It’s fascinating to discover how musicians see themselves – how they like to be defined or known for. For Mickey Jupp – it’s songwriter. He’s a cracking piano player, a wonderful vocalist and a highly accomplished guitarist. But it’s songwriter for him. And what a cannon of work he’s amassed over the decades. Most of his songs would be described as blues or rock and roll tunes – but he also writes great country and soul songs as well. Ever since first hearing his late seventies material I was hooked and have been to this day. I saw him live many times and he was always a wonderful combination of curmudgeon and jester.
Having played in various local bands in the mid-sixties, with the likes of Gary Brooker and Robin Trower, Jupp fronted blues outfit Legend in 1969, which led to two albums, the latter produced by Tony Visconti, who described them as a “kick-ass group”. Already Jupp was showing a real knack for superb songwriting and really effective vocals. Wilko Johnson was an early convert, just as the pub rock scene started in the mid-seventies. For various reasons, Jupp missed the pub rock boat and it took the powers that be at Stiff Records to come to his rescue and a new album was recorded, ‘Juppanese ‘ with Gary Brooker producing and Chris Spedding playing guitar. But some of the songs didn’t feel ‘Stiff enough’ and members of Rockpile were brought in to spice things up a bit. The eventual album was split between the two sets of sessions and garnered good reviews.
Jupp released a cracking single for Arista – ‘Nature’s Radio’ in 1977 – and then 10cc members Lol Crème and Kevin Godley produced his next album ‘Long Distance Romancer’. He then recorded three more albums, all to modest sales success. Yet the songwriting and brilliant vocals just kept on coming. He was getting quite a bit of recognition and this included an attempt at a songwriting collaboration with Ry Cooder in the States in 1983 – but it came to nothing.
Around this time, Jupp took himself off, always one to like his own company over others, and moved to the Lake District, where he remains to this day. In recent decades he’s recorded two of his finest albums: ‘As The Yeahs Go By’ and ‘You Say Rock’, both containing witty and brilliantly catchy numbers like ‘Standing At The Crossroads Again’; ‘From A Barstool’; ‘I Thought I Heard Something’; and ‘Ring Damn You Ring’. His wit and superb musicianship always to the fore.
In recent years he’s been releasing self-made CDs from his Lake District home, to a small but incredibly loyal fan base – these songs basically being demos and the quality of the songs remains as strong as ever. In fact, this year Conquest Music have released the first in an ongoing set of ‘official’, remastered releases of many of these songs – the first of which ‘Up Snakes, Down Ladders’ is soon to be followed by another release. He also each year plays a gig or two at his Lake District local, with long-time guitarist Mo Witham, to modest, but passionate audiences.
The fact that Jupp is not better known is a sad combination of his acknowledged lack of enthusiasm to do the ‘normal rock’n’roll thing’ and bad luck. As Jupp admits – ‘I’m very much my own person. I like my own space too much…but I do wish I’d had the confidence that other people had in me.’
As this renewed interest in his music comes from the Conquest releases – the least he deserves is to be properly celebrated as a master songwriter, a truly modern version of Leiber and Stoller and his work should be savoured and adored in equal measures. He’s one of this country’s finest writer of songs – and long may he continue. We salute The Guvnor – The Rock and Roll Genius Who Refused To Be A Star – the subtitle to a recent book on Jupp – Hole In My Pocket.
(If you’re interested in getting hold of his music you can contact Jupp on his Facebook page).