Charisma Records

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The famous Charisma label.jpg
Parent company
Founded 1969
Founder Tony Stratton-Smith
Defunct 1986
Distributor(s) Capitol Music Group
Genre Progressive rock
Country of origin England

The Famous Charisma Label (Charisma for short) was a British record label that was founded by former journalist Tony Stratton-Smith in 1969. Gail Colson was label manager and joint managing director. She left to form her own management company, Gailforce, in the late 1970s.

Manager for The Nice, the Bonzo Dog Band and Van der Graaf Generator at the time, Stratton-Smith was unable to find a record company willing to release an album by one of his favourite groups so he founded his own company and released the Van der Graaf Generator album The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other himself.

Charisma's first record 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 in Wonderland) made the label instantly recognisable.

The label's most successful acts were Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Julian Lennon, and Monty Python. It also released material by Van der Graaf Generator, 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 Records.

In 1983, Charisma Records was acquired by Virgin Records and continued to operate until 1986, when Virgin absorbed the label following its purchase by EMI. 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.

With the EMI purchase by Universal Music Group, Charisma returned to Virgin Records.


Charisma were 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 Records recordings were first licensed to other labels such as ABC Records (Trespass by Genesis which was actually first issued through ABC's jazz division Impulse Records). The ABC subsidiary Probe Records released The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other by Van der Graaf Generator, while the Dunhill Records subsidiary released H to He, Who Am the Only One by the same group. Elektra Records in the USA released recordings by Charisma Records artists Atomic Rooster, Audience and Lindisfarne.

In 1971 Charisma entered into a distribution agreement with Buddah Records and began to release albums on the Charisma label in the USA. These albums 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). In 1978, Charisma signed a new distribution deal 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[edit]

The "pink scroll" label design was the first label design used on LPs released by the Charisma label. In the UK, they were used from Charisma's inception in 1969 until mid-1972,[5] starting with the release of Lindisfarne's Dingly Dell LP (CAS 1057). This was replaced by the large Mad Hatter label, designed by Paul Whitehead of Genesis sleeve design notability. In the USA, the pink scroll labels were used in late 1973 and early 1974 on releases distributed by Buddah Records.[5] Releases distributed by Atlantic Records used the small Mad Hatter design. Because Charisma had many bands who were relatively unknown when they were signed, many original pressings of early UK issues of albums from Charisma bands like Genesis, Audience and Van der Graaf Generator with pink scroll labels have become quite rare and sought after by collectors. They were distributed by B&C Records.

Notable releases[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
1972 Lindisfarne Dingly Dell UK #5
1972 Genesis Foxtrot UK #12 FRA: 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, US: Gold, UK: Silver
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: 2x Platinum, FRA, UK, US: Gold
1980 Steve Hackett Defector UK #9
1981 Steve Hackett Cured UK #15
1981 Genesis Abacab UK #1, NOR #4, GER #6, NLD #6, US #7 US: 2x 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: 2x 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: 5x Platinum, UK: 3x 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: 4x Platinum, FRA, GER: Platinum
1986 The World's Famous Supreme Team Rappin’

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

live album


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 3X3 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


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lindisfarne: "Meet me on the corner"". NME. 
  2. ^ "The Famous Charisma Label". Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  3. ^ "The Famous Charisma Label". Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  4. ^ "The Famous Charisma Label". 2009-04-11. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  5. ^ a b "Genesis Charisma Collectables - Record Collector Magazine". 2007-07-08. Retrieved 2016-07-09. 

External links[edit]