Brian and Michael are a British music duo best known for their 1978 UK number one hit single, "Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs". Without further chart entries, they remain one-hit wonders in the UK. They comprise two members: Michael Coleman and Kevin Parrott.
The duo had originally been members of a Stax-style soul band called The Big Sound, working mainly in Denmark, Sweden and Germany, but also touring Israel in 1967. The Big Sound had previously backed singer Karol Keyes, now known as the actress Luan Peters. In Denmark, the band were the backing group to the Danish singer, Rock Nalle.
The act Brian and Michael was originally called Burke and Jerk, a comedy duo composed of Brian Burke and Mick Coleman, formed in 1976, some nine years after Coleman had left The Big Sound. During the intervening years Parrott and Coleman had stayed friends, and Coleman had followed Parrott's recording career as lead guitarist with Manchester rock band Oscar, who were signed to DJM Records.
When Coleman first wrote "Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs", he took the song to Parrott. The latter borrowed the estimated £1000 to produce the record which was recorded at Pluto Studios in Stockport, in the same building as Strawberry Studios. Pluto Studios was owned by the former Herman's Hermits rhythm guitar player Keith Hopwood. The song was recorded over three sessions starting on 25 September 1977. The brass band on the recording was Tintwistle Brass Band, from the village in Derbyshire where Parrott lived at the time.
Parrott tried without success to get a release with several record labels, but eventually secured a recording contract with Pye Records. However, Brian Burke left the act just a couple of weeks after "Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs" was released on 25 November 1977, citing "family reasons".
Parrott left Oscar after 10 years, and teamed up with Coleman again, in the live act to try to keep up the promotion of "Matchstalk Men", and had to be billed as 'Brian'. The first run of records had already been pressed as Brian and Michael before Burke had left the act.
After their success, Brian and Michael released a follow-up single, "Evensong", and an album, The Matchstalk Men, followed by a second album named I Can Count My Friends on One Hand. Similarly, backing singers St Winifred's School Choir released an unsuccessful album entitled The Matchstalk Children.
Coleman and Parrott remain in the music industry as songwriters and record producers for themselves and other acts. Other chart success as writers/producers were with "The Sparrow" (The Ramblers, No 11 in 1979), and Claire and Friends' "It's 'Orrible Being in Love when You're Eight and a Half" (Number 13 in 1986). Coleman also wrote the hit song "Hold My Hand" for Ken Dodd.
St Winifred's School Choir had their own number one hit with "There's No One Quite Like Grandma" during Christmas time in 1980.
In an article in The Guardian newspaper, Parrott said "we started performing together again in 2002, and are incredibly moved by the reception we get. We did a reunion concert at Manchester's Lowry Centre with the original St Winifred's girls, who are now in their 30s".
In February 2012, Brian and Michael decided to form a new band and recruited their respective brothers, former Dooleys drummer Nigel Parrott, and Tim Coleman as lead vocalist. They also added a keyboard player - The Dakotas (band) keysman, Toni Baker, made several guest appearances - and Ian Jenkins took over the role permanently in 2014.
In 'The Matchstalk Men', Coleman has returned to his bass playing roots, Parrott to his rock guitar style, and the band are performing songs from the two Brian and Michael albums, plus "many of the favourites we grew up with during our 1950s and 1960s formative years".
2015 celebrated 50 years for Kevin Parrott and Mick Coleman as musical colleagues.
Following Tim Coleman's retirement from the band in 2016, the position of lead vocalist with 'The Matchstalk Men' was taken by Steve Pickering (aka comedian Dudley Doolittle), an old friend of Parrot and Coleman's who actually compéred a show at the London Palladium on the night, in 1978, that Brian and Michael topped the bill as 'number one' recording artists.
"Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs" was a tribute to the artist L. S. Lowry, who had died two years previously. For the song, Coleman drew on his own memories of Salford and Ancoats as well as the paintings of Lowry. St Winifred's School Choir appeared on the record, singing the children's song "The Big Ship Sails on the Alley-Alley-O", which was sung by children in the Salford area with reference to the Manchester Ship Canal. The single spent three weeks at the top of the UK Singles Chart. The b-side of the record was entitled "The Old Rocking Chair". Mick Coleman received the Ivor Novello award for 'The Outstanding Lyric Of The Year'. "
The tune of the song has been adapted into a song sung by fans of Scottish football club Celtic FC, entitled Willie Maley, who was a prominent figure in the early history of the club. The song can be heard on a weekly basis sung by fans, and played over the loudspeaker system at Celtic Park.
The tune of the song has also been adapted by The Lancashire Hotpots in the song "Dolby 5.1".
A German cover version appeared in May 1978 by Andy Andres. The song was called "a² * b * √piep (Matchstalk Men)"
Willy Alberti released a Dutch cover version in June 1978. Entitled "Ome Sjoerd", Irish singer David Kiely wrote the lyrics.
American folksinger Charlie Zahm recorded a version in 2011 on his album Songs of Highlands, Islands & Home!