A former art and photography teacher, Michael Chapman emerged from the folk scene in Yorkshire, England, gaining a reputation as one of England's finest original singer/songwriters. A deal with the fledgling Harvest label (EMI's "underground" boutique) led to the release of Rainmaker in 1969. The album featured the support of Rick Kemp (who went on to provide bass for Chapman for many years) and Danny Thompson. Window followed in short order, with Fully Qualified Survivor completing a debut triptych that sent waves of critical appreciation through the music industry, with influential BBC disc jockey John Peel supporting Chapman whenever possible. Sales, however, did not match the critical acclaim for Chapman's work, leaving Fully Qualified Survivor as a high point, with "Postcards of Scarborough" generally being the one cut most often remembered when Chapman is discussed.
After the release of Wrecked Again, Chapman parted company with Harvest, choosing to sign to Decca's Deram subsidiary, where he altered course somewhat, adding electric guitar and harder rhythms to his work. The first result, Millstone Grit, is a somewhat confused affair, with Chapman's trademark gloomy writing mixed with a couple of lively instrumentals, some almost experimental work, and the country-styled "Expressway in the Rain." Deal Gone Down, more coherent, and Pleasures of the Street, a live set, followed. Don Nix produced Savage Amusement, which reworked a couple of earlier songs; the album's title would be used in the mid-'80s for a band featuring Chapman and Kemp.
Chapman's Decca deal ended in 1977, and he began an association with Criminal Records the following year; both labels released versions of The Man Who Hated Mornings. Chapman then turned his hand to the release of a guitar instruction record. He continued to gig and record consistently, varying styles and sounds, sometimes working with a full group, more often working with Kemp alone. After the release of Heartbeat in 1987, Chapman experimented with self-released albums, and as of the 1997 release of Dreaming Out Loud, he was issuing albums at the rate of one every two years, continuing to attract high praise, if not great sales. Chapman's prolific release schedule continued into the 21st century with both song-based and instrumental albums (many issued on the Rural Retreat label) including Americana (2001), Live and Unhinged (2001), Kule 2 Be Blue (2001), Plaindealer (2005), Lost (2005), Words Fail Me (2007), Sweet Powder (2008), Time Past Time Passing (2008), and Wrytree Drift (2010). ~ Steven McDonald, Rovi