born on 13/4/1947 in Nambour, Queensland, Australia
Links www.allmusic.com (English)
Michael Donald "Mike" Chapman (born 13 April 1947, Nambour, Queensland, Australia) is an Australian record producer and songwriter who was a major force in the British pop music industry in the 1970s. He created a string of hit singles for artists including Sweet, Suzi Quatro, Smokie, Mud and Racey with co-writer and co-producer Nicky Chinn, creating a formularised sound that became identified with the "Chinnichap" brand. He later produced breakthrough albums for Blondie and The Knack.
Chapman was born in Queensland, Australia, but moved to Britain where he became a member of the Downliners Sect and then in 1968 joined the group Tangerine Peel. They released an album in 1969 and had several near-hit singles between 1967 and 1970. In 1970 met Nicky Chinn while working as a waiter at a London nightclub, Tramp. The pair struck up a song-writing partnership, and began working with high-profile producer Mickie Most on his RAK Records label, which quickly became home to a roster of artists including Suzi Quatro, Smokie, and Mud.
|We decided to meet someone who was making hit records instead of going round to publishers offices and playing our songs to people who didnt know what they were talking about. I got hold of Mickies home number because I thought a secretary might block the call at the office. His wife, Chris, put him on and I said, We write hits and it would be great to meet up. Mickie said, Okay, 11.30 tomorrow morning. We played him some songs, all of which he didnt like, until the last one which was "Tom Tom Turnaround". He gave it to New World and it was a Top 5 record.|
Chapman and Chinn
From 1970 until 1978 Chapman and Chinn scored a run of hit singles, with just the Chapman/Chinn writing or production credit seemingly enough to propel a song on to the airwaves and up the charts. From 1973 to 1974 alone the pair had 19 hits in the Top 40 of the UK Singles Chart, including five number ones. The pairs dominance of the charts in Britain, Germany, Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand outlasted the decline of Glam rock, and waned in line with the fading fortunes of Smokie and Suzi Quatro. The success of the Chinn-Chapman production partnership was challenged in the late 1980s by the Stock Aitken Waterman team.
Interviews with bands suggest Chapman was the more energetic and creative of the pair and the more flamboyant and outspoken. He exerted a tight grip on the output of the bands whose works he produced, determining the content of all albums. Some resented the level of control: The Sweet, whose interests lay in heavy rock, chafed at the teenybopper material Chapman gave them to perform, finally balking at some songs which did not fit in with their new direction and seeking success on their own; Chapman would later make the curious decision of offering "Some Girls" to Blondie; the song was eventually given to Racey instead. Deborah Harry has referred to Chapman as a dictator, and for the photo shoot for one magazine interview he insisted on dressing up as US wartime General George S. Patton, Jr.
The pair continued to write hits, including Exiles "Kiss You All Over" (1978) and Toni Basils "Mickey" (1981, a reworked version of "Kitty", a song they had written for Racey in 1980). They formed the Dreamland record label in 1979. Chapman later said that the label was an attempt to keep some of the partnership together. " I wanted Nicky Chinn to show me what he could do without me. So we started the label and put him in charge.The company folded after just 18 months.' Chapman was free to go it alone without the burden of the partnership." Those were difficult years, 1973 to 1978, I really didn't need a partnership and tried desperately to get away from it." It's a long story.
Solo production work
Chinns involvement in production was always minimal, and Chapman continued to produce alone after moving to the US in 1975. He produced Nick Gilders City Nights album in 1978 (which yielded the "Hot Child in the City" hit) with Peter Coleman, his long-time recording engineer, and in May the same year began working with Blondie to record their third album in New York. Chapman was a fan of their music, but was dissatisfied with the production of their albums. He told the band bluntly he would make them a hit record and he was right: Parallel Lines turned the band into an international success and became arguably the pinnacle of his own career.
The Parallel Lines session lasted three months. Singer Deborah Harry was struck by the intensity of Chapmans working methods. She said:
|It was diametrically opposite from working with (former producer) Richard Gottehrer. He's very laid back and Mike is a real hot chili pepper and very energetic and enthusiastic. Mike would strive for the technically impeccable take so we would do take after take whereas Richard always went for the inspired take.|
Keyboardist Jimmy Destri recalled:
|He was a very good producer, a very good producer. He wasn't very technical, but he was very organic and he was a very good mixer on his own too. I mean he knew the console like nobody else I've ever seen. He would say things like Jimmy, if you shut out the lights, I'll be able to EQ by ear without even looking at the console! He taught me a lot about making records, that's what Mike did. And he was another member of the band at that point, and he was just like in there with us. And from Parallel Lines and onwards, Mike was integral, he was really integral as we couldn't go in the studio without him. As far as the recording process of those albums, we all learned a lot from Mike.|
Employing the same skills he had applied to records by Smokie and Gilder, Chapman produced a more polished guitar and keyboard sound than the band had ever achieved, topped with layered vocals. The focal point of the album, and the breakthrough single, was Heart of Glass. The source of its driving disco beat is a matter of contention: Chapman claimed he had created the sound after the band had presented it as a slower, reggae-style song; band members insist it had always been known as its disco song and that they had arrived at the sound by combining the influences of Kraftwerk and Saturday Night Fever.
Chapman relished the praise heaped on his work on Parallel Lines, commenting soon after its release:
|There's loads of hits, it's a great album, but who gives a fuck. It's easy, you see. When we go into the studio, we go in and make hit records, and it just happens. We don't think about it. If you're going to be in the music business, you gotta make hit records. If you can't make hit records, you should fuck off and go chop meat somewhere.|
Within months of Parallel Lines' release, Chapman was working with another band for which he would achieve a career high water mark: power pop outfit The Knack. The bands website notes that in November 1978, 13 record companies were engaged in a fierce bidding war for the bands services, with Capitol Records finally signing the band. Producers clamoured to offer their services and even Phil Spector was anxious to participate.
The website says:
|Chapman read an article in the LA Times which identified the producers the band most wanted to work with. His name wasnt on the list. Sensing a blockbuster, Chapman convinced the band to allow him to produce and signed on. With a team now firmly in place, The Knack and Chapman entered the studio, eager to capture the energy of their live performances. While artists such as The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac were spending more than a year and a million dollars to produce an album, Get The Knack was recorded in just 11 days for a miserly $17,000. The Knack performed the songs "live" with minimal overdubs. Chapman basically hit the record button and let the band play.|
The album hit No.1 in the US and sold millions around the world. Its follow-up, ...But the Little Girls Understand, was less successful. Featuring a producer credit as "Commander Chapman" and liner notes in which Chapman boasted, "This record is very dear to me and my bank manager", it prompted a bitter falling-out between band and producer. Chapman claimed the album cost him his reputation. In the book Off the Record, Chapman said he and the band made the second album under the heady impression that they could do no wrong. He accused singer and guitarist Doug Fieger of being deluded with notions he was Jim Morrison or Buddy Holly ... "there was nothing he could do that wouldn't work". Fieger, in a 1994 interview, responded: "Mike Chapman is one of the bigger assholes that you'll ever meet on the planet. Unfortunately, Mike Chapman was not in any psychological or physical shape to produce that second album when we really needed a producer."
Chapman produced three more Blondie albums - Eat to the Beat, Autoamerican and The Hunterand most of Def, Dumb and Blonde, a Deborah Harry solo album. In an article in Creem magazine Chris Stein marvelled at Chapmans attention to detail, noting that the percussion for The Tide Is High also includes "eight tracks of drum sticks tapping on a piano bench." He creates a vivid description:
|Chapman hunches over the console into the wee hours. People are pressed flat against the back wall by his playback volume. Gallons of Jose Cuervo Gold are consumed... Finally, the basic tracks wind down, and we move a block down the Strip to Studio B. The move marks the Home Stretch; the vocals, overdubs and finally the orchestral horns and what have you. Here is Mike Chapman's little Magic Room. The control room is filled with a gigantic blue console that's hooked up to computers, satellites and atomic submarines off the coast of Maine. Here the songs get the 'chrome' put on.|
Others who have worked with Chapman also speak with awe at the volume levels of music in the studio as he worked. Engineer Lenise Bent observed: "The UREI Time Align speakers had these little red and green fuses and we blew boxes of them. I used to wear headphones, not plugged into anything."
|I can tell you (a) Mike wrote virtually everything no matter what the labels say and (b) he produced the records as well, without Nicky Chinn. Mike is incredibly patient and detail oriented. It might take all day to get guitar 8th notes perfect, but he took as long as it took. If it bothered him it bothered him. And when it was right to him it was right. He knew what he wanted, he wasn't ever waffly. But he set a high bar. Also he listens loud. We mixed one record at United Western in L.A., and they had UREI 813's in there at that time... and we blew I think 13 15" woofers in those things in two weeks. Mike is an incredible songwriter and singer and that's his greatest strength. And he loves hit records.|
Chinn and Chapman delivered their songs rapidly, often conceiving and completing them overnight. They claimed they created their songs by first thinking of a title, around which they then wrote the lyrics. The claim is supported by the lyrics of early bubblegum pop songs such as "Wig Wam Bam"
- Wig-wam bam, gonna make you my man
- Wam bam bam, gonna get you if I can
- Wig-wam bam, wanna make you understand
- Try a little touch, try a little too much
- Just try a little wig-wam bam
although other songs including those for Smokie such as "Living Next Door to Alice" injected a much more thoughtful, emotional tone (originally written for New World in the early 70s, much the same time as Wig Wag Bam)
- Oh, I don't know why she's leaving,
- Or where she's gonna go,
- I guess she's got her reasons,
- But I just don't want to know,
- 'Cos for twenty-four years
- I've been living next door to Alice.
- Twenty-four years just waiting for a chance,
- To tell her how I feel, and maybe get a second glance,
- Now I've got to get used to not living next door to Alice...
The use of deeply emotional content is seen again in the Smokie single "Lay Back in the Arms of Someone":
- If you want my sympathy
- Open your heart to me
- You'll get whatever you'll ever need
- You think that's too high for you
- But oh baby, I would die for you
- When there's nothing left, you know where I'll be
In a 2002 interview with The Guardian, Chapman reflected that writing hit songs was an art to which many aspired but few achieved: "It's always a gamble. We'd written something like eight top 10 hits for Sweet when we heard that they'd entered the studio to record their own songs. After that, it was over for them. The bottom line is this -- writing songs might be easy to do, but it's incredibly hard to do well."
Chapman remained in demand through the 1980s and 1990s as a songwriter and producer. His compositions have included Tina Turner's "Simply The Best", "Better Be Good to Me" and "In Your Wildest Dreams" and Pat Benatar's "Love Is a Battlefield" (all co-written with Holly Knight), while he has produced albums for Altered Images, Australian Crawl, Agnetha Fältskog, Divinyls, Rod Stewart, Lita Ford, Pat Benatar, Baby Animals, Material Issue and Bow Wow Wow.
In 1998 Chapman co-wrote two songs for Ace of Base, "Always Have, Always Will" and "Whenever You're Near Me" .
1999 to 2001 Chapman wrote and produced Babyphetamine, an album by teenager Erin Evermore for the Tigerstar label owned by former Chrysalis Records head Terry Ellis.
In 2006, he wrote "Back to the Drive", the title track for a new Suzi Quatro album. In the liner notes Quatro thanks Chapman "for providing the title track and overseeing the entire project".
In 2007, Chapman began working with the Los Angeles rock band The Automatic Music Explosion. The band's lead singer, Matt Starr, flew across the country to Chapman's East Coast home in an attempt to meet the producer. The bold move worked, with Chapman flying to Los Angeles a month later to see the band perform live and ultimately agreeing to produce their first album.
In January 2008, Chapman produced the forthcoming single "Spin It" with The Neighborhood Bullys.
In May 2008, Chapman began mixing songs from "Your Doll," for Lisa Douglass.
In September 2008 Chapman met LA band 'HAIM', and over that Xmas and New Year started producing an album with the band. It is still under construction.
In 2009 Mike Chapman visited the UK to write songs with London based band iCON. ""Are You Stupid or Something?", "Talk You Through It", "Dirty Love" and "Do Or Die Moon", all of which will appear on the forthcoming album iCON - Smash My Box.
In November 2008 Chapman also started writing with and producing a solo album for Sarah Jeanette, singer with LA band The Mullhollands.
In November 2009 Chapman recorded the debut album for UK band The Arcadian Kicks. Release is pending.
2010/2012 Chapman has been working in London with Twigs, David Jordan, Nell Ryder and most recently, Polly Money.
Songs produced, or written and produced, by Mike Chapman/chinn or Mike Chapman as sole producer which charted on the UK Singles Chart:
- New World: "Tom Tom Turnaround", "Kara Kara"
- The Sweet: "Funny Funny", "Co-Co", "Alexander Graham Bell"
- The Sweet: "Poppa Joe", "Little Willy", "Wig-Wam Bam"
- Mud: "Crazy", "Hypnosis", "Dyna-Mite"
- New World: "Sister Jane"
- Suzi Quatro: "Can the Can", "48 Crash", "Daytona Demon"
- The Sweet: "Blockbuster", "Hellraiser", "Ballroom Blitz"
- Arrows: "Touch Too Much"
- Mud: "Tiger Feet", "The Cat Crept In", "Rocket", "Lonely This Christmas"
- Suzi Quatro: "Devil Gate Drive", "Too Big", "The Wild One"
- The Sweet: "Teenage Rampage", "The Sixteens", "Turn It Down"
- Mud: "The Secrets That You Keep", "Moonshine Sally" (originally recorded in 1972), "One Night"
- Suzi Quatro: "Your Mama Wont Like Me"
- Smokie: "If You Think You Know How to Love Me", "Don't Play Your Rock 'n' Roll to Me"
- Smokie: "Something's Been Making Me Blue", "I'll Meet You at Midnight", "Living Next Door to Alice"
- Suzi Quatro: "Tear Me Apart"
- Smokie: "Lay Back In The Arms Of Someone", "It's Your Life", "Needles and Pins"
- Suzi Quatro: "The Race is On", "If You Cant Give Me Love", "Stumblin' In" (with Chris Norman)
- Racey: "Lay Your Love on Me"
- Smokie: "For A Few Dollars More", "Oh Carol"
- Exile: "Kiss You All Over"
- Nick Gilder: "Hot Child In The City"
- Suzi Quatro: "She's in Love with You"
- Racey: "Some Girls"
- Suzi Quatro: "Mama's Boy" (producer only), "I've Never Been in Love" (producer only)
- Toni Basil: "Mickey"
- Altered Images: "Don't Talk To Me About Love" (sole producer only), "Love To Stay" (sole producer only)
- [[Bow Wow Wow}: "Do Ya Wanna Hold Me" (sole producer only)
- Huey Lewis and the News: "Heart and Soul"
- Tina Turner: The Best (co-written with Holly Knight), also reissued in 1993 as B-side to "I Don't Wanna Fight No More"
- Smokie featuring Roy 'Chubby' Brown: "Living Next Door to Alice" (spoof rendition).
- Interview with Rob Davis, Sound on Sound website and magazine, 2002. Soundonsound.com. Retrieved on 4 September 2010.
- "The Sweet Story", Live Music Magazine website
- Brian Connolly obituary, The Independent, 11 February 1997
- Peter Paphides (21 September 2002). Musical Chairs. The Guardian. Retrieved on 4 September 2010.
- 5.0 5.1 Blondie: Still Dreaming. Mixonline.com (1 May 1999). Retrieved on 4 September 2010.
- Archives > Press > Magazines > New York Rocker. Rip-her-to-shreds.com (30 April 2007). Retrieved on 4 September 2010.
- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988. Superseventies.com. Retrieved on 4 September 2010.
- Interview with Jimmy Destri, August 2003, The Big Takeover
- "Platinum Blondie: A tough rock group rises about the New Wave with a disco beat", by Jamie James, Rolling Stone, June 1979. Rolling Stone (31 August 2010). Retrieved on 4 September 2010.
- Knack History. Knack.com. Retrieved on 4 September 2010.
- "Blondie in LA" by Chris Stein, Creem, June 1981. Rip-her-to-shreds.com (30 April 2007). Retrieved on 4 September 2010.
- Prosoundweb web forum posting. Recforums.prosoundweb.com. Retrieved on 4 September 2010.
- buskin, richard. modern times: mike chapman today. sound on sound magazine. media house cambridge UK. Retrieved on june 2008.
- fulton, katherine. the automatic music explosion. MTV. Retrieved on june 2007.
- wolfman, jeff. AUTOMATIC FUN with The Automatic Music Explosion. all access magazine. Retrieved on oct 30, 2008.
Interview with Richard Fidler, 2006. Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC). http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2011/07/21/3274675.htm