Having famously passed his audition to join the band while under the influence, Paul's arrival in UFO also coincided with the band’s most debauched period. His nickname of ‘Tonka’ (after the brand of seemingly indestructible toys) would be well earned, as he joined bass player Pete Way and frontman Phil Mogg in wanton acts of self-destruction.
His recording debut with UFO came on the 1980 studio album, No Place To Run. Worn down by on-the-road excess, the five-piece repaired on the Caribbean island of Montserrat to record the album with Beatles producer George Martin. If the resulting 10 tracks were somewhat uneven, Chapman’s impact was evident from opener Alpha Centauri – an instrumental piece of mood music which he penned. Equally, his trenchant riffing on tracks like Lettin’ Go helped define the album’s ragged style, while Anyday (the album’s final track) showcased his fiery, emotive lead work to remarkable effect.
His role in the band increased when he co-wrote six of the eight songs that made up UFO’s next studio effort, The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent. Viewed as the band’s late-period classic, the album hit the UK Top 20, and fully showcased his fluid style.
Paul continued to co-write a number of key tracks on the follow-up, Mechanix (itself a Top 10 album). 1983’s uneven album, Makin’ Contact, would prove to be a commercial failure and marked UFO’s temporary split, and Chapman’s permanent departure.
Joining Waysted, the band led by his UFO running mate Pete Way, he co-wrote of the majority of the songs on the band’s 1985, The Good, The Bad And The Waysted, to further critical acclaim. In later life, Paul was based in Florida where he continued to record, playing with a number of different musicians and bands, Gator Country among them.
A hugely talented musician and a down to earth individual, Paul will be missed by all those lucky enough to spend time with him. Kerrang! sends our condolences to Paul’s family, friends and bandmates past and present at this sad time.
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