Island Records

Founded in Jamaica in 1959 by renowned music producer Chris Blackwell, Island Records, at its inception, was the bright new star in the galaxy of record labels, which blazed an unforgettable trail of musicians across the world’s imagination for the past sixty years. It has nurtured, encouraged, and changed the fortunes of iconic musicians, including Bob Marley, U2, Grace Jones, Amy Winehouse, Nick Drake, and Robert Palmer. In addition, it has been instrumental in rock, reggae, folk and world music.

Chris Blackwell was only 21 when he founded the label after receiving a loan from his parents, among the heirs to the Crosse and Blackwell fortune. After a few local hits, Chris Blackwell and his three business partners relocated the Label to London in 1962. He found himself in the right place at the right time, in a musical zeitgeist encompassing artists, sound systems, record producers and an ever appreciative audience desirous of new sounds. They received their first major hit took place in 1964 when a ska cover of Barbie Gaye’s Fifties hit "My Boy Lollypop", sung by Jamaican teenager Millie Small went to the very top of the UK hit parade.

Island was to play a seminal role in the progressive music scene of the 1960s and 1970s, and by 1973 they set up new offices at 23 St Peter’s Square. It would be their iconic address for the next 28 years, even after Blackwell sold Island to Polygram UK Group, which later became part of Universal Music. In addition to the outstanding contribution to alternative rock and the burgeoning folk scene, introducing act like Cat Stevens, Marianne Faithfull, Steve Winwood, Traffic, Spooky Tooth, Jethro Tull, Fairport Convention, and Roxy Music, the label also played a seminal role at the forefront of the British reggae scene for Steel Pulse, Aswad, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Dennis Bovell. Island was also at the vanguard of some of world music’s best-known artists, signing deals with Manu Dibango, King Sunny Ade, Salif Keita, Ali Farka Toure, Angelique Kidjo, and Baaba Maal.

In 2022, to mark the 60th anniversary since the label relocated to the capital, the Nubian Jak Community Trust in partnership with Hammersmith & Fulham Council will be installing blue plaque to Island Records.

Location: 22 St Peters Square, Hammersmith, London, W6 9NW

"As time and communities move on, it’s important to mark and remember major achievements so they are never forgotten. I was honored that I had a chance to work at Island in this storied building 22 St Peter’s Square, and to contribute alongside the Island family of artists and staff to its continued history." Darcus Beese, Former President and CEO of Island Records

"Island Records is arguably the most important label for the promotion of African and Caribbean music worldwide. So many artists on its roster are household names, and it is an honour to be awarding the label with a historic Nubian Jak blue plaque as part of LBHF black history trail." Dr Jak Beula, CEO of the Nubian Jak Community Trust.

“Hammersmith and Fulham in partnership with Nubian Jak Community Trust are delighted to install a heritage plaque in recognition of Island Records presence in the borough. This is part of the council`s wider programme to diversify the public realm by visibly celebrating the borough`s Black heritage, history, and music in a proactive way.” Cllr Sharon Holder, Cabinet Member for Public Realm.

“As a Brent resident, I’m glad to know that Island as a properly functioning company in Britain, started in Brent from where it was able to expand to the neighbouring borough Kensington & Chelsea, before ending its life as a spirited independent record company in the London borough of Hammersmith & Chelsea. Especially as we mark African History Month, let’s not forget the heritage of the Island of 22 St Peter’s Square is that of one of the world’s best black music companies, reflecting the catholic taste of its visionary co-founder Chris Blackwell, which easily covered jazz, ska, R&B, reggae, rock, Brit-funk, hip-hop, go-go and continental African music.” KWAKU: Founder of and Black Music Congress.