The Story of Island Records: Keep On Running

Image of The Story of Island Records: Keep On Running
Release Date: 
September 6, 2010
Reviewed by: 

This is a cool book. OK, a lot of music books are cool, but Keep on Running: The Story of Island Records has two things most of them do not: 1) striking full-page, color pictures of tons of album covers and 2) Bono. Just Bono alone is enough to make it cool. (Heck, just the fact that Bono maybe thought one time about potentially reading a book makes it cool. The fact that he is actually in it? Mindblowingly cool. And we are talking about old school Achtung Baby Bono—pre iTunes commercial. See, way cool, right?) So for anyone who thinks that Island Records just puts out great reggae music (yeah, mon, we be jammin’) and then sat around smoking ganga all day, think again. In addition to Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley, ever heard of Freddie Goes to Hollywood? Island artist. How about Grace Jones? Yep, she was on Island, too. Anyone know who U2 is? Oh yeah, they started their career on Island Records, as well. For some reason, the great and powerful music gods smiled on founder Chris Blackwell, allowing him to build one of, if not the, most important independent labels of our time. This story chronicles that creation. Written not by Blackwell, or some unqualified third party fanboy wannabe, Keep on Running: The Story of Island Records is told by the people who were actually there, working directly with the label and the artists. (Blackwell contributed the preface.) Each individual gets the length of an essay to describe what he (or she) did best with the company. For example, Paul Morley drops by to discuss his creation of the Zang Truu/m Tum/b imprint in 1983. And Vivien Goldman, who started her career in PR at Island, also sheds light on her tenure with the label. This book struggles a little in the layout department. It seems like while the text is talking about, say, Fairport Convention, all the pictures feature Traffic art. Then when it covers Marianne Faithfull, the reader gets pictures of P. J. Harvey, so there’s a little bit of a disconnect there. Also, most of the photographs do not have captions, which makes it hard for the Island Records newbie to know who is who in the history of this great label. Layout snafus aside, this is a great book, for both fans of Island Records and the uninitiated. Not only will you get to learn about and experience some great artists, but your coffee table will be prettier.