This month we bring you Charlie’s album Kitchens Of Distinction complete with a bonus disc of previously unreleased material.
The constant in the Charlie line-up has always been singer / songwriter / guitarist / vocalist / producer Terry Thomas. When the band formed in the early seventies, Charlie went under the name Charlie Cuckoo, after the name of a race horse, but shortened the name to the snappier ‘Charlie’. It was under that name that they cut their debut single, “I Need Your Love” / “I’m So Happy” for the Decca label, released on September 28th, 1973. The single pretty much sank without trace, sadly, and another single, “Knocking Down Your Door” was recorded but never released. Undeterred, the band carried on, and landed a record deal of a rather more substantial nature with Polydor Records, seemingly via a production arrangement under the banner of Trident Audio Productions (the most famous of Trident’s production clients were Queen, of course), as the name suggests, being based at the famous London recording location.
The first Charlie album, Fantasy Girls, was released in 1976, quickly followed by their second album, No Second Chance later that same year. In an industry where look and image was / is all-important, Charlie eschewed this. Their album sleeves invariably featured beautiful female models, or else simple graphics - the front cover images never featured the band.
For roughly a decade – 1976 through to 1986 – Charlie were a band that seemed to be on the brink of bigger and better things; they pursued a career where they were poised to go over-ground into the loftier sales echelons, and yet circumstances seemingly conspired to thwart the band’s ambitions. By 1983, with the addition of Terry Slesser, formerly of Back Street Crawler on vocals, Charlie nearly cracked it Stateside with the single, “It’s Inevitable”, which garnered considerable airplay on MTV, care of a memorable promo video that featured a rowdy pie fight. Greater success remained elusive, however, and by the time of the final Charlie album of their first incarnation, 1986’s In Pursuit of Romance, Thomas was the only member of the band, a contractual fulfilment release that seemed to draw a line under the Charlie career.
That was not the end of Terry Thomas’ involvement in music, however. US tours brought him friendships with the likes of Tommy Shaw of Styx, and also the likes of Bad Company, who, even after the departure of original lead vocalist Paul Rodgers, were still a substantial draw in the USA. Foreigner, Richard Marx, Janus Stark were just some of Thomas’ production clients.
As time wore on, the support of long-time Charlie fans encouraged in Thomas the notion that there was still interest, fond memories and good will for the band – and the seeds were sown for this month’s album, Kitchens of Distinction.
The final Charlie album to date was Elysium, released in 2015, which was peppered with songs such as “The Ballad of Kerry Katona”, “The Super Rich”, “I Want A Maserati” and more, which serve to illustrate that, clearly, Thomas is a writer whose work is informed by anger and indignation at the contemporaneous state of things. He is not going quietly!With thanks to Alan Robinson