Fun history: The story of Compass Point Studios

Back when money flowed like water throughout the recording industry, budgets allowed for artists to take up residence at state-of-the-art recordings studios for weeks if not months on end. Many of these studios were live-work facilities in exotic locations. Compass Studios in the Bahamas was one of them. This is from Reverb.

“Chris Blackwell had a simple, humble mission when he founded Island Records in 1959: to help bring the music of his home country, Jamaica, to a larger audience abroad. In the label’s early years, Island was a vehicle to deliver ska and rocksteady records to English listeners, scoring early hits with songs like Millie Small’s ‘My Boy Lollipop’ and eventually making an international star out of Bob Marley in the 1970s.

“By the late ’70s, Island had grown into a small empire. Still independent, Island had built an impressive, now-legendary pool of talent that included the likes of King Crimson, Spencer Davis Group, Free, Nick Drake, Roxy Music, and Cat Stevens, in addition to reggae artists such as Marley, Toots and the Maytals, and Junior Murvin. Blackwell had also opened two London studios—including Basing Street Studios, a converted church—but as he neared the end of his second decade at Island’s helm, he sought to do the opposite of his first mission: He wanted to bring music back to the Caribbean.

“In 1977, he saw that vision come to fruition with the construction of Compass Point Studios in Nassau, The Bahamas—christened, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry once apocryphally observed, with the blood of a freshly killed chicken spat from Blackwell’s own mouth (a Jamaican custom, as Blackwell supposedly explained). The studio itself offered no sight so horrific. One part state-of-the-art studio to one part tropical getaway, relaxation and comfort was a built-in feature of the studio’s environment. Outside of the intensity of a city environment, it allowed artists to escape everyday stresses and chaos while they were recording. Later on, Blackwell even opened up an adjacent property as a proper resort, reinforcing the idea of Compass Point as a getaway.”

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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