In August 1965, four leading record producers – George Martin, Ron Richards and John Burgess from EMI and Peter Sullivan of Decca – created Associated Independent Recording (London) Limited. Between them, they were responsible for the success of EMI’s and Decca’s top acts, including The Beatles, Tom Jones, Cilla Black, The Hollies and Lulu. Through AIR, they continued to work with these acts – but now with the added benefit of royalty payments. They based the nascent AIR in offices on Park Street in London’s West End and bought studio time for their artists in Abbey Road, Chappells, Decca and Morgan and a handful of other commercial studios operating in the capital at the time, such as Advision, Lansdowne and IBC. The plan was to eventually build their own studios and by 1967 the group had earned enough royalties from these new production deals to finance the venture. Eventually, premises were found in Oxford Street on the fourth floor of the Peter Robinson department store building, which included a large banqueting hall.
The studios opened for business in October 1970, and in true show business tradition, the occasion was marked by a two-day party during which 400 bottles of Bollinger champagne were consumed. Dave Harries, previously with Abbey Road and now consultant to Mark Knopfler’s British Grove Studios, was one of the first to leave EMI’s employment to join the new venture across town. He would go on to manage the Oxford Street studios for more than two decades. The original four producers were also joined by a host of other top producers and engineers, each bringing in their own work and signings that would add to the success of the studio. These included Chris Thomas, Keith Slaughter, Bill Price, Geoff Emerick, Jon Kelly and John Punter.
George Martin made plans to build another studio when AIR London took off with a lot of success. Opened in 1979, AIR Studios Montserrat offered all of the technical facilities of its London predecessor, but with the advantages of an exotic location. Ten years later, the devastating hurricane Hugo and a local volcano caused this studio to cease operations.
Ten in 1992, the lease on the Peter Robinson building expired. The studios moved to its present location in Lyndhurst Hall in Hampstead, North London.
In June 1975, Dave Gilmour produced recordings of The Man With The Child In His Eyes, Saxophone Song, and a song called Maybe here; the first two were included on the album The Kick Inside, while the last one has yet to be released. Two years later, Andrew Powell (arranger on the Gilmour sessions) returned here to produce the remainder of The Kick Inside. Dave Harries: “Jon Kelly was the engineer and Andrew Powell was the producer and arranger. They were in Studio 2 next to my office when I heard this wonderful sound. It was Kate doing the guide vocal for Wuthering Heights. My hair stood on end. I said at the time it would be massive – and it was”. Kate returned here in 1980 with AIR producer Jon Kelly to record portions of Never For Ever.