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Baker's Dozen

Access All Areas: Barbara Charone’s Baker’s Dozen
Lucy O'Brien , June 22nd, 2022 11:06

The legendary music PR talks to Lucy O’Brien about the albums and the people who have most inspired her, from the Rolling Stones to Madonna, and why artists aren’t necessarily your friends


Rufus Wainwright – Want One

I never knew who Rufus Wainwright was until one night, me and Neil Tennant had been to dinner at The Wolseley and for some reason we went to Virgin Records, the big one in Piccadilly. We went in late, like a quarter to 11, just before it shut, and Neil picked up this album and said, “Do you have this?” It was Want One and I didn't know what it was, so Neil bought it for me. From the very first second of the opening track, ‘Oh What a World’, I was smitten. The song really resonated with me (“Why am I always on a plane or fast train?”) because I do a lot of travelling. So I devoured that album, and over Christmas bought his first two records and devoured them.

By January 1 I was obsessed with him. Luckily, his label were thinking about hiring an independent PR to go back on Want One, so I got to work with him and have done ever since. He’s one of my favourite artists. I've had arguments with people about if he's a genius or not, and I definitely am on the side of ‘Yes’. I don't know anyone who writes lyrics like him, and they're sprinkled throughout Want One. Like, “A bucket of rhymes I threw up somewhere”, or “I tried to dance Britney Spears, I guess I'm getting on in years.” Fantastic.

I managed him for a while but it was soul destroying in the end. Rufus' mom had just died and he was in a really strange place in his life. I think I would have been a great manager, I have a lot of confidence, but it just didn't work. And he didn't really know what he wanted at the time. Luckily, he had the good sense to know he didn't want to lose me as a friend, and I had the sense to know that my strength was in PR. I had a really successful company and if I carried on managing him I was probably going to jeopardise it. In the end he wrote a song about me, called ‘Barbara’, which is on the Out Of The Game album. So that's kind of amazing to me.