Nine Million Bicycles

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"Nine Million Bicycles"
Katie Melua - Nine Million Bicycles.JPG
Single by Katie Melua
from the album Piece by Piece
B-side"Market Day in Guernica", "Stardust"
Released19 September 2005 (2005-09-19) (UK)
FormatCD single, download
GenrePop, jazz, blues
Songwriter(s)Mike Batt
Producer(s)Mike Batt
Katie Melua singles chronology
"Crawling up a Hill"
"Nine Million Bicycles"
"I Cried for You" / "Just like Heaven"

"Nine Million Bicycles" is a song written and produced by Mike Batt for the singer Katie Melua's second album, Piece by Piece. It was released as the album's first single in September 2005 and reached number five on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Melua's first top five hit as a solo artist. It was a finalist for The Record of the Year prize, losing to "You Raise Me Up" by Westlife.


According to Melua, the inspiration for the song came during a visit to Beijing with her manager Mike Batt.[1] Their interpreter showed them around the city and told that there are supposedly nine million bicycles in the city. Batt wrote a song based around the title "Nine Million Bicycles" after returning to England two weeks later, and it was one of the last songs to be recorded for Piece by Piece. Adrian Brett, who played the ethnic flutes on Batt's album Caravans (1978), contributed to the song; an ocarina was used for the low sounds, and a Chinese bamboo flute for the high sounds.[2]

Melua said that she liked the song "because it is a simple juxtaposition of a trivial idea ('Nine Million Bicycles') against an important idea ('I will love you till I die')".[2] The website indieLondon named it one of the "highlights" of Piece by Piece, describing it as "genuinely sweet ... The meandering blasts of flute that weave their way throughout lend the song a Chinese feel and make it quite enticing".[3]

The single's music video, directed by Kevin Godley, shows Melua being dragged across the floor through a variety of settings, including a brief shot of the Summer Palace in Beijing, until she returns to a picnic in a park with her friends.

Alternative version[edit]

In 2005, Melua was criticised by writer and scientist Simon Singh[4] for inaccurate lyrics referring to the size of the observable universe ("We are 12 billion light-years from the edge. That's a guess — no one can ever say it's true"). Melua and Singh met, and Melua re-recorded a tongue-in-cheek version of the song for BBC Radio 4's Today program that had been written by Singh:

"We are 13.7 billion light-years from the edge of the observable universe; that's a good estimate with well-defined error bars/and with the available information, I predict that I will always be with you".

Melua later said that she 'should have known better' as she used to be a member of the Astronomy club at school.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Nine Million Bicycles" (Mike Batt) – 3:15
  2. "Market Day in Guernica" (Batt) – 4:02
  3. "Stardust" (Hoagy Carmichael, Mitchell Parish) – 4:10


Chart Peak
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[5] 4
France (SNEP)[6] 56
Germany (Official German Charts)[7] 31
Irish Singles Chart 11
Italy (FIMI)[8] 17
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[9] 2
Norway (VG-lista)[10] 10
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[11] 43
UK Singles Chart 5
Europe Official Top 100 12

Other appearances[edit]



  • Mike Batt – producer, arranged
  • Steve Sale – engineer


  1. ^ What's Music Record 1993, no. WS-2052, in Mandarin
  2. ^ a b "Nine Million Bicycles". Archived from the original on 30 November 2006. Retrieved 28 September 2006. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  3. ^ Foley, Jack & Hollie, Carnevale. "Katie Melua — Piece By Piece". indieLondon. Retrieved 9 April 2006.
  4. ^ "Katie Melua's bad science". UK: The Guardian. 25 September 2012.
  5. ^ " – Katie Melua – Nine Million Bicycles" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  6. ^ " – Katie Melua – Nine Million Bicycles" (in French). Les classement single.
  7. ^ " – Katie Melua Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  8. ^ " – Katie Melua – Nine Million Bicycles". Top Digital Download.
  9. ^ " – Katie Melua – Nine Million Bicycles" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  10. ^ " – Katie Melua – Nine Million Bicycles". VG-lista.
  11. ^ " – Katie Melua – Nine Million Bicycles". Swiss Singles Chart.

External links[edit]