Legendary producer George Martin’s secluded, idyllic Air Studios on the lush Caribbean island of Montserrat birthed such classic albums as Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms, The Police’s Ghost in the Machine and Synchronicity, Eric Clapton’s Behind the Sun, Paul McCartney’s Tug of War and Jimmy Buffett’s Volcano. Then, a hurricane and volcano eruption literally wiped it off the map.
The story of the magical recording studio, which operated from 1979 to 1989, is told through archival and fresh interviews and footage in Under the Volcano, a new documentary from Universal Pictures Content Group.
No album recorded at Montserrat captured the vibe so much as Buffett’s 1979 set, Volcano, which takes its name and title track from Buffett’s experiences there. The cover artwork is a painting, perhaps prophetic, of the green island with the Soufrière Hill volcano spewing smoke in the background.
Buffett, who was the second artist to record in the studio, tells Billboard that Martin, whom he and his producer Norbert Putnam met in London while recording a live album, “was one of the most charming characters. He didn’t have to hard-sell me at all about Montserrat.”
He and his band set up there for three weeks and the album’s title track came very quickly. “We were all living in houses around there and [songwriter/band member] Keith Sykes came up to the house,” Buffett says. “We were working on other songs we had started back in the States and Keith was looking out the window and sang the line, ‘I don’t know/ I don’t know/ I don’t know where I’m a gonna go/ When the volcano blow.’ I said, ‘What did you just say?’ That night we wrote it and cut it the next day.” The song is a staple in Buffett’s live show to this day, as is the other hit from the set, “Fins.”