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Tales Behind The Label: Island Records

Tales Behind The Label: Island Records

Holly Conquer |

Island Records made their greatest influence in the UK in the early 1970s, with many major signings such as Jethro Tull and The Cranberries. The label was started in 1959 in Jamaica by Chris Blackwell – a British man who was based in Jamaica. The label made its way to success via artists like Bob Marley and Toots and the Maytals. For the first decade or so of their time they shared spaces with Trojan records who famously specialise in Ska and Reggae.

Charlie Dore - Pilot Of The Airwaves (Edit) - Promo 7" Vinyl Record Island Records

Despite starting out in Reggae, Island really found its feet by signing UK rock artists – these included bands like Roxy Music, Sparks and Cat Stevens. They may have ended up moving away from their groundings musically, but they maintained the themes and symbols of the label throughout time. Island was bought out by PolyGram in 1989 and then later by Universal.

However, they’ve done well to remain somewhat authentic and true to their name – their website still features the iconic palm tree logo as well as a page documenting their proud history, now celebrating 60 years! They have certainly come a long way since Blackwell started out distributing the records himself, driving up the M1 to Birmingham and Manchester to share the music with the local West Indian communities.

Bob Marley & The Wailers - Three Little Birds - 7" Vinyl Record Island records

Island are still maintaining popularity to this day, with recent signings including The Killers, Elton John, Hozier and Ariana Grande.

If you’re interested in learning even more about the rich history of this label, there’s a book! It was written in 2010 by Chris Salewicz and Suzette Newman. The original version could set you back a few hundred pounds, but it looks like there’s a more recent version available for £10 from Island’s own store.


Island have released their own session IPA, and a Jamaican inspired Porter infused with coconut spiced rum and vanilla – they first tested and tasted it in 2014, and it’s been on the shelves for a little while now. They were selling packs of it alongside special vinyl releases of records, but unfortunately it looks like it's no longer available. 

island records session ipa

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