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"
Released 19 September 2005 (2005-09-19) (UK)
Format CD single, download
Genre Pop, jazz, blues
Length 3:15
Label Dramatico
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"

"Crawling up a Hill"
"Nine Million Bicycles"
"I Cried for You"/"Just like Heaven"
Piece by Piece track listing
"Shy Boy"
"Nine Million Bicycles"
"Piece by Piece"

"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.

About the record[edit]

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" upon his return 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 video, directed by Kevin Godley, features Melua being dragged across the floor through a variety of settings, including a brief shot of the Summer Palace (Yiheyuan, Chinese: 颐和园/頤和園) in Beijing, until she returns to a picnic in a park with her friends.

The song was featured prominently in a high-profile radio and television advertising campaign for the Slovenian cell-phone operator Mobitel.[citation needed]


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

Other appearances[edit]


  • Producers – Mike Batt
  • Engineer – Steve Sale
  • Arranger – Mike Batt

Alternative version[edit]

In 2005, Melua was criticised by writer and scientist Simon Singh[11] 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 programme 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.


External links[edit]