Disc and Music Echo – January 24, 1970
A series in which pop people answer some awkward questions
This week Family’s Roger Chapman
Interviewer: Roy Shipston
THIS IS Family, “the least known group in the world,” according to their record company. But after two LPs, “Music In A Doll’s House” and “Family Entertainment,” and three singles, they can’t be that unknown-for they have built-up a reputation for remarkable musicianship and exciting performances.
Seated are drummer Rob Townsend, and, on his left, Roger Chapman, lead singer and song-writer. Behind are (left to right) John Whitney (lead guitar), John Weider (guitar, violin, bass), and John “Poli” Palmer (vibes, flute, piano, percussion).
They were in the studios the other night trying to get a new single down. After three hours they were still not satisfied it was catchy enough for a single, but decided it would make a good LP track. There are no half measures with this group–they get every note exactly how they want it.
At midnight, despite the thought of a journey to Portsmouth early next day, Roger Chapman was wide
awake. He took a break, bottle of beer in hand, to answer questions.
John Weider was once quoted as saying that Family could be the next Beatles. What do you think about that now?
I don’t think there’ll ever be another Beatles. I assume he meant in a production sense, and melodically. Whatever the Beatles have done, they’ve never lost touch with melody. This is something important to us, so I suppose John meant it that way. As far as us being like the Beatles in the way that they happened – I don’t really see it like that.
Considering the word “family” in its original context, do you think that the family unit will ever be changed much? Could it be replaced by the commune-type arrangement that appears to be emerging, particularly in America, with the hippy element?
No, I don’t think so. You can’t cancel out a basic emotion. You will always have man and wife, whether it is in marriage or not. Two people are always going to love each other and have children. People like us are getting older and we’re starting our own families. I think we may be more prepared to talk to our neighbours than past generations. But people have been nattering over garden walls for a long time.
There will always be a place to be part of a community. If you mean that the insular family unit of husband, wife, kids, suburban semi, and TV will fade a bit, I think it will, with us, because we are more community minded; we think on a more communal level. But however much you are inclined that way, you still want the unity of a family, which is a group of people who are into each other more than anyone else.
How important is musicianship today in regard to records and the pop charts?
Well, ” Sugar, Sugar” made it – but no one could say there was a lack of musicianship about it. It was a tight little thing, and it wasn’t played out of tune. This thing about musicianship is getting to be a bit of a hype now that lots of people play and the standard is better than in recent years. But I would rather have a guy who’s only three-quarters good on a guitar than the next one, but has more soul. A lot of people can play swinging riffs, but if they have no feeling it’s a waste of time. The thing about singles is that people listen to them as a whole sound and not to individual sounds on the record.
As far as we’re concerned, we dig working together but there has to be some compromise. It is important to accept the compromise. If you are prepared to accept other people’s ideas, they will listen to yours.
Do you vote? and, if so, who for?
I don’t vote – politicians make me puke. I think they are all …… whoever they are.
A lot of people in our generation are dissatisfied with the political set-up. Do you think when we are at the ruling age we will still think differently? And will we be able to offer an acceptable alternative? I hope that the basic idea behind the so-called Underground movement, or whatever you call it, will develop into discovering alternatives and that sort of thing, finding a basic philosophy, so that one day people won’t have to vote. The thing is that our children will have their own ideas and eventually it will be changed to something better.
You have been to the States once and go there again next month. How important is America to you?
It means as much to me as anywhere else, in the sense that I’d like to play to a lot more people. I’d like more people to dig us. I have no preference for America over anywhere else.
Who would you like to be if you weren’t Roger Chapman?
Phew! that’s a heavy one. I wouldn’t like to be anybody. I can think of people I’d like to be
like, but that’s only as I see themonly as I think they are. They might not be like that at all.
What are your feelings about Nigeria refusing international aid?
Maybe one day we’ll all think alike. Well, if they said that then somebody must be putting the heavies on. You know, ‘we’ll let you have £5m. but . . ‘ If that is the case, then the people doing the blackmail are worse than the people refusing aid to people that need it. But if they are turning down a genuine gift, then I don’t know what their scene is.
Why do you have “love” and “hate” tattooed on your fingers?
Oh! that was a long time ago, a “few of the lads” decided it would be a laugh. I was a right
Herbert then. The trouble is, now, that people see “hate” on one hand and “love” on the other and
want to psychoanalyse me.
About two years ago Family were pictured with short hair, smart “Bonnie and Clyde” type clothes riding in gangsterish limousines. What happened to that image?
You know what happened to that one! Actually it was three years ago. I think we’ve all changed a bit since then.
FAMILY’S new album “A Song For Me” is released tomorrow (Friday), It contains a fair mixture of nicely arranged rock, folk and hints of jazz. Words are provided in the cover. The group seem more distinctive on the folkier and jazzy numbers. There is some pleasant flute from John
Palmer on “Some Poor Soul” and he puts the vibes on “Hey-Let It Rock” a swingin’ jazz number that drives straight into “The Cat And The Rat.” “Drowned In Wine,’, and “Love Is a Sleeper” are powerful. Roger Chapman’s voice seems to have been demoted to the background on “Stop For The Traffic Through The Heart Of Me.” The title track, written by all the group, except John Palmer, has heavy guitars and violin and explodes at the end. There is one instrumental, “93’s OK J,” which has an Afro•beat. (Warner Reprise) ***