Charisma Records

Charisma Records
Founded 1969
Founder Tony Stratton-Smith
Status Defunct
Distributor(s) B&C Records, Phonogram Records, ABC Records, Buddah Records, PolyGram
Genre Progressive rock
Country of origin England

Charisma was a record label founded by former journalist Tony Stratton-Smith in 1969. 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. The company proudly proclaimed itself "The Famous Charisma Label". 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.

Its most successful acts were Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Julian Lennon and the Monty Python comedy team. It also released material by Van der Graaf Generator, The Nice, 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 and Malcolm McLaren. 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. Charisma 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. Some Charisma Records recordings have most recently been re-issued on the EMI label. In the UK, the label has been revived by EMI's Angel Music Group.



Charisma was initially manufactured and distributed in the United Kingdom as an off-shoot of B&C Records, but it later absorbed that label. During the mid and late 1970s Charisma's European distribution was handled by Phonogram Records.

In the United States and Canada, Charisma Records recordings were first licenced 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 US 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 US. 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 US 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 PolyGram Canada.[1]

Between 1980 and 1982, Charisma operated a subsidiary called Pre Records, which was 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. 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.[2][3]

Collectable "pink scroll" label design

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, 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 fame. In the United States, the pink scroll labels were used in late 1973 and early 1974 on releases distributed by Buddah Records. Releases distributed by Atlantic Records used the small Mad Hatter design. Because Charisma had many bands who were relative unknowns 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.

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