Island 50 is a Documentary programme.


Island 50

Don Letts tells the story of Island Records, founded fifty years ago by Chris Blackwell. Looking at some of the greatest albums made on the label. Many of these albums, from artists including Nick Drake, Pulp, Fairport, PJ Harvey, Sparks and Cat Stevens, say as much about the time they were made in as the intensive creativity and individuality of the artists who have built on Chris Blackwell's legacy.

Bob Marley became the biggest act on the label and Island's roots would always remain in Jamaica, taking the sounds of reggae and ska to the rest of the world with acts like Toots and the Maytals and Jimmy Cliff, who released some of the most groundbreaking albums of the time whilst signed to Island.

But the label's success also lies in its diversity, which started with Traffic's Mr Fantasy and continued with Free's Fire And Water and John Martyn's Solid Air.

In 1983 U2 released War under the Island label; they would go on to become one of the world's biggest rock acts, but manager Paul McGuinness, the man who discovered them, Nick Stewart and Bono himself explain how their first couple of albums were far less successful. This was a familiar story at Island.

Marianne Faithful explains how she came to Island, after years in the wilderness, for her critically acclaimed comeback Broken English. As a strong individual female performer, Faithfull also set a template for later Island artists like PJ Harvey, Kate Pierson of the B52s and Grace Jones, who talk to Don about life on the label. Tricky and Paul Weller also talk about the label's support for their more personal and uncompromising material.

If there is an ethos that unites this eclectic roster of acts, it is that these are artists who know how they want to sound and understand the importance of a label which allows that freedom of expression. Amy Winehouse and other new artists The Feeling, The Fratellis and Florence and the Machine, as well as older artists like Cat Stevens, explain what it is like to be signed to such a prestigious label and whether the new Island can ever live up to its independent roots.

Genre: Documentary

Running Time: 60 minutes (approx)