Bob Marley & The Wailers, Part 7: The internationally released LPs
The Ultimate Guide to Great Reggae - The complete story of Reggae told through its greatest songs, famous and forgotten - Michael Garnice
Michael Garnice [+]
Chris Blackwell is a white Jamaican of upper-class background. As a young man working at the island’s resorts, he became interested in recording local music. A jazz LP in 1960 was the first release on his new Island Records label. It starred Bermudan pianist Lance Haywood, who had been performing at a Jamaican resort, on one side, and Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin on the other. Island’s first big success came in 1964 with Millie Small’s pop-ska cover of ‘My Boy Lollypop’, arranged by Ranglin. It reached no.2 in both the US and UK charts, giving Blackwell an entrée to overseas markets. By the early 1970s, when The Wailers began their association with Island, it was a thriving reggae label internationally as well as at home and had branched out as a force in UK rock and folk, with numerous successful album releases. The association between The Wailers and Blackwell was not planned. The group appeared in his London office in 1972 after an ill-fated UK tour organized by JAD left them essentially abandoned in England. At this, their first meeting, The Wailers so impressed Blackwell that he sent them away with a large cash advance to record an LP of new material for his label. Blackwell no doubt recognized a potential replacement for his most internationally successful reggae star, Jimmy Cliff, who had recently left him. He could not have dreamt the full impact – artistic, financial or cultural – of what ultimately would come of this deal.