Currently viewing the tag: "Island Records"

In 1980 I was working with U2, I’d been taking them in and out of radio stations prior to the release of their first single, ‘11 o’ clock tick tock’ and trying to get them in for interviews wherever I could. They had released three singles in the six months from May to October that year and we had been working relentlessly driving up and down the motorways to talk to whoever would have us. And then more of the same upfront of the release of their debut album, ‘Boy.’

You hoped all the hard work would pay off and that opportunities would come your way, you’d take some risks, take a chance on something. It might all go pear shaped but you’d never knew unless you gave it a try, it’s the reason you try it in the first place. If you believe it enough you won’t need convincing and you won’t need to convince others.

November that year was incredible. There were a few of us at Island Records who believed in the band and we were all convinced they could be huge. Rob and Neil in the press department had done an unbelievable job getting journalists along to see them play and were starting to get some really good feedback. All their efforts culminated in an NME (New Musical Express) front cover at the start of the year. I’ve rarely seen a band work so hard at cracking the UK. The previous December they had done, I think six London shows in ten days

At that time there had still been no significant breakthrough with any national radio or television exposure and we all knew we would struggle to survive on press alone. It was a catch 22 situation, in order to maintain the great press coverage they (the press) would need to see others pick up on the band; and to get radio and television interested you needed the press. We were at the crossroads, something needed to give. We needed to get that break otherwise it would be impossible to keep the momentum going.

I received some amazing news. Tony Hale the Radio One producer who was based in Manchester, and therefore a contact of mine loved the band. Were they available to record a session for the Peter Powell show? WERE THEY AVAILABLE? Too right they were available! Around the same time, maybe a week or so sooner I got confirmation that Granada TV’s network kids show ‘Get it together’ wanted to book them. I couldn’t believe my luck, all my Christmas’s had come at once. I say luck but in all honesty I had been working hard on the band for most of the year, we all had and genuinely felt we deserved this break. This was the most significant result we’d had up until now from national radio and TV in the UK. Now we were really starting to get others to believe in them. At this point we were starting to think, just maybe…..

Last year marked the 50th celebration of Island Records and while that in itself is worth celebrating it makes me wonder what exactly is being celebrated. It also triggers off very found memories of Island 25 and the time when Island really was Island and it’s founder Chris Blackwell stood proudly at the helm. That was a wonderfully festive time celebrated by the coolest TV show of it’s generation ‘The Tube’…. Oh how we danced. What made it special was it was celebrated by the people who had played a part in it’s success. For me, and I doubt I am alone in my opinion it ceased to be Island the day it’s founder Chris Blackwell sold it.

It always seems weird and somehow wrong when people retain a name that rightfully they have no claim to, other than they paid for it. Why in fact is it still called Island at all? It irritates me really because Chris Blackwell has nothing to do with anybody that they sign, it’s an insult to his legacy. They could sign a pile of shit and it would sour his reputation…..probably not but you get my drift. I doubt they have a ‘no crap clause in the contract….we’ve paid for it, it’s ours , we’ll do as we see fit. Island Records was his vision and his dream and now it’s a corporate brand that doesn’t make it much different to any other label…..except that they are using the name.

‘ I am just a dreamer and you are just a dream’… Neil Young ‘Like a hurricane’

To all of us that worked there we were dreamers and Chris Blackwell’s Island was our dream.

One man was an Island back then and we were all happy to be shipwrecked there. Chris Blackwell was our Robinson Crusoe and we were all his men/women Fridays. He saved us from EMI,Warner, Sony(CBS as it was back then) eating us up!

 

 

I miss Island Records but I don’t miss record companies, Island was in a class of it’s own, its a tough one to describe…..you really did have to be there. Now I’m standing from the rooftops and shouting, ‘I was there, tough luck if you weren’t!’

My friend Neil met up with Chris Blackwell, Island Record’s founder a while ago and it got us talking about those times yet again. There aren’t too many moments in anyone’s career that trigger off the most vivid of memories….. but the merest mention of Island life and we’re away! I was equally as pleased to hear that the two of them had done just the same!…….check out Neil’s blog for more about CB and Island at Neilstorey.blogspot.com

You meet a lot of people in the music industry and you meet a multitude of stars. For me I not only met them but I worked with U2, Bowie, The Police, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Bob Marley…..the list goes on, but when I talk about Island my only regret is that I never met Chris Blackwell. It was probably circumstance more than anything, he commuted between Jamaica, London and New York and I didn’t cover any radio stations there…… I don’t think he was avoiding me! That being said he played a huge role in my career, firstly as a fan of Island music and then professionally.

I can talk about growing up at Island and learning my trade as a promotions guy because I was left alone to do it, left to make my own mistakes. It was much the same script I gave anyone who came to work for me once I set up my own promotion company……go do it, if you fuck up there isn’t anything I can’t pull you out of. Make your own mistakes, I made plenty but they’re exclusive to me! If they made mistakes but identified them and recovered from them they proved themselves to be the right choice. Looking at the people who came and went I think my choices were good…..they went on to become radio presenters, form their own promotion companies, management companies…. and my intern went on to manage Coldplay! I think I emulated Chris Blackwell’s A and R policy, go with your gut instinct and believe in the people you work with. He was the Lion King, he lived in me!

 

chris-blackwell

In the early days Chris Blackwell was the A and R department. He found someone, he talked to them, told them how great he thought they were and how he thought he could help their career and boom…they’re signed. Prime example Bob Marley, it worked for both parties. Marley would never have been recognized and gain the popularity he did without Blackwell’s guidance and likewise CB would not have been able to attract new acts to his label if he hadn’t done such a remarkable job with Marley.

He needed to stand proud and look at what had been achieved and build his label from there.That’s the secret of a good record man. I won’t harp on about artist development, scroll down there is plenty of that but what I will say is how vital it is that you have a creative mind and an understanding for what you sign. It isn’t just the music it’s ‘can I work with these people, do we both have the same vision?’ Though Chris didn’t physically sign U2 and it’s been well documented by the man himself, it took just one meeting with them and manager Paul McGuinness to convince him of what his colleagues at Island were saying…..this lot are special. Rob Partridge and Neil Storey had worked long and hard in the early days until Nick ‘the captain’ Stewart stuck the piece of paper under them that said..come join this fabulous place that employs me.

Still to this day I think it was the perfect marriage. No label would have persisted in supporting U2 the way Chris Blackwell and Island did back then and certainly no label would have dared not to interfere. They owed the label so much in the first few years that most people would have stepped in and said ‘Oi, stop pissing my money away, this is how it’s going to be.’ Island knew how to grow with their artists…… through relationships based on mutual respect.

 

In 1980 I was working with U2, I’d been taking them in and out of radio stations prior to the release of their first single, ‘11 o’ clock tick tock’ and trying to get them in for interviews wherever I could. They released 3 singles in the six months from May to October and we had been working relentlessly driving up and down the motorways to talk to whoever would have us….and then more of the same upfront of the release of their debut album, ‘Boy.’

You hoped all the hard work would pay off and that opportunities would come your way, you’d take some risks, take a chance on something…..it might go pear shaped but you’d never know if you didn’t give it a go…… It’s the reason you try it in the first place.

If you believe it enough you won’t need convincing and you won’t need to convince others.

November that year was incredible. There were a few of us at Island Records who believed in the band and we were all convinced they could be huge. Rob and Neil in the press department had done an unbelievable job getting journalists along to see them play and were starting to get some really good feedback. All their efforts culminated in an NME (New Musical Express) front cover at the start of the year.

At that time there had still been no significant breakthrough with any national radio or television exposure and we all knew we would struggle to survive on press alone. In order to maintain the great press coverage they (the press) would need to see others pick up on the band……… and to get radio and television interested you needed the press, it was catch 22. We were at the crossroads, something needed to give. We needed to get that break otherwise it would be impossible to keep the momentum going.

I received some amazing news. Tony Hale the Radio One producer who was based in Manchester and therefore a contact of mine, loved the band. Were they available to record a session for the Peter Powell show? WERE THEY AVAILABLE……Damn right they were available! Around the same time, maybe a week or so sooner I got confirmation that Granada TV’s network kids show ‘Get it together’ wanted to book them. I couldn’t believe my luck….all my Christmas’s had come at once. I say luck but in all honesty I had been working hard on the band for most of the year, we all had and felt we deserved this break. This was the most significant result we’d had up until now from national radio and TV in the UK……..now we were really starting to get others to believe in them. At this point we were starting to think, just maybe…..