CULT CLASSIC: MICHAEL CHAPMAN-THE MAN WHO HATED MORNINGS.

Cult Classic: Michael Chapman-The Man Who Hated Mornings.

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 his home to since 1973, when he released his fifth album Millstone Grit. By then, Michael Chapman had had come a long way since hiscareer 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 which 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 and  later disowned the album claiming it was an album of demos. However, his second album of 1971, Wrecked Again, was one of his finest albums and was a fitting way 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 and 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, the 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 as 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 who 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.

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 and right through The Man Who Hated Mornings. Despite this stylistic change,sadly, still, commercial success eluded Michael Chapman. Although his sound was constantly evolving his albums failed to sell in great quantities. Especially in 1977, which was the height of the disco era and troubadours like Michael Chapman were out of fashion. For Michael Chapman, it was a frustrating time.

Just like his previous album Savage Amusement, The Man Who Hated Mornings is something of a hidden gem that is definitely worth discovering or rediscovering. Both albums show how Michael Chapman’s music was evolving.

The Man Who Hater Mornings was very different to his previous album Savage Amusement, which which was Michael Chapman’s homage to the music of Memphis. However, he never made the same album twice and on The Man Who Hated Mornings changed direction, and introduces a harder, electric sound. This featured his new trio who were joined by a few friends as Michael Chapman changed reinvented his 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. Cerebral and genre-melting 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. That is ironic and is almost fitting, as it’s the best album he released on Deram Records. Coming a close second is Savage Amusement, the album that preceded The Man Who Hated Mornings. They’re the best of albums of Michael Chapman’s Deram Records’ years. However, after releasing  nine albums in nine years he 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 cult classics showcase one of the great British singer-songwriters, Michael Chapman, The Man Who Hated Mornings.

Cult Classic: Michael Chapman-The Man Who Hated Mornings.

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