Strangely strange and oddly 50….

 

All of the hoopla about the 50th Anniversary of Island Records had been & gone when this blog was just a twinkle in my eye, but hey, it’s still 2009, still their anniversary and see if I care anyway that I’m late….

Island was the first record label for which I felt an affinity and there has probably only been one another – ECM, since you ask – for which I feel a similarly rosy glow.  Of course, these days Island is just a tentacle of the colossal octopus that is Universal Music and they (Universal) clearly see it as a label for current music, rather than some retro backwater re-issue label, though they have not been slow to exploit what is a magnificent back catalogue.

It’s hard to convey just how galvanised I was by Island when they first appeared on the UK scene in 1967.  I’d heard (and liked) the first Traffic single ‘Paper Sun’, so sauntered down to my friendly local record retailer to buy a copy.  Words cannot adequately convey my astonishment when I was presented with this florid pink artefact (see picture at foot of this post) which flew in the face of everything I’d experienced up until that point.  Beatles singles came with a black label, Rolling Stones with a sensible blue one – this was the point at which the Summer of Love arrived in my life.

After that came ‘You can all join in’, a modestly priced LP sampler of a dozen or so acts from this new label’s roster.  By then I’d already heard Jethro Tull and Free  as well as Traffic and I think Cat Stevens was in there somewhere, but this was the point at which I encountered John Martyn, Fairport Convention and several others for the first time. 

Better was to come with the next Island sampler, ‘Nice enough to eat’ which emerged in 1969.  New and fascinating acts like Nick Drake, Blodwyn Pig and Quintessence were introduced and so it went on,,,Bronco, If, Heads, Hands & Feet, Richard Thompson, Jade Warrior……  It really seemed for a while that Chris Blackwell had a hotline to the best rock music in the world.   Certainly, the major labels seemed to think so; CBS started releasing a series of similar low-price samplers and both EMI and the Phonogram group started their own ‘progressive rock’ labels (Harvest and Vertigo, respectively) in a typical ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ response.

By and large, there was a kind of unspoken rule that anything released on Island was worth listening to, an attitude that persisted well into the 1970’s.  When I was at college in Bedford in the early 70’s, I remember being very excited that we had booked an Island package tour of new acts that they were sending out on a round of UK colleges.  In fact, we seemed to get a lot of Island acts, perhaps because our Social Sec. was a guy called Mick Cater, who later worked for Island and eventually became Robert Palmer’s manager.

The band who topped the bill on that College Tour were called 25 Views of Worthing and as I recall, they played (very well) in a style reminiscent of Caravan, Egg and all of those Canterbury bands.  I have searched the internet in vain for any trace of them – who they were, where they came from (Worthing, maybe?) and why Island didn’t sign them or release anything by them, so if anyone reading this has any answers to those questions I’d be delighted if they would post a response and satisfy my curiosity.

By the 70’s, of course, Island was changing, becoming a truly international label, signing new types of bands – Roxy Music were a bit of a bellweather for what was to come.  Although I didn’t know it then, Island still had quite a part to play in my life, but I think that’s a story I’ll save for another time……..

Blodwyn_Pig_UK

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14 responses to “Strangely strange and oddly 50….

  1. Hi.
    I’m trying to track down more info about the Island package tour featuring 25 Views of Worthing. You don’t happen to remember who else was on the tour by any chance?
    Regards

    • Hi David,

      Good question; I may be wrong but I have a feeling that one of the other bands was one of the Free offshoots when they temporarily spilt – I think both Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser had bands and I think it was the Andy Fraser band (called ‘Peace’ maybe?) who were on that tour. Can’t for the life of me remember the other acts….good luck with your enquiries and please let me know what you discover – also let me know if I can do anything else to assist…

      Andy.
      learning2saynothing@hotmail.co.uk

  2. Many thanks Andy. Will do

  3. Hi David – Check this YouTube link; hang in there; the relevance isn’t immediately obvious!

  4. Paul Devonshire

    A bit late but I was the sax player in 25 views of Worthing. We were from Watford. The original band was Roger Hillier keys. Paul Devonshire sax clarinet flute. Mark Sugden drums. Paul Lindsay bass. We completed an album at Island records but it was never released.

    • Out of the mists of time etc etc…….

      Thanks Paul for your post. Later on in the 70’s and into the ’80’s I had quite a bit to do with Island as a mate of mine was their Northern Promo Guy. Thanks to him I got to meet people like (the late) Rob Partridge who was their Press Officer and would probably have been at Island whilst you were associated with the label. On a number of occasions I oh so nearly asked Rob if he had any recollection of your band and if there were any recordings lurking in the archives at Island HQ but I never did get round to it. What we need is some serious archivist to get into ‘The Vaults’ and get this stuff released! Perhaps I should volunteer?

  5. The Island Package tour with 25 Views of Worthing also included Mark Allan and Raymond Tissier. Mark Allan released a single on Island “Be Mine” in 1973 but I have no information as to any release from Raymond Tissier. With regards to 25 Views they were a four piece sax, keyboards, bass and drums line up and some demos were recorded at Island studios but nothing was ever released by Island.

  6. A release of 25 Views of Worthing is long overdue

  7. Any more news on 25 Views of Worthing?

  8. I think there was a 12 inch single or something NOT on Island Records featuring them at some time.

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