Thursday, 16 July 2009

Mike Chapman & Nicky Chinn (Songwriters/Producers)

The two people who had the most glam hits in the 70's were two men who never even appeared on Top of the Pops.

Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn (commonly known as Chinnichap) are the songwriters responsible for the hits of the Sweet, Suzi Quatro, Mud and Smokie to name just a few. From 1973 until 1978 they had an unbroken run of hit singles. In 1973 and 74 alone they had 19 hits in the top 40 of the UK singles chart, including 5 number ones.

Both men were already in the music industry when they first met. Chinn was a part time songwriter and Chapman a musician with the band Tangerine Peel.
The two of them joined up with Mickie Most's RAK label and began writing songs for the Sweet.

With the help of the two men, Sweet had an uninterrupted string of hits over the next few years, and Chinnichap went on to enjoy equal success with Mud and Suzi Quatro, including number one's with Tiger Feet, and Lonely This Christmas for Mud and Can the Can and Devil Gate Drive for Suzi Quatro.
Smokie were the next group to benefit from the Chinnichap magic having five hit singles between 1975 and 78.

Though often accused of churning out 'mechanical' music, no one can deny the popularity of their compositions. A lack of respect at the time, and since has led to accusations of 'deliberate commercialism, degrading the standard of music' Which is a bit rich when you consider the present day music industry.

In an interview with Nigel Thomas in 1974 Mike Chapman said:
"We write singles, but they're very much harder to sell than an album. Singles you've got to sell in three and a half minutes and you've got to sell it quick, and you've got to sell it good"
The duo were famous for beginning their songs with the title and then writing the song around that, for example 'Wig Wam Bam'. The songs were written rapidly, often overnight and recorded with equal speed. Later songs written for Smokie became more thoughtful and emotional, but still as catchy and tuneful.

It was only with the advent of punk rock that their star began to wane as fewer performers wanted to work with them. They continued to write hit songs well after the glam rock period had ended, such as Mickey a number one for Toni Basil and Kiss You All Over by Exile, but despite this Chinnichap eventually separated during the early 80's. Chapman turned to production with his greatest success being Blondie's Parallel Lines in 1978, while Chinn eventually left the music business all together. The only comparable songwriting partnership since with as great a success rate was the Stock, Aitken and Waterman team in the late 80's.

Tom Tom Turnaround is a song written by Chinnichap and performed here by the Sweet, but was originally a hit for Australian pop group New World in 1971.
"The bottom line is this. writing songs might be easy to do, but it's incredibly hard to do well"Mike Chapman, Guardian interview 2000.