Tuesday, July 10, 2012

AIR Studios Montserrat - a sad ending. Sheena Easton's eponymous solo album

Sheena Easton's not tough on the eyes, and this is her eponymous (semi) debut solo album, but we're not delving into the merits of that that record here.  Rather, this will be about where the record was made - at a magical place with a rather sad ending.  So, in "1977, Sir George Martin fell in love with [the island of] Montserrat.  Montserrat is an island that is a British overseas territory located in the Leeward Islands, part of the chain of islands called the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies. It is approximately 10 miles long and and 7 miles wide, with 25 miles of coastline.  Montserrat is nicknamed the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean both for its resemblance to coastal Ireland and for the Irish ancestry of some of its inhabitants.  Martin decided to build the ultimate get-away recording studio.  Opened in 1979, - it was called AIR Studios Montserrat.  [The original AIR Studios (Associated Independent Recording) was an independent recording company, that was founded in London in 1965 by Beatles producer George Martin and his partner John Burgess after their departure from EMI.  Since 1969 AIR has operated its own professional audio recording facilities.]  But back to Montserrat...It had all the technical facilities of its London predecessor, but with the advantages of an exotic location.  For more than a decade, AIR Montserrat played host to classic recording sessions by a [veritable] who’s who of rock and roll royalty - including Dire Straits, The Police, Paul McCartney, Elton, Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Ultravox, The Stones, Lou Reed, Black Sabbath, and Eric Clapton.  Then, in 1989, disaster struck when Montserrat was dealt a devastating blow by Hurricane Hugo which destroyed 90% of the island’s structures and brought the studio’s glittering story to an abrupt end.  Since that event, George Martin has been raising funds to help the victims and families on the island.  The first 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.  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 $1.4 million 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.  Try this one too...

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