CHARLIE

Country United Kingdom

Style Melodic Rock/AOR

CHARLIE_070In 1971 the band forms from the embers of Axe (Terry Thomas, John Anderson, and Nicko McBrain). New band is Terry Thomas, Martin Smith, Ray Bulloch, and Nicko, Nicko leaves (personality clashes) and Steve Gadd comes in. Ray Bulloch leaves (music not heavy enough) and John Anderson returns. First name was Charlie Cuckoo shortened to Charlie. Band play gigs in and around London. First gig was at the Lordship Tavern, Wood Green, London. A fight breaks out. In 1973 the first single – “I Need Your Love” – is released on Decca. Although the band has a contract for four singles, only one more – “Knocking Down Your Door” – is recorded but never released.

1974 found Charlie with a new manager – Richard Dale – and continue gigging round the London Pub Rock scene. They play the Roundhouse as the backing band for Tim Rose and are seen by Trident Audio Productions (TAP), the company that discovered Queen. TAP express an interest but don’t yet commit. In 1975 they go into Trident Studios to record Fantasy Girls. Roy Thomas Baker was to be the producer but at the last minute Mike Stone, then only 19, was drafted in. Charlie turn professional and their first gig is supporting The Who for three nights at the Hammersmith Odeon December 1975. 

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.

In 1977 No Second Chance is released. Charlie support a squabbling, stoned, but nonetheless spectacular Fleetwood Mac on their Rumours tour but the album meets with mediocre response in the UK now in the grip of punk. The band consider calling it a day. Unbeknown to the band, the album had been released in the US on the Janus label. The song Johnny Hold Back was getting massive radio play, the album is zipping up the Billboard charts, and suddenly everybody is a lifelong friend. The band go to the US as opening act for a Doobie Brothers ‘sheds’ tour on the back of Minute By Minute. This heady experience was marred only by Steve Gadd getting his hand broken by a security guard (!) in Lousiville, KY. Doobies drum tech and Charlie admirer Shep Lonsdale steps in to save the day. After 6 weeks it was back to the UK to write and record Lines, at Trident Studios, in the Autumn of ’76.

In 1978 the band recruit Shep as second drummer and the band fly off to promote the album in New York. However, in an event worthy of Spinal Tap, the album is not ready for release. They thus start touring opening for Styx without a record in the shops. After a handful of gigs Charlie are kicked off the bill and fly to LA where Janus records was based. The band stay there a month creating havoc in all the famous places (Rainbow, Roxy etc) before finally the record is released and a tour is fixed.

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Lines enjoys both critical and commercial success. Opening for Bachman Turner Overdrive was hardly cutting edge but they were out there. Notable gigs included opening for Alice Cooper in St Louis (30000 crowd) and Robert Palmer in Wheeling West Virginia (124 crowd / capacity 5000, with a weeping Palmer backstage). Finally Charlie picked up the Kinks tour finishing with 3 nights at the LA Amphitheatre – a 5-month tour. Back to London to write and record Fight Dirty. Band starts recording their epic album. Orchestra on one song, high quality brass arrangements with top US players on others.

1979 the band finish album early 1979 to find that Janus has, somewhat thoughtlessly, gone bankrupt and the album is now property of the receiver. There had been rumours of this happening and in fact Thomas and Colbeck had met with Atlantic and RSO in LA to discuss deals but Janus had refused, saying they were OK. So, an album is in the can but there’s no record company. June/July Arista records bought the Janus catalogue agree to release Fight Dirty but specifically state No Touring. But then Killer Cut is released and becomes a # 1 radio song. Arista is suddenly all about touring and Charlie duly set out on a 6-week tour with Foreigner. Everything is going well – the album is selling – the tour is good – Arista then pull the plug… So, back to the UK for the next album.

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 1983 mixing commences but is quickly abandoned and Terry Thomas flies to New York to mix with David Thoener. Album released – first track It’s Inevitable is a huge radio hit (#2 most played song on all formats) but doesn’t translate into sales. Album falters, fades, then dies. The period 1984/85 Charlie is now Terry Thomas and Terry Slessor. A contractual album is ‘required.’ Summer ’85 Terry Thomas goes into Terminal studios (appropriately named, as it turns out) with session guys to record In Pursuit Of Romance. It puts him in hospital. When he gets out, his UK manager has disappeared with all the recording equipment (are you spotting a trend yet?).

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.

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– Fantasy Girls [1976]
– No Second Chance [1977]
– Lines [1978]
– Fight Dirty [1979]
– Good Morning America [1981]
– Here Comes Trouble [1982]
– Charlie [1983]
– In Pursuit of Romance [1986]
– Kitchens Of Distinction [2009]

 

 

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