Volcanic eruptions, calypso fugitives and a dead cow: Jimmy Buffett on the wild tale of the Caribbean’s most rock’n’roll studio

In 1978, American singer Jimmy Buffett was riding high on the success of louche beach bum anthem “Margaritaville” when he flew to London to mix his live album You Had to Be There at AIR Studios. There he was introduced to owner George Martin, the legendary producer and arranger known as the “fifth Beatle” for his influence on the band’s sound. Martin suspected he’d found a kindred spirit in Buffett, and began earnestly pitching him on his latest ambitious venture. He wanted to build a second base for AIR Studios on Montserrat, a volcanic island in the Caribbean he’d recently visited and fallen deeply in love with. Martin envisioned it as the ultimate rock star home-away-from-home: sun, sea, sand and the most impressive bespoke recording console that pioneering audio designer Rupert Neve could build him. “I just said: ‘You really don’t have to sell this to me, George!’” says Buffett with a laugh, speaking over the phone from northern California. “I can sail to work!”

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