described as “The Rigsby of Greenwich”(by “Anonymous,” very possibly himself, given his evident sense of humour) and “If Clapton is God then Jenkins is the giant turtle upon whose back the entire universe stands,” by the Sunday Times. Blimey.

Billy Jenkins sounds like my sort of guy. He’s from times when it was possible – and indeed a good thing – to be experimental within music – to move through, in and out of genres to create one’s own sound, without reference to besuited record company execs. (Oh yeah – they were around, just largely ignored, before gaining a horrible iron grip on music in the 80s. Perhaps with the advent of the internet and the flux of an established music biz forced to fall back on back-catalogue and boy-band covers as deals go into meltdown we are in for another of those eras. Discuss.) The 60s and 70s saw huge change in music and it seems that Billy Jenkins was right in the middle of it.

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here. Here’s a sharply-written article that gives an overview of the man…

The weird thing is I’m sure that someone was talking to me about him only a couple of months ago. Rod – was it you? I’ve checked out his excellent website and MySpace – if you do, do listen to the music there. The titles are enough to make you smile – I particularly liked the idea of “Sounds like Bromley” and “Still Sounds like Bromley…”

Take a special listen to “Not Close To You” – a cross between the Carpenters, a light-voiced Tom Waits and Spike Jones. His guitar-playing is clearly superb, but he brings something else with him – a deep humanity and invention. I’m going to be at the next gig he does. Nothing on the date list yet; he seems to be too busy conducting humanist funerals, but fingers crossed…

How wonderful when someone sends you a little YouTube clip, and you end up finding something fantastic. I am a happy Phantom this morning…

One Comment to “Wood Wharf Studios and Billy Jenkins”

  1. Mole says:

    FYI Billy J never owned Wood Wharf Studio. It was owned by a toff called Michael in partnership with some other dude, who was also not Billy. Billy ran the place for some years and turned it into a throbbing hub of musical mischief. A lot of top S London bands came to use the studio for its inner city location and cool riverside vibe.