Musician - Author
The Record Producers
Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman (Chinnichap)
by Graham Sclater
The names, Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, may not immediately be recognisable but to people in the music industry during the seventies will know who they are. Using the collective name of Chinnichap, they were responsible for writing and producing numerous hit records for the RAK record label by artists as diverse as New World, Suzi Quatro, Mud, Sweet, Racey, Arrows and Smokie and they achieved 19 top 40 hits between 1973 and 1974 including five number ones.
My previous article on Suzi Quatro clearly showed what an effect they both had on her career and the releases through the RAK label when she had hit records in the UK and numerous territories around the world.
Mike Chapman was born in Nambour, Queensland, Australia in 1947 and emigrated to the UK in1967 when he was a member of The Downliners Sect. In 1968 he joined Tangerine Dream who had several nearly hits between 1967 and late 1969.
Nicholas Chinn was born in London in 1945 and in 1970 he met Nicky Chinn and they soon struck up a songwriting partnership. They made the decision that rather than doing the rounds and approaching numerous music publishers with their songs they chose to contact Mickie Most of RAK Records. He agreed to a meeting in his office. It nearly ended early, because as they played their way through the numerous songs they had written, nothing seemed suitable. But when the played their last song, “Tom Tom Turnaround” things changed. Mickie liked it and recorded the song with New World, and, together they had their first top ten hit record.
The duo soon hit on what was a formularised sound identified with their Chinnichap brand and the hits followed in quick succession.
Their approach to songwriting was looking for a great title and then building up the song around the title, overnight, and recording it the following day.
They seemed to have the Midas touch and for many years and during that time they also wrote hit songs for Tina Turner, Huey Lewis and The News and Tony Basil.
There was growing acrimony between the pair which began as far back as 1975 when Nicky Chinn wanted to end their partnership. He moved to Beverly Hills but soon after Mike Chapman bought a house nearby. Apparently, the majority of the songwriting and production talent came from Chapman but Chinn proceeded to, as Mike Chapman puts it, “He (Chinn) continued to put his name first on everything he (Chapman) wrote.
In 1979 Mike Chapman formed Dreamland Records with Nicky Chinn with their first release being from Suzi Quatro who had now left the Mickie Most stable of artists. It failed to reach the charts and forming the label was the last gasp effort on Chapman’s part to let the inevitable happen. The success was not repeated and in 1981 the record label ceased trading.
In 1982 Chinnichap Publishing was sold and Chinn said, “That was the end of the Chinnichap nightmare for me”.
By 1983 they were finally able to complete the split and were each free to pursue their careers in whatever way they wished.
Their twelve year collaboration had created more than fifty top 40 hits which are still heard on the airwaves around the world every day.
Nicky Chinn and Paul Gurvitz co-wrote Dancing in the Dark, a hit in 1983 for Kim Wilde but Chinn suffered ill health and didn’t return to songwriting until 2004 when he began working with Jorgen Elofsson. Together they wrote Back Home for Westlife which sold more than a million copies as well songs for Ace of Bass and other artists.
Nicky Chinn now lives in Nashville and occasionally works with other writers.
Mike Chapman went on to produce breakthrough albums for Parallel Lines by Blondie and Get the Knack by The Knack and wrote hits for Exile and Toney Basil and still continues to write and produce hit records.
Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn were three time recipients of Ivor Novello Awards for songwriting and the Jimmy Kennedy award for outstanding career achievement in 1997.
Graham Sclater is a music publisher, record producer and author and is the CEO of Tabitha Publishing Limited.