Beez Neez now Chy Whella
Big Bear and Pepe Millard
Tue 15 Feb 2011 23:02
Associated Independent Recording


Associated Independent Recording (AIR), an independent recording company, 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.


Oxford Street: AIR's first facility was on the fourth floor of 214 Oxford Street, containing four studios, and later a MIDI programming room. The facility included two large studios (one 58×32 feet, the other 30×28 feet) and two small ones. The studios contained two Bosendorfer pianos, many soundproof booths, and a 56-channel mixing console, custom-designed by Neve to AIR's specification. We have met a couple who toured the studio in the days before the exclusion zone, they told us it was as if time had stood still, tape decks and machinery just as the day the door was locked for the last time.





AIR Montserrat: The company built another recording studio on the Caribbean island of Montserrat in 1978. In 1986, the facility was described as such: "Recently refurbished control room now featuring 60 channels by SSL with automation and TR and 12 fully integrated channels by Rupert Neve of Focusrite, two 32track Mitsubishi X850 digital machines and 24track Studer A800. Digital mixing on two Mitsubishi X86. Very comprehensive ancillary equipment list."


The first band to record in the new studios was The Climax Blues Band, from January to March 1979. The studios were the most expensive to hire in the world, it nearly bankrupted Black Sabbath as they couldn't "manage their studio time", no surprises there then..... Elton John recorded three albums at the Montserrat studio in the 1980’s, including Breaking Hearts and Two Low for Zero. Dire Straits recorded their successful Brothers in Arms album between 1984 and 1985. Duran Duran recorded one their most important albums, Rio during January and February, 1982. Other artists, such as Phil Collins, Lou Reed, Olivia Newton-John, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire, Paul McCartney - Tug of War, Eric Clapton - Behind the Sun, Luther Vandross - Any Love and Give Me the Reason, Rush, The Police - Ghost in the Machine and Synchronicity, the Rolling Stones, The London Gospel Community Choir, Little River Band, Sheena Easton and Supertramp have also recorded albums there as well as Montserrat's own Alphonsus "Arrow" Cassell, we know in the UK as singing the hit Hot Hot Hot.

For eleven years stars quietly slipped in and out of Montserrat, almost unnoticed locally, to record their hits, as at the time they were not taxed in England for records produced here, a loop-hole the Government "saw to" at a later date. In the 1980's Montserrat attracted more than 30,000 visitors a year. The AIR studios closed the day before Hurricane Hugo struck on the 17th of September 1989, the damaged studios have never re-opened.


Jimmy Buffet recorded "Volcano, I don't know where I'm gonna go when the volcano blows", was played several times a day on the local radio in the early days of the volcano activity. 




The Cultural Centre photographed from Beez Neez in Little Bay


Sir George Martin, Beatles producer, AIR Studios and part-time resident, decided Montserrat needed something to lift the people's spirits and bring some encouragement to the island. Hence the Cultural Centre idea was created. With the help of a host of dedicated volunteers and fund raising activities the two million, later three million dollars needed was raised.



The first major fund raiser was a high profile concert at the Royal Albert Hall on the 15th September 1997, featuring many of the stars who had recorded at AIR studios. They gave their services free of charge. Another fund raiser was Sir george selling 500 autographed limited edition lithographs of the score he produced for the Beatles' song "yesterday". The state of the art Cultural Centre was officially opened on Saturday the 12th of May 2007. It stands on the hill overlooking Little Bay. At the opening ceremony Sir George emphasised that it was not "his" Cultural Centre but that it belonged to the people of Montserrat "It is a great place for all kinds of entertainment, and will be used as a focal point for the new town". Nowadays Sir George Martin's home, Olveston House, has a part that is rented out and a restaurant. 




The multipurpose centre houses a 700 seat Sir George martin Auditorium, conference rooms, a bar and restaurant area. Sound engineer, Chris Runciman and fellow volunteer, musician Peter Filleul (both of the Climax Blues Band) were instrumental in the technical installation of the sound equipment, making this a top class facility. The large foyer is ideal for exhibitions. The centre can be used for weddings, concerts, open air events and can be adapted for all kinds of entertainment. When we visited the place was empty except for a man upstairs listening to loud music and watching porn, he had no idea we were there. When he did appear as we were leaving I told him he would go blind "Nah man" Well at least his hair was showing signs of wear and tear........






The Wall of Fame - bronzes of the 'helping hands' of Elton John, Mark Knoffler, Sir Paul McCartney and Ray Cooper