Bill Chinnock circa 1977. Photos courtesy of William Chinnock

If there’s a rock and roll heaven, and I sure hope there is, chances are excellent that Bill Chinnock, who passed away in 2007 at age 59, is smiling at what can best be described as a long overdue course correction. An album he recorded in 1977 called “Badlands” has been re-mastered and was re-released on Aug. 30. It’s available exclusively through Bull Moose. This is a huge deal.

But before that story is told, a little Chinnock 101. His name has been familiar to me for many years, but it was only with the re-release of the “Badlands” album that I finally came to understand his significance and, upon listening to the record, become a proper fan. But I’m in the minority. Many longtime Mainers have known for decades that Chinnock was a real-deal rock-n-roll entity.

Newark, New Jersey-born Chinnock was an essential part of Asbury Park’s legendary music scene. One could argue that he essentially started it, but at the very least, he was right in the thick of it. The 30-minute documentary “Bill Chinnock: The Roots of Asbury Park” is an excellent resource and features interviews with several musicians who played with Chinnock, including Vini Lopez, the original drummer in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. “I played with Bill before I played with Bruce,” Lopez said in the film, which you can watch on YouTube.

Chinnock moved to Maine when he was in his early 20s, and it very much became his home. His father-in-law was country singer Dick Curless. In 1987, Chinnock won an Emmy for the song “Somewhere in the Night,” theme for the daytime drama “Search for Tomorrow.”

In 1977, Chinnock recorded the album “Badlands,” and it was released on North Country Records.  A year later, he was signed to Atlantic Records, which thought it was a good idea to pull all of the original copies of the album and then remix “Badlands” with added strings, studio musicians and vocalists. Chinnock’s fans were disappointed with what was described in a news release as the “sweetening of the raw and gutsy sound that made the original so special.” As a result, original copies  of “Badlands” became highly sought after, and Chinnock’s career moved forward with the release of “Dime Store Heroes” in 1980 and several others.

Chinnock died on March 7, 2007. In his obituary, his family said that he battled Lyme disease for a decade, and it ultimately led to his death. His manager said at the time that Chinnock committed suicide.


William Chinnock, 21, was 8 years old when he lost his father. He always knew his dad was a musician, but it wasn’t until he played guitar at a memorial show at New Jersey’s historic Stone Pony that he really started to get a grasp on his father’s musical history and the legacy that he left behind.

In a telephone interview, William spoke about how, over the years, he and his mother, Terry Chinnock, heard repeatedly that fans much preferred the 1977 version of “Badlands” and that they wished it was available. He even had an Apple store employee, who recognized his name, tell him that he had transferred his 1977 vinyl edition over to digital so it could be listened to on an iPod.

Cover of Bill Chinnock’s “Badlands” album, recorded in 1977.

The wheels were set in motion earlier this year to give the people what they wanted: the original version of “Badlands.” Chinnock put a call in to Charlie Gaylord from Crooked Cove CD & Vinyl, and Gaylord oversaw the entire project. Gaylord is friends with John Kumnick, Chinnock’s last bass player, and the two of them reached out to Pat Keane, owner of Pat Keane Mastering in Portland. Gaylord said this about Chinnock: “Bill was a force of nature on stage and was maybe the No. 1 live act in northern New England from the mid-’70s through the ’90s.”

Although at least some of the master “Badlands” tapes exist, they weren’t used. “We just couldn’t use them, I was afraid that something was going to happen to them,” Keane said. Instead, Keane captured the audio from one of the original vinyl pressings of “Badlands” and cleaned it up using modern technology. In layman’s terms, Keane removed noises, clicks, pops and audible distortions. Keane added that the remastering process also involved some corrective equalization and compressing the songs a bit to increase the volume.

I asked William if he thinks his father would be happy to know that the original “Badlands” was back in the world in its proper form. “I would say so, for sure. I feel like now it’s kind of getting its time in the sun, so I’m just happy I was able to do it.”

Despite being more than four decades old, “Badlands” is a timeless tour de force of rock. With Chinnock’s slide guitar, electric Fender guitar, screaming harmonica and his rough-hewn, tear-the-roof-off-the-joint vocals, not to mention first-rate band, all eight songs are fantastic. “Outlaw” is a favorite for both William and me, with its streets of Jersey grit and blazing horns. “Badlands” also has its tender moment in the sweeping ballad “Another Man Gone Down.”

Bill Chinnock may not walk among us mortals, but his musical legacy will never be forgotten. Hats off to all those involved with “Badlands.” Roll your windows down and play it loudly in the car or on the home stereo and knock the paintings on the walls loose with it. “Badlands” and Bill Chinnock have earned that honor.

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