Throwback Thursdays: Story of Montserrat AIR Studios & Dire Straits

Throwback Thursdays: Story of Montserrat AIR Studios & Dire Straits


In the middle of 70s and 80s there are bands and musicians who created music songs with so much love, which today they are one of best classic hits.

Bands like Dire Straits, The Police, Rolling Stones, AC/DC, U2, The Beatles, and many others, in the era of their music success, wanted to get away from everything and to forget about all, and just to go somewhere to composed new songs and created new music.

You know, that is not easy. So, Sir George Martin (the producer and discoverer of The Beatles), built AIR in the late ’70s as an extension of his renowned Associated Independent Recording Studios in London.

In 1977 he fell in love with Montserrat and decide to build the ultimate get away from it all recording studio. Opened in 1979, AIR Studios Montserrat was a home for many bands and musicians, more than a decade, with offering all of the technical facilities of its London predecessor, but with the advantages of an exotic location –  Montserrat Island, West Indies, Caribbean Sea.

Montserrat Studio

At the time, many musicians were looking to get away from it all, and there were a few studios that offered specific locations like Bahamas, Jamaica … that were established to provide international artists with a mix of state-of- The-art equipment and peaceful island vibes. Sir George and his studio at Caribbean – AIR Studios Montserrat, was a place where musicians came to record some of its music.

In time of 10 years (1979 – 1989) the studio hosted Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, The Rolling Stones, Dire Straits, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Duran Duran, The Police, Lou Reed, Black Sabbath, Eric Clapton and many others worldwide known musicians and bands.

The Police were repeat clients, recording their two of most successful albums, Ghost In The Machine and Synchronicity at AIR Studios in 1981 and 1983. Their video for “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” in which Sting dances across the studio, was recorded at the studio and in other several locations around the island.

As The Police, Keith Richards of Stones during the recording of their comeback album ‘Steel Wheels’ said: “Everything is there, a great bar, great restaurant and great cook. The studio itself is like a plus. It’s best place to live on the island.”

In May 1979, Jimmy Buffet recorded Volcano at the Montserrat studio naming the album and its title song for the then dormant Soufrière Hills volcano on the island. Elton John recorded three albums at the Montserrat studio in the 80s and Dire Straits recorded their successful Brothers in Arms album between 1984 and 1985.

Just a few months after ‘Steel Wheels’ completion in 1989, AIR was seriously damaged and declared uninhabitable following Hurricane Hugo. The start of the Soufriere Hills volcano eruptions six years later, which rendered more than half of Montserrat uninhabitable and led to the evacuation of more than two thirds of its people.

Hurricane Hugo destroyed 90% of the island’s structures and brought the studio’s glittering story to an abrupt end.

Since the eruption George Martin has been raising funds to help the victims and families on the island. The first event was a star-studded event at London’s Royal Albert Hall featuring many artists who had previously recorded on the island including Paul McCartney, Mark Knopfler, Elton John, Sting, Eric Clapton and Midge Ure. All the proceeds from the show went towards short-term relief for the islanders.

George’s second major initiative was to release five hundred limited edition lithographs of his score for the Beatles song ‘Yesterday’. Complete with mistakes and tea stains the lithographs are numbered and signed by Paul McCartney and George.

The lithograph sale raised more than $1.4million which helped fund the building of a new cultural and community centre for Montserrat and provided a much needed focal point to help the re-generation of the island.

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