Despite the kind of life in rock music most people would envy,
Barbara Charone says the best day of her life was when her beloved
Chelsea won the FA Cup in 1997.
'Football is a good excuse for people to share enthusiasm,' says the
Chicago-born rock PR veteran of 20 years. After two decades in the press
department of one of the world's largest record labels, WEA, Charone is
setting up her own PR agency, MBC, to bring together her interests in
music, entertainment and football.
At WEA she managed a press office of seven working on as many as 60
artists at a time. Charone wants to keep the PR side of MBC small and
selective but with a client list that has that 'wow factor'.
The starting list certainly has that. As well as Madonna, it includes
REM, Rod Stewart, UB40, Mick Hucknall, William Orbit, Eliza McCarthy,
the forthcoming musical from The Pet Shop Boys and the restaurant
Teatro, owned by ex-footballer Lee Chapman. The last two on the list
give some idea of the areas Charone wants to move into: theatre,
restaurants and football, 'so all the bits of my professional life
To those involved in the music industry in both the UK and US, Charone
is known and respected by all. 'She is alright for a Chelsea fan,' says
Dominic Mohan, the Sun showbiz editor, who admits to having found
Charone quite intimidating when they first met. 'She is one of the best
in the business and an old hand who knows everybody. She knows how
tabloids work and how to pitch a story.'
This ability is something she puts down to her previous career as a
Charone moved to London 27 years ago as a music hack. For several years
she worked as a freelance, writing for US mags such as Rolling Stone and
Cream and spent four years as deputy editor of now-defunct weekly,
In the late 1970s she quit to write Life as a Rolling Stone, an
authorisied biography of Rolling Stones legend Keith Richards. The
project took two years, including six months with the band in Paris
recording the Some Girls album and a further three living at Richards'
mansion. 'He's smart and a lot less out of it than people think,'
reveals Charone who is still in contact with the ageing Stone.
After the biography, Charone continued to freelance but, unsurprisingly
after life with Richards, soon hankered after some order in her
'I needed some routine,' she explains of her decision to take up her
friend Moira Belles' offer to do press relations at WEA.
There, her journalism background was an advantage in discovering angles
for stories. 'My time as a journalist was a big help in understanding
the media,' she explains. 'It was just as creative and always being able
to see the results in the press was very rewarding.'
In 1984 Charone found herself calling round journalists trying to whip
up interest in a new act at the Camden Palace. That artist is one of the
clients moving with Charone to her new agency. 'Madonna hasn't changed
since I first met her. Even then she was tremendously self-confident and
knew what she wanted to do. She had that much belief,' she says.
Charone admits it is sometimes stressful dealing with stars who don't
need to do press. 'I'm enthusiastic and positive, two very helpful
traits for a PRO. Enthusiasm counts for a lot - if I sound bored, what
is the journalist going to think?'
So after almost 20 years at WEA, including seven as director of
publicity, Charone has decided the time is right to go independent.
It is an idea she had never seriously considered until Belles, then MD
of WEA, left the company in September. 'Moira leaving was the
encouragement I needed, plus it's great working with friends and I
wanted to continue that.' The new agency will see Belles handling
management and consultancy and Charone press.
As a Chelsea fan she has experienced highs and lows with the club.
Dennis Wise is her favourite player - for his loyalty and commitment -
but he gets, she says, a 'bad press'.
'I want to convince footballers their PR should be done as it is for
musicians. Most will only do an interview because they are paid to,
which is archaic. They should do it because it is the right column to
Loyalty is a rare trait in her favourite sport but Charone inspires it
in others as the list of artists joining MBC suggests. 'Because she is
'BC' and the people in the media have always had a good relationship
with her we thought' if it ain't broke, don't fix it',' says REM manager
Final word goes to Mohan: 'A lot of PROs I wouldn't choose to spend time
with but she is good company. I would consider her a friend. She has
never let me down and I hope I have never let her down,' he says,
sounding a little soppy for once.
1974: Deputy editor, Sounds
1983: Press officer, WEA
1993: Director of publicity, WEA
2000: Partner, MBC.