Lance Hayward remembered in Island Records book
Having worked a number of years with Island Records, Neil Storey knew a thing or two about the groups Chris Blackwell produced.
And so it really annoyed him to see people sharing information about them that was wrong.
In October he intends to release The Island Book of Records, the first volume of a series “which will fully document the label’s LP releases between 1959 and 1989 when Chris Blackwell sold to what is now Universal – the analogue era of the label”.
As music lovers might expect, Lance Hayward is part of it.
He was the leader of a jazz quartet playing at the Half Moon Hotel in Jamaica in 1959 when he met and became friends with Blackwell.
In 2019 the hotel renamed its bar Hayward’s as a tribute to the blind pianist, who died in 1991.
“The very first two LPs that were put out by Island were Lance Hayward at the Half Moon, Volume 1, Volume 2. Lance, of course, was a Bermuda native. And so that's where Lance, Tootsie Bean … people like that all enter the equation,” Mr Storey, who is British, said.
At Island Records he held “a number of jobs” but describes his work as an advance person – sent on the road each time an act went on tour – as “the maddest”.
“If Bob Marley or Third World or one of those bands, if the record that they'd just released was current or in record shops, then the media people were going to come down to the gigs. [It was my job to ensure] any interviews that were to be done were set up properly, liaising with the people on the road just as much as the local people. That was in Britain and Europe and that was just a completely mad, mad job.
“I ended up co-running the press office at Island around about the time that U2 broke really, really big across the world.”
Eventually he went on to another record label before starting a PR company with Rob Partridge.
“We represented many of the Island acts at that time and we represented Chris Blackwell as well. So I had long stints at Island and when I was young I began collecting [the albums] long before I had anything to do with the label. So it's been in my bloodstream, I suppose, for longer than I care to remember.”
His “mad idea” of documenting musical history came while watching a TV programme about bands one night in 2008.
“They were all captioned with ‘interesting information’ that the producer thought would be a good idea to kind of enhance the viewers’ enjoyment of said TV programme. These were all bands that I used to work with when I was at Island and most of the information put up on the screen was wrong,” he said.
“From that, very very gradually over a number of years, came this idea of documenting – it's never been done before – a record label’s releases via those people who were involved at the time. In other words, the people who played on the records, people who shot the artwork, shot the photographs and so on. They were the people who would actually tell the story of this record or that record or whatever it actually was.”
For a long time he did nothing and then a musician friend died unexpectedly. At the funeral it struck him that if he did not get to work “a really important part of musical life, of musical knowledge” would be lost.
He sat down to work and started at the beginning – the release of Lance Hayward at the Half Moon.
“Much to the pity of it I never got to work with Lance. Those first four records that Chris put out were only issued in Jamaica. The first one was only sold at the hotel, at the Half Moon.
“The second one had a little bit wider distribution. They're incredibly rare records. The second one took me probably the better part of 15 to 20 years to track down and get a copy of.”
The records would cost “many, many hundreds of dollars” to buy today, he said.
With more than 1,000 albums to chronicle, he anticipates there could be as many as 12 volumes in total.
The work has become “a main focus” in the past five or six years for Hidden Masters, the “bespoke reissue label” that Mr Storey runs.
“It's never been done like this for any record label on the planet; this is kind of really breaking the mould. For us, it’s very exciting.
“We go into things in great depth so it's a natural kind of thing from that. So nobody commissioned it. I’ve not asked anybody to back it. We got courted by various publishers. Some very interesting, very, very big names and believe it or not they all got turned down or they turned us down because we wouldn't bend to what they wanted to do.”
Attention from Manchester University Press was unexpected but it proved a good fit.
“We're working with them and we have an option with them for the first four volumes, which will take us up to 1975,” Mr Storey, who lives in France, said.
“It's a labour of love. The amount of hours that have been put into this, I can't even begin to add them up. It's all-consuming. It literally takes all day. We work five, sometimes six days a week on it at the moment. It's very, very complicated. It's very time consuming. But the bottom line is if somebody doesn't do it, it'll never get done.”
Apart from all else it’s a chance to honour something that gave him “a huge amount of pleasure”.
“Other than what I'm doing, those were the best working days in my entire life. It was a real privilege to work for Chris and with all the people at Island. Not everybody gets that; not everybody gets to do the thing that they dream of doing.”
Most wonderful is that Blackwell “really, really likes” the work that has been done.
"There’s no greater kind of boost to doing something that you believe in than when the big boss says he likes it,” Mr Storey said.
Copies of The Island Book of Records Volume 1, can be pre-ordered here: bit.ly/3XU9ZYs
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