The cast

Oral histories



'Nicky's Soft Spot For Sweet'
by Val Mabbs
from Record Mirror
28th August 1971

The names Macauly, Greenaway-Cook, Reed-Mason and Lennon-McCartney have all become notable in the field of songwriting.

And it seems that this particular vein of music flows in stages when new names arrive.

Though it would be precocious to list them alongside Lennon-McCartney, a new and talented team to emerge is that of Chinn and Chapman. Not yet a household name exactly - in fact you'd probably be surprised to find that they are the composers of the chart hits 'Co-Co', 'Tom Tom Turnaround' and the earlier 'Funny Funny'.

Nicky Chinn, a one time car salesman and now manager of Sweet is one half of the writing team - the other half being ex-Tangerine Peel member Mike Chapman. When working with the group Mike had written much of their material, while Nicky's first writing experience came with his teaming up with Mike D'Abo a year ago.

'Mike and I were very close friends and we wrote some material together which was used in the soundtrack of Girl in my Soup. It was the first thing that I ever had published and I was delighted at that. We wrote one or two other songs together, but nothing has been used yet.'

Nicky appears to be a man with his feet on the ground and he says quite honestly: 'Everyone who has hits, to an extent, is lucky. And anyone who stands up and says "I wasn't lucky, I'm just good" is a hypocrite.

'We've probably got our formula, but if asked what it is I don't think I could pinpoint it exactly. One of our formulas is bloody hard work! I don't think that most pop song writers, except for the James Taylors, are loaded with inspiration or anything.'

Nicky Chinn feels that people have been nice to him and his songwriting partner Mike; and in fact Mickie Most was one of the people who encouraged them initially.

'We wrote 'Tom Tom Turnaround' in November of last year and we'd been writing other songs from about last August. We took the material to Mickie and played it to him.

'He didn't seem very impressed, so we had a last try with 'Tom Tom', which we thought was alright, but wasn't a hit. Anyway Mickie said "That's a hit", soon as he heard it and from that moment on we were convinced that it was a hit too!'

Because they sometimes find it difficult to pick out hit material from their songs, Nicky and Mike always ask for a second opinion - though they find that their instinct as far as Sweet's material goes has proved to be right.

'Sweet are the first group that I've ever managed,' Nicky told me. 'And they'll be the last. Not because I don't enjoy managing the group, but it's very hard work. It's easy at first to take a group that aren't earning anything and to get them a couple of 30 gigs a week. But the real work comes in after that.

'I have a very personal thing going with the Sweet, and I think if you're going to give any group your best you can only have one group - you can only have a personal relationship going with one set of fellers.'

The 'soft spot' for Sweet seems inevitable when, as Nicky puts it, they rose from nothing, and the Chinn-Chapman songwriting team materialised with the chart entry of 'Funny Funny'. Mike and Nicky are both lyricists and jointly work on the melody lines for their songs, Most often Mike strums their ideas out on acoustic guitar, though Nicky himself can play piano.

The Sweet

Would Nicky Chinn like the chance to team up with other writers?

'When I worked with Mike D'Abo I found it to be very enjoyable and very good, and maybe I would like to work with other writers in about three years time. But I don't think we'll get to that stage. We get new outlooks on things every week. We're very telepathic too - and I never believed in that before either. But one time Mike was in Putney and I was in Mayfair and we both woke up at the same time, 8.30, with the same idea for a song in mind!'

And just how did this compatible duo get together? Believe it or not Nicky was a regular customer in the restaurant where Mike Chapman was working temporarily. Conversation turned to songwriting, and the two partners finding that they had similar interests decided to get together sometime.

And that one sometime has already lead to several profitable hits and another probable one soon to come in 'Alexander Graham Bell' which is expected to be recorded by Sweet.

see also 'We were louder than Deep Purple'

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