Sunday, 18 December 2011

THE PASSION AND THE PIFFLE (a blog for the moment) DEC 2011

I thought I might try to write a SENSIBLE blog for once. Then I thought, “fuck it”. So here comes the usual wonky mixture of passion and piffle. If you want sensible, go to my mate, Sunday Express editor Martin Townsend’s weekly column (that he COMMISSIONED HIMSELF to write). It’s usually about the cost of school shoes and the state of youth nowadays. You’ll love it. He does. I wonder if he pays himself for it. If so, however much he gets it’s too much. Far better to hire someone like me to write an irreverent 2,000 words on everything from Chris Hitchens’ views about God to my personal recipe for a miniature fry-up starter to excite your dinner guests. His loss.

So let’s start with Chris Hitchens, who died a couple of days ago. Our loss. He can’t have been the first to point out (as I have many times) that God and Afterlife aren’t joined at the hip. I rarely pray (turbulence in planes sometimes sets me off,) – and I’m not so much an atheist as a “how-the-hell -should-I-know-ist”. There is no instruction manual. Not an official one, you’ve just got all these books written by prophets and stuff. In fact, my own personal religion is available now online. It’s usually free but we’ve gone one better than that this Christmas and halved the price. . Seriously, Chris and I had/have (what with him being dead and all) a point. IF there is a god, why does that mean there’s an afterlife? What optimist connected those two ideas? What if God, when she created us, gave us one life only. If you fall off a cliff aged two before you get converted to Catholicism, at least you don’t go to hell. What if there is a god but he’s an evil git? Loves watching road crashes and earthquakes, in fact rewinds them and watches them slowly. Records them to watch later. (Otherwise why does Sky TV exist, answer me THAT).

What if there’s an afterlife – purely naturally, - and no god? Perfectly feasible. We crawled out of the sea, grew legs, - unless you don’t believe in Darwin and think Adam actually did nick an apple – because a SNAKE told him to – as if (!!!!) and condemned us all to a life of punishment (see above) and then, when our souls matured enough, that is to say not when we were Newts, some time after that – we got the key of the door and there IS an afterlife, but obviously not for newts, just us. Yay! Keep out the riff raff.

Ok so for the fry-up recipe for eight guests you just need 16 quails eggs, a few small Hovis miniature loaves, those mini-schmini ones, eight cherry tomatoes and some very streaky bacon. You’ll need to cut the quails’ eggs open with nail scissors beforehand because the little membrane inside is too thick to allow the clean cracking of the egg – and each egg needs to be stored on a soup spoon, a line of which should be ready near the frying area. (This is TRUE). The reason for this is that when your guests are sitting down, you can’t waste about half an hour opening 16 quails’ eggs, they’ll be going home in that taxi afterwards holding up a big number two. Should I re-phrase that? No. Plough on.

Cut the streaky bacon into mini-sminchy little rashers.

Slice the micro hovis loaves into thin, toastable slices (and don’t forget when it comes time to toast them, do NOT put them in the toaster, you IDIOT) – put them under the grill. Cut the tomatoes into two.

When the guests arrive, tell them a joke, show then your knob, if you’re a bloke, or whatever you do to greet them, put on some Christmas music, tell the chef you’ve hired to cook the main course (because I haven’t given you the recipe for that and you may not have the ability to think ahead all by yourselves and cook three courses) – that you are about to serve the starter. While he or she is liquidising the live snails for the main course, get ripping with your mini fry-up starter.

Use at least two frying pans – so you can control the heat of each item separately. A bit of olive oil. The two halves of cherry tomato per person go into one pan, the toast AND THE BACON go under the grill, and voila! The eggs go one at a time, slipping happily off their soup spoons into the fat AS CONTEMPORANEOUSLY as possible.

Serve two bits of micro-toast per person, one with 2 fried quails’ eggs and one with two halves of fried tomato, the bacon on the side. When you get up to grade eight I’ll show you how to make miniature baked beans using red lentils and the sauce from real baked beans. That’s cheating but I don’t care because I’m not religious. We non-religious people have no morals and are completely devoid of feeling for fair play or the comfort and well-being of our fellow man. Or maybe I AM religious, I just don’t know.

So another year ends. I’ve Wombled at Glastontury in 82 degrees in a Womble Suit but don’t tell the kids. They get very very angry if they think there might be people in the costumes and it could completely fuck their Christmas up, if not their lives. I survived that without doing a “Tommy CoopER” on stage. In fact it was exhausting but tested my endurance and increased my pelvic floor strength.

We’ve made a new album with the “at-the-top-of-her-game” Katie Melua, and I’m dying for you to hear it. It’s got lots of songs and stuff on it. She’s in a happier place than ever. The album is called “SECRET SYMPHONY”. It’s available to pre-order on Amazon and iTunes etc already (*plug!*) – coming out in first week of March.

We’ve “broken” the fabulous Caro Emerald in this country, (Google her) taking her Platinum last week – or maybe she took US platinum. Either way, we like Platinum. Congrats to my fabulous cottage-industry team of about a dozen at Dramatico records, led by my passionate and impeccable Managing Director, Andrew Bowles, and in Germany (Dramatico GmbH) by our smart and arty MD, Sven Meyer. We say a sad goodbye to our New York office, with great thanks to our US company boss Josh Zieman, who is moving to pastures new, - and team. Re-structuring and re-positioning is taking place there, and our new Dramatico USA incarnation will pop right back up again in 2012.

We’ve started animating the new, CGI Wombles series. Really good fun. Animation was what I would have done if I hadn’t become a musician, so I’m hoping to become the next Walt Disney before I die. Afterwards would be too late.

This isn’t supposed to be a review of the year, but as probably my last blog of the year, inevitably is a bit like that. I wish you everything you would wish – and I hope you all have lovely Christmases. In fact the same Christmas, but lovely in plural when viewed from your own individual and, in a sense, collective points of perception.

Maybe I am religious after all. Bloody Hell.



PS: Apologies to those who have seen the recipe before

Friday, 16 December 2011


Hi Kids,

There has been some talk that the Wombles “aren’t real” because of the apparent removal of a “Womble costume head” at the end of their appearance on the Simon Mayo Show on Radio 2. Some parents have claimed the removal of a Womble “head” has “ruined Christmas” for their child, - as if! Everybody knows a Womble can’t take his head off.

I would like to explain what happened, because, I can assure the Wombles are VERY REAL INDEED and did a splendid job on the show. Before their first song, Wombling Merry Christmas, and just after it, Simon interviewed Orinoco, - but after the song Orinoco sounded completely puffed out and many people suggested to me – as their manager – that the show should be stopped and Orinoco given medical treatment. However, it was too late for the show to be stopped when Orinoco launched straight into “Underground Overground” and we management-team-humans were very worried that he might hurt himself or have a heart problem.

Luckily, I carry a fancy dress Womble costume with me to all Womble appearances, so if the real Orinoco is too puffed out (because he is the fat one, and hardly does any exercise) I can run in, like a substitute in a football match) and take over, - which is what I did. We managed to get the real Orinoco off, during a cut in the camera coverage, and he was given oxygen and some nettle tea.

I jumped on stage and took over, just for the goodbye bit. When Simon cued an Amy Winehouse record I asked if we were clear and was told that we were – whereupon I took my “head” off. Little did I know that one camera was still “live to air”. It wasn’t anybody’s fault, just a misunderstanding Anyone watching would have seen that THE OTHER WOMBLES DID NOT TAKE THEIR HEADS OFF. Why? Because they are real. I was the one who did it, because I was taking Orinoco’s place in a fancy dress costume made to look like a Womble. Everybody knows a Womble can’t take his head off. Bungo, Wellington, Great Uncle Bulgaria and Madame Cholet didn’t, did they!? They all just walked sensibly to their dressing room, and Orinoco soon recovered and joined them. I packed away my “emergency costume” and put it in the medical kit we carry with us.

So, kids, that’s how your Mum and Dad might have thought the Wombles weren’t real. Tell them you know the truth, It was their manager, Mike, saving poor Orinoco from falling over because of the heat in the studio!

Meanwhile, everybody at Radio 2 and Wombles - @Womble_HQ (on twitter) are the best of friends and have happy memories of their Wombling afternoon!

Merry Christmas from

Mike Batt
(Friend and manager to the Wombles)

(Those interested in the appearance can check it on It was a lovely, funny interlude enjoyed by all the Wombles and Simon and his team)

Sunday, 7 August 2011

ABBA - some memories

On Twitter just now, I resolved to post a blog about my experiences with Abba, - how I met them, etc. All this nostalgia was triggered by my noting on Twitter that I always remembered word Aber (pronounced “Abba” and meaning “but”) in German by imagining Agnetha’s butt. That was my word association. This triggered a string of Tweets in which it emerged that I had once produced Frida (for a Cameron Mackintosh musical called “Abbacadabra”, and that more recently, Agnetha had done one of my songs “Sometimes When I’m Dreaming”. Several Abba memories come to mind so I thought I’d set aside my workload for today and clear my brains out (yuk, what a nasty idea) by writing a blog about Abba and me. Then I remembered that there is a section in my unfinished autobiography, explaining how I met them, so I’ll start with that. Here it is:

(Excerpt from autobiography)

The task of following up “The Wombling Song” with its rather jolly-but-nonsensical lyrics and French horn “jazz” intro was a massive challenge. Why would radio stations play a second Womble song when they hadn’t played the first? (Except for Tony Blackburn, bless him). Did the World need another Womble Song? I didn’t care what the World needed, I needed another! So I sat in my garage of my three up, two down semi-detached house in Surbiton, and analysed what it had been that had made the first one a hit. Well, it was a simple song with “whimsical” good-natured lyrics. It was not unmusical, - it had an instrumental intro which was quite complicated. After a day’s grafting, I emerged from the garage with “Remember You’re A Womble”. The simplest three chord chorus, - just “Remember You’re A Womble” repeated several times on the three chord trick often used in pop songs, - was almost a rip-off of something by Gene Vincent or Carl Perkins or anyone else who had written three chord pop songs in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll. To balance this simplicity with musicality and memorability I added an intro for two violins in counterpoint that might have been (but wasn’t) taken from a Vivaldi piece, or, if you looked at it differently, an Irish jig. We went in and recorded it with Chris Spedding on guitars and Clem Cattini on drums. Jack Rothstein played the first fiddle.

I managed to get it featured as the “entertainment” during the judging break at that year’s Eurovision Song Contest, which happened to be hosted in Brighton that year by the BBC. We made a film of all of us Wombles pratting about in Rottingdean, the village just outside Brighton, - and I had to go onto the programme “live” as Orinoco to wave and give a rose to presenter Katie Boyle. For the film, the BBC used my vocal from the record but replaced the music backing track with an absolutely awful orchestral arrangement of the song, played “live” to a click track and conducted by Ronnie Aldridge, the BBC’s Music Director. Artistically, it spoiled the whole thing for me, but still made it available to an audience of millions of people – enough to make the record a huge hit. It went to number three in the charts. Backstage at the Eurovision Song Contest, there had been a couple of girls who looked WELL worth talking to. I sidled up to them (not in my Womble costume – maybe I’d have had better luck with it on) – only to discover that their husbands were part of their group. I spent the day getting to know them all, and wishing them luck. I even stayed backstage while the votes came in, watching their faces and sharing a drink as they won. It was Abba, and “Waterloo” obviously wiped the board, both as a Eurovision song and as the launch pad for their incredible career. I stayed in touch with them and often ran into them backstage at various European TV shows we all performed on by coincidence. Because they were on CBS, as we were, I experienced their career growing alongside mine, saw each single go out, enjoyed their success second hand, and was often around the CBS offices when Abba strategy decisions were being made.

(end of excerpt)

As I don’t really want to spend all day writing this I’ll paraphrase a little.

Being fellow CBS artists, Abba and The Wombles or myself as a solo artist would often meet up backstage or cross each other’s paths in hotel lobbies. To be greated loudly by Agnetha across the lobby of a ringy hotel foyer “Hi, Mike! How ARE you?” was such a thrill, almost electric, -and then the whole group coming over to shake hands and hug. And yet, looking back, it hardly ever happened. I’m writing it as if it was a weekly experience!

I do remember one particular night when we had been on the same bill on a German TV show, and there was a kind of tented banquet afterwards where we all sat together. I started showing off how many schnapps glasses I could pile up in a tower (I was quite good at it) without them falling over. You had to drink the schnapps and then add the glass to the tower. After that, we all (the four of them and I) went out to find a club where we could dance. It was a funny little German town out in the middle of nowhere, and the only “nightclub” in town was just closing. Realising it was Abba, the guy agreed to stay open, so we had our own private drinking and dancing club for an hour or so! The guys were chatting away happily and I got on the dance floor with the girls. I’m not a great dancer, but I was quite pissed so, hey. Great memory.

I don’t think “Dancing Queen” had come out by then, but whenever I hear that song I think of that night!

Years later, after the split of Abba, Tim Rice and I started to write a musical called Chess (him as lyricist, me as composer). It was his idea. We had several meetings and one song of mine which he liked and wanted to rewrite, lyrically to make fit the topic. Then I went away on a boat, around the world for 2 years! Tim visited us in Antigua, for a holiday, and we did a bit more thinking about Chess.

However when I got back to the UK, Tim had hooked up with Bjorn and Benny, and had written the musical. I can’t remember whether I ever got a “Dear Mike” phone call, and I didn’t feel hard done by. I hadn’t exactly been available! Also, their score and lyrics were superb. If I had written it with him, the World would have been deprived of “One Night In Bangkok”, “I Know Him So Well” , “Anthem” and such a fantastic score, one of the best, in my opinion. Benny Anderson is the best melodist writing songs and musicals bar nobody in our generation. Well, maybe me. (Only kidding). Shortly after that, Tim and I wrote “A Winter’s Tale” – which became a big hit for David Essex, and we have remained the best of friends to this day.

One day, in the early eighties, when Chess was still being created, Bjor, Benny and their arranger, Anders visited me at my London home. They knew I was into big orchestrations, (Snark etc) and Anders was keen to know a few things that I could help him with regarding how to cram all those notes for a symphony orchestra onto normal score paper – when writing for triple woodwinds and full brass and strings. It happened that they also needed a studio and I was able to get them some time at CTS Studios in Wembley. I remember popping into the sessions briefly. Anders had done some great arrangements!

A little later, I launched my “Hunting Of The Snark” concert version with the LSO at the Barbican. In the audience were Cameron Mackintosh, Tim Rice, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson. They weren’t just there to support me – which was part of it, - but also to check out how a concert version of a musical might work. They obviously thought it worked, because shortly after that, they toured Europe with the LSO in exactly the same format I had used that night at the Barbican, in order to promote the album of “Chess”. (Cameron wasn’t involved in that, he was busy with Les Mis and Phantom).

Bjorn joined The Society Of Distinguished Songwriters,(SODS)a social organisation for songwriters of which I am proud to be a member. Bjorn hardly ever comes to meetings to drink champagne and have dinner but always pays his subs, so in a sense is the perfect SOD.

Some years later, Judy Craymer (who had been Tim Rice’s assistant in the Chess days, and who was also a huge Abba fan) asked me to help her put together a TV series based on Abba tunes. We even got so far as having a meeting with Maureen Lipman as one of the stars. Maureen was a little unsure, because she felt she wasn’t as good a singer as she was an actor. Anyway – ultimately, Judy couldn’t get the money together and it all fell through. Another happy accident, - because she turned her attention instead to the Musical “Mamma Mia” – and then look what happened!

I’m going to draw this to a close now, because we’ll all fall asleep (me writing it and you reading it) – but suffice to say that although I am not close friends with any Abba members, I do call myself a friend; although I haven’t seen the girls for years.

I was truly delighted to know that Agnetha had recorded my song so beautifully.

Thankyou, Agnetha for (liking and interpreting) The Music. I’m sorry I made a joke about your bum.

All the best to all.


Sunday, 22 May 2011

Royalty, Reality and Royalties

Evenin’ all.

This is my second run at doing a blog lately. I tried to write one just after we did our Buckingham Palace show, and then realized it was so full of the very recent Buckingham Palace thing, that it dominated the blog, and risked being indiscreet or self- aggrandising. Now with another week’s distance I feel I can write a blog that is more balanced and covers more subjects.

Yes indeed, we have been working on the show at Buckingham Palace for quite a few months, and it did become all-consuming. No-one (that I know or with whom I sympathise) would ever begrudge doing things for The Queen; it’s always a huge pleasure and I’ve been lucky to have been involved in some thrilling Royal events at Buckingham Palace or elsewhere. The people who run the Household, from the lowliest chambermaid to the Master Of The Household are all so welcoming and “normal” that you just feel like a friend or colleague going about a job, but surrounded by such layers of history and goodwill. The first few times I went there it was a bit like recording at Abbey Road for the first few times. You would (and still do) wonder if the valve U47 microphone you are using was the one used by John Lennon on “All You Need Is Love” – and it probably was. Similarly, you pass a painting given by Queen Victoria to the love of her life, Prince Albert, and you feel an electric charge of emotion and sympathy, not to mention admiration for the painter’s work.

We had been asked (Craig Hassall, MD, English National Ballet) and I, to co-produce an event as a focal point for a reception, given by Her Majesty, to celebrate young people in the performing arts. The Queen often celebrates various sectors, whether agriculture, industry or even the music business (I attended one such reception a few years back). Usually it’s just a drinks reception but often with a related event on the same day. In this case, we were asked to do a 30 minute show in the palace ballroom for The Queen, The Duke Of Edinburgh, other senior royals and 450 guests from all stratas and ranks of the Performing Arts community.

I’ll cut to the chase before this blog starts to compete in length with the more detailed one which I discarded last week!

I won’t say it was easy putting it together. We wanted to achieve the right mixture , between let’s say “High” art and, - well, normal everyday art – which I would contend (and which was proven on that Monday) can be every bit as “High” in its artistic effect and the techniques and dedication required to perform it at its best. I’ve nearly broken my promise not to give a long account of the putting together of this show, so I’ll skid to a halt in a minute if you don’t mind (or even if you do). Let’s just say that the three artistic directors (Justin Way, Royal Opera House, -overall director), Luc Mollinger (freelance, associate director) and myself – (general all-round collaborator and Musical director) did manage, over a number of months to rally a large number of volunteers to be either orchestra players , crew, lighting, sound, chorus, corps-de-ballet, stars , stage managers, runners. The show was fast moving and such a buzz to perform. I conducted the Docklands Sinfonia (about 55 piece, young orchestra) – and we themed the show around Romeo and Juliet – using Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev (with ENB performance) “West Side Story” – with Jo McElderry and the National Youth Music Theatre chorus, plus a sensational street dance section performed by Flawless, with Alleviate, Sara-Jane Skeete and rapper Ironik. There were also acting performances by distinguished players including Tamsin Egerton and Anne Reid MBE, and we finished off with Rumer singing Taylor Swift’s “Love Story”. The show was introduced with a speech by Dame Kiri te Kanawa.

There are some pictures at the following sites:

Meanwhile, I have been flitting in and out of Europe to catch the Katie Melua “House” tour on its triumphant run around Germany, France, Belgium Portugal, the UK and now off to Scandinavia. Katie is singing better than ever, after her “breakdown” which had caused postponement of the tour from the Autumn. She’s been getting the best reviews she’s ever had, pleasing existing fans and converting doubters (usually who had never seen her perform “live” before) along the way.

That was a full-on job, funnily enough! Earlier blogs will give more detail, but a lot of time and preparation went into it, both musically and visually – all at the same time as the above Buckingham Palace activities. Add to that the enormous planning it is taking to coax the Wombles from their burrow and get them ready for their forthcomng Glastonbury appearanvce - together with even grander plans for their future- and you might get some small clue as to the manic nature of my life at the moment. The above three projects don’t even come close to describing it. Add Caro Emerald, (who I can now announce is poised to crash into the UK top ten of the album charts this week, on Dramatico Records) Sarah Blasko, Gurrumul, TD Lind, Marianne Faithfull and Asa – to name only six Dramatico artists requiring tight focus at the moment, - oh, and putting together a new Media company to raise finance for our own ambitious film, TV and stage exploits. For the Caro Emerald success, - apart from thanking Caro and her team themselves, I need to thank Andrew Bowles, our Managing Director at Dramatico, for driving the whole project along. It’s a great feeling when things go right– which I promise you, is not always the case. While I’m thanking people individually I should say a special “thanks” to Jody Hardy, our Head Of Events, for her steely and superlative handling of the Palace project from start to finish, or “from GO to WHOAH” as my wife says.

It all sounds a bit too much, doesn’t it?

Well, nothing changes. I guess I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. When I stop enjoying it I’ll stop doing it.

This Thursday, after ELEVEN wasted or delayed court hearings, a close friend of mine was acquitted of a stupid charge of spitting at someone on the Underground at Waterloo. This man – after working with me for over 5 years, has never even once used a swear word in my presence, and is the most courteous and well-mannered person I know. For him to have committed an assault like that is inconceivable, and I was called as a character witness. Thankfully – after a farce of incompetence by the Crown Prosecution Service, their barrister turned up without his file (having lost it) and the complainant was out of the country on holiday and just didn’t turn up– resulting in a huge waste of our time and massive costs for the CPS. It really does beggar belief. The only regret was that we weren’t able to prove in court RESOUNDINGLY that he didn’t do it. The case was just thrown out, albeit after more than a year of worrying and waiting on my friend’s behalf. Somehow, the CCTV footage that my friend had begged to see (to prove his innocence) had gone missing – the police had somehow failed to download it. I wonder why!

My daughter is home at the moment from Boston where she is studying music. She’s making up for lost time and hitting the town with a vengeance.

This weekend I was Grandpa, looking after one of my two six-year-old grand-daughters (I have two, one by each of my elder daughters) – if you are trying to work it out, bear in mind that I was a child bride the first time around!

That’s it for another month or so – unless I get hot under the collar or jubilant about something.

Oh yes. I’ve just remembered I am both of those things about the Hargreaves Report. Jubilant that his recommendations are that there should be no (mis-described) “fair use” clause in UK copyright law, unlike US law, - (to help Google take over the World at the expense of copyright owners) and hot under the collar about proposals for a copyright exemption for “Parody and Pastiche” – so you can change people’s lyrics and tunes without waiting until they are out of copyright. It’s the first step on a dark and dangerous road to the complete decay of copyright . Anyway – the effort goes on.

Re super-injunctions and their breach on Twitter and the web generally, the Lord Chief Justice recently said that he hoped that ways could be found to “curtail the misuse of modern technology” which was “totally out of control”. Thank goodness for a voice of reason. It also applies to illegal downloading, - and governments who don’t realise the need to chase after this horse that has already bolted from the stable will regret it – on behalf of their citizens one day. Modernists say the web is a great opportunity, and it is. It is an opportunity to steal copyright material and to libel innocent people with little fear of reproach. I admit it is also wonderful thing. It’s like a car. It can get you to places, but it can also run people over and kill them. It’s the latter aspect that hasn’t been properly dealt with, and it isn’t just music theft I’m talking about. There are many other misuses emerging. We have to get sensible about this before the REAL judgement day (as distinct from that hilarious rich preacher in the States who said we would all die in an earthquake at 6pm yesterday)!

Wow, that was a good rant. I think I’ll go for a lttle lie down now.

Lots of love,


PS. I thought the Royal Wedding was fab. He should have kissed her for about a second longer, though.

PPS. I'm flattered by the attentions of some online "followers" setting up a campaign for me to be considered for an honour. I'd be a liar if I didn't say I think we'd all secretly love to be honoured, but (a) there are others far more deserving and b) even if I was eligible, I think a web campaign is likely to be counter-productive. I'm not being ungrateful. I hope you understand. For those who may presume I have played a part in instigating the campaign, I haven't!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Getting ready for Katie Melua tour, - and more.

So here I am writing my blog about the last few weeks of getting Katie ready for the big European tour that had had to be cancelled because of her illness, six months ago. Of course there have been lots of other things going on at Dramatico and in my life generally, but I’ll “top-load” this blog towards the tour, because I get the feeling that’s what you’ll find the most interesting.

From the early planning stages – back when “The House” album was released last year, Katie was pretty sure she wanted to tour with a small band, just a tight nucleus of four, and not have a fifth (or even a sixth player) doing violin/flute, extra percussion, etc. My feeling was that – of all tours, this one might need that 5th player, because of so many songs from the House having weird noises and twinkly bits provided by William Orbit who produced it – whereas the first three albums had a more “organic” feel and didn’t need augmentation. But it’s Katie’s tour, and it was her decision, (the right one as it turns out)- because Jim Watson, our great keyboard player is not only a terrific piano player but can trigger all sorts of samples and stuff from his Keyboard rig. So the band line-up was decided as Jim, plus Henry Spinetti on drums. Tim Harries on Bass and Luke Potashnick on guitars, - all of whom are Katie’s treasured “core” band.

Katie always leaves the design of the stage to me, (after discussion) but I take it as a brief that she has to approve, as if I were a freelance designer. This time we needed a set that could play Arenas in continental Europe and theatres in the UK. (Katie prefers more intimate shows in the UK, around 2,000 seaters). The way we’ve achieved this is by flying three trusses with projectors on the downstage truss, hanging tabs – or drapes, on the mid-stage truss and a full width/height screen on the upstage truss. There are steps up through the band so that Katie can get from her normal position in front of them, up through Henry and Tim, onto a higher level just behind the band.

We are lucky to have Chris Lambourne, our usual Lighting Director on this tour. He and I work well together. He just does what I tell him to do! (Just kidding) I couldn’t light my way out of a paper bag – but projection and stagecraft I do have a specialist interest in. Sorry that last sentence ended with a preposition, I’ll try not to let it happen again. I don’t know what I was thinking of.

Because the band and Katie had already played many of these songs at summer gigs last year, we tacked on only ONE week of “refresher” musical rehearsal at a big place we usually go to, near Tower Bridge in London. By the time we got to the musical rehearsals (a couple of weeks ago) I already had my main ideas for the projection designs, and was working with John Gosler (our Art Director at Dramatico). John had painted the house and mountains, balloons etc that we featured on the “House” CD cover and campaign materials, and we decided to use that house as a basic theme to several of the visual treatments of the songs. I won’t give much away – but there are some pretty stunning backgrounds. John’s work (on Ergo –the movie we are making about a slug) can be seen at

The rest of our “studio” team at Dramatico are Michael Dunne, -our video editor, who always manages to juggle the editing of “pop videos” with all the other edit suite jobs that come up, like TV commercials or EPK edits, - with things like this big Katie tour; then there’s Steve Sale, our chief sound engineer, who engineered all of Katie’s first three albums, here in my house. Funnily enough, the fourth album “The House” was the only one not recorded at the house! It was recorded at Air Lyndhurst Studios. Then we bring in Stuart Fortune, an absolutely BRULLIANT Sco’ash COMPOSITOR whenever we need this kind of work done. His job is to take our images and either animate them or make them into 3D landscapes using software called After Effects. He then places virtual cameras and lights and makes it all come to life. He’s done some great ones this time. Tiny Alien is one to look out for. No more clues!

We started work some weeks ago, and weren’t finished by the sound rehearsals, so on sound rehearsal week I was driving every day from mornings down here in Surrey with the visual guys and afternoons and evenings with Katie and the band at Tower Bridge. It was quite exhausting for an old git, but we managed to get it done in time. I hired an additional compositor, Chris, for the last week or so, because the workload on Stuart was just too great. When John, Stuart, Michael and I are doing a big job like this, they usually stay at the house, and it’s a bit like running a hotel, but very relaxed and sociable. We work very long hours so it’s good for them not to have to travel home in the early hours of the morning. We do this when we record here too – the band always stay over. It makes the house a very creative and busy social and business “hub” and gives me access to both audio and edit suites at the same time.

So this week – having liaised by e mail with Steve Croxford, our tour manager and Roland Beckerle, our producton manager – about all the practical things like the load-bearing capabilities of trusses or the power of certain projectors compared to others, (things that Roland deals with before overseeing the construction) we all convened at a brand new rehearsal space in Acton, North London. This place is a massive warehouse style building, purpose-built for rehearsing big tours like Take That and War Of The Worlds. You can build a full sized arena set in there. So last Wednesday we decamped to there and have been working on combining the visual aspects (lights/projection/drapes etc) with the musical and sound elements.

All went really well, - except the guys whose job it was to synchronise the visuals with the music had a lot of trouble, and we spent days trying to make it work using different combinations of time codes and midi codes. It was a nightmare but we solved it eventually. That was the one thing that slowed us down, - and thankfully Katie and the band were not only patient and relaxed, but on fantastic form. After her enforced break, Katie is singing the crap out of this material. We record everything we do in rehearsal, on multitrack – and I think I could release most of it after a very rough mix if I wanted to. (NO, I’m NOT going to, so don’t ask!!!) If anything, her vocals are better than on The House album, because she is so much more familiar with the songs.

We interrupted production rehearsals to go to Broadcasting House near Oxford Circus to record a one-hour special for Radio 2, with special guests William Orbit- (on guitar), plus Beth Rowley and Jack Savoretti. It went out on Thursday last – and I was sitting in the production rehearsals with the visual team, programming, when we listened to it. Those who heard it, - I hope you agree it sounded fantastic. It made a good “dummy run” for the tour. We also did a gig at The Guildhall on the evening of one of the music rehearsals - for the Lord Mayor, with Bond, Chris Difford and Bryan Adams. That was a charity thing organised by the City, called “City Rocks” and was a great evening, with a posh dinner afterwards.

So after four days of production rehearsals, yesterday (Saturday) we ran the show from top to bottom, twice. I’m reasonably confident it will all run smoothly in Dresden on Wednesday (our first gig), subject to a couple of things that need tightening up on the projection cues, but one thing’s for sure, the music will be great – and it will all look fantastic. It’s just little things that I notice at this stage, and I am sure they’ll be nailed by then.

Other things that have been SIMULTANEOUSLY been happening have been things like the acquisition of a wider range of rights on The Wombles – about which an announcement will be made soon, and a very exciting production we are doing in conjunction with English National Ballet and others for a Royal reception – about which I can’t say much yet – but it’s lots of fun and lots of work, including planning.

The record label keeps on keeping on, with Marianne Faithful getting great reviews and LOTS of column inches – funny, “column inches” takes on a new meaning in the context of Marianne’s recent press quotes! We’re proud to have her on the label, - and I sadly had to miss a fantastic night when Andrew Bowles, our MD took her and her manager out for dinner. I had to bunk out at the last minute, partly because the production rehearsals were still going on, and partly because I wasn't feeling well – probably the stress of all this stuff at the same time! (I’m fine now).

Caro Emerald (who is already, -as I’m sure you know) MASSIVE in Holland, is doing well here on Dramatico, and Radio seem to love her. Check out the album “Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor”. We are holding back the absolute killer single until just the right moment, when hopefully she can come over and promote it.
We’ve also got a great new album out by TD Lind “The Outskirts Of Prosper”. Go to to see his EPK.

Better not prattle on about all our Dramatico music stuff, or the one artist I don’t mention will get miffed! Suffice to say we are a VERY busy little company at the moment and this bright spring Sunday morning is a welcome respite from the excitement and pressure that always seem to go together! A cup of coffee, and a blog to write. TIME to write a blog, -I never see it as a chore, and you will have noticed that this one is way too long! Anyway. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading some of it.

I’ve had time to spend some weekends with my daughters (Robin and Sam) from my first marriage, -and their kids. So I haven’t COMPLETELY workaholicked my way through the last few months. My grandchildren are growing up fast – and are a great delight (two 5 year olds) – except I guess I don’t see them often enough, which is my own fault. I don’t go into family matters much in blogs – I’m not sure it’s healthy. Some things are private, so I’ll leave it at that.

There's also been lots of stuff going on with Government and copyright, - which I get involved with in my role as Deputy Chairman of the BPI., but my last blog covered a lot of that.

Have a good next few weeks. Maybe see you along the tour route somewhere.

All the best,


Tuesday, 18 January 2011

If Music Be The Food Of Technology, Tuck in for free!


The Government has commissioned an Intellectual Property review, the Hargreaves IP Review which has tasked professor Ian Hargreaves and a team of Chosen Ones to deliver a report making recommendations about whether Intellectual Property (copyrights of songs, films, books. etc) is perhaps a bit too protected, and judging from the Terms Of Reference, there is a suggestion that perhaps copyright protection is getting in the way of the establishment and growth of - well, "growth". They don't specify growth of what - but it's pretty clear they mean growth of the internet delivery/dissemination industry (Google, ISPs, download and streaming sites, etc.,) not the industry which is founded on and caring for the protection of copyright works. Copyright generates lots of money for the country and provides some, not all, artists, writers and entrepreneurs with a living so that they can continue to create high quality art and entertainment for the consumer. The music and film businesses are under heavy threat and are shrinking because of illegal downloading and piracy. The Digital Economy Act, passed just before this government was elected, gives scant, but at least some protection against illegal file sharing - but it puts a massive financial responsibility on the creator or entrepreneur (the music and film industry) to pay for the "policing" of the system. It doesn't help that there is a free appeals system for those who get caught illegally file sharing, so technically, everyone caught doing it could appeal for free, and jam the system. And trust me, they will! If they can throw fire extinguishers off Millbank Tower they can organise a mass appeal against illegal file sharing. It's not rocket surgery.

By the way - I speak as someone who stayed up all night at Millbank watching the results come in, and walked home at 6 am happy that David Cameron would almost certainly become Prime Minister, and I am still a loyal supporter of Cameron and his team. I just think Mr Cameron has some people whispering in his ear, who are very misguided on the matter of the protection of copyright -v- the right of the people to get free music, and the right of startup delivery systems to get a leg-up at the expense of the copyright owners and creators. David made a speech recently saying that Google could never have started up in this country because copyright law is too tight. That is utter bollocks. Sorry David. Steve Hilton, David's senior spin-doctor, is married to Rachel Whetsone, a paid lobbyist-and senior executive of Google. I'm sure there has been no influence there, of course. I'm assured there isn't. The reason Google started up in Silicon Valley is because that's where you go to start up an internet business, that's where the understanding internet entrepreneur banks, investors and technology are.

The british music business (and by the way these are my views as an individual, not officially imparted in my role as Deputy Chairman of the British Phonographic Industry, although I feel passionately about it in that capacity too) - is ready and willing to help Government achieve its aims to create growth so that copyright and technology can hold hands and skip together through the land of milk and honey, but it does rather wear you down when you fight for years to get a rather inadequate copyright protection Act (the DEA) and then see Terms Of Reference for an IP review describing music/film business interests as BARRIERS to growth. Growth of internet companies, you understand, not growth for all.

I think I am a Red Tory, by the way, - having only just read about what they are. I'd never heard of them, but if I've got them right, I AM one; it's what I've always been. You think TORY when it comes to business encouragement, and help for growth, and for good economic management, and you think SOCIALIST when it comes to using that wealth to help the disadvantaged and to give people a leg up to the bright side of life, hopefully using and enabling their own human endeavour. When I was asked to write the music for William Hague's General Election campaign I asked to be assured that the party would be moving to the left (ie to the centre) and was assured that this was indeed all that was human and natural. But it didn't. I felt a bit betrayed, but I've kept on supporting them recently, because I truly believe that DC and his team really are going to try as hard as possible balance the see-saw from the middle.

So, not as an anti-government activist or disgruntled government opponent, but as a concerned member of the artistic working classes (defined as "those who work and would quite like to get paid"), here is my Guide to, or translation of, the Terms Of Reference of the imminent review.

Firstly, here are the REAL terms of reference:.


Intellectual Property and Growth: Terms of Reference

The Review will develop proposals on how the UK's intellectual property
framework can further promote entrepreneurialism, economic growth and
social and commercial innovation. It will examine the available evidence as to
how far the IP framework currently promotes these objectives, drawing on US
and European as well as UK experience, and focusing in particular on:

• Identification of barriers to growth in the IP system, and how to
overcome them;

• How the IP framework could better enable new business models
appropriate to the digital age.

Among the subjects to which the Review is expected to bring this perspective

• IP and barriers to new internet-based business models, including
information access, costs of obtaining permissions from existing
rights-holders, and investigating what are the benefits of “fair use”
exceptions to copyright and how these might be achieved in the UK;

• The cost and complexity of enforcing IP rights within the UK and

• The interaction of the IP and Competition frameworks;

• The cost and complexity to SMEs of accessing IP services to help
them to protect and exploit IP.

The Review will make recommendations:

• on how the IP system nationally and internationally can best work to
promote innovation and growth in the 21st century with a view to
setting the agenda for the long term;

• on what short and medium term measures can be taken now within
the international framework to give the UK a competitive advantage.

The Review will report to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and
Skills and to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in April 2011.


And now, Da Daarh... here is


Intellectual Property and Growth: Terms of Reference

The Review will develop proposals on how the UK's intellectual property
framework can further promote entrepreneurialism, economic growth and
social and commercial innovation for the interests of internet delivery and dissemination operators.

It will examine the available evidence as to how far the IP framework currently promotes these objectives, drawing on US and European as well as UK experience, and focusing in particular on:

• Identification of barriers put up by creators and copyright owners to growth of the interests of delivery system operators, and how to overcome them;

• How the IP framework could be weakened to enable new internet dissemination operators’ business models appropriate to the digital age, at the expense of artists, writers, performers and entrepreneurs in the IP ownership sector.

Among the subjects to which the Review is expected to bring this perspective

• IP and barriers (put up by creators who seem to want to be paid for their work), to new internet-based business model entrepreneurs, including information access, costs of obtaining permissions from existing rights-holders, and investigating what are the benefits of “fair use” exceptions to copyright and how these might be achieved in the UK, with no examination of whether such “fair use” provisions may be desirable or of benefit and protection to copyright owners and those consumers who benefit from the existence of a rewarded artistic and entrepreneurial rights-owning community

• The cost and complexity of enforcing IP rights within the UK and
internationally, because paying a market value for something just doesn’t seem right, and contracts are so jolly hard to understand and negotiate.

• The interaction of the IP-owning bastards and Competition frameworks;

• The unfairly disadvantageous cost and complexity to internet SMEs of accessing IP services from creators to help them to protect and exploit IP for their advantage and development rather than that of the IP creator or owner.

The Review will make recommendations:

• on how the IP system nationally and internationally can best work to
promote innovation and growth of internet delivery companies in the 21st century with a view to setting the agenda at the expense of creators and IP owners and ultimately the consumer for the long term;

• on what short and medium term measures can be taken now within
the international framework to give the UK internet delivery and retail startups and existing operators a competitive advantage over rights holders.

The Review will report to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and
Skills and to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in April 2011.