Following the passing of Charlie Watts another 80 year old man has left us.
Michael Chapman was hardly a household name. In the 70s I was aware of his existence, it’s possible that I might have heard him on the John Peel show but that was the limit of his impact on my consciousness it’s only been in the last four years thanks to the miracle of Spotify that I’ve been able to access his music.
Chapman was creating music not radically different to the more feted John Martyn. There were two crucial differences that held him back. Firstly he was based in Yorkshire (Hull in fact form much of the 70s), a million cultural miles from the capital. Secondly he was a craggy balding individual who looked more like he was about to fix the plumbing than entertain an audience.
In the longer term this worked to his advantage, he didn’t look a lot different at 70 than he did at 40. His geographical isolation meant his music avoided the worst excesses of the 60s and 70s, there was a grit in his music that has weathered the passing of time quite well.
There’s no golden age of Michael Chapman. In the 70s he was closest to a breakthrough to a point of collaborations with slightly more well know people including Mick Ronson (the Hull connection) but he was never close to being a star. His recent output is just as good as his 70s work. He was working up until lockdown, playing low key gigs and teaching guitar.
Here’s a clip of him performing ‘Trees’ with Nigel Pegrum and Rick Kemp (another Hull connection) from Steeleye Span.