The Streetwalkers were an English hard-rock band that evolved from a 1974 namesake album by the erstwhile frontal team of Family: vocalist Roger Chapman and guitarist John “Charlie” Whitney. The band itself released three albums on Vertigo (U.K.) and Mercury (U.S.) between 1975 and 1977, plus an additional live release that final year on the U.K. label. Chapman subsequently launched a solo career while Whitney co-founded the supergroup Axis Point.
Members: Roger Chapman (vocals), John “Charlie” Whitney (guitar, vocals), Bob Tench (guitar), Michael Henry “Nicko” McBrain (drums), Phil Chen (bass), Jonathan “Jon” Plotel (bass), Michael Feat (bass), Ian Wallace (drums), David Dowle (drums), Mel Collins (saxophone), Poli Palmer (keyboards), Brian Johnston (keyboards), Tim Hinkley (keyboards)
Streetwalkers started as a namesake album by the musical team of Roger Chapman and Charlie Whitney, the creative force behind English rockers Family. They first teamed in 1966 when Chapman joined The Farinas, a band formed four years earlier by Whitney. The band gigged for a time as The Roaring Sixties, then became The Family (based on their mafioso attire) and signed to Liberty.
As Family, they released the 1968/69 albums Music in a Doll’s House and Family Entertainment on United Artists. Amid numerous lineup changes, Family sauntered into the next decade with the 1970–73 studio albums A Song for Me, Fearless, Bandstand, and It’s Only a Movie, plus the half-live/half-studio 1970 release Anyway. Their hits include “Second Generation Woman,” “No Mule’s Fool,” and “In My Own Time.” Aside from drummer Rob Townsend, Chapman and Whitney were the only constant members across Family’s seven albums.
In early 1974, Chapman and Whitney cut an album as a duo, backed by a cast of twelve players, including four ex-members of Family.
1974: Chapman–Whitney – Streetwalkers
Chapman and Whitney unveiled their first post-Family project, in May 1974 on Reprise Records. It features ten originals by the duo, including the side one bookends “Parisienne High Heels” and “Creature Feature,” the lengthy pieces “Call Ya” and “Sue and Betty Jean,” and the run-together closing numbers “Tokyo Rose” and “Hangman.”
Sessions took place at three studios: Island, Olympic, and AIR. Chapman and Whitney produced Streetwalkers with engineer George Chkiantz, a longtime Family associate. The assistant engineer, Richard Elen, also worked on 1974 albums by Andy MacKay, Michael Mantler, and Camel (Mirage).
Streetwalkers features ten backing instrumentalists, including four musicians from assorted Family lineups: keyboardist–vibraphonist Poli Palmer (1969–72 lineup) and bassists Ric Grech (1968–69 lineup) and John Wetton (1971–72 lineup). Grech spent the interim in Blind Faith, Ginger Baker’s Air Force, and Traffic. Wetton, who joined Family after a stint in Mogul Thrash, was currently in King Crimson.
Family’s final bassist, Jim Cregan (ex-Blossom Toes), was one of four backing vocalists on the Chapman–Whitney sessions, along with soul singer Linda Lewis (a recurrent Family guest), Wetton, and Tim Hinkley (ex-Jody Grind). Hinkley plays keyboards on Streetwalkers along with Max Middleton, a member of Jeff Beck‘s 1971–72 group and its spinoff Bedlam with drummer Cozy Powell.
Whitney shares guitar duties with Neil Hubbard, a former member of Bluesology, Wynder K. Frog, Juicy Lucy, Grease Band, and a backing player for Joe Cocker, Miller Anderson, and Keith Christmas. He subsequently played in funk-rockers Kokomo. Whitney himself plays steel guitar on select passages.
The drum credits on Streetwalkers are split between Michael Giles and Ian Wallace, who both preceded Wetton in different King Crimson lineups. Giles played on Crimson’s 1969 debut In the Court of the Crimson King, then formed McDonald and Giles with fellow Crimson co-founder, keyboardist Ian McDonald (later of Foreigner). Wallace played on Crimson’s 1971 fourth album Islands. He was one of many notables to originate in The Warriors, a mid-’60s beat group that also featured singer Jon Anderson (later of Yes), bassist David Foster (later of Badger with ex-Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye), and keyboardist Brian Chatton (later of Flaming Youth with a pre-Genesis Phil Collins, then of Jackson Heights with ex-Nice/later-Refugee bassist Lee Jackson).
Streetwalkers also features percussionist Godfrey MacLean (Peter Green, Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express). “Roxianna” features brass and woodwind arrangements by the ubiquitous Mel Collins, a one-time member of Circus and the 1970 lineups of King Crimson (In the Wake of Poseidon, Lizard) who recently backed ex-Crimson lyricist Pete Sinfield on the 1973 release Still.
Arranger Del Newman conducted strings on Streetwalkers, having worked with Chapman–Whitney on the last two Family albums. Newman also did arrangements on 1970–73 albums by Carly Simon, Cat Stevens, Elton John, Harry Nilsson, Leo Sayer, Rick Springfield, Rupert Hine, and Ten Years After.
Photographer Tony Evans captured the b&w images on Streetwalkers, which show Chapman and Whitney running through a pristine yet desolate (and eerily shaded) street with the names CHAPMAN and WHITNEY emblazoned on facing buildings. On back, the two are seen running off into the distance from the inside of a mirror, indicating that someone’s watching them. Evans’ imagery also appears on 1970–74 albums by Fotheringay, Maggie Bell, Stone the Crows, Strawbs, Tony Hazzard, and Uriah Heep (Look at Yourself).
Reprise issued “Roxianna” as a single, backed with the non-album b-side “The Crack.”
Months after Streetwalkers, Chapman and Whitney formed a new band named after that album. The original lineup of Streetwalkers featured veteran guitarist Bob Tench and two newcomers: bassist and drummer Nicko McBrain.
Tench (aka Bobby Gass) was the co-founder of Gass, which issued two 1965/66 Parlophone beat singles (as The Gass) and the 1970 jazz-psych Polydor album Juju. He first came into the Family hemisphere on the 1973 Reprise release Fathoms Deep, the third solo album by Linda Lewis, which features backing by Cregan, Palmer, and Middleton. He also played on Now Hear This, the first of two albums by the London-based, multi-national funk group Hanson, one of several acts on ELP‘s Manticore label. Concurrent to Streetwalkers, Tench played in Hummingbird, a jazz-funk supergroup with Middleton and bassist Clive Chaman.
McBrain notched his prior credit on Giltrap, the 1973 Philips release by guitarist Gordon Giltrap.
From Streetwalkers, Chapman and Whitney also retained Middleton and Palmer as auxiliary players on the new project. Streetwalkers signed to Vertigo and recorded their first album at Scorpio Sound in Euston Tower, London.
Vicious but Fair
- Streetwalkers (1974 • Chapman – Whitney)
- Downtown Flyers (1975)
- Red Card (1976)
- Vicious but Fair (1977)
- Live (1977)
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