In these hard times it is an incredible achievement for a business in any industry to survive for 50 years, but when the industry in question is as fickle as the music industry, keeping afloat is twice as hard. Which is why t5m was particularly pleased to learn that Island Records is 50 years old this year, and that the milestone will be marked by the label and founder Chris Blackwell, with a festival.
The Island 50 Festival will feature gigs from a range of artists from the legendary Rita Marley herself to new artists such as Ladyhawke in London this month.
Chris, founded Island records in 1959 with £1,000, and after a few years of selling music out of the boot of his Mini Cooper, he produced ‘My boy Lollipop’ for a 15 year old girl called Millie. The record reached number 2 in the British charts and sold six million copies worldwide.
Chris is perhaps best known for giving a little-known reggae artist Bob Marley his big break, and was recently quoted as saying, “Bob Marley was a gamble. I gave him £4,000 up front to make the first album. Everybody said I was mad and I’d never see the money again. The Wailers had a reputation for being total rebels and being sort of impossible to deal with. It was simply because they had been treated unfairly. I took the risk and trusted Bob and it paid off many times over”.
Island is now part of Universal music group, but the iconic logo still adorns albums from the likes of Amy Winehouse, Keane and Paul Weller. The festival kicks off on May 26 at the Shepherds Bush Empire and the line-up confirmed so far is as follows:
Tue 26th May – Sly & Robbie & The Compass Point Allstars feat Grace Jones, Aswad (reuniting especially for the show), The I-Threes (comprising of Rita Marley, Marcia Griffiths and Erica Newell), VV Brown, and Tinchy Stryder.
Wed 27th May – The Fratellis; Steel Pulse; Bombay Bicycle Club.
Thu 28th May – Cat Stevens/Yusuf And Friends, Baaba Maal.
Fri 29th May – Paul Weller; Ernest Ranglin; Spooky Tooth.
Sat 30th May – Keane; Tom Tom Club; Ladyhawke.
Sun 31st May – Amy Winehouse; Toots & The Maytals; I Blame Coco.
The festival will run for a week all proceeds from the shows donated to Amnesty International and The Oracabessa Foundation in Jamaica.
Ticket prices for each show at the festival vary from £27.50 to £37.50, depending on ticket type. To buy tickets go to www.island50.com
‘Keep On Running – The Story of Island Records’ is released on 21 May. The Island Life exhibition is at the Vinyl Factory, London W1, from 22 May to 17 June.