In 1977, Michael Chapman was about to release the eight album of his career, The Man Who Hated Mornings on Deram Records. That had been home to Michael since 1973, when he released his fifth album Millstone Grit. By then, Michael Chapman had released five albums in the four years since Michael Chapman’s career began in 1969.

Michael Chapman’s debut album was Rainmaker, which was released in 1969, on the prestigious Harvest label. He released a further three albums on Harvest. The first of this trio of albums proved to be the most successful album of Michael’s career. 

That was Fully Qualified Survivor. It was released in 1970, and reached number forty-five in Britain. The following year, 1971, Michael Michael released two albums.

Following the success of Fully Qualified Survivor, Michael was keen to build on the album’s success. So, he went into the studio, and recorded his third album, Window. It was the most controversial album of Michael’s career. Michael disowned the album. He later, claimed it was an album of demos. However, the second album Michael released in 1971, Wrecked Again, was one of Michael’s finest albums. This proved to be a fitting way for Michael Chapman to leave Harvest. 

After Michael Chapman left Harvest, it was another two years before he released another album. During that period, Michael toured almost non stop. That was his first musical love. It was also where he made his money. By then, Michael knew he was never going to get rich on record sales alone. So, Michael took to touring incessantly. He liked life on the road, and the camaraderie of travelling with his band. They were like modern day minstrels, heading from town to town. This appealed to Michael. However, after a two year period where he never released an album, Michael returned with the fifth album of his career.

Michael Chapman signed to Deram Records, and in 1973, released the first of four albums on their Deram Records’ imprint of Deram Records. After a gap of two years, Michael was back with the fifth album of his career, Millstone Grit. 

Released in 1973, Millstone Grit was Michael’s Deram Records’ debut. It was a return to form from Michael, who was maturing as a singer and songwriter. Maybe, Michael had found his home at Deram Records?

Despite a busy touring schedule, Michael returned to the studio to record Deal Gone Down. It was released in 1974, and is one of the most underrated albums of Michael Chapman’s back-catalogue. Deal Gone Down is a showcase for Michael Chapman’s talent as a singer-songwriter, and his versatility. Sadly, Deal Gone Down didn’t sell well. However,thirty-three year old singer-songwriter seemed to be maturing with every album.

That was the case with Pleasures of the Street. Released in 1975, Pleasures Of The Street was Michael’s seventh album since 1969. Sadly, despite the quality of music on Pleasures of the Street, Michael was no nearer making a return to the chart. However, Michael Chapman was still a successful artist.

While Michael was averaging an album a year, it was touring where Michael was making his money. This meant Michael had a tempestuous relationship with the recording studio. He realised the longer he spent recording an album, the more money he lost through not touring. Unlike many artists, Michael realised this early in his career. It was no epiphany. Instead, it was a realisation that “time was money.” So  Michael worked quickly in the studio. He was always keen to get back on the road. So were his band. The road was their natural habitat. So, when Michael arrived at the studio he was always ready to role.

 This was the case when Michael began recording Savage Amusement. Michael had penned seven songs and covered Jimmie Rodgers’ Hobo’s Lament and Jimmy Reed’s How Can A Poor Man? These nine tracks were recorded at various studios, where Don Nix, formerly a member of the Stax Records’ house band, was tasked with reinventing Michael Chapman.

The sessions didn’t get off to the best start. When producer Don Nix arrived, he was on medication. This didn’t stop him heading out to a party. It was a party where Don Nix seemed to over indulge. The evening ended with Don Nix falling off a roof.

This didn’t please Michael. He realised that any delays would cost him money. So, Michael’s manager Max was dispatched to smooth things out.

While Michael’s manager Max, tried to sort out this little local difficulty, there was already an atmosphere. Then Michael took a dislike to the Dolby noise reduction filters. Eventually, though, Michael and Don Nix, got to work on Savage Amusement.

Recording of Savage Amusement took place at Sawmills Studios, Cornwall, Tapestry Studios, London and Ardent Studios, Memphis. Michael was a accompanied by members of his regular band, and a few guest artists. Once Savage Amusement was completed, Michael and his band returned to the road. His eighth album, Savage Amusement was scheduled for release in 1976.

Before the release of Savage Amusement, critics had their say. Straight away, they realised it was very different from Michael’s previous albums There was a reason for this. Many of Michael’s favourite guitarists came from Memphis. So, Michael wanted to make music where he could connect musically with them. Savage Amusement was essentially, a homage to the music Michael Chapman loved. He hoped it would see him return to the charts. So did executives at Deram Records.

A decision was made at Deram Records that Savage Amusement be heavily promoted. This was a first during Michael Chapman’s time at Deram Records. Given the change of direction, and quality of music on Savage Amusement, Deram Records thought the album might appeal to a wider audience. 

That wasn’t the case. Savage Amusement didn’t connect with the wider record buying public. Apart from Michael’s loyal fans, Savage Amusement passed most people by. For Michael Chapman, it was a case of returning to his natural habitat, the road.

After the commercial failure of Savage Amusement, Michael could no longer afford to take a ten piece band on the road with him. Gradually, his band shrank. First ten became five. Then Michael Chapman’s band became a trio. This trio feature on The Man Who Hated Mornings, which was recently reissued by Secret Records.

As Michael and his band made their way to Sawmills Studio, Cornwall and Tapestry Studios, London, they had ten tracks to record for The Man Who Hated Mornings. Michael Chapman had penned seven tracks, Northern Lights, The Man Who Hated Mornings, Steel Bonnets, Dogs Got More Sense, Falling Apart, While Dancing The Pride Of Erin and Dreams Are Dangerous. Drummer Keef Hartley contributed I’m Sober Now. The other two tracks Michael chose were cover versions. Bob Dylan’s Ballad In Plain D and Blind Alf Reed’s Why Do You Bob Your Hair Girls? completed The Man Who Hated Mornings. It would be recorded by Michael tight trio and a few guest artists.

When recording of The Man Who Hated Mornings got underway, the rhythm section included drummer Keef Hartley, bassist Rick Kemp and guitarists Mick Ronson and Camel’s Andy Latimer. They were joined by steel guitarist B.J. Cole, violinist Johnny Van Derek and Pete Wingfield who played electric piano, organ and string synth. Backing vocals came courtesy of John McBurnie and Vivienne McAuliffe. They played their part in Michael Chapman’s new sound.

Critics noticed that The Man Who Hated Mornings had a much harder, electric sound. It’s apparent from the opening track Northern Lights, right through The Man Who Hated Mornings. Despite this stylistic change, still, commercial success eluded Michael Chapman. Despite his sound constantly evolving, his albums failed to sell in great quantities. Mind you, 1977 was the height of the disco era. Unfortunately, troubadours like Michael Chapman were out of fashion, and had been replaced by the inane sound of disco. For Michael Chapman, it was a frustrating time.

Especially considering the quality of music on The Man Who Hated Mornings. Northern Lights, the album opener, is one of seven songs Michael penned. It’s just Michael’s guitar that take centre stage. Soon, it’s joined by the bass, Michael’s heartfelt, needy vocal and cooing harmonies. Behind him, the rhythm section of drummer Keef Hartley and bassist Rick Kemp provide a steady groove. By then, Michael’s vocal is a combination of power and passion. Then when his vocal drops out, he adds a folk-tinged guitar. Later, synths strings and Johnny Van Derek’s violin are added. Providing yin to Michael’s yang are the harmonies. They compliment Michael’s vocal, as the Leeds born troubadour embarks upon a captivating new musical adventure. 

Drummer Keef Hartley penned I’m Sober Now. It’s perfect for Michael’s lived-in sound. His vocal sometimes sounds like Bob Dylan. That’s still to come. Michael’s lone guitar is joined by the rhythm section. A roll of drums signals the arrival of Michael’s vocal. As he sings of carousing with a bottle, his band provide the harder, electric sound. Pete Wingfield plays Hammond organ and Mick Ronson unleashes a blistering guitar solo. Not to be outdone, the rhythm section adds an element of drama. The band stretch their legs, and showcase their considerable talents. So does Michael. Together, they play their part a melancholy missive, with a harder, contemporary sound. It’s hard to believe Michael recorded I’m Sober Now in 1977. Thirty-eight years later, and it has a timeless sound and quality.

Wistful and meandering describes the introduction to The Man Who Hated Mornings. Just a guitar plays in the distance. Then the rhythm section launch the arrangement. Meanwhile, Michael delivers a worldweary vocal. It’s joined by an electric piano and guitar. Michael lives the lyrics, sometimes, sounding like John Martyn. Both were troubadours who loved life and spent large parts of their career on the road. As a guitar injects some urgency, the band stretch their legs and take a jazzy diversion. This allows the listener to hear just how talented the band are. With Michael acting as bandleader, they enjoy the opportunity to stretch their legs and showcase their considerable skills.

Of all the Bob Dylan songs he could’ve covered, Michael decided to cover Ballad In Plain D. For many, this seems like an unlikely choice. However, it suits Michael. He unleashes choppy guitar licks and delivers a folk-tinged vocal. It brings the cinematic lyrics to life. So do his guitar licks. They veer between folk and blues, and provide a dramatic backdrop to his vocal.

Dogs Got More Sense was originally meant to be a single. Not this version though. Instead, it was bonus track on this reissued version of The Man Who Hated Mornings. It’s quite different to this version. It comes to life, showcasing Michael’s new sound. He’s accompanied by the rhythm section and B.J. Cole’s steel guitar. Confidently, Michael delivers the lyrics, while gospel tinged harmonies accompany him. By then, Michael and his band sound like early Dire Straits. Maybe Michael inspired Mark Knopfler and Co.? Certainly, the guitar lick must have inspired Duran Duran’s Girls On Film either consciously or unconsciously.

Later, Michael unleashes one of his best solos. Just at that moment, Pete Wingfield adds his string synths. While they don’t replace a string section, they work…just. At the breakdown, it’s just rhythm section and guitar, before the arrangement builds and reaches a crescendo. In doing so, one of the best tracks on The Man Who Hated Mornings takes shape.

Just a lone guitar opens Falling Apart before the rhythm section join Michael’s vocal. It’s full of heartbreak and despair. B.J. Cole’s steel guitar replies to Michael’s vocal. Meanwhile, the rhythm section march the arrangement along. Then B.J. Cole delivers a show stealing steel guitar solo, to what’s a melancholy tale of love gone wrong.

The rhythm section and guitars combine as Michael delivers an earnest, impassioned vocal on While Dancing The Pride Of Erin. B.J. Cole adds steel guitar. Harmonies reply to Michael’s vocal, which at one point, is panned hard left. The harmonies are then panned hard right. This balances the arrangement. Again, B.J. Cole’s steel guitar plays an important part in the songs sound and success. It’s a scene setter as Michael combines passion and urgency on a quite irresistible track.

From the distance, chugging guitars grow in power on Dreams Are Dangerous. They’re joined by searing guitar licks and the rhythm section. Michael’s powerful vocal is rueful. Soon, the tempo increases and the band kick loose. As the band stretch their legs, Michael drops the tempo. They continue to showcase their skills. When Michael’s vocal returns, Pete Wongfield adds boogie boogie piano and Camel’s Andy Latimer adds a blistering guitar solo. Everything is falling into place, as Michael and his band kick loose again, before dropping the tempo. Regardless of the tempo, it’s Michael Chapman and his band at their very best.

A cover of Blind Alf Reed’s Why Do You Bob Your Hair Girls? closes The Man Who Hated Mornings. From the opening bars, it has a sing-a-long sound. The rhythm section and guitars combine with  Michael’s vocal. Again, the tempo is varied. To do this, a dramatic pause is added. Later, B.J. Cole delivers a country tinged steel guitar solo. Then the baton passes to Michael as he brings his eight album in eight years to a close.

Just like Savage Amusement, and indeed so many albums from Michael Chapman’s discography, The Man Who Hated Mornings is something of a hidden gem. It’s definitely worth discovering or rediscovering. Secret Records’ recent reissue is the perfect opportunity to do so. They also released Savage Amusement earlier this year. Both albums show how Michael Chapman’s music was evolving.

Savage Amusement, which Deram Records felt had huge potential was heavily promoted. It was Michael Chapman’s homage to the music of Memphis. However, Michael never made the same album twice. On The Man Who Hated Mornings he changes direction, and introduces a harder, electric sound. Accompanying him was his much smaller band. Previously, Michael was accompanied by a ten piece band. Not any more.

Times were hard. Ten became five. Then it was just Micael, drummer Keef Hartley and bassist Rick Kemp. Luckily, Michael could call on a few friends. This included two high profile guitarists, Mick Ronson and Camel’s Andy Latimer. They were joined by steel guitarist B.J. Cole, violinist Johnny Van Derek and keyboardist Pete Wingfield. Adding harmonies were John McBurnie and Vivienne McAuliffe. Each of these guest artists  played their part in Michael Chapman’s new sound.

Sadly, Michael Chapman’s new sound wasn’t a commercial success. His loyal fans bought The Man Who Hated Mornings. However, trying to reach a wider audience wasn’t easy. What many British and indeed American record buyers was disco. Cerebral albums featuring elements of blues, country, folk and rock were out of fashion. This spelt the end of Michael Chapman’s time at Deram Records.

Michael Chapman’s time at Deram Records ended with The Man Who Hated Mornings. This is almost fitting, as it’s the best album of his time at Deram Records. Coming a close second is Savage Amusement, the album that preceded The Man Who Hated Mornings. After nine albums in nine years, Michael Chapman was looking for a new record label.

Ironically, a year after leaving Deram Records, Michael Chapman released another of his great “lost albums” Playing Guitar-The Easy Way. Just like Michael’s previous albums, commercial success managed to elude Playing Guitar-The Easy Way. It’s just one of many hidden gems in Michael Chapman’s back-catalogue, including Savage Amusement and The Man Who Hated Mornings. These two albums showcase one of the great British singer-songwriters, Michael Chapman, The Man Who Hated Mornings.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: