Charisma Records

The Famous Charisma Label (Charisma for short) 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.

Parent companyUniversal Music Group
Founded1969 (1969)
FounderTony Stratton-Smith
Defunct1986 (1986)
Distributor(s)Virgin 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. 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 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 in 2007.

With the EMI 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


1970The NiceFive BridgesUK #2
1970LindisfarneNicely Out of TuneUK #8
1971The NiceElegyUK #5
1971LindisfarneFog on the TyneUK #1
1971GenesisNursery CrymeUK #39FRA: Gold
1972LindisfarneDingly DellUK #5
1972GenesisFoxtrotUK #12FRA, UK: Gold
1973GenesisGenesis LiveUK #9
1973LindisfarneLindisfarne LiveUK #25
1973Clifford T. WardHome ThoughtsUK #40
1973Alan HullPipedreamUK #29
1973GenesisSelling England by the PoundUK #3FRA, UK, US: Gold
1974GenesisThe Lamb Lies Down on BroadwayUK #10FRA, UK, US: Gold
1975Steve HackettVoyage of the AcolyteUK #26UK: Silver
1976GenesisA Trick of the TailUK #3, NLD #7, US #31FRA, UK, US: Gold
1976The Alan Parsons ProjectTales of Mystery and ImaginationUS #38GER: Gold
1976HawkwindAstounding Sounds, Amazing MusicUK #33
1976GenesisWind & WutheringUK #7, US #26FRA, UK, US: Gold
1977Peter GabrielPeter GabrielFRA #5, NOR #5, UK #7, SWE #8, GER #9, ITA #9,
NLD #9, US #38
FRA, GER, UK: Gold
1977Brand XMoroccan RollUK #37
1977HawkwindQuark, Strangeness and CharmUK #30
1977GenesisSeconds OutUK #4
1978Genesis...And Then There Were Three...GER #2, UK #3, NOR #7, NLD #8, US #14US: Platinum, FRA, GER, UK: Gold
1978Steve HackettPlease Don't TouchUK #38
1978Peter GabrielPeter GabrielFRA #2, UK #10
1979Tony BanksA Curious FeelingUK #21
1979Steve HackettSpectral MorningsUK #22
1980GenesisDukeUK #1, GER #2, FRA #4, NOR #4, SWE #9, US #11UK, US: Platinum, FRA: Gold
1980Peter GabrielPeter GabrielFRA #1, UK #1, NOR #5, CAN #7, SWE #8, US #22CAN: 2x Platinum, FRA, UK, US: Gold
1980Steve HackettDefectorUK #9
1981Steve HackettCuredUK #15
1981GenesisAbacabUK #1, NOR #4, GER #6, NLD #6, US #7US: 2x Platinum, FRA, GER, UK: Gold
1982GenesisThree Sides LiveUK #2, NLD #6, US #10US: Gold
1982Peter GabrielPeter GabrielCAN #2, FRA #5, UK #6, SWE #10, US #28CAN: Platinum, UK, US: Gold
1983Malcolm McLarenDuck Rock2UK #18UK: Silver
1983Steve HackettHighly StrungUK #16
1983Peter GabrielPlays LiveUK #8
1983GenesisGenesis1GER #1, UK #1, AUT #2, NLD #2, NOR #2, SWI #2,
FRA #5
UK: 2x Platinum, FRA, GER: Platinum
1984Julian LennonValotteAUS #8, US #17, UK #20US: Platinum, UK: Silver
1986Peter GabrielSo3CAN #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
1986GenesisInvisible Touch1UK #1, GER #2, NLD #2, NOR #3, SWE #4, SWI #4,
AUT #5, FRA #8
UK: 4x Platinum, FRA, GER: Platinum
1986The World's Famous Supreme TeamRappin’

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


1971Lindisfarne"Lady Eleanor"UK #3
1971Lindisfarne"Meet Me on the Corner"UK #5
1973Clifford T. Ward"Gaye"UK #8
1974Genesis"I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)"UK #21
1977Peter Gabriel"Solsbury Hill"UK #13
1977GenesisSpot the PigeonUK #14
1978Genesis"Follow You Follow Me"1SWI #6, UK #7, GER #8
1980Peter Gabriel"Games Without Frontiers"UK #4, CAN #7
1980Genesis"Turn It on Again"UK #8
1980Peter Gabriel"No Self Control"UK #33
1980Peter Gabriel"Biko"UK #38
1981Genesis"Abacab"1NOR #8, UK #9
1981Genesis"Keep It Dark"UK #33
1982Genesis3X3UK #10
1982Malcolm McLaren and the World's Famous Supreme Team"Buffalo Gals"1SWI #9, UK #9
1983Malcolm McLaren and the Mclarenettes"Soweto"UK #32
1983Malcolm McLaren and the Ebonettes"Double Dutch"UK #3, IRE #7, NZ #10
1984Malcolm McLaren"Madam Butterfly (Un bel di vedremo)"IRE #10, UK #13
1985Julian Lennon"Too Late for Goodbyes"1IRE #5, UK #6
1985Julian Lennon"Say You're Wrong"US #21
1986Peter Gabriel"Sledgehammer"2IRE #3, UK #4, NLD #6, GER #7, ITA #8
1991Julian 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


See also


  1. "Lindisfarne: "Meet me on the corner"". NME.
  2. "The Famous Charisma Label". Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  3. "The Famous Charisma Label". Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  4. "The Famous Charisma Label". 11 April 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  5. "Genesis Charisma Collectables - Record Collector Magazine". 8 July 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
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