Charisma Records (also known as The Famous Charisma Label) was a British record label founded in 1969 by former journalist Tony Stratton Smith.[1] He had previously acted as manager for rock bands such as The Nice, the Bonzo Dog Band and Van der Graaf Generator. Gail Colson was label manager and joint managing director.[1]

Charisma Records
Parent companyUniversal Music Group
Founded1969; 55 years ago (1969)
FounderTony Stratton Smith
Defunct1986 (1986)
Distributor(s)EMI Records (United Kingdom)
Capitol Music Group (United States)
GenreProgressive rock, comedy
Country of originEngland

The label's most successful acts were Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Julian Lennon, and Monty Python.[1] The first release was an LP by Rare Bird, in (probably) November 1969, and this group gave Charisma its first hit single, Sympathy, in early 1970. (Sympathy was a reworking of Giazotto's 'reconstruction' of Albinoni's Adagio.)

Charisma's first UK label was a distinctive magenta scroll design (though it is generally referred to in record collecting circles as "pink scroll") – magenta was the colour that Stratton Smith chose to represent the label, and this was reflected in his later horseracing colours, red for Manchester United, green for Brazil, and magenta for Charisma.[2] Its second logo (used beginning in 1972) of Sir John Tenniel's drawing of the Mad Hatter (sometimes combined with a montage of other images from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) made the label instantly recognizable. Much of the early distinctive artwork used by the label was created by Paul Whitehead. Whitehead's original illustrations for three Genesis albums were stolen from the Charisma archives when it was sold to Virgin Records in 1983. Whitehead claimed that Charisma staff got wind of the imminent sale and proceeded to loot its office.[3]

The label also released material by The Nice, Robert John Godfrey, Lindisfarne and Alan Hull, Hawkwind, The Alan Parsons Project, Clifford T. Ward, String Driven Thing, Jack The Lad, Audience, Vivian Stanshall, Brand X, Sir John Betjeman, Malcolm McLaren and Afraid of Mice.[1] 1970s solo albums of Peter Hammill, Tony Banks and Steve Hackett were also on Charisma.

Gail Colson left Charisma in the late 1970s to form her own management company, Gailforce.

In 1983, Charisma Records was acquired by Virgin Records and continued to operate until 1986, when Virgin absorbed the label.[1] Virgin's purchase by EMI, then known as Thorn EMI, occurred in 1992. A new version of Charisma, with no connection to the original label other than the name, operated between 1990 and 1992, with a street-oriented and independently distributed subsidiary called Cardiac Records. Some Charisma Records recordings were re-issued on the EMI label. In the UK, the label was revived by EMI's Angel Records in 2007.

With most of EMI's purchase by Universal Music Group, Charisma returned to Virgin Records.

Distribution edit

Charisma was initially manufactured and distributed in the United Kingdom via a licensing deal with Lee Gopthal's B&C Records, sharing the B&C catalogue series for both singles and albums, prior to B&C ceasing to release records on the B&C label, when it concentrated on marketing instead. In early 1972, B&C brokered a deal with Precision Tapes to manufacture and distribute Charisma's albums in tape format. From early 1970, Charisma's European distribution was handled by Phonogram Inc.

In the United States and Canada, Charisma recordings were initially licensed to other labels. These included ABC Records, along with subsidiaries, Impulse, Probe and Dunhill. Artists included Van der Graaf Generator and Genesis. Elektra Records in the US released records by Charisma artists Atomic Rooster, Audience, Lindisfarne and Jack the Lad.

In 1971, Charisma entered into a distribution agreement with Buddah Records and began to release albums on the Charisma label in the US. These included Pawn Hearts by Van der Graaf Generator and Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot and Genesis Live by Genesis. Atlantic Records also later released Charisma recordings in the United States from 1973 to 1974 including many Genesis titles.

In 1973, Atlantic stopped distributing Charisma in America; as a result, in the US Charisma's bands signed to various labels such as Mercury Records (Van der Graaf Generator) and Arista Records (Monty Python). Genesis records were released in the US under Atlantic's subsidiary label Atco Records from 1974 to 1976. In 1976, Charisma signed a new distribution deal in the UK with Polydor that lasted until 1980. In Canada, many Charisma releases were distributed by GRT and PolyGram Canada.[4]

Between 1980 and 1982, Charisma operated a subsidiary called Pre Records, who were devoted to new wave and reggae acts. Pre's roster included Scars, Prince Far I, Delta 5, Gregory Isaacs, The Monochrome Set and Congo Ashanti Roy, amongst others. Pre also licensed albums by The Residents and Tuxedomoon from the American label Ralph Records. In Europe, Pre's releases were issued on the Charisma label.[5][6]

Collectable "pink scroll" label design edit

Most Charisma artists were relatively unknown early on, so original pressings have become quite rare and sought after by collectors. The "pink scroll" label was first used in the UK from 1969 until mid-1972.[7] This was replaced by the Mad Hatter label, designed by Paul Whitehead. In the US, the pink scroll labels were used in late 1973 and early 1974 on releases distributed by Buddah.[7] Releases distributed by Atlantic Records used a variation of the Mad Hatter design.

Notable releases edit

Albums edit

Year Artist Album Charts Certifications
1970 The Nice Five Bridges UK #2
1970 Lindisfarne Nicely Out of Tune UK #8
1971 The Nice Elegy UK #5
1971 Lindisfarne Fog on the Tyne UK #1
1971 Genesis Nursery Cryme UK #39 FRA: Gold
1972 Lindisfarne Dingly Dell UK #5
1972 Bo Hansson Music Inspired by Lord of the Rings UK #34, US #154 AUS, UK: Gold
1972 Genesis Foxtrot UK #12 FRA, UK: Gold
1973 Genesis Genesis Live UK #9
1973 Lindisfarne Lindisfarne Live UK #25
1973 Clifford T. Ward Home Thoughts UK #40
1973 Alan Hull Pipedream UK #29
1973 Genesis Selling England by the Pound UK #3 FRA, UK, US: Gold
1974 Genesis The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway UK #10 FRA, UK, US: Gold
1975 Steve Hackett Voyage of the Acolyte UK #26 UK: Silver
1976 Genesis A Trick of the Tail UK #3, NLD #7, US #31 FRA, UK, US: Gold
1976 The Alan Parsons Project Tales of Mystery and Imagination US #38 GER: Gold
1976 Hawkwind Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music UK #33
1976 Genesis Wind & Wuthering UK #7, US #26 FRA, UK, US: Gold
1977 Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel FRA #5, NOR #5, UK #7, SWE #8, GER #9, ITA #9,
NLD #9, US #38
FRA, GER, UK: Gold
1977 Brand X Moroccan Roll UK #37
1977 Hawkwind Quark, Strangeness and Charm UK #30
1977 Genesis Seconds Out UK #4
1978 Genesis ...And Then There Were Three... GER #2, UK #3, NOR #7, NLD #8, US #14 US: Platinum, FRA, GER, UK: Gold
1978 Steve Hackett Please Don't Touch UK #38
1978 Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel FRA #2, UK #10
1979 Tony Banks A Curious Feeling UK #21
1979 Steve Hackett Spectral Mornings UK #22
1980 Genesis Duke UK #1, GER #2, FRA #4, NOR #4, SWE #9, US #11 UK, US: Platinum, FRA: Gold
1980 Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel FRA #1, UK #1, NOR #5, CAN #7, SWE #8, US #22 CAN: 2× Platinum, FRA, UK, US: Gold
1980 Steve Hackett Defector UK #9
1980 The Residents The Commercial Album
1981 Steve Hackett Cured UK #15
1981 Genesis Abacab UK #1, NOR #4, GER #6, NLD #6, US #7 US: 2× Platinum, FRA, GER, UK: Gold
1982 Genesis Three Sides Live UK #2, NLD #6, US #10 US: Gold
1982 Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel CAN #2, FRA #5, UK #6, SWE #10, US #28 CAN: Platinum, UK, US: Gold
1983 Malcolm McLaren Duck Rock2 UK #18 UK: Silver
1983 Steve Hackett Highly Strung UK #16
1983 Peter Gabriel Plays Live UK #8
1983 Genesis Genesis1 GER #1, UK #1, AUT #2, NLD #2, NOR #2, SWI #2,
FRA #5
UK: 2× Platinum, FRA, GER: Platinum
1984 Julian Lennon Valotte AUS #8, US #17, UK #20 US: Platinum, UK: Silver
1986 Peter Gabriel So3 CAN #1, NLD #1, NOR #1, NZ #1, UK #1, GER #2,
SWE #2, US #2
US: 5× Platinum, UK: 3× Platinum,
GER, NLD: Platinum, FRA: Gold
1986 Genesis Invisible Touch1 UK #1, GER #2, NLD #2, NOR #3, SWE #4, SWI #4,
AUT #5, FRA #8
UK: 4× Platinum, FRA, GER: Platinum
1986 The World's Famous Supreme Team Rappin'

1: On Virgin Records in Australia, Atlantic Records in the US
2: On Island Records in the US
3: On Geffen Records in the US

live album

Singles edit

Year Artist Single Charts Certification
1971 Lindisfarne "Lady Eleanor" UK #3
1971 Lindisfarne "Meet Me on the Corner" UK #5
1973 Clifford T. Ward "Gaye" UK #8
1974 Genesis "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" UK #21
1977 Peter Gabriel "Solsbury Hill" UK #13
1977 Genesis Spot the Pigeon UK #14
1978 Genesis "Follow You Follow Me"1 SWI #6, UK #7, GER #8
1980 Peter Gabriel "Games Without Frontiers" UK #4, CAN #7
1980 Genesis "Turn It on Again" UK #8
1980 Peter Gabriel "No Self Control" UK #33
1980 Peter Gabriel "Biko" UK #38
1981 Genesis "Abacab"1 NOR #8, UK #9
1981 Genesis "Keep It Dark" UK #33
1982 Genesis 3×3 UK #10
1982 Malcolm McLaren and the World's Famous Supreme Team "Buffalo Gals"1 SWI #9, UK #9
1983 Malcolm McLaren and the Mclarenettes "Soweto" UK #32
1983 Malcolm McLaren and the Ebonettes "Double Dutch" UK #3, IRE #7, NZ #10
1984 Malcolm McLaren "Madam Butterfly (Un bel di vedremo)" IRE #10, UK #13
1985 Julian Lennon "Too Late for Goodbyes"1 IRE #5, UK #6
1985 Julian Lennon "Say You're Wrong" US #21
1986 Peter Gabriel "Sledgehammer"2 IRE #3, UK #4, NLD #6, GER #7, ITA #8
1991 Julian Lennon "Saltwater"1 IRE #5, UK #6

1: On Atlantic Records in Canada, New Zealand and the US
2: On Geffen Records in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US


Compilation / sampler albums edit

Year Album
1973 Parlour Song Book – An Evening of Victorian Gems
Music from Free Creek
Lay Lady Lay
Charisma Festival
One More Chance
The Golden Age of Comedy
Charisma Disturbance
1974 Charisma Keyboards
The Famous Charisma Label 5th Anniversary
1975 Beyond an Empty Dream (Songs for a Modern Church)
Charisma Records October Releases
Charisma Records September Releases
Beyond an Empty Dream
1976 Summit Meeting
1977 Charisma Festival '77
1979 Charisma Presentation
1980 Masterpieces
The Charisma Repeat Performance
Disco Promozionale
1981 We Are Most Amused: The Very Best of British Comedy
Heat from the Street
1983 Songs for a Modern Church '83
1984 Hip Hop – The Original and Best

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 455. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  2. ^ Jones, Mark (2021). The Famous Charisma Discography (2nd ed.). Bristol, United Kingdom: The Record Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-909953-78-9.
  3. ^ "Interview with Paul Whitehead". 25 July 2001. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  4. ^ "The Famous Charisma Label". Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  5. ^ "The Famous Charisma Label". Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  6. ^ "The Famous Charisma Label". 11 April 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Genesis Charisma Collectables – Record Collector Magazine". 8 July 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  8. ^ "Find Music on Discogs | Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved 15 June 2020.

External links edit