Roger Chapman Family & Friends
Friday 3rd August
Under The Bridge, London
Roger Chapman, also known as ‘Chappo’, is an English Rock vocalist, originally from Leicester. He is best known as a member of the Progressive Rock band Family and also the Rock, R&B band Streetwalkers. Chapman started his musical career as the vocalist for the Farinas in 1966, who then morphed into The Roaring Sixties, before being renamed Family in 1966. The line-up included Roger Chapman – vocals, John "Charlie" Whitney – guitar, Jim King – saxophone, Ric Grech – bass and Rob Townsend – drums. Their first single ‘Scene Through The Eye of a Lens’, was released in 1967 on Liberty Records, with their debut album ‘Music In A Doll's House’ following in 1968 on the Reprise label. A further six Family albums were released including ‘Family Entertainment’ (1969), A Song for Me (1970), ‘Anyway’ (1970), ‘Fearless’ (1971), ‘Bandstand’ (1972) and ‘It's Only a Movie’ (1973) before disbanding in 1973.
Chapman and Whitney decided to continue writing together and formed the Chapman-Whitney band, signed to the Vertigo label they released the ‘Chapman Whitney Streetwalkers’ album in 1974 with a line-up including Family members Ric Grech, John Wetton and Jim Cregan, and also King Crimson members Wetton, Mel Collins, Ian Wallace and Michael Giles. Bobby Tench (Jeff Beck Group, Hummingbird and future Humble Pie) joined on guitar and vocals in time to record the ‘Downtown Flyers’ album in 1975, together with Jonathan Plotel on bass and Nicko McBrain (now with Iron Maiden) on drums. Bobby Tench is a fantastic and hugely talented singer in his own right, so pairing his voice with Chapman’s made for a very interesting and powerful tour-de-force! A further two studio albums followed including the excellent ‘Red Card’ (1976) and ‘Vicious But Fair’ (1977) before the band called it a day.
In 1979 Chapman began a solo career and recorded his first solo album ‘Chappo’ on Arista. The album features Geoff Whitehorn (If, Crawler and current full time member of Procol Harum since 1991) on guitar and who would go on to work with Chapman on and off for the next thirty nine years. The album received critical acclaim, particularly in Germany, and Chapman was on a roll. The outstanding ‘Live in Hamburg’ followed in 1979, featuring a red hot line-up firing on all cylinders, including Geoff Whitehorn - guitar, Tim Hinckley – keyboards, Mel Collins – saxophone, Jerome Rimson – bass and Leonard "Stretch" Stretching – drums. Roger named his backing band ‘The Shortlist’ after the Micky Jupp song of the same name covered on the album. A successful solo career continued with albums such as ‘Mail Order Magic’ (1980) and ‘Hyenas Only Laugh For Fun’ (1981). Thankfully the subsequent 1981 tour was captured on the outstanding ‘He Was... She Was... You Was... We Was...’ double live album recorded in Germany and released in 1982.
Chapman has also provided vocals on Mike Oldfield's hit song ‘Shadow on the Wall’ from the album ‘Crises’ (1983) and on the Yardbirds off-shoot band Box of Frogs second album ‘Strange Land’ (1986), singing lead vocals on two songs. Chapman continued to record and release a steady stream of quality material throughout the 90’s and on into the 2000’s before making the decision in 2010 to retire from performing. Despite this decision Chapman has returned to the stage several times since then, including the highly successful reunion gigs with Family in 2013. The band included former members Poli Palmer, Rob Townsend and Jim Cregan, also featuring Chapman's regular back-up musicians Paul Hirsh, John Lingwood, Nick Payn, Gary Twigg and Geoff Whitehorn. Demand was so great that further gigs happened in 2014, 2015 and 2016, with the 2016 concerts being billed as the bands last ever shows. Despite these being the last ever Family gigs, Chapman seemed to be re-invigorated by the experience and decided to get back on the road in 2017 with members of the Shortlist for a series of gigs billed as ‘Roger Chapman: Family and Friends. A career celebration 1968 – 2018… the bleedin’ lot, well almost!’ The band featured the usual suspects; Paul Hirsh on Keyboards, John Lingwood on drums, Nick Payn on saxophone, Gary Twigg on bass, Geoff Whitehorn on guitar and special guest Poli Palmer (Family) on vibes. This momentum has continued into 2018 with a short run of gigs in January, including the prestigious Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 13th January, and a further set of gigs in August, including a return to London at the Under The Bridge venue situated under Stamford Bridge Football Stadium in Chelsea, London on 3rd August.
The temperature outside exceeded thirty degrees celsius, inside was not far behind! Chapman and band were on fire, sparking of each other with electric delight. At this gig Lingwood was replaced by Henry Spinetti (The Herd, Judas Jump, Eric Clapton) on drums, a seasoned session drummer that has played on many classic albums and tours over the last fifty years. Henry has a confident swagger about him and good sense of fun, which was clearly evident as he exchanged laughs and jokes with fellow band members. At this gig Gary Twigg played bass sitting down throughout the set, but whatever ailment was plaguing him it did not dampen his playing ability. Chapman commanded the stage with abounding energy and his distinctive bleating vibrato vocals shrilled the air, not bad for a seventy six year old rocker! These days Chapman plays gigs for fun and because he can. He is clearly still enjoying performing and entertaining a loyal following, giving it his all every time. The room is not full, but that’s not a bad thing on a hot night like this!
Chapman and band delivered a strong and tight set of classic Family, Streetwalkers and Chapman solo material, including the groove laden and menacing ‘Prisoner’ from the 1981 album ‘Hyenas Only Laugh for Fun’. Three classic Chapman solo songs from the brilliant 1979 ‘Chappo’ album, ‘Who Pulled The Night Down’, ‘Moth To A Flame’ and ‘Midnite Child’ were played proficiently and with tremendous gusto! Whitehorn set the groove and the band followed, with classy embellishments from Hirsh and Payn. A couple of newer tracks, ‘Habits Of A Lifetime’ and ‘Kiss My Soul’, were performed from the well-received 1996 album ‘Kiss My Soul’. ‘Run For Cover’ from the classic 1976 Streetwalkers, ‘Red Card’ album rocked and rolled along nicely.
A few select Family songs were played including the exquisite ‘Burlesque’, a 1972 hit single, also featured on the 1972 album ‘Bandstand’. The sensational ‘Weavers Answer’ from the 1969 ‘Family Entertainment’ album was truly exquisite. The main set drew to a close with the mellower pastoral sing-a-long song ‘My Friend The Sun’, from the 1972 ‘Bandstand’ album. For the encore we got a vibrant and frantic medley of classic material, including ‘Shadow On The Wall’, from the 1983 Mike Oldfield album ‘Crisis’, which then segued into ‘Shortlist’, from the 1979 album ‘Live in Hamburg’, and finally an excerpt from the monumental Streetwalkers song ‘Toenail Dragging’, originally on the 1975 ‘Downtown Flyers’ album. It feels quite special to be part of an audience with Chapman these days, as he has been hinting about retirement for some time. If the quality of this performance is anything to go by then long may he continue to grace the stage with his presence.
Steven C. Gilbert