History Of Island Labels

Do you really own a first vinyl pressing?

Here you can find the record labels Island used for John's UK releases. This info can prove useful as some traders have a tendency to put a near mint (= newer) release in a nice looking original sleeve with lyric sheet.

The white labels used on both releases of Live at Leeds are left out since they were 'independent'. Also there was no use for the Antille's labels from Canada, the German pink labels with a black 'i', the Australian Island or the black Island labels from France since these were all licensed releases.

Island was founded in 1962 by Chris Blackwell although some sources say it was 1959. The label was named after a 1956 novel Island In The Sun by Alec Waugh (Evelyn Waugh's elder brother). In the beginning it produced mainly reggae releases. Halfway 1967 the label adopted progressive rock which coincided with the introduction of the famous pink labels. All mono releases were on the first pink label but it does not work the other way round.

From this table it becomes clear that the albums changed face faster than the singles.

album label albums timestrip singles single label
label London Conversation (mono) 1967 Oct    
The Tumbler (stereo) 1968 Dec    
  1969 July    
label   1969 Oct/ Nov    
No JM reissues or releases on this 'black block' label       label
label   1970 Jan John The Baptist (different pink label)
Stormbringer! 1970 Feb  
The Road To Ruin 1970 Nov    
label   1970 Dec   label
Bless The Weather 1971 Nov  
  1971 Nov May You Never
Solid Air (gatefold, ILPS9226) 1973 Feb  
Inside Out (gatefold, lyrics) 1973 Oct  
Sunday's Child (lyrics) 1975 Jan    
London Conversation (mono rerelease) 1975 ??    
The Tumbler reissue. 1975 ??    
Stormbringer! reissue. 1975 ??    
The Road To Ruin reissue with Witchseason logo. 1975 ??    
label   1975 Dec    
  1977 Feb Over The Hill label
So Far So Good (gatefold) 1977 Mar  
label One World (lyrics, ILPS9492) 1977 Nov  
  1978 Jan Dancing
Grace & Danger 1980 Oct    
  1980 Oct Johnny Too Bad label
  1981 Mar Johnny Too Bad dub remix
  1981 May Sweet Little Mystery
The Electric John Martyn 1982 Oct  
label   1984 Oct Over The Rainbow
Sapphire 1984 Nov    
label Piece By Piece (gatefold, lyrics) 1986 Feb    
  1986 Feb Angeline (7 ") label
  1986 Feb Classic John Martyn (12 ")
  1986 Mar Lonely Love (12 ")
  1986 Aug Island Life Media Sampler (promo)
One World reissue (no lyrics, ILPM9492) 1986 Sep  
  1986 Oct Lonely Love (7 ")
  1986 Oct Island Life Media Sampler (promo)
Solid Air reissue (single sleeve, ILPM9226) 1986 Nov    
Foundations 1987 Oct    
album label albums timestrip singles single label

There have been more rereleases: of Bless The Weather and Solid Air on the blue rim label (so mid 70's), and of The Tumbler, The Road To Ruin and Inside Out on the blue label (probably mid 80's), but it is difficult to pinpoint their release dates.

The third pink label lasted longer in Australia, it was used as late as 1973.

The album labels are of course originally copyright of Island Records and reproduced here by kind permission of Ian & Stephanie Rennie, makers of an impressive and informative Fairport Convention website and also owners of the former Musikfolk webstore. Their info was largely based on a Record Collector story.

labelSimply Vinyl records rereleased two JM albums on audiophile 180 grams high quality vinyl: Solid Air and Grace & Danger. They used this pink Island label which is nice but not quite accurate as the pink labels stopped in 1970 and the rereleases were made 1999 and 2000, the original albums originating from 1973 and 1980 respectively. On the other hand this is a good way to identify genuine HQ pressings.

Meanwhile Rob Caldwell gets the honour of tracking down the strangest label for London Conversation. This layout was in fact used very rarely in 1980 by Island, also for a UK release of Grace & Danger, and I also saw a reissue of So Far So Good with it. But this scan comes from a mono (!) rerelease in Italy with an additional catalogue number Orizzonte ORL 8373 on the sleeve. My own Italian copy has the same catalogue number but a blue day/night label.

And while we're at it, how about this US holiday card? Almost Baywatch avant la lettre...