“If you’re going to be in the music business, you gotta make hit records,” Mike Chapman once pithily observed.
A simple philosophy, it guided sometimes singing waiter Chapman (born 1947 in Queensland, Australia) and former car salesman Nicky Chinn (a Londoner born in 1945) throughout the 1970s, when their prodigious songwriting/production partnership ruled the British pop roost.
The pair met at a Jermyn Street nightclub called ‘Tramp’ – one of the London music business’ most exclusive watering holes.
Chinn was hanging out, and trying to impress people with a test pressing of the first songs he’d ever had recorded, co-writing Mike d’Abo’s latest single Miss Me In The Morning and Arabella Cinderella.
Chapman, who had just abandoned his own dreams of success by quitting the band Tangerine Peel, was working as a waiter.
The duo’s inaugural success came with the typically alliterative Funny Funny, a January 1971 hit single for the previously unsuccessful Sweet, who then became their prime outlet.
Chinnichap (as the duo were quickly dubbed) oversaw a run of hits for them that incrementally traded Archies-style bubblegum for hard rock (Blockbuster became the first #1 for both parties on 27 January 1973), before indulging the band’s desire to be taken seriously with the epic The Six Teens.
Though Glam was essentially a look, Chinnichap’s association with Sweet ensured that their stomping, anthemic releases in this period (through Mickie Most‘s RAK label) became defined as the glam rock sound – one they also conferred on tomboy rocker Suzi Quatro and quartet Mud. The latter’s rip-roaring 1974 UK #1 Tiger Feet may well be the pair’s most famous track.
Chinn and Chapman, though, were not one-trick ponies. They provided cam-fire sing-a-longs for New World, sultry ballads for Exile, and mature, reflective soft-rock like If You Think You Know How To Love Me for Smokie.
Slide-rule pop professionals, Chinnichap wrote some thirty UK Top Ten singles, including five chart-toppers.
By the end of the 1970s, however, Chapman was gradually moving away from his partner, independently producing such great albums as Blondie‘s Parallel Lines (1978) and The Knack‘s Get The Knack (1979).