Michael Chapman – Stranger In The Room

24th November 2023 · 1970, 1970s, Music

Michael Chapman was a guitar virtuoso, acclaimed for his acoustic fingerpicking. But it’s Mick Ronson’s electric guitar that steals the show here.

It’s from his third album Fully Qualified Survivor and among those listening when it came out in 1970 was David Bowie, who liked the sound so much he invited Ronson to join his band.

The rest, as they say, is history. But it was not just the guitar playing that caught Bowie’s ear.

I reckon Chapman’s vocals also influenced Bowie because I find his phrasing, especially the slight slurring of words for effect, to be remarkably similar to Bowie’s own singing on hiw own early albums, like The Man Who Sold The World – coincidentally (or not) released in the same year.

I must seek the opinion of Bowie-obsessed Natasha Zukas.

Chapman flew under the radar for most of his career, returning to his folk roots after this brief spell of dabbling in the rock world with Fully Qualified Survivor, produced by Gus Dudgeon and orchestrated by Paul Buckmaster, best known for their work with Elton John.

I saw him twice towards the end of his career – he died in September 2021 – showcasing his astonishingly deft fingerpicked acoustic guitar technique and his gift for amusing anecdotes, showcasing his dry Yorkshire wit.

A great loss, as he was still making remarkable music with albums like the instrumental Fish and its successor, More Fish.