Chapman & Chinn: A “Knack” for Making Hits

It’s a shame that The Sweet, who wanted to shed their teeny-bopper image and go heavy metal, didn’t first consult with the Monkees who also grew tired of recording music foisted upon them by outside songwriters and producers. However, Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, Sweet’s main writers/producers, had the last laugh as the record-buying public gradually soured on the Sweet after the band gave them the boot. Chinn stated: “They became frustrated and wanted to be their own masters.”

Chapman noted: “A band like the Sweet never appreciated what I did for them.” And, in a no-holds-barred interview with Matt Stocks in 2021, Chapman claimed he is the sole writer behind the Sweet’s monstrous hits.

Chapman sniped: “When you’re a songwriter and someone’s crossing a ‘t’ or dotting an ‘i’ in your songs then putting his name on the credits and for the rest of my life, he’s making half of my money—it’s not nice. I was producing the records and they were going out as being produced by Nicky Chinn and me.  He used to go in and out of psychiatric wards every time I told him to get lost. But in 1976, I got rid of that piece of sh_t, only for him to buy a house three doors from me on the same (Beverly Hills) street.”

Nicky Chinn’s take on what dissolved their partnership was due to “the hedonistic lifestyle of LA. We had a record company that failed. We never should have had a record company, and we weren’t used to failure, but we thought we could do anything.  It was all tremendously painful. It was like a divorce.”

Chapman looked back at his split with Sweet as bittersweet; he then went to work with the British band Smokie.  He recalled: “I thought I was going to break Smokie in America but never did until I had a hit with ‘Stumblin’ In’ with Smokie singer Chris Norman and Suzi Quatro but Smokie wound up being successful around the rest of world.”

The group did achieve fleeting fame in the States for their “Living Next Door to Alice” single which went to #25 in 1972.  But once Mike moved to New York City and produced Blondie’s Parallel Lines album, he was arguably the reason why that band became permanently famous, despite noting that his time in the city were days of drink and drugs followed by nights of more drink and drugs.  He believed: “I’d go out in a blaze of glory with a string of hits as my comet tail.” While producing Blondie’s LP, Mike said, “None of us slept for up to three or four days and we’d look at each other and think ‘I don’t even know who you are.’

With Mike in the producer’s chair, Blondie finally became a commercial success.  He informed them, “If you want the world to hear your music, we have to make it palatable to radio.” Drummer Clem Burke admitted, “He was making the music up to a certain standard that we had not reached.”  Mike may have acted like a teacher to Blondie, but singer Debbie Harry taught him a musical lesson when she implored him to let her rap in a song. Mike remembered, “I said ‘What’s rap?’ And I wound up playing Nile Rogers-like guitar lines on ‘Rapture’ and watched her write the whole rap in ten minutes.”

That next year, Mike produced Get the Knack, an album that should’ve had on its sleeve the same advice Jeff Beck gave to listeners: “Played loudly gives maximum value.”

-Mark Daponte

Photo: The Knack (Getty Images)

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Mark Daponte is a copy/blog writer for an advertising company and has published/sold four short stories, three full length screenplays, nine short screenplays (including two animation scripts) and punches up screenplays—because they don’t punch back. He has had six short comedic plays performed by various theater companies, including one in Los Angeles, (Sacred Fools) and Sacramento, CA (Sacramento Actors Theater Company). When he isn’t sinking down to a thirteen-year-old’s level to make his teenaged sons laugh, he can be found seeking signs of intelligent life in his hometown of Brooklyn, NY.

1 comment on “Chapman & Chinn: A “Knack” for Making Hits

  1. Mark Hudson

    Hmm, I don’t think you would describe Sweet’s post Chinn Chapman’s output as “heavy metal.” And they (the band) actually wrote “Fox on the Run” AND produced the 7″ pop version themselves. Likewise, The Knack wrote “My Sharona”, although Chapman did produce that one.

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