Mike Batt

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Mike Batt
Mike Batt 1971.JPG
Batt in 1971.
Background information
Birth name Michael Philip Batt
Born (1949-02-06) 6 February 1949 (age 65)
Southampton, England
Genres Pop rock, pop, classical
Occupations Singer-songwriter, musician, artist, producer, arranger
Instruments Guitar, piano, keyboards, vocals
Years active 1969–present
Labels Epic Records, Sony Records, Dramatico
Associated acts Elton John, The Wombles, Steeleye Span, Justin Hayward, Bond, Katie Melua
Website www.mikebatt.com

Michael Philip Batt LVO (born 6 February 1949) is a British songwriter, musician, producer, director, conductor and Deputy Chairman of the British Phonographic Industry. He is best known for creating The Wombles pop act, writing the chart-topping "Bright Eyes", and discovering Katie Melua. He has conducted many of the world's great orchestras, including the London Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Sydney Symphony and Stuttgart Philharmonic in both classical and pop recordings and performances.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Southampton, Batt attended Peter Symonds School, Winchester. His blog refers to his role as cadet Company Sergeant Major at the school .[1]

Batt began his career in pop music at the age of eighteen when he answered the same advertisement as Elton John and Bernie Taupin placed by Ray Williams in the New Musical Express on behalf of Liberty Records. Batt initially signed as a songwriter and artist to Liberty, but soon became head of A&R for the label. He signed and produced Tony (TS) McPhee's The Groundhogs and produced their first album, "Scratching The Surface". In 1969 he took over production duties from Noel Walker on McKenna Mendelson Mainline's first release, Stink. Walker and Batt were credited on the album only as "Liberty Staff". He produced and played piano on [Hapshash and the Coloured Coat]'s second album 'Western Flier'. Also in 1969, Batt released as producer/artist a Liberty single, his cover version of The Beatles' "Your Mother Should Know".

1970s[edit]

In the early 1970s, aged 23, married, with children, and having spent £11,000 recording half of a rock orchestral album that was never released, Batt was asked by the producers of a new children's television programme to write the theme music. Instead of taking his £200 fee, Batt asked for the character rights for musical production.[2] The choice produced his first hits as a singer/songwriter/producer by The Wombles, in 1974. The collaboration produced eight hit singles[3] and four gold albums.

Now financially successful, Batt moved on to work with various artists as a songwriter/producer, most successfully with Steeleye Span and their most successful single and album All Around My Hat in 1975.[4] Also in 1975, at the end of the summer, he entered the UK Singles Chart with the only hit under his own name (credited "Mike Batt with the New Edition") with "Summertime City", which reached number 4.[5]

He produced the hit single "Lilac Wine" for Elkie Brooks in 1978. The song was a hit in the UK and across Europe. He wrote the song "Bright Eyes" for the animated film version of Watership Down. Recorded by Art Garfunkel, it reached number 1 in the UK Singles Chart.[6] Batt also wrote the scores for the 1978 film Caravans.

1980s[edit]

As a singer, his solo albums included Schizophonia and Tarot Suite (1979, Epic Records) (both with the London Symphony Orchestra). From these albums came the European hit songs "Railway Hotel", "Lady of the Dawn" and "Ride to Agadir". A version of "Introduction (The Journey of a Fool)" from Tarot Suite was used as the theme for the Sydney, Australia radio station, Triple M, from its first broadcast in 1980 until well into the 1990s. Over the course of May 2010, this theme tune, still based on the main central riff from "Introduction (The Journey of a Fool)" was re-recorded by Slash, former Guns'n'Roses guitarist, as a new theme to mark the 30th anniversary of Triple M in Sydney. This was released to air at the end of June 2010.

In 1980 Batt released his next album, entitled Waves (including the European hit "The Winds of Change"). In the same year, he went off with his family aboard his boat, 'Braemar', ending up in Australia after two and a half years, travelling via France, The West Indies, South America, Central America, Mexico, Los Angeles, Hawaii and Fiji. At the end of that journey, he wrote for the 50th anniversary of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the musical Zero Zero.[7]

Returning to the UK in 1983, Batt wrote and produced three more Top Ten hits, "Please Don't Fall in Love" (for Cliff Richard), "A Winter's Tale" (for David Essex, with lyrics co-written by Tim Rice) and "I Feel Like Buddy Holly" (for Alvin Stardust).In the same year, he helped write lyrics for Abbacadabra.[2] In 1983, he wrote and produced "Ballerina (Prima Donna)", which, recorded by Steve Harley, peaked at #51 in the UK.[8]

The album The Hunting of the Snark, based on Lewis Carroll's poem, was recorded in 1984.

Meanwhile, in the late 1980s, Batt also produced Justin Hayward's album Classic Blue and the music for The Dreamstone, ITV's fifty two part animated series, once again with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. A number of stars performed for the Dreamstone soundtrack; notably Billy Connolly, Ozzy Osbourne, former British heavyweight boxing champion Frank Bruno (all of whom performed on "The War Song of the Urpneys"), Bonnie Tyler (who sang a duet with Batt, "Into the Sunset". It was not used on the show, but it was meant to be Dreamstone's official love song). Joe Brown performed "The Vile Brothers Mountain Band" along with Gary Glitter. Batt performed the theme song from the series "Better Than A Dream". The show was completed and finally aired in 1990.

1990s[edit]

In 1995 he made a solo album for Sony Germany, Arabesque. Batt was then commissioned to write the official anthem for the inauguration of the Channel Tunnel by the Queen, entitled "When Flags Fly Together". This was performed for the Queen and President Mitterrand, along with many senior politicians, by The Band of the Royal Engineers, and sung by Robert Meadmore.

Batt composed and produced the four million-selling album, The Violin Player, which launched classical violinist Vanessa-Mae (EMI Classics, 1995) from which the Top Twenty single of J.S. Bach's "Toccata and Fugue" was taken.[9]

In 1997 Batt produced an album for the soprano, Anna Maria Kaufmann, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; an original dramatic song cycle called Blame It on the Moon, from which his song, "Running with a Dream" was taken as the theme for Germany's national football team at the 1998 World Cup.[2]

Also in 1998, Batt produced, arranged and conducted the album, Philharmania with the Royal Philharmonic and guest singers included Joey Tempest, Roger Daltrey, Marc Almond, Bonnie Tyler, Status Quo, Huey Lewis, Kim Wilde, Justin Hayward and others. Later the same year Batt relaunched The Wombles pop group, with two hits, "Remember You’re A Womble" (at number 13) and "The Wombling Song" (at number 27).[3] In 2000 he collaborated with Roy Wood for a single which combined new versions of previous Christmas hits by Wizzard and The Wombles, released as "I Wish It Could Be a Wombling Merry Christmas" - UK number 22).[3] In 1997, the year of The Queen and Prince Philip's Golden Wedding Anniversary, he was commissioned by the military to compose a piece, "Royal Gold" for the massed bands of the Coldstream, Welsh, Irish and Grenadier Guards, together with 100 pipers. The piece was performed in the presence of The Queen and Prince Philip at the Royal Tournament in that year. Batt simultaneously dedicated the piece to his own parents, whose Golden Wedding Anniversary happened to be in the same year.

Later he would compose, arrange and conduct the music for the 1999 Watership Down TV series, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. An ambitious soundtrack album starring Stephen Gately (Boyzone), Paul Carrack, Cerys Matthews and the RPO was recorded, but owing to disagreements with the record label, was never meaningfully released and subsequently acquired by Batt for his Dramatico label some years later. His orchestral suite "Watership Down" was created and recorded by the RPO at this time and is released on Dramatico.

2000s and current work[edit]

A Conservative Party supporter -[he describes his politics as "left of centre"], Batt was asked to write their 2001 UK General Election song "Heartland".[10]

After conceiving and co-creating the all-girl string quartet Bond and producing their first single, he then created the eight piece classical crossover band, The Planets. Their album Classical Graffiti was released in February 2002 and went straight to number one in the UK classical music chart on the day of release and remained there for three months.

Batt formed his own record label Dramatico in 2002, which has a small group of artists including Katie Melua, Carla Bruni,[2] Marianne Faithfull, Caro Emerald, Gurrumul, and Sarah Blasko.[11] Since 2005, Dramatico has been one of the top UK based indie labels, .[citation needed] Batt is presently dedicating most of his time to guiding the career of Katie Melua, whom he discovered in 2002 while scouting for a new artist with whom to work. Melua's album Call Off The Search (containing six of Batt's songs including "The Closest Thing to Crazy") was released on Dramatico in November 2003. After six weeks at number one in the UK Albums Chart, it sold six times platinum, over 1.8 million copies, in the UK and three million copies in total, making Melua the biggest selling UK female artist of 2004. Her second album, Piece by Piece (including Batt's song "Nine Million Bicycles") was released in September 2005, and to date has sold 3.5 million copies in Europe, going to number one in the UK, The Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and achieving top five chart positions in eight other countries.

In 2008, Batt performed and released, A Songwriter's Tale, a compilation album of his hits, newly recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Henry Spinetti, Ray Cooper, Chris Spedding, Mitch Dalton and Tim Harries. The album achieved position 24 in the UK albums chart. In 2011 his record label, Dramatico released the album "Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor" By Caro Emerald, achieving more than 400,000 UK sales and paving the way for the release of "The Shocking Miss Emerald" by the same artist in 2013. This album went straight to number one in the UK album charts.

He has served on the boards of many Industry organisations including The Performing Right Society, the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) becoming Deputy Chairman of the BPI in 2009 until present. He has been a member of the Society of Distinguished Songwriters (SODS) since 1976, and has been voted "King Sod" three times. His awards include five Ivor Novello Awards (Britain's songwriting "Oscar").

Batt was appointed Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (LVO) in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to the Royal Household.[12]

Discography[edit]

MBO – The Mike Batt Orchestra (1970–1972)
  • 1970: Batt Tracks
  • 1971: Portrait of The Rolling Stones
  • 1971: Portrait of Elton John
  • 1971: Portrait of Simon & Garfunkel
  • 1971: Portrait of Bob Dylan
  • 1972: Portrait of Cat Stevens
  • 1972: Portrait of George Harrison
  • 1974: Portrait of Mike Batt (Sampler 1971–1972)
The Wombles (1973–1978)
  • 1973: Wombling Songs
  • 1974: Remember You’re A Womble
  • 1974: Keep on Wombling
  • 1975: Superwombling
  • 1976: Womble Stories
  • 1978: Wombling Free (Soundtrack)
Mike Batt (Since 1973)
  • 1973: Yoga for Health
  • 1973: Moog at the Movies
  • 1974: Ye Olde Moog
  • 1977: Schizophonia
  • 1979: Tarot Suite
  • 1980: Waves
  • 1981: Six Days in Berlin
  • 1988: Songs of Love and War
  • 1995: Arabesque
Compilations / Reissues
  • 1992: The Winds of Change: Mike Batt Greatest Hits
  • 1999: The Ride to Agadir - Best (1977–1983)
  • 2008: A Songwriter's Tale
  • 2008: A Songwriter's Tale (Special Edition with DVD)
  • 2009: Waves / Six Days in Berlin
  • 2009: Songs of Love / Arabesque
  • 2009: Schizophonia / Tarot Suite
  • 2009: Zero Zero (Special Edition with DVD)
  • 2009: The Hunting of The Snark (Special Edition with DVD)
  • 2009: Caravans / Watership Down Orchestral Suite
  • 2009: The Dreamstone / Rapid Eye Movement
  • 2009: A Songwriter's Tale /The Orinoco Kid
Musicals
  • 1982: Zero Zero (with Sydney Symphonic Orchestra)
  • 1987: The Hunting of the Snark (with Friends and London Symphony Orchestra)
Soundtracks
  • 1978: Wombling Free
  • 1978: Caravans (with London Philharmonic Orchestra) - For the same titled film
  • 1985: Dragon Dance (Theme of The Dragon)
  • 1990: The Dreamstone (with Friends and London Philharmonic Orchestra) - For the same titled animated series
  • 1998: Keep the Aspidistra Flying (with London Philharmonic Orchestra) - - For the same titled film
    • Known as A Merry War (in USA and New Zealand)
  • 2000: Watership Down (with Friends and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) - For the same titled animated series

Mike Batt Productions[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

Biography quoted from various sources, mostly from Batt's official website

  1. ^ "The Official Website". Mike Batt. Retrieved 30 December 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d McCormick, Neil (16 April 2008). "Mike Batt: he can't forget he's a Womble". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 April 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 608. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  4. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 527. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  5. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 45. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  6. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 222. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  7. ^ Mike Batt - Zero Zero
  8. ^ "The Official Charts Company - Ballerina (Prima Donna) by Steve Harley And Cockney Rebel Search". The Official Charts Company. 6 May 2013. 
  9. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 581. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  10. ^ "Wombles composer pens Tory poll hit". BBC News. 7 May 2001. Retrieved 15 April 2009. 
  11. ^ "Dramatico Entertainment Ltd.USA". Dramatico.com. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  12. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60534. p. 3. 15 June 2013.

External links[edit]