Rob Chapman

Biography

I was born in Sandy, Bedfordshire in 1954. Bedfordshire is all flatlands and big skies, except the bit where I'm from which has sand hills. A town with a beach many miles from the sea. In 1966 I passed the 11 plus by mistake and went to school in Biggleswade, a town immortalised in 1969 by being name checked in the Monty Python sketch, Scott of the Sahara. This was undoubtedly the highlight of my time at grammar school. During this period I got most of my education from pirate radio, John Peel, music papers, and the underground press. I then went to Mander College in Bedford to do my A levels. Tech Colleges were great in the early 70s. They were full of public school drop-outs, misfits and dysfunctionals. I was happy there.

In 1975 I went to Bristol Polytechnic and did a BA in Humanities. Half way through my final year at college I joined a punk band. Don't try this at home kids. No actually, do try this at home. I became the singer and lyricist in the Glaxo Babies. We made records (see Music Rob) did Peel sessions, and played with loads of other bands who weren't half as good as us. Unfortunately we were headstrong young fellows and fell out with each other before we 'made it big' – whatever that means.

In 1979 I moved to London and lived unhappily under Thatcher's thousand year Reich for what did indeed seem like a thousand years. I taught remedial English at Feltham Psychiatric Borstal and have since written a novel (as yet unpublished) loosely based on my experiences there.

In the mid-eighties I briefly reformed the Glaxo Babies with two of the original members. The music was psychedelically inclined but nobody wanted psychedelic music in the mid eighties. Record companies didn't anyway. The fruits of that long lost period have recently been issued on a compilation called The Porlock Factor. I prefer it to the punk stuff. I'm very revisionist about punk these days.

From 1987 to 1989 I studied for an M.Phil in Mass Communications at the University of Leicester, researching the offshore pirate radio era of the 1960s. Twice a term I would meet with my tutor in his office and we would talk about jazz and Lee Harvey Oswald. I'd show him the Ravi Shankar LPs I'd bought off the market for a quid and he'd say 'done any writing' 'Yes' I'd say. Then I'd go home and do some more.

The result of that endeavour, 'Selling The Sixties: The Pirates and Pop Music Radio' was published by Routledge in 1992. It's still in print.

In 1991 I moved to Manchester, slap bang in the middle of the rave period. It was the most culturally invigorating period of my life. You're not supposed to have the best pop-cultural time of your life in your mid to late thirties but I did.

During this period I tried combining the academic life with the club life – probably not a good idea. I also did a fair amount of broadcasting with the BBC National Network. Between 1991 and 1996 I contributed extensively to a range of programmes across the network. (Note the CV style of writing there.) I made documentaries on Ambient Music and the history of the pop press for Radio One. I made regular appearances on the Radio Two arts programme and Radio Four's Kaleidoscope and was a fortnightly guest on Danny Bakers Morning Edition on the old Radio Five - Five Dead? - still the most fun I've ever had on the radio. In 1994 I drifted in to full time music journalism and began writing for Mojo Magazine. In addition to this I was also trying to hold down a full time academic job and had started dj'ing, playing loungecore (a term I invented) and easy listening weirdshit (a term I didn't) in enterprising backrooms and chill out rooms throughout the Manchester conurbation.

A spin off from the latter activity, Album Covers From The Vinyl Junkyard, an alternative history of the record sleeve and a car boot antidote to all those good taste coffee table books on sleeve design, was published by Booth-Clibborn Editions in 1997.

Realising that trying to combine four jobs (writing, lecturing, broadcasting and dj'ing) was a sure fire route to middle age burn out I decided in 1998 to sack the teaching, broadcasting and dj'ing to concentrate full time on music journalism and novel writing. As a result of this eureka moment I barely troubled the tax man with revenue for the next eight years. I did write some pretty smart features for Mojo though (see Scribbler Rob - Journalism) and four as yet unpublished novels (see Not A Blog) The first 20 years of novel writing is the hardest I find. It gets easier after that.

In 2005 I got seriously ill. When I recovered (well, while I was recovering actually) I started writing like a man possessed. I can whole-heartedly recommend malignancy to anyone as a cure for writers block, occupational cul-de-sacs, and general all round feeling bloody sorry for yourself.

In 2007 I went back to academia, as a senior lecturer in music journalism at the University of Huddersfield. I am now the resident Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Lancaster.

In 2008 my debut novel Dusk Music was published by The Flambard Press. In May 2010 my Syd Barrett biography A Very Irregular Head was published by Faber and Faber. It will be published in the USA by Da Capo in October 2010.

“Thank you for letting me get away with it. I intend to go on getting away with it.”
Joe Orton.