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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.
|Parent company||Universal Music Group|
|Distributor(s)||EMI Records (United Kingdom)|
Capitol Music Group (United States)
|Genre||Progressive rock, comedy|
|Country of origin||England|
The label's most successful acts were Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Julian Lennon, and Monty Python. The first release was an LP by Rare Bird, in (probably) November 1969, and this group gave Charisma its first hit single, Sympathy, in early 1970. (Sympathy was a reworking of Giazotto's 'reconstruction' of Albinoni's Adagio.)
Charisma's first UK label was a distinctive magenta scroll design (though it is generally referred to in record collecting circles as "pink scroll") – magenta was the colour that Stratton Smith chose to represent the label, and this was reflected in his later horseracing colours, red for Manchester United, green for Brazil, and magenta for Charisma. 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. Whitehead's original illustrations for three Genesis albums were stolen from the Charisma archives when it was sold to Virgin Records in 1983. Whitehead claimed that Charisma staff got wind of the imminent sale and proceeded to loot its office.
The label also released material by The Nice, Robert John Godfrey, 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, 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.