In anticipation of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Island Records, the Jamaican-born label that brought us Bob Marley, U2, Cat Stevens, and Amy Winehouse, among others, the BBC has published a brief history of the recording company based on interviews with its founder, Chris Blackwell. Blackwell’s path from modest beginnings in Montego Bay in 1959 to fame and fortune is closely associated with the emergence of reggae as a musical force through the sound of Bob Marley and the Wailers. Blackwell had released a single by Bob Marley, but, as he recalls for the BBC
. . . had never met the reggae singer until Marley walked into his London office in 1972, and asked for a record deal. Blackwell was warned off Marley and his band The Wailers, who had gained a reputation for being difficult to work with. But the label boss took a chance. “When I saw them, I was just really impressed with them,” he says. “I just felt that the best thing I could do to work with them, was to show them some trust.
“I drew a cheque to them and said ‘Go make me a record’. Everybody said ‘You’re crazy, they’ll never do that, these guys are the worst guys’. But it was a good decision because it formed the basis of our relationship because it was a really great working relationship.”
The result was Catch A Fire, their first album for the label and the first step in bringing reggae to the masses.
The label’s anniversary will be marked by a series of concerts throughout London beginning next week.
For more on the label’s history go to http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/8058612.stm