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Charlie's Angle

"In the '50s I had a cousin who had been in Ghana and Nigeria and came back with yellow label Decca 78s, and I did like it but didn't connect it to the other stuff that I liked. It was a sort of exotic other thing. And in 1973 I played Manu Dibango's Soul Makossa five times! It was one of those records. I didn't know anything about it. It wasn't a novelty record, it was much more, an amazing, powerful dance record. And I played Tabou Combo on Honky Tonk - it was one of those tracks that was about seven minutes long and I played a lot of it. But as I say, I hadn't joined it up. The seed was there. The guys out of The Beat, in 1982, said 'We were listening to African music as we were making the Beat's records'."

"I was sacked in 1983, and very surprisingly to me there was a strong reaction from the audience, so they decided to bring me back, but not doing the same thing. That was when I came up with this 'I don't know about foreign music, but the audience does, so if I jump into the deep end, they will help me out with what I don't know'. That was A Foreign Affair. Later I changed the name to A World Of Difference or City Beats - I don't remember which was which - I think it was still being called A World Of Difference when it all ended. The last day of 1990 was the last day at Capital."

Charlie's '80s residency on Capital's airwaves was a major catalyst and important neighbourhood noticeboard, without which the whole evolution of world music in the UK would have been very different. Indeed, within months of leaving Capital (the expression 'jumped before he was pushed' may be appropriate), Charlie won the Sony Gold Award for being the best UK broadcaster of the previous year. But apart from doing in-flight programmes for British Airways and occasional guest appearances or deputising for others, it wasn't until May 1995 that he returned to full time broadcasting on BBC Radio London's successor, GLR (now metamorphosised into BBC London Live).

"I rang the head of GLR and introduced myself and said 'I was just wondering if there was any chance of me coming in', and she said 'What, you'd be interested in being on GLR?' and I said I'd be very interested. She said 'But you're on Kiss' and I said 'Once, I went on Jonathan Moore's show at 3 o'clock in the morning for an hour, does that count?' No, no, it's Jazz FM then', she said. And I said 'Twice. I did two shows sitting in for Ian Anderson. I don't think that counts.' So a couple of months later, there I was on GLR. The fact was that when I went off the air at Capital not a single radio station got in touch with me. And it has generally been the case."

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


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