The Island Book of Records project is a series of hardback, lavishly illustrated volumes which will, when complete, fully document the analogue age of the coolest label on the planet with the stories behind those records told by their makers.
Volume 1 covers the years 1959-1968 which will be published in October 2023 by Manchester University Press
– this includes Island’s initial Jamaican releases before the company moved to London in 1962, the birth of Ska, Chris Blackwell selling 45s to shops out of the boot of his Mini-Cooper, Millie’s world-wide smash ‘My Boy Lollipop’, the Spencer Davis Group topping the charts with ‘Somebody Help Me’, Guy Stevens and the Sue label, the formation of Traffic with Steve Winwood becoming the label’s first cornerstone and débuts from Jethro Tull (This Was), John Martyn (London Conversation), Spooky Tooth (Its All About) and the original Nirvana (The Story Of Simon Simopath).
The Island Book of Records 1958-69 is going to be published by Manchester University Press, who will also be offering pre-ordering service for UK/Europe/Rest of the World and North/South American deliveries, starting April 2023. There’s also an option on the MUP website for ordering the book from certain bookshops. The cost is £85 for UK/Europe/Rest of the World and $130 for North/South America. Shipping is calculated once the address has been inserted into the booking. More description and details are on the Manchester University web page
Volume 2 continues the ‘pink label years’ chronicling 1969/1970
…and includes King Crimson’s first recordings, the growth of the embryonic Chrysalis label, Joe Boyd’s Witchseason Productions which brought Fairport Convention (What We Did On Our Holidays and Liege & Lief) and Nick Drake (Five Leaves Left), the move to Basing Street and the opening of the company’s first studio there, the reformed Traffic’s John Barleycorn, Free with Fire And Water which contained the worldwide smash ‘Alright Now’ and, the signing of the second cornerstone, Cat Stevens (Mona Bone Jakon) as well as charting new territory with the ground-breaking compilations: You Can All Join In, Nice Enough To Eat and Bumpers.
Volume 3 charts the years 1971/1972
– with a new label design (the pink-rim palm-tree) and includes Cat Stevens cementing his global success with both Tea For The Tillerman and Teaser And The Firecat, the signing of the Bronze and Blue Thumb imprints as well as the birth of the HELP label. Sandy Denny becomes a solo artist, Head Hands & Feet sign for the world ex-USA, Mott The Hoople’s swansong before success came with ‘All The Young Dudes’ on CBS in July 1972, Traffic’s Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys and its corner cut sleeve giving the illusion of a three-dimensional cube, Nick Drake’s Pink Moon and the soundtrack to the finest Jamaican film of all time The Harder They Come starring Jimmy Cliff. Jim Capaldi begins his solo career, Emerson Lake and Palmer issue Pictures At An Exhibition, Sandy Denny releases Sandy while Roxy Music’s epoch-making self-titled first album ushers in a new era.
Volume 4 covers the years 1973/1974
– which means Bob Marley becoming the third cornerstone as The Wailers’ release Catch A Fire in its specially commissioned cover resembling a Zippo lighter, Bryan Ferry strikes out solo with These Foolish Things, Bob Dylan’s Planet Waves comes to Island from Asylum in a contra-deal for Traffic in the US and there are label débuts from Bad Company and Sparks (Kimono My House) alongside Toots And The Maytals, Richard and Linda Thompson (I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight), Jess Roden and Robert Palmer’s Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley.
In development since early 2004, the first four are at an advanced level with subsequent volumes being prepared.
No album is excluded and each is fully illustrated to include covers, gatefold or inner sleeve, A&B-labels, inner bag or other inserts as well as International edition variants, each with the correct release date annotated. Where known, LPs which were scheduled, yet for one reason or another weren’t issued, are also included.
Album adverts of the time are long-forgotten pieces of art in their own right. Included is every relevant full page + teaser, ¼ page, ½ page or double-page advertisement from Melody Maker, NME, Sounds, Record Mirror, Time Out, ZigZag, IT, OZ, Disc & Music Echo, Black Echoes, Record Collector, Q, Blues & Soul, StreetLife, The Face + others as well as the UK edition of Rolling Stone, together with trade ads from Record Retailer and Music Week. Tour and gig ads – many at venues which no longer exist – together with shop posters, concert tickets, magazine front pages and other artefacts also feature.
Each volume now includes a 45 singles discography covering the pertinent timeframe which also features internationally released singles.
The guiding light behind the initiative is: the stories behind the records and the art within which they were (are still) presented can only (should only) be told by those who were actually involved in their making – the musicians, designers, photographers, producers, engineers, record company personnel of the time. The IBoR contains contemporary interviews together with comments from years gone by.
As the second decade of the 21st century opens up, it is painfully apparent time is not on our side; the last few years have been particularly cruel with some of the giants of contemporary music passing. Logic dictates the chances of the years to come being even more unkind are high.
Therefore, IF the recollections of those who were at the coalface at the time aren’t collected now, they almost certainly never will be. And the sad consequence of that (yes… complacency) will be an irreplaceable span of music history – Island’s legacy, contextually set within its own socio-political milieu – not being preserved, as it should be for future generations.
When complete, the individual #IBoR volumes will represent the entire compendium of Island LP records which began when Lance Haywood at Half Moon was released in 1959 to when Chris Blackwell sold to what is now Universal in 1989.
Each volume will be issued as a limited edition to a maximum of 1500 individually hand-numbered copies.
This page will be updated with more news about The Island Book of Records together with our FaceBook page.