Thursday, June 14, 2012

Charlie - 70's sophistication from Britain

Charlie was a British rock band that was formed in 1971 by singer/songwriter Terry Thomas. The group was most active as a recording unit from the mid-1970s through 1986. Charlie never charted in their home country, but had four minor hits in the US: 1977's "Turning To You"; 1978's "She Loves to Be In Love"; 1979's "Killer Cut" and 1983's "It's Inevitable".

The band was briefly called "Charlie Cuckoo" (after a racehorse), but soon became known simply as "Charlie". Original members included:
  • Terry Thomas, Lead vocals & guitar
  • John Anderson, Backing vocals & bass
  • Steve Gadd, Drums (Not the American session drummer of the same name)
  • Martin Smith, Backing vocals & guitar
The band debuted as a recording act in 1976, with the album Fantasy Girls. They toured the UK in the spring of 1976 as support act to the Dutch progressive rock band Focus to promote the album. Their second album, No Second Chance, began the practice of featuring a photograph of a female model as the album's cover. "Turning To You", off that album, became Charlie's first chart hit, peaking at US #96.

The band had a more substantial hit in 1978 with "She Loves to Be In Love," which peaked at #54 in the United States. The following year, the band again had a minor hit with "Killer Cut", which rose to US #60.

Julian Colbeck, who had replaced Martin Smith after the first album, departed four albums later in 1980 amid some turmoil. He writes, "Finally, the touring band line-up of Terry Thomas, John Anderson, Eugene Organ, Steve Gadd, and myself ceased operations once Arista refused to release Here Comes Trouble, and our caring, sharing management company immediately cut off all our money in 1980. That's a whole other story but, for the record, our final gig was in 1979 at the Civic Center in Providence, Rhode Island on Monday 29 October, alongside Foreigner." Thomas commented "Arista our new label in the U.S. wanted more songs - our company in the UK - Trident Audio Productions - refused to put us in the studio or spend any more money. The UK record company - Polydor - wouldn't release it until it had a U.S. release. Effectively Charlie had no record label and no money to live on. Eugene and Julian decided to leave."

In 1982, Terry Slesser joined the group as new lead singer, while Thomas, still a member of the band, began concentrating more on the instrumentation. In 1983, the group had their most successful hit single, "It's Inevitable", which peaked just inside the US Top 40 at #38. The MTV music video featured a rousing pie fight. The accompanying self-titled album was a flop, however, and the band folded.

In 1986, Thomas resurrected the band with a new crew and released In Pursuit of Romance. Thomas writes, "This was basically a contractual album - Steve had gone off to work with Iron Maiden as a drum tech and John had a job in the telecommunications industry. I ended up making the whole album by myself - it put me in the hospital!"

After a long layoff, in 2009 Charlie released their first album of new material in 23 years, Kitchens Of Distinction. The album began life as a Terry Thomas solo project, but as the finished product included contributions from Martin Smith and Julian Colbeck, the decision was made to credit the CD to Charlie.

  • Terry Thomas: Lead vocals & guitar (1976-1984, 1986, 2009)
  • John Anderson: Backing vocals & bass (1976–1984)
  • Steve Gadd: Drums (1976–1984)
  • Martin Smith: Backing vocals & guitar (1976–1977, 2009)
  • Julian Colbeck: Keyboards (1977–1980, 2009)
  • Eugene Organ: Guitar (1978–1980)
  • Shep Lonsdale: Drums (1979)
  • Bob Henrit: Drums (1981-1983)
  • John Verity: Lead Vocals & guitar (1981)
  • Terry Slesser: Lead Vocals (1982–1984)
  • Graham Broad: Drums (1986)
  • Richard Cottle: Keyboards & saxophone (1986)
  • Felix Krish: Bass, keyboards, & backing vocals (1986)
  • Linda Thomas: Backing vocals (1986)
Charlie had more radio play and recognized hits where I'm from, thanks to a midwestern radio station, than in any locale, including their home! Local rock giant KSHE (94.7 FM St. Louis, Missouri, classic rock-formatted since 1967) featured no less than six Charlie songs, from their first four LP's. Program director Shelley Grafman had an ear for suitable classic rock radio fodder, and Charlie was right up KSHE's alley. They are generally thought of as a disco band (those beats kinda pidgeonhole you)... I look at them more as a very sophisticated, relationship-oriented pop rock group (generalizations, yes, but so much more than simply a disco band as they've been wrongly cornered).

Tomorrow we feature another band, another piece of gear, another portion of my existance, so keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then!

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