June 15 – Island Records, Kyu Sakamoto, Nirvana Bleach



London-born Chris Blackwell‘s nominally indie Island Records releases its first singles by Lord Creator Independent Jamaica and Owen Gray. Patricia (*)

Founded in Jamaica in 1959, the indie had just been relocated to the UK. In 1964 it has a massive international hit with Millie Small’s cover of pop-ska song My Boy Lollipop; many more important ska, reggae recordings follow. The “indie”s recordings are often distributed by much bigger companies.

In 1967 Island begins to focus on the rock market, releasing Traffic album Mr. Fantasy (UK#8, US#88) with the first of its new pink labels (now collector’s items). ▷US ▹ ▷UK ▹ In 1972 Island pulls out of a partnership with ska, reggae label Trojan Records.

In July, 1989 — by which time Island is the largest indie label in history — Blackwell sells to PolyGram.

▷BBC history ▹ ( US site ) ( UK site ) Keep on running-50 years (89m) EB

See also: Island Records discography


Kyu Sakamoto (Hisashi Oshima), the youngest of nine children, becomes the first Japanese language artist to top the US charts with hit song Sukiyaki.

The US title, picked by the record industry’s top geniuses, has nothing to do with the song. It’s stew! The song’s original title, ‘Ue O Muite Aruko’ means ‘I look up when I walk’ (so that his tears won’t fall). It sells 13 million copies!

Japan cover

Kyu dies in a 1985 plane crash that kills 520 people (the deadliest single-aircraft accident in history). (*) In 1981, US band A Taste of Honey takes a cover of the song to US#3. ▷Songfacts ▹ (*)

Non-English singles that top the US charts are extremely rare; 1963 saw another: French-language song Dominique by Belgian one-hit wonder The Singing Nun. It reaches the top-ten in eleven countries. (Her life also ends sadly.) In 1973, Spanish song Eres tú reaches US#9.

See also: J-pop, Enka, Ryukoka, Group Sounds, Kayokyoku, Blue Comets, ‘Blue Eyes’  ~ Japan 


Seattle enters the grunge music era when rock band Nirvana releases debut album Bleach.

Recorded over three sessions with producer Jack Endino at Seattle’s Reciprocal Recording Studios beginning in late December 1988, it initially sells 40,000 copies.

Other titles considered: All Humans are Stupid, Ashamed to Be a Human. They’re rejected; a ‘Bleach your works’ poster works.