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Who Owns Charisma Records? The History Of The Home Of Musical Eccentricity

Genesis album released on Charisma

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Charisma Records was an English record label that was originally founded by Tony Stratton-Smith in 1969. 

The Charisma Story

Despite being a relatively small and short-lived label, Charisma has made a name for itself as a purveyor of progressive rock and comedy music, through artists like Genesis, The Nice and Monty Python. They were active from 1969 until 1986 and has always been recognised as a home for eccentricity.

The Nice - Five Bridges - Gatefold LP Vinyl Record Charisma pink scroll label
Charisma records with a ‘pink scroll’ label from certain artists are often highly sought after.

Charisma was founded by Tony Stratton-Smith who started out his career in sports journalism but soon found his way in rock music management. His interest in music began after a conversation with Brazilian artist Antonio Carlos (Tom) Jobim while he was covering the 1962 football world cup in Chile.

He was heavily assisted at the label by Gail Colson, a rare female name in the history of this industry. She continued her career past Charisma by starting her own management company called Gailforce where she managed many artists including Peter Gabriel, Peter Hammill and Terence Trent D’Arby.

 

Hammill Travels to New York newspaper clipping
Hammill Travels to New York newspaper clipping

Playing into the eccentricity of the label, they began to use an Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter designed label starting in 1973 which became their most commonly used design. It uses a drawing from Alice in Wonderland by Sir John Tenniel, who was the principal political cartoonist at Punch magazine and was knighted for his artistic achievement in 1893.

Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter designed label starting in 1973 which became their most commonly used design.
Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter designed label starting in 1973 which became their most commonly used design. 

Many of the early Charisma album artworks were created by Paul Whitehead. He is a painter and graphic artist and was notably responsible Genesis’ first three Charisma released records as well as records by Van der Graaf Generator and Peter Hammill.
 

Did you know?

The most desirable Charisma releases can be recognised by their pink scroll (though officially known as magenta) labels, which was used from 1969 to 1972 while the label and the artists on it were relatively new and unknown. Here’s a book that will take you through Charisma discography and all the label variation therein…

Charisma pink scroll label example
First presses of Genesis albums with the early pink scroll label design are very scarce.

 

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