Thursday, March 18, 2010

Charlie Gillett

It is an uncanny and sad co-incidence that the day after posting about Dire Straits on Crossfields, we hear about the death of Charlie Gillett, the 68 year old radio DJ known as the "champion of world music and author of a major history in rock'n'roll".

I was recalling the time when a band I was in played Gillett's New Bands Night at the 101 Club in Clapham sometime in 1980, but it took an ex-Crossfields resident, who I bumped into in the High Street today, to remind me that Dire Straits perhaps would not have achieved such enormous success without Mr Gillett. Simon pointed me to the Guardian obituary by Richard Williams: "The best-known story, however, concerns a recently formed south London group who approached Charlie with their demo tape one day in 1976. He liked what he heard, and chose one of the songs, Sultans of Swing, to play on Honky Tonk that Sunday. By the time the tune had finished, his little studio had taken calls from half the A&R men in London. Dire Straits were on their way to global success, and they never forgot their debt to his willingness to trust his instincts."

Gillett discovering Dire Straits in 1976 is being echoed across the media as they copy and paste from each other. However according to 'The Official Mark Knopfler News Site' the tapes were not even recorded until 27 July 1977. This site also says the band were called Dire Straits when they did the Crossfields gig on Farrer House lawn.

Both Bo and a Crossfields resident who worked at the Albany Empire at the time can confirm this all happened in 1977...perhaps someone should tell Mr Williams.

1 comment:

  1. By coincidence, our paths crossed too. I was playing in a band that performed Kwela music and we all humped our instruments into the very small studio for a live recording. It was actually very unusual for him to have live sessions in there - not surprising given the lack of space.

    He came across as a rather distinguished man with an unseasonably heavy suntan - maybe playing world music took him to warmer climes. He also struck me as slightly distant and quietly determined. He probably had to be to keep doing what he did for so well for so long.

    As an insomniac who tends to leave Radio 4 long wave on all night, I'm going to miss those World Service broadcasts.