When Christopher Percy Gordon Blackwell returned to England from Jamaica in 1962, he came equipped with good-looks and easy charm, the self-confidence and network of contacts that are the primary benefits from being educated at a major British public school (Harrow), the financial safety net of belonging to both the Crosse & Blackwell tinned food and Appleton Rum dynasties and a solid first-hand grounding in the cut-throat practices of the Jamaican record industry.
His next couple of years were spent shuttling between London and Birmingham in a Mini Cooper, hustling deals to supply record shops serving the recently-arrived Caribbean communities the latest sounds from their (and his) homeland. They would appear on Blackwell’s own label, Island Records.
In 1967 he was swift to recognise the significance of a new, young, affluent and musically omnivorous demographic, happy to buy LPs as avidly as their younger siblings bought singles. Overnight, Island’s policy shifted. They continued to distribute Jamaican recordings, but from now on, the priority would be focused on home-grown “underground” or “progressive” artists who would be encouraged to release their wares on beautifully pressed and packaged albums. (Christopher’s apprenticeship may have been served in the ghettos of Kingston, but his role models were the gentlemanly likes of Ahmet Ertegun at Atlantic and Elektra’s Jac Holtzman; fellows who appreciated quality and demanded that products bearing their name should reflect that).
To indicate this change, a new label design was unveiled. Uniquely, it would be a fetching shade of pink. As pink as a new dawn; as pink as the innocently shining faces of the young acts Island would sign and make its fortune from….
1 quintessence-notting hill gate
2 bama winds-dealer
3 kim fowled-the trip
4 peter sarstedt-mary jane
5 them-gloria’s dream
6 chords five-universal vagrant
7 art-african thing
8 jethro till-love story
9 wonder k frog-turn on your love light
10 traffic-medicated goo
11 ray cameron-doing my time
12 nirvana-oh! what a performance
13 fairport convention-autopsy
14 if-what did i say about the box jack (edit)
15 king crimson-cat food
16 white noise-love without sound
17 john marten-rolling home
18 spontaneous music ensemble-karyobin pt.1 (excerpt)
19 roxy music-remake/remodel