CHAPPO - by Dave Seal - from Nuggets (Birmingham Fanzine) 1980
Everyone can remember the first single or album they bought, It's a landmark in the mist of time. Even more vivid in my memory is the recollection of the first band I ever saw live. Having listened to records for a long time I'd never been subjected to the totally different experience of the visual and aural assault that a live gig brings. The sheer volume, the energy and excitement that hits you for the first time is unforgettable. That memorable occasion was in January 1969 at Sheffield City Hall when Roger Chapman, John Whitney, Rob Townsend, Jim King and Ric Grech known coueetivelyas Family crashed into my brain.
The band were at their peak at the time, just prior to "Family Entertainment" which I eagerly snapped up on the day of release. Numbers from that gig and album still stand as classics. "The Weavers Answer", "Observations From A Hill" and "How Hi The Li " are among the greatest British rock songs written for my money. Before their eventual demise I saw Family many more times and until I began going to gigs on a virtually daily basis three years ago they were easily my 'most seen' band. Always at the sharp end of their many line-ups was that crazed master vocalist Roger Chapman, a constant source of fierce energy forever whipping himself, the band and the audience to higher peaks of committment, excitement and total immersion in the music.
Despite my devotion to this man and his magic band I somehow managed to miss out on his and Charlie's mature period with Streetwalkers but the news of Chapman's renaissance early this year came as a rush of adrenalin to my jaded British outlook. And, not that it was ever in doubt, his debut solo album, "Chappo ", on the newly formed Acrobat label is as steaming a collection of British produced American feeling rhythm 'n booze as you could wish for.
As Roger took a band on the road to promote the record it seemed a good opportunity to check out what he'd been up to for the last couple of years, Streetwalkers had gone out with a whiinper and Roger's view seemed to support that. The band manager, Michael Alfandary seemed to have caused problems, building friction up with an originally very sympathetic record company and generally doing a counter-productuve job. Roger summed up the final split concisely: "There was no friction between the members of the band. The only friction was with the way the band was being run. It just got completely . . . boring, we just felt like we were getting on stage to play act the role. There was no point in doing it".
"He felt the same, he'd been more wary of Michaei to start with than me. We just needed to break away after 12 or 13 years. He needed to go one way and I needed to go another. Then all of a sudden it happened. I was left sitting at home. I didn't know anybody at all. I'd never been a great socialiser, knocking around with the 'in-crowd'. I had offers to play and record but after the hassles with Michael it took me time to give anyone my trust again. I didn't want any responsibility for a while. I wanted to have a blow when and if I felt like it. I just wanted to be my own man".
What was all this about one company wanting you to be like Leo Sayer?
"Like Leo is a great singer but after the first couple of albums they got Richard Perry in - did the business but took away all his good points and made him into a housewives choice. They wanted me to be a polished performer in their way. I don't want to do that. The bread doesn't interest me unless I make it my way. I would sooner have gone skint than do deals with these people".
So there Roger wasn't, contractwise, for quite a while.
"Then I met David Courtney by fluke. He was producing a pal of mine and I just met him. We got along really well and talked about me recording and how I wanted to keep it all meaty and bouncy. I met Chris Youle (Acrobat maestro) about a year ago at a party and he mentioned he was setting up a record company and to come and see him. Two or three months later, David came up and said Chris was really interested in me doing something. I had trust in Dave by then and Chris's attitude was great for me. He actually wanted me to do an album for his company which did my confidence wonders. After dealing with all the pseudo plastic funk muzoz-no edge, nowhere to go. ... How about doing something like Boz Seaggs". "It's not really me". "Well Boz Seaggs sold 5 million fucking units last year". Oh really, thanks a lot, snore, goodbye". RUBBISH".
So Roger and David got into the studios in Septernber last year.
"David obviously sussed me out and he took the weight off me. He let me run riot but he knew how to handle it. There was no way I wanted to produce it myself. We went in on the Monday, I'd only met the guitar player once before. I gave them the chord sheets, two verses . . . whoomy, five days, working 3 and a half hours a day. It was immediate, just what I wanted, a bit of realism. I think this is the best record, as a vocalist, Iíve ever made. Maybe I've needed to get the strength. Chris left me free to do it my way and with David's help, I think I did".
"The album is very good indeed, plenty of strong songs from Roger, mostly on the slow to medium paced side giving his distinctive powerful vocals every opportunity to excell. As well as his own material he features the old Tim Hardin chestnut, "Hang On To A Dream ", with rivetting vocals and slide guitar from Mickey Moody. The bluesy, "Pills" is another track featuring Moody's slide. "Charlic and I wrote it around the last Streetwalkers album but it never came off. I said I'd do it one day and now I've got it how I want it".
As Roger says, "I get off on rock 'n roll, rhythm 'n blues. I like the power". There's plenty of that in the funky "Who Pulled The Night Down", the brooding "Face of' Stone" and the rocking "Midnite Child" with its tasty guitar progression. But as you well know Roger's home is the stage not the studio.
So how did you get back on the road with Chappo and the Shortlist?
"There was no way I wanted to get involved in bands at all. I obviously wanted to do the gigs but there is nothing permanent after this album has been promoted, The band has worked very well and next tour I'd like to get them all again if it's possible but I don't need anything permanent yet. First off, I got Timmy Hinckley, we've been pals for a long time - and said will you help me get a band together. So we gradually pieced them in, Jerome Rimson (bass) was with the Detroit Emeralds, Stretch (the drummer) was with Marvin Gaye, Raff Ravenscroft (sax) is best known for his work on Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" and finally after Mick Grabham couldn't make it we got Clern Clemson on guitar".
Raff and Clem live were tremendous; doubling lines on "Midnite Child" was a particular delight and the rest lived up to their professional reputations. A number featured live is Mickey Jupp's "Shortlist" from which the band took their name, how come?
"I was down at the office and a tape of Mickey Jupp's was there. I had a listen and liked the stuff a lot - it was my type of music. We started playing "Shortlist", then the agency wanted a name for the band so it seemed like a good idea".
Obviously Roger's reputation in Britain and Europe is high but Family and Streetwalkers never cracked the American market and Roger aims to put that right. He's just done a promotional tour and things are looking good. As he says, "I'm a fucking great singer. On stage, I've got so much bollocks it's not true. I'm just into singing such a lot". That's true and it's said with the everpresent chuckle in his voice. I think the time has come for Roger Chapman to graduate from the Shortlist. I'd give him the job anytime.