The label was launched in 1981 and followed in the same vain as Phonogram's Club label, Polydor's Steppin' Out/Boiling Point sub labels. Polygram's FFRR and Ffrreedom labels, Chrysalis' Cooltempo sub label.
(Owner Chris Blackwell would eventually sell out to Polygram, EMI and Chrysalis although manufacturing and distribution did not make a good enough offer. Polygram was taken over by Universal/Vivendi and became UMG Universal Music Group).
The label's team sourced titles from a variety of USA and UK labels: The first release The Jamaica Girls came from Sleeping Bag USA,
4th & Bd.Way's first big hit was Jocelyn Brown's" Somebody Else's Guy" (BRW 5) it was sourced from USA Prelude's sub licensed label Vinyl Dreams. (In the UK the promotions dept had a 7" white label "special radio edit" of the track sent out to DJ's, that had the drawn-out slow intro removed!)
4th & Bd.Way highlights included:
UK licensing of Priority USA and it's artists the notorious N.W.A. (Niggaz With Attitude) with their legendary track F.T.P. (F**k The Police) and Ice-T.
UK licensing of Gee Street with artists Stereo MC's and P.M. Dawn.
UK licensing of Delicious Vinyl with artists Tone Loc and The Brand New Heavies.
UK licensing of legendary Washington Go-Go labels
Other artists signed directly to the label included Will Downing, Mica Paris, Eugene Wilde.
There were three commercial label designs;
1. A tarmac sidewalk close up.
2. Orange A & Yellow B labels with text and huge prominent Bar Codes
3. A street drain cover and leaf
The original Promotional labels were quite unique and stylized "Pre-Fab"
with Pre on the A and Fab on the B. there were no custom sleeves,just cheap rear glued black die-cuts with large oblong gloss finish stickers. (The Promotions team had to stick the peel-off stickers on their stocks of titles, 250-300 per release).
Later promotional releases resembled the commercial labels (Orange/Yellow)
some actually had the bar-codes printed, the tie-in sleeves in Orange and White had full printed text. (No more stickering for Ashley Beedle :) )
4th & Bd.Way had a USA launch but released very few titles ,notables were
Eddide Stockley "I Will Always Love You" (with no UK equivalent)
and the USA release of UK's M.A.R.R.S "Pump Up The Volume".
The USA label design was just artwork text on a yellow background (the die-cut sleeves made up for it and were bright and colourful).
A great little label with over 400 releases and very much a hit and miss operation on the UK's Club's dance floors.
Island's HQ was a great place to drop-in and visit, The reception was in a created Orangary/lean-to on the side. with big leather sofa's, plants and indoor pool, artists and staff in and out, stage P.A. equipment in black flight cases everywhere, with a Bar, pool table, video screen towards the rear. Bob Marley often dropped in and in a blue haze cloud would shoot a few games of pool :) Blackwell's office was on the top floor.