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Charlie's Angle

When I first encountered Charlie at the 1968 London Blues Convention, he was on the bill as an 'expert', but I can't now remember what had got him to that status.

"Well, when I came back from America I tried every way I could to get either into the press or radio, and trying to get people to accept the idea of a book about popular music. I got rejections across the board."

Charlie got a few breaks from New Society and Anarchy, and eventually struck up a relationship with Tony Cummings' soul magazine Shout!

"I came up with this idea that I could start to serialise where I'd got to, writing Sound Of The City, chapter by chapter. If I printed it straight onto the Gestetner, all he had to do was run it off. He was really happy because it saved him a whole load of secretary time, and I was really happy because it gave me feedback then, from the experts who were reading this thing, correcting me left, right and centre. All my career, I've been amazed at the tolerance of my ignorance and mistakes by everybody. Everybody just accepts my good intentions and says 'You didn't get this right', while there are other people who make one mistake and everybody jumps on them like a ton of bricks. I've shamelessly used the fact that there are people who know more than me, but will generously share their knowledge, expecting nothing back except that they've set the record straight."

"Somewhere along the line, I was still trying to get into the NME and the Melody Maker and all those, and I wrote to the Record Mirror because I noticed that at the back they had a kind of classified ad section with people selling old Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis 78s: this was '68, I think. I wrote to the editor and said 'You have nothing in the editorial of your paper that deals with that audience, who are clearly buying your paper for those ads. I could do a column for you for them.' And the guy called me up and said 'Do you want to come in and we'll talk about it?' I went in, wondering what else I could say to persuade him, and he said 'When can you start? Next week?' So when people ask me how do you get started in this game, it's my advice that you have to somehow see something that nobody's doing that you could uniquely do. That's almost my only philosophy."

This feature first appeared in fRoots 218-219, Aug/Sep 2001


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