||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (July 2008)|
Batt in 1971.
|Birth name||Michael Philip Batt|
6 February 1949 |
|Genres||Pop rock, pop, classical|
|Occupation(s)||Singer-songwriter, musician, artist, producer, arranger|
|Instruments||Guitar, piano, keyboards, vocals|
|Labels||Epic Records, Sony Records, Dramatico|
|Associated acts||Elton John, The Wombles, Steeleye Span, Justin Hayward, Bond, Katie Melua|
Michael Philip Batt LVO (born 6 February 1949) is a British songwriter, musician, producer, director, conductor and former 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
Batt began his career in pop music at the age of eighteen when he answered an advertisement placed by Ray Williams in the New Musical Express on behalf of Liberty Records; Elton John and Bernie Taupin answered the same advert. 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".
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. The choice produced his first hits as a singer/songwriter/producer by The Wombles, in 1974. The collaboration produced eight hit singles 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. 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" — used as the theme music to Summertime Special, the BBC TV series recorded in various UK seaside resorts — which reached number 4.
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. Batt also wrote the scores for the 1978 film Caravans.
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". He worked together with quite a few fellow artists on them, e.g. Colin Blunstone and Roger Chapman as singers on Tarot Suite. 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.
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. In 1983, he wrote and produced "Ballerina (Prima Donna)", which, recorded by Steve Harley, peaked at no. 51 in the UK.
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.
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.
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.
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). 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). 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, 2010s and current work
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, working with a small group of artists including Katie Melua, Carla Bruni, Marianne Faithfull, Caro Emerald, Gurrumul, and Sarah Blasko. Since 2005, Dramatico has been one of the top UK based indie labels. Batt discovered Katie Melua 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 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. At this point, Melua had became the biggest female UK artist in the World, despite not having broken the USA, and in the process Batt had created the model for a new kind of indie record label: one that appointed distributors in overseas territories but organised all the marketing effort from its UK base and offices in New York and Munich. This business model avoided the necessity of "licensing" its product to other companies overseas.
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.
Melua departed the Batt (Dramatico) management stable and record label in January 2014 after a ten year contract during which she had recorded six albums for Dramatico. Since 2014 Batt has guided his Dramatico organisation towards a more theatrical/TV /film direction, albeit concentrating on projects which have his music at their core. Setting up Dramatico Animation Ltd in 2014 he began production on an ambitious CGI TV series based on The Wombles, having bought the TV and film production rights to add to the Music rights which he already held. Dramatico now has a fully developed animation facility in Fulham from which it is operating in order to deliver the series and market the characters on a multi-platform global basis, including digital games and live touring. He stepped down from his role as Deputy Chairman of the BPI in late 2015 "in order to spend more time with his family (The Wombles)". He is also preparing for Dramatico to produce his musical "Men Who March Away" - a love story set in the First world War and the Spanish Civil War.
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 2007° until November 2015. 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.
- 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
- 1982: Zero Zero (with Sydney Symphonic Orchestra)
- 1987: The Hunting of the Snark (with Friends and London Symphony Orchestra)
- 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
- 1974 "Wombling Songs" The Wombles
- 1975 "Remember You're A Womble" The Wombles
- 1975 "Keep On Wombling" The Wombles
- 1975 "Superwombing" The Wombles
- 1976: "All Around My Hat" Steeleye Span
- 1979 "Rocket Cottage" Steeleye Span
- 1979: Hacienda View - Linda Lewis
- 1995: The Violin Player - Vanessa Mae
- 1998: Philharmania - Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Mike Batt
- 2000: The Wombles Collection (34 track Double CD)
- 2002: The Classical Graffiti - The Planets
- 2003: Call Off the Search - Katie Melua
- 2005: After a Dream - Robert Meadmore
- 2005: Piece by Piece - Katie Melua
- 2007: Pictures - Katie Melua
- 2008: The Katie Melua Collection - Katie Melua
- 2012: Secret Symphony - Katie Melua
- 2013: Ketevan - Katie Melua (with Luke Batt)
Biography quoted from various sources, mostly from Batt's official website
- "The Official Website". Mike Batt. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
- McCormick, Neil (16 April 2008). "Mike Batt: he can't forget he's a Womble". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 April 2009.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 608. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 527. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 45. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 222. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- "Mike Batt - Zero Zero". Mikebatt.com. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
- "The Official Charts Company - Ballerina (Prima Donna) by Steve Harley And Cockney Rebel Search". The Official Charts Company. 6 May 2013.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 581. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- "Dramatico Entertainment Ltd.USA". Dramatico.com. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
- The London Gazette: . 15 June 2013.
- "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories | Politics". theguardian.com. 2014-08-07. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
- Official website
- Dramatico website
- German fan website
- Audio interview on the Sodajerker On Songwriting podcast
- Mike Batt discography at Discogs