“I really, really love music,” Island Records co-founder Chris Blackwell admits in the opening moments of the 2009 BBC FOUR documentary that traces the company’s storied history and widespread influence on popular music. “I was living really for music. I love music so much I just wanted to get into it or be as close to it as I could.”
Originally broadcast in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the label’s genesis in 1959, Keep On Running: 50 Years of Island Records examines how Blackwell accomplished his personal goal and so much more, in gradually building Island into one of the world’s most successful and respected record companies.
A fascinating first-hand perspective that explores the dynamic of music as art and music as business, the film begins by revisiting the early days of the fledgling label in Jamaica and the “organized chaos” of getting the company off the ground with its initial recordings. Featuring rare archival performance footage, the film chronicles Island’s ascension through the career development of such revered acts as Jimmy Cliff, Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Roxy Music & Bryan Ferry, Traffic, and U2, among many others. Also featured are interviews with Blackwell, Bono, The Edge, Brian Eno, PJ Harvey, Toots Hibbert, Trevor Horn, Yusuf Islam (a.k.a. Cat Stevens), Linton Kwesi Johnson, Grace Jones, Kid Creole, Rita Marley, Kate Pierson, Sly & Robbie, Tricky, Paul Weller, and Amy Winehouse.
“If U2 had signed to any other record label, our second album (1981’s October) would have had us dropped,” Bono admits. “So…we wouldn’t have got to the third album, ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and The Joshua Tree. It was a precious culture at Island to allow the artists to grow.”
Watch the documentary below and join us in celebrating this remarkable story of one of the most important record companies of all time.