Charisma Records

Last updated

The famous Charisma label.jpg
Parent company Universal Music Group
Founded1969;52 years ago (1969)
Founder Tony Stratton-Smith
Defunct1986 (1986)
Distributor(s) Virgin EMI Records (United Kingdom)
Capitol Music Group (United States)
Genre Progressive rock, comedy
Country of origin England

Charisma Records (also known as The Famous Charisma Label) was a British record label founded in 1969 by former journalist Tony Stratton-Smith. 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.


The label's most successful acts were Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Julian Lennon, and Monty Python. The initial release was the album The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other by Van der Graaf Generator. Stratton-Smith was unable to find a company to release the album, so he became determined to release it himself.

Charisma's first UK label was a distinctive "pink scroll" design. 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.

The label also released material by The Nice, Lindisfarne [1] 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. 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. 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.


Charisma was initially manufactured and distributed in the United Kingdom as an offshoot of B&C Records, sharing the B&C catalogue series for both singles and albums, but it later absorbed that label. During the mid- and late 1970s 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 USA 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 USA. 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 USA 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 USA 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. [2]

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. [3] [4]

Collectable "pink scroll" label design

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. [5] 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. [5] Releases distributed by Atlantic Records used a variation of the Mad Hatter design.

Notable releases


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 #39FRA: Gold
1972 Lindisfarne Dingly Dell UK #5
1972 Genesis Foxtrot UK #12FRA, UK: Gold
1973 Genesis Genesis Live UK #9
1973 Lindisfarne Lindisfarne LiveUK #25
1973 Clifford T. Ward Home Thoughts UK #40
1973 Alan Hull Pipedream UK #29
1973 Genesis Selling England by the Pound UK #3FRA, UK, US: Gold
1974 Genesis The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway UK #10FRA, UK, US: Gold
1975 Steve Hackett Voyage of the Acolyte UK #26UK: Silver
1976 Genesis A Trick of the Tail UK #3, NLD #7, US #31FRA, UK, US: Gold
1976 The Alan Parsons Project Tales of Mystery and Imagination US #38GER: Gold
1976 Hawkwind Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music UK #33
1976 Genesis Wind & Wuthering UK #7, US #26FRA, 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 #14US: 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 #11UK, US: Platinum, FRA: Gold
1980 Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel FRA #1, UK #1, NOR #5, CAN #7, SWE #8, US #22CAN: 2x 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 #7US: 2x Platinum, FRA, GER, UK: Gold
1982 Genesis Three Sides Live UK #2, NLD #6, US #10US: Gold
1982 Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel CAN #2, FRA #5, UK #6, SWE #10, US #28CAN: Platinum, UK, US: Gold
1983 Malcolm McLaren Duck Rock 2UK #18UK: Silver
1983 Steve Hackett Highly Strung UK #16
1983 Peter Gabriel Plays Live UK #8
1983 Genesis Genesis 1GER #1, UK #1, AUT #2, NLD #2, NOR #2, SWI #2,
FRA #5
UK: 2x Platinum, FRA, GER: Platinum
1984 Julian Lennon Valotte AUS #8, US #17, UK #20US: Platinum, UK: Silver
1986 Peter Gabriel So 3CAN #1, NLD #1, NOR #1, NZ #1, UK #1, GER #2,
SWE #2, US #2
US: 5x Platinum, UK: 3x Platinum,
GER, NLD: Platinum, FRA: Gold
1986 Genesis Invisible Touch 1UK #1, GER #2, NLD #2, NOR #3, SWE #4, SWI #4,
AUT #5, FRA #8
UK: 4x 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


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"1SWI #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"1NOR #8, UK #9
1981 Genesis "Keep It Dark"UK #33
1982 Genesis 3X3 UK #10
1982 Malcolm McLaren and the World's Famous Supreme Team "Buffalo Gals"1SWI #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"1IRE #5, UK #6
1985 Julian Lennon "Say You're Wrong"US #21
1986 Peter Gabriel "Sledgehammer"2IRE #3, UK #4, NLD #6, GER #7, ITA #8
1991 Julian Lennon "Saltwater"1IRE #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

1973Parlour 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
1974Charisma Keyboards
The Famous Charisma Label 5th Anniversary
1975Beyond an Empty Dream (Songs for a Modern Church)
Charisma Records October Releases
Charisma Records September Releases
Beyond an Empty Dream
1976Summit Meeting
1977Charisma Festival '77
1979Charisma Presentation
The Charisma Repeat Performance
Disco Promozionale
1981We Are Most Amused: The Very Best of British Comedy
Heat from the Street
1983Songs for a Modern Church '83
1984Hip Hop - The Original and Best

See also

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  2. "The Famous Charisma Label". Retrieved 1 March 2013.
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