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Roger Chapman
The Biography

Roger Maxwell Chapman, known as 'Chappo' by his legions of fans was born and brought up in the East Midlands city of Leicester, a hot bed of musical talent in the UK during the mid to late 1960's. The early days of Roger's musical career started when he joined The Farinas in 1966, a band started at Leicester Art College in 1962. The original line up of the band consisted of John 'Charlie' Whitney, Tim Kirchin, Harry Ovenall and Jim King. Ric Grech replaced Kirchin on bass in 1965 and Roger Chapman joined the following year on vocals. They briefly changed their name to The Roaring Sixties and when seeing the band live American record producer Kim Fowley suggested that because of their love of wearing double-breasted suits when on stage had given them a Mafia style appearance, they ought to be called The Family. After this comment the band soon decided to abandon this look in favour of a more casual appearance and to shorten the band name to Family and so the legend was born. With Roger`s characteristic vibrato and dynamic on-stage presence Family could do no wrong. A move to London heralded the release of the single Scene Through An Eye Of A Lens, released on the Liberty label in 1967 and now a collector`s item, this being a pre curser for their seminal debut album MUSIC IN A DOLLS HOUSE. Released in 1968 the album was an intoxicating mix of musical styles; blues, folk, jazz and what was soon to be labelled 'psychedelia'. The bands heady mix of soul and funk mixed with a healthy dose of rock soon won them fans world wide including legendary BBC radio presenter the late John Peel who had championed their cause from the very start. Until 1973 Family and most prominently the unique vocal delivery of Roger Chapman had an illustrious career, albums such as FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT, A SONG FOR ME and the classic release BANDSTAND would all find success, the later spawning the hit single Burlesque, the song getting to number 13 in the UK singles chart. The band recorded their last album IT`S ONLY A MOVIE in 1973, an album that contained excellent songs but as various band members wanted to take different musical paths they decided to call it a day, an autumn farewell tour climaxing in Leicester on October 13th at the famed Leicester Polytechnic, an emotional finale in their hometown. Not being one to sit on his laurels Roger Chapman decided to carry on song writing with ex Family band mate Charlie Whitney and their productive partnership grew into the rock driven collective known as Streetwalkers. Throughout the mid to late seventies Streetwalkers had a run of successful albums including DOWNTOWN FLYERS, RED CARD and VICIOUS BUT FAIR. In the early days the band had several former Family members appearing at different times and by the time DOWNTOWN FLYERS was recorded the hugely talented singer and guitarist Bobby Tench had joined the ranks bringing a much needed stability to the Streetwalkers line up. The band became highly distinctive, mixing syncopated funk with a hard rock edge, their career climaxing with the live double album, simply entitled STREETWALKERS LIVE, their raw live sound captured perfectly including renditions of their signature song Dice Man, taken from VICIOUS BUT FAIR and an exultant version of the Family favourite My Friend The Sun. Sadly once again, despite a hugely successful tour of the United States, Streetwalkers never received the transatlantic acclaim that they deserved, management difficulties ensued and Chapman and Whitney decided that the end of their creative partnership was in sight and made the
decision to go their separate ways.

It was now 1978 and Roger then decided to embark on a solo career, a career that would prove extremely successful and indeed still is today. His first solo offering was CHAPPO, released in 1979 to critical acclaim. Never one to follow fashion or to look like a rock star, Roger appeared on the front cover wearing a red boiler suit under the guise of an Otis lift engineer. The album was a collaboration with David Courtney and featured several songs that would become and indeed still are firm crowd pleasers such as Moth To A Flame and the glorious Who Pulled The Night Down. Roger also paying homage to legendary American songwriter the late Tim Hardin with a superb cover of Hang On To A Dream. Touring the UK in 1979, both the fans and press enthusiastically received Roger`s brand of rock infused R&B, Roger Chapman was back and performing better than ever. At this time in the UK the punk movement was at its height and the British music establishment would rather spend their resources on the latest fad or fashion that support a veteran rock singer from the sixties who had never been one to follow the crowd or indeed the latest musical trend and quality material from established artists gave way to a plethora of new young acts that would grace the pages of the UK music press.

The rest of Europe on the other hand was a different matter, a chance meeting in Hamburg with a group of like minded musicians led him to appear on the renowned German TV rock show Rockpalast, a show that went out to over fourteen countries with a combined audience of over twenty five million, Roger was reborn and the fire reignited. A top flight backing band helped Roger release the single Let`s Spend The Night Together and soon his version of the Rolling Stones classic hit was also a hit for Roger Chapman, rising high in the German charts and once more the name of Roger Chapman was to stir interest and acclaim in the music press. The album LIVE IN HAMBURG followed in 1979 and was released both in Germany and England and featured such notable guest musicians as Tim Hinckley and Mel Collins. Included on the album was a cover of the Micky Jupp penned Shortlist which was soon to become a live favourite with fans and was also to become the name of Roger`s backing band. This was the album that would launch an extremely successful solo career, a string of releases followed including MAIL ORDER MAGIC, HYENAS ONLY LAUGH FOR FUN (an album that was to see ex Family band mate John Wetton return to the fold) and HE WAS, SHE WAS, a double live album that once again featured keyboard maestro Tim Hinckley and other famed British musicians such as saxophonist Nick Pentelow and guitarists Geoff Whitehorn and Steve Simpson, Steve & Geoff still appearing live with Roger today. These musicians all helping to produce what has become one of the most vibrant live albums of its kind ever recorded. At the 1981 German music awards Chapman was voted Best Singer, HYENAS ONLY LAUGH FOR FUN also winning an award. Two years later a lead vocal on Mike Oldfield`s 1983 hit Shadow On The Wall also adding to Chapman`s diverse repertoire. Before the decade was out Roger released one of his finest albums ever. WALKING THE CAT is an album steeped in that great British rock tradition of making a studio recording sound live. Released in 1989 the release staying in the German charts for three months and with Alvin Lee, Micky Moody and Bobby Tench some of the finest musicians in the world as guests, Roger Chapman was back where he belonged, at the top. Songs such as Son Of Red Moon, Come The Dark Night and Hands Off all showing a songwriter and performer at the top of his game. Released in 1990 HYBRID AND LOWDOWN featured three current members of the Shortlist line up namely Steve Simpson, Ian Gibbons and John Lingwood along with musicians such as once again Bobby Tench, Henry Spinetti, Micky Moody and Tim Hinckley, Tench co writing Cops In Shades with Chapman for the album. The early nineties would see the release of two compilation albums KICK IT BACK and KING OF THE SHOUTERS and then in 1996 an album of new material entitled KISS MY SOUL was released and showed a return to form for a performer who had never really been away. A vibrant, exciting release that returned to the winning formula of mixing rock, soul, funk and R&B and when combined with that signature barbed wire and wine 'Chappo' vocal delivery sounding better than ever, the album receiving acclaim both in the UK and all over the rest of Europe.

Now enjoying a very successful solo career, 1998 saw the release of another fine studio album. A TURN UNSTONED featured not only the usual array of guest musicians but also centred on the nucleus of the then current Shortlist line up of Steve Simpson, Ian Gibbons and Laurie Wisefield. That would also be the year that Roger Chapman and the Shortlist made a welcome return to appearing on the Easter Rockpalast show broadcast all over Europe from Germany. Fans were now eagerly awaiting a live recording and in 1999 their patience was rewarded with the release of the double live album IN MY OWN TIME-LIVE. This was the album fans had been longing for, live versions of favourite tracks such as In My Own Time, The Weavers Answer, Son Of Red Moon and Stand Up all sounding fresh and vibrant, Roger Chapman could now only go from strength to strength.

At the turn of the new millennium Roger was soon back in action performing live with the Shortlist of which two shows formed the basis of ROLLIN` AND TUMBLIN`, released in 2001 this was a collection of twelve live tracks recorded both at the Borderline in London and the charmingly named venue Hell in Norway. Renditions of classic cuts such as Kiss My Soul, A Stone Unturned and the all time Family favourite Burlesque all showed that with a career now spanning over thirty years Roger Chapman showed no sign of slowing down, his voice sounding better than ever. In 2007 Roger returned to the studio with old pals and associates such as Steve Simpson, Micky Moody, Bobby Tench and Max Middleton to record ONE MORE TIME FOR PEACE. With Jim Cregan in the producers chair and ten original songs plus an outstanding rendition of Jerusalem on offer, this was a truly outstanding release, an album that would introduce the name of Roger Chapman to a whole new generation of fans yet the same time keeping the old guard happy. In 2009 we had HIDE GO SEEK a superb double CD of twenty-eight tracks. At close on two hours long the album is a vast collection of lost gems, demo`s and alternative versions of tracks already featured on previous releases, some of which are over twenty years old and have never been heard before, yet still sounding as fresh now as they did when first recorded. This is a fine body of work from a truly original singer, songwriter and performer who today is still regarded as an icon of British contemporary rock music.

With Hide Go Seek championed by fans and press alike ("A true lionheart still roars,"wrote The Mirror), Chappo could have chosen that release as the swansong to astellar career. In 2011, the singer told the Rock Legacy website that "I've tried retiring over the past ten years or so", and dropped a few hints he was considering steppingback from the spotlight - most notably with a 2012 live album pointedly titled Maybe The Last Time.
But the music wasn't done with Chappo. By February 2013, he was back on the stage, at the peak of his powers and more passionate than ever, at the heart of a reunited Family lineup who performed together that month for the first time in over 40 years at London's O2 Shepherds Bush Empire. As the historic show approached, Chapman admitted to nerves at the sense of occasion. "I just hope we don't blow it,"he told Uncut magazine. "I don't think we will, but in the back of your mind you go, 'I hope we don't let them down and let ourselves down'." In the event, the demand for tickets was so high that an extra night had to be added, while the band's onstage telepathy and transcendent performances felt as though no time had passed at all. As Family went on to steal the show at that August's Rockin' The Park festival in Nottinghamshire, the only disappointment, Chapman noted, was that while John 'Poli' Palmer, Rob Townsend and Jim Cregan had readily stepped back aboard, Whitney was reluctant to leave his paradise home in the Greek Islands. "He said, 'It just sounds like a lot of hard work for a couple of gigs. But have a good time'."

Throughout 2013, Family were a towering presence on the British scene. Alongside the shows, fans welcomed the release of Once Upon A Time: a definitive Family compilation, gathering the band's entire catalogue - including outtakes, alternative versions and rarities found in Chappo's loft - on a 14-disc boxset whose mouthwatering presentation scored the Grand Design award at the 2013 Progressive Music Awards. "Obviously, if it looks good," said the singer, "then it's a nice thing to be recognised like that." Reignited and freshly relevant, with endorsements coming from younger bands like Kasabian's Serge Pizzorno, Family spent the next three years embracing the road, playing sell-out dates across the UK in 2014 and 2015, and lighting up the European festival season in 2016. That December, Family signed off with shows in London and Leicester, at which the lineup was expanded to a seven-piece format that let them explore the most ambitious corners of the catalogue. "On the off-chancethat this is Family's last hurrah," wrote Pete Feenstra on Get Ready To Rock, "the band plays with discipline, craft, nuanced restraint, humour, and plenty of conviction." Even with Family on hiatus - for now - Chapman's creative wheels continued to turn. Released in 2021 on Ruf Records and Chappo Music, his long-awaited new solo album, Life In The Pond, draws a line under a period in which the 79-year-old has been absent from the studio but privately prolific. "I've never stopped writing," he reflects, "and with Life In The Pond, I felt the need to hear what I'd put down in music." Life In The Pond reunites Chappo with faces from his past - including Poli Palmer as co-writer/producer and guest guitar from Geoff Whitehorn - while joining the dots between his early influences and taking the pulse of modern life. "There's nostalgia for the different musical styles that influenced my life," he says. "American rock from the '50s to now. British R'n'B from the '60s, like Georgie Fame, the Stones, Zoot Money. Folk. Blues. Motown. Stax. Blue Note jazz. Classical. Americana. Country. A whole mess of influences. Mostly it's anger at politicians that's kept me fired up. But I'm also influenced by daily happenings, world news, people, acquaintances. It's all in the lyrics." This latest album finds Chapman's voice in vintage form and his musical radar more receptive than ever. Opening with the rootsy groove, vocal grit and brass licks of Dark Side Of The Stairs, the album's mood roams from hypnotic seven-minute epic Nightmare #5 to Rabbit Got The Gun's dystopian soul-funk. Having Us A Honeymoon opens with a snatch of Mendelssohn's Wedding March, before honky-tonk piano leads a lusty East End singalong. At the other emotional extreme, On Lavender Heights is a hushed stunner, Chapman using little more than his voice - with a dash of keys and strings - to carry a flash of true tenderness. And while the lyrics can be biting, there's a wistfulness to the closing Naughty Child that suggests that, even at 79, Chapman's wide-eyed idealism remains intact ('When the world was young and foolish," he sings. 'When the world was running wild…').

The world has turned a few times since '66, but Roger Chapman still has something to say - and with Life In The Pond, his voice as an artist is more vital than ever. "I'm very pleased and grateful that Poli gave me the opportunity," he says, "because I think we really came up with the goods on this album."

James Soars

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