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👉🏻 Review: Album No. 8

👉🏻 The Adventures of Bad Katie bad katie


26.01.21   >   Track Notes 115: Wonderful Life

Album:  

Writer:

Colin Vearncombe

Length:

3:32

Notes:

I'm showing my age here but I loved this song when I first heard it back in 1987. It was the breakthrough single for Black (a.k.a. Colin Vearncombe). It is sad that artists such as this are often ignorantly labelled as 'one-hit wonders' when in truth they have dedicated years both before and after to their passion for music. At the end of the day, it is only the public that decide what is a hit, and the public are nothing if not fickle. Work ethic and talent are no guarantee of success in the cut-throat music industry—without Lady Luck on your side your chances of making it are slim.

Just like Springsteen's "Born In The USA", the lyrics of "Wonderful Life" are taken at face value by most people. It is seen as a feel-good song, but, as with Springsteen's hit, it was meant to be ironic. Vearncombe was broke when he wrote it and struggling to make it in the industry. But Premier Inn seized on the feel-good factor in 2015 when they ran a massive ad campaign featuring Katie's sensational cover. Who knows, it may have revived Vearncombe's career but just a few months later, he died following a traffic accident. Lady Luck can be callous indeed.

YouTube:

Here is the official video: Wonderful Life
and here is an exquisite live performance in Berlin from 2017 Wonderful Life Live in Berlin

Lyrics:

Wonderful Life 

24.01.21   >   The Adventures of Bad Katie - Episode 3

episode 3

Her local backstreet vinyl store was one of Bad Katie’s favourite haunts. She’d already spent most of the afternoon lurking around in there and her tummy was beginning to ask her mouth for an explanation of why it wasn’t already sending any khachapuri its way.
She was clutching a pristine copy of Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” but the £1oo price tag was making her nose twitch. She glanced across at the counter assistant and made her mind up. Just in front of the Bob Dylan section she noticed Val Doonican. She picked out a grubby copy of “Rocking Chair Favourites”, priced at 99p, placed it on top of the Dylan, and headed for the counter. The assistant looked thoroughly inconvenienced and made a deliberately testy show of removing his earbuds.
Bad Katie pointed to the wall behind him. “Can I look at that copy of ‘Back To Black’?”
The assistant sighed and turned round to take the album off its mount. Whilst his back was turned, Bad Katie slipped the Dylan into her tote bag and placed the Doonican on the counter.
“There you are,” said the assistant, handing her the Winehouse album.
Bad Katie quickly extracted the vinyl and studied it. “Hardly been played, I reckon. As it should be.”
“Do you want it then?”
“What? Fifty quid? You having a laugh mate? Couldn’t pay me to listen. Can’t stand the woman.”
The assistant looked perplexed. “Then why did you ask to look at it?”
“I wanted to check if it was gold plated. Should be for that price.”
He shrugged. “I don’t do the pricing.”
“Notice you’ve got a couple of mine in. I’ve signed them for you.”
The part-time assistant weighed her up briefly. He didn’t know who Katie was but couldn’t be arsed to lecture her on defacing the merchandise so he just smiled weakly.
Bad Katie winked at him. “I’d tell whoever does do the pricing to bump them up a tenner if I were you. You’re whelks!”
“So it’s just that you want then?” he said, nodding disdainfully at the Doonican.
“For now, yes.”
“That what you in to is it?”
Bad Katie laughed hysterically. “Course not, silly. It’s a birthday present for my Dad.”
“He’s lucky to have a daughter like you,” said the assistant sarcastically.
“Yes, he is,” agreed Bad Katie.
“That’ll be 99p then.”
Bad Katie slid a pound coin on to the counter, grabbed the Doonican and bolted for the door.
“Hey miss, your change!” shouted the assistant.
“Keep it,” called Katie as she pulled the door shut behind her.
The assistant looked at the penny in his hand, shook his head and threw it in the bin. He sighed, and then put Winehouse back in her place.

divider

Whilst walking home, Bad Katie passed the charity shop where she bought most of her clothes. She popped inside for a quick peruse, but nothing took her fancy. However, she did decide to splash out 20p on a biography of Johnny Cash. She stopped and sat down in the park and dipped in to it...

divider

Later that night, Bad Katie rang her manager and paced excitedly around her studio as she waited for him to pick up.
“Katie! My main lady. How’s it hanging?”
“Why are you talking like that, Sumit? You haven’t been sniffing glue again have you? Anyway, I’ve had a brilliant idea for a gig!”
“Oh. That’s nice. Go on then, knock me out.”
“I’m going to do a gig live inside a prison! For the prisoners.”
She was met with an uncomfortable silence.
“Sumit?”
“Oh, you were being serious,” said Sumit eventually.
“Of course. Johnny Cash did it. He got a tv special and an album out of it. He even wrote a song about it.”
“Johnny Cash was tougher than the inmates. He’d even been one. They’d eat you for breakfast.” He paused for a moment and reflected. “I love the idea!”
“Great, get it sorted. Let’s have a film crew in. We’ll make a DVD of the show and a documentary about it, and an album of course. Oh, and get me booked in on Lorraine to yap about it.”
“These things take a lot of organising, Katie. Especially in a prison. Lots of red tape, permits, etc.”
“Amazing how many other agents are courting me these days...”
“Okay, okay, I’ll see what I can do.”

divider

The camera crew were busying themselves in preparation for the gig. The director approached Bad Katie.
“Katie, we need to plan the camera angles for the video. Which is your best side?”
“My backside,” said Katie, and grinned idiotically at him.
He had no time for messing around and folded his arms to suggest as much.
“Don’t worry. Your little cameras are going to love me. I’m stunning from any angle.”
Nora, the makeup artist, was next on the scene, lugging her massive toolkit of paints and brushes. “Hi Katie!”
“Oh, not you again,” grumbled Bad Katie.
“Katie, why are you wearing those utterly ridiculous 8-inch platform heels?”
“I’m going to be on television! I need to look taller.”
“Well, you won’t look taller when you stumble and go arse over tit across the stage.”
“Chill pill, Nora. I’ve been wearing bad boys like these since my BRIT School days.”
Nora rolled her eyes and began dabbing her blusher.
“Besides,” added Bad Katie. “If things kick off here they make excellent nutcrushers!”

divider

Some cheap hopeful from the Comedy Store had been dragged in to act as a warm up act and MC for the show.
“Ladies, Gentlemen, and inmates! If my warm up routine bored ya, you’ll be ready for the gal from Georgia… it’s always a pleasure to view her, it’s Katie Mel-ooh-err!”
Bad Katie plodded a little unsteadily up to the microphone in her platform bricks, making sure she deliberately trod on the MC’s foot as they passed.
“Hi everyone, my name is Katie Melua and I’m from the beautiful country of Georgia!”
“Then bugger off back there,” yelled someone from the right. From the far right, probably.
Bad Katie gazed coolly in his direction. “Actually I’m going on a skiing trip there next week. In my private jet. Fancy coming with me? Oh, hang on, you can’t because you’re in prison. Shame.”
A few uneasy rumblings and grumblings echoed around.
Bad Katie grinned. “Right, let’s get this show started! I want to begin with a cover of an amazing song by The Animals.”
A guy on the front row looked knowingly at the one next to him. “House Of The Rising Sun, I expect.”
Bad Katie began singing...

In this dirty old part of the city
Where the sun refused to shine...

divider

Later that night, back in her manager’s office, the inquest was under way.
“You look like you’ve been dragged backwards through a hedge,” said Sumit.
“Well. I have actually. The security guards had to smuggle me out quite unceremoniously once things kicked off.”
Sumit shook his head. “Oh, Katie. What happened? You were meant to open with ‘Closest Thing’ and ’Nine Million Bicycles’.”
“Yeah, bit bored of them, t.b.h.”
“So, instead, you chose a cover of ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’.”
Bad Katie smirked.
“And then ‘I Want To Break Free’,” continued Sumit.
Bad Katie chuckled.
“As if that wasn’t enough, you picked this, of all occasions, to have a stab at ‘I Predict A Riot’. ”
Bad Katie giggled.
“What on earth were you thinking, Katie?”
“I was proud of my strumming pattern on that!”
“Oh, and smashing your guitar to bits at the end? What exactly was that about?”
“Just had a bit of a rock and roll moment.”
“Then pouring lighter fluid on it and setting it on fire? Are you having a mid-life crisis or something?”
“Thought it would give them a bit of a show.”
“It did that alright. Set the sprinklers off and the alarms going, oh and I mustn’t forget the mass brawl that ensued. It was mayhem!”
Bad Katie shrugged. “Never know how a crowd will turn out.”
Sumit rolled his eyes and sighed wearily. “This is the closest thing to crazy you have ever been. You may be feeling thirty-six but you’re acting seventeen.”
“Think those lines are already taken,” said Bad Katie.
“The prison governor was considering pressing charges against you for incitement, you know,” said Sumit.
“Oh, you can make that go away, can’t you?”
“Yeah, yeah. I already have. I gave him a signed copy of your latest album and one of your scented candles for his wife.”
“That’s all good then. So, I’m booked in on Lorraine tomorrow morning?”
Sumit rubbed his eyes wearily. “I don’t know how we can promote this show. It was a train wreck, frankly.”
“Don’t be such a drama queen. They can edit out anything unsuitable. Just show the best bits.”
“We’d be left with about eight minutes of footage!”
Bad Katie rose to her feet, albeit rather unsteadily as she was still wearing those platforms. She towered over Sumit with them on, much to her amusement. She patted his cheeks and tweaked his nose. “It’ll be fine. Charlie’s a wizz in the edit room. He’ll make it look amazing.”
Sumit exhaled slowly. “Very well. I’ll email Lorraine’s people. They wanted to know if you need anything on your rider.”
“Ooh yes. Let me see now. Cinnamon Pop-Tarts, jumbo bag of Monster Munch, three cans of Red Bull, a badminton racket and a pack of hibiscus and hydrangea scented tea lights.”
“Why the hell do you need a badminton racket?”
“I don’t. Just like to keep them on their toes. Anyway, it might come in handy. There’s always flies in those breakfast tv dressing rooms. Right, I’m off. See you later, alligator!”
Bad Katie clumped off to the door and left. Sumit switched his television on to catch the late news. He read the strap-line at the bottom of the screen: “BREAKING: Mass breakout after riots at local prison...”
Sumit sank back in his chair and hid his face in his palms.


23.01.21   >   Don't Think Twice

For those of you still resisting the perceived horror of Instagram, here's the kind of thing you are missing out on. It really doesn't get any better than Katie and her guitar singing Dylan's "Don't Think Twice".

21.01.21   >   The Adventures of Bad Katie - Episode 2

episode 2

Nora, the makeup artist, went to find Bad Katie, who was supposed to be in her dressing room. She found her back stage. A roadie was on all fours and Bad Katie was sitting on his back, legs crossed, tapping and swiping on her phone.
“Er… Katie, what are you doing?”
“Mind your own business. I’m on Twitter. More trolling.”
“Oh no, you getting trolled again? I’m sorry. People are so horrible.”
Bad Katie gazed at her levelly. “I’m trolling them.”
“Oh. I see. Well, no, anyway, what I meant was, why are you sitting on that poor man?”
“What poor man?” said Bad Katie, looking around. “Oh, you mean the roadie? Couldn’t find a decent chair anywhere. Besides, roadies are more comfortable."
“The poor sod is turning purple. How long has he been down there?”
Bad Katie shrugged. “Dunno. Not long. Couple of hours maybe? Who cares? It’s his job.”
“Erm, I’m not sure technically it is his job…”
“No, I mean he does what I say or he loses his job."
Nora crouched down to address the hapless roadie. “Mate, you can’t let her humiliate you like this. I’s just a job. Tell her where to shove it!”
“Like, I am actually here you know,” said Bad Katie.
“Thanks lady,” said the roadie, breathlessly. “But I can’t. She had me sign a contract.”
“What contract?” said Nora.
“A slave contract. She got me drunk one night and took some compromising photos of me. Said I had to sign the slave contract and do whatever she says or she’ll email the pics to my missus. She's got me by the short and curlies. The missus would do worse things than this, believe me.”
Nora rolled her eyes and rose to her feet again. “Katie! You can’t do stuff like this. I thought you were into human rights?”
“I am! But he’s not human, he’s a roadie. And it is my right to do what I like with my roadie.”
Nora shook her head. “Not quite the angel people think, are you?”
“Whatever. Anyway, what do you want? These morons won’t troll themselves you know.”
“I’ve come to do your makeup of course.”
“Bloody Nora! Have you even seen me? Do I look like I need makeup?”
“It’s just to stop your skin shining in the lights.”
“Then turn off the bloody lights!”
“Katie! Then no one would see you.”
“Suppose. Well, just don’t make me look like a bloody Geisha again. I looked so pale last time a fan sent me a sunbed. Cheek. Still, useful for drying ganja.”
At that moment, the venue manager arrived on the scene. “Hi Miss Melua, just checking everything is… why are you sitting on that man?”
“Don’t ask,” said Nora.
“No, everything is not okay,” said Bad Katie. “I’m a multi-million selling artist you know and you expect me to sit on one of those hideous plastic chairs?”
“Oh, sorry, I’ll look into it of course.”
“Too late. Don’t bother. I bring my own as you can see. And about my rider—where is the fresh garlic?”
“You mean you actually wanted that? We thought it was a joke. Why would you want garlic? Are you expecting vampires or something?”
Bad Katie glared at him. “I’m doing meet and greets after the show, imbecile. I always chew garlic before those. Now toddle off and get some, pronto.”
“Right you are, Miss Melua. I’ll go and see to that straight away.”
The bemused venue manager slinked away. Bad Katie shook her head. “Can’t get the staff these days.”

divider

“LAY-DEEZ and gentlemen!” roared the MC, who clearly had been watching too much wrestling on television. “Created in Kutaisi. Blossomed in Batumi. Talented in Tbilisi. Please give a raucous welcome to the stage for the one, the only, the truly original, KAY-TEEEE MEL-OOOOAAA!!!”
Bad Katie stood offstage, hand on hips, looking less than impressed as the MC swaggered towards her, looking rather pleased with himself. He winked at her. “Knock ‘em dead, sweetheart.”
She kicked him firmly in the knackers then strolled purposefully out towards the spotlight, her patented and perfected sweet smile firmly set. “Hello Nottingham!”
The crowd gave her their usual rapturous reception, which she quietly milked for a moment as the band settled and prepared behind her. “Okay. So how many bicycles would you like to hear?”
“NINE MILLION!” roared the crowd, in vague unison. There were several whoops and whistles, presumably from people that didn’t know the answer to the question.
“Maybe later, if you’re good! But first, here’s another absolute classic from Mike Batt.”
“Closest Thing To Crazy,” shouted a lone attention-seeker from somewhere in the cheap seats.
Bad Katie grinned. “It’s called ‘Wombling Free’...”

divider

First in line at the meet and greets was Bad Katie’s self-proclaimed Number One Fan. He shuffled eagerly forward, grinning like the love child of The Joker and a Cheshire cat.
“Hey Katie! It’s me, your number one fan!” said NOF, cheerfully.
“Oh wow!” exclaimed Bad Katie, with Oscar-worthy false sincerity. “Are you really my number one boy?”
“Of course!”
“Cool. Show me the tattoo.”
“Er… what tattoo?”
“To tell the world, of course! If you’re my Number One Boy then you need to have that tattooed on you so everyone will know that you’re my Number One Boy.”
“Oh. Yes, you’re right. As always. I’ll get it done tomorrow, I promise.”
“Good boy!” Bad Katie winked at him. “My Number One Boy!”
NOF beamed at her childishly. “Which arm should I have it—right or left?”
“Oh no,” said Bad Katie. “It needs to be where everyone can see it, so everyone knows how much you love me!”
“Ah, yes, of course it does. Silly me. So...”
“Have it tattooed on your forehead, obviously.”
“Forehead. Right. Yes. Okay. But, will ’Katie’s Number One Boy’ fit?”
“Just have the acronym, silly. Ask the tattooist to tattoo K.N.O.B. on your forehead.”
“Gotcha! Thanks Katie, you’re the best!”
“I know. Now run along and get that tattoo and next time I’ll have a lovely selfie with you.”
“Can’t wait! I’m going to find a tattooist right away.”
“Good for you. Off you go then, there’s a good boy. Next!”
NOF shuffled off, beyond excited at being labelled Katie’s Number One Boy.
Next, a guy that looked like he whittled meerkats out of driftwood sauntered up to her.
“Hi. What’s your name?” said Bad Katie, almost as if she cared.
“Rupert.”
“Rupert? But, you’ve got clothes on.”
“Er… yeah?”
“Rupert was supposed to be bare!”
Bad Katie guffawed at her own joke. Rupert stared at her blankly.
“Rupert, Rupert The Bear? Oh, ffs. What do you want me to sign?”
Rupert meekly proffered an event flyer taken from the lobby of the theatre.
Bad Katie glared at him disdainfully. “No album then?”
“Oh, er, I’m hoping to get it for Christmas. I’ve been dropping hints.”
“Cheapskate,” muttered Bad Katie. She scrawled something on his flyer that was difficult to make out but appeared to be a four letter word and a three letter word. She handed it back to him and shepherded him off, then beckoned the next victim forward.
“And what’s your name?”
“Arthur.”
“Arthur? Are they still actually calling people that? Well Art, what do you do?”
“Actually, I used to be a monk until I discovered your music. You could say your music changed the key of my life.”
“I see. So you’re no longer a monk.”
“No.”
“Now you’re a monkey!”
Bad Katie giggled loudly, signed the bewildered Arthur’s CD and shooed him away.
The next guy mooched forward, looking every inch the creep he probably was.
“What’s your name?” asked Bad Katie, almost civilly.
“Neil.”
“Not gonna happen mate. You should be the one kneeling to me.”
“No, my name is Neil.”
“Whatever. What would you like me to sign?”
Neil winked at her and smirked. “I was hoping you might sign my little friend.”
“Oh, I’m not much good at signing small, squidgy things, and I doubt if my name would fit anyway. Tell you what though, I’ll have a go at putting my initials on it for you. Jump up on to the table and drop your pants.” She turned to the photographer and said “you may need a zoom lens for this one.”
“Eh? What? You mean here? In front of everyone?” stuttered Neil.
“Duh. This is where I’m signing, numbnuts. What, did you think I’d agree to go back to your seedy hotel room with you? Dream on.”
“You’re weird, lady,” said Neil, and made a hasty retreat.
Bad Katie sniggered. “I love my job,” she said, to no one in particular. “Next!”

divider

As Bad Katie left the theatre, her self-proclaimed Number One Fan was waiting for her outside the stage door as usual.
“Hi, Katie, it’s me—your number one fan!”
“No shit,” muttered Bad Katie. “I thought I told you to get a tattoo.”
“Oh I will, tomorrow. But I just wanted one more selfie with you.”
“Why? Have you lost the other four thousand three hundred and seventeen you’ve taken?”
Number One Fan grinned like an idiot, appropriately. “I’ve got a brand new, top-of-the-range iPhone!”
“Let’s see it,” said Bad Katie.
He fished it out of his jacket pocket, in the process managing to drop his house keys down the drain he was standing next to. In his eagerness, he failed to notice, but Bad Katie did, and she struggled to suppress a snigger. She took the phone from him. “Ooh, nice. Let me take a pic of you first.”
“Oh, okay.”
Number One Fan stepped back a few paces and adopted a needlessly cheery expression of glee as Bad Katie held the phone up and pretended to frame him. “Oh wait,” she said. “Who’s that behind you?”
Number One Fan turned round to look who was spoiling his photo. There was no one in sight. Confused, he turned back to Bad Katie. She was already legging it down the alleyway.
“Hey, Katie, you’ve still got my phone,” he wailed.
But she was gone.


19.01.21   >   Katie Bite: English Manner

English Manner

17.01.21   >   The Adventures of Bad Katie - Episode 1

There is a school of thought that there may be an infinite number of Universes. The theory suggests that whatever version of yourself you care to imagine, there is a parallel universe where that you actually exists. It follows, therefore, that somewhere there is a universe where Katie’s alter-ego exists. Let’s call her Bad Katie...

(Please remember the following events take place in an alternate universe and bear no relation to our Katie whatsoever!)


episode 1

“Just going for a run,” said Bad Katie cheerfully. She pulled the door shut behind her and started jogging purposefully down the street. As soon as she turned the corner on to the main road she stopped, put two fingers in either side of her mouth, and let out a piercing whistle which was so shrill and loud it caused a policeman across the road to look around in alarm and promptly walk into a lamp post. Bad Katie sniggered at him and then jumped into the cab that had pulled up in front of her.
“Where to, miss?” said the driver.
“Don’t care,” said Bad Katie, whipping out her phone. “Just drive around for twenty minutes then bring me back here.”
“Sorry miss, have to have a destination. It’s the rules.”
Bad Katie glared at him. “How far away do you live?”
“Erm, well, only about ten minutes from here as it happens. Why?”
“Then drive to your house, honk your horn at the missus and bring me back.”
The driver shrugged. “As you wish, miss.”
“And stop calling me miss, you blithering yokel.”
“Right you are, er, ma’am.”
Bad Katie rolled her eyes as the driver pulled away. She held her phone against the window and took a snap of the dazed policeman sitting on the pavement as she went past. Her thumbs flew over the screen and seconds later the hapless constable was chalking up hundreds of laughing emojis on her Instagram account.

divider

A few minutes later, the taxi driver, having duly passed his own house and dutifully honked at his bemused wife, who had happened to be in the front garden pruning her dahlias, was en route with his curious passenger to the spot where he’d picked her up. He kept glancing at her in the rear view mirror, though she didn’t notice—she was too engrossed in her phone. He thought she seemed familiar.
“Excuse me mi… er, ma’am. Don’t I know you from somewhere?”
Bad Katie scowled at him. “How the hell would I know who you know?”
His eyes widened. “You’re that pop star woman!”
Bad Katie closed her eyes and sighed. “Here we go…” she muttered.
“Yes! You’re that one what got dragged along the floor singing about bikes. Hang on, I know this… yes, Amy Whynot.”
“How very dare you! Stop right here. I’m not going to be insulted by Homer Simpson driving a cab.”
The driver sheepishly pulled over. Bad Katie hurled a tenner over his shoulder. “Keep the change.”
“But miss, I mean ma’am, this isn’t enough...”
Bad Katie was already out of the cab and storming down the road. The driver shook his head and drove away, scowling at Bad Katie as he passed her; which she gleefully snapped on her phone and had up on Instagram within seconds, with the caption “omg, just had the cabbie from hell!”
Still chuckling about her post, she popped into a newsagents and emerged with a packet of cigarettes and a disposable lighter. She hurriedly lit a fag and took a long drag, then continued on her way. She soon reached her local market, where she winked and blew kisses at almost every trader. She noticed the guy on the sweets stall was new, and she didn’t like the look of him. She took a final drag of her fag and then flicked the butt into an open box of milk gums.
Bad Katie was just outside the market when she noticed something shiny in the gutter. It was a large fish, presumably fallen off a trader’s crate. She looked around to make sure no one was looking, then picked it up and tucked it under her jacket. She walked the rest of the way home with a big grin on her face, whistling merrily.

divider

“Hi deda, I’m back,” said Bad Katie as she took her jacket off in the hall. Deciding it smelled a bit fishy she just dropped it on the floor so someone else would assume it needed washing. She took the fish in to her mother in the kitchen. “I picked up dinner at the market,” she said, slapping the whiffy item onto the counter.
“Oh, good girl. You’re so thoughtful. I can make a lovely stew with that.”
“Yeah, be nice for the rest of you. I’m good though, just ordered a pizza with ham and corn on the cob.”
“You mean sweetcorn,” said mother.
“No. On the cob, dripping with butter.”
Her mother looked at her quizzically.
Bad Katie stuck her tongue out at her and left the kitchen. “I’ll be in my studio. You can bring the pizza up to me when it arrives, can’t you? Ta, ma. I have an idea for a new song.”

divider

A few days later, Bad Katie was slouched on the sofa in her manager’s office. Sumit entered and handed her a coffee in a mug that said “For all you know, this is gin” on it. It was her usual mug, which usually did contain gin.
Bad Katie took the chewing gum out of her mouth and stuck it under the arm of the sofa. She took a sip of coffee and pulled a right old face in disgust. She plonked the mug down on Sumit’s desk and rubbed her hands together. “Right then, I’ve written another song for the new album.”
“Excellent!” said Sumit. “It’s about time we thought of a name for the album. I was thinking ‘Visions From Broken Dreams’.”
Bad Katie screwed her face up. “What the hell does that mean? Nah. Let’s call it ’The New Album’.”
Sumit changed the subject. “Well, there’s no rush. So what’s this new song about?”
“A fish.”
“A fish?”
“A fish. I found a fish the other day, and it inspired me. The lyrics just flooded out of me when I got home.”
“Er… okay. Can I hear it then?”
Bad Katie cleared her throat and began to sing.
“I… ”
She stopped. “No, hang on. Let me drop an octave.”
She began again, in a lower voice.


I found a fish
so I made a wish
and a fishy dish
it was so delish!


She looked at Sumit and raised her eyebrows expectantly. “Well? What do you think?”
Sumit gazed at her blankly. “Is that it?”
“It’s catchy isn’t it?” She grinned gleefully at him. “See what I did there? Catchy? Fish?”
“Right. And how does the next verse go?”
“There isn’t one. I don’t think it needs more. It perfectly captures the whole event, just like a haiku. And every line is a rhyme! How clever am I?”
“Well...”
“No, no, don’t. You’ll embarrass me.”
“I do feel it needs to be longer than seventeen seconds,” suggested Sumit.
“Ah, yes, well, what I thought I’d do is repeat the verse several times, with a key change each time, you know, to add a bit of drama.”
“Okay, that’s good, yes, that might work,” lied Sumit.
Bad Katie beamed at him. “Knew you’d love it.”
“Tell you what, Katie. You seem to have tapped into a vein. Why don’t you go back to your studio for a few weeks and see what other gems you can uncover?”
“I might just do that!” she said, leaping to her feet excitedly. “No rest for the wicked, eh?”
She slapped Sumit playfully on the backside, winked at him and skipped out of the room.
Sumit sighed. He sat down at his computer and fired off a memo to his secretary: “if Katie calls in the next month tell her I’m out of the office attending a folk festival in Fiji.”
There was a shrill whistle outside. Sumit got up and looked out of the window down at the street. Bad Katie was clambering into a cab...

“Where to miss?” said the cabbie. He glanced at his passenger in the mirror and his heart sank. “I mean, ma’am...”


11.01.21   >   AYMHM 12: Blade Runner

Another album you may have missed... (see them all HERE)

I’ve seen things you people would not believe: attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark at the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain….

Few movie endings have affected me more than Blade Runner. (Actually, the film has had several “cuts” with different endings, but I’m referring to the iconic rooftop-in-the-rain scene.) Those three beautiful lines were never in the script; they were improvised by Rutger Hauer himself and Ridley Scott wisely elected to leave them in. As final words, they would be moving enough for a human being, but remember—Roy is a replicant, a machine. One of the things that was said to define Data as an android in Star Trek was his inability to use contractions. He would always say “I have” instead of “I’ve”. I always considered this a silly limitation and it was rightly ignored in Blade Runner. An android powered by machine learning would have no problem learning to speak like humans around it and Scott was quite right not to have his actors even attempt to alter their voices in any way. What is more interesting to me is that he allowed them the use of metaphor. Could artificial intelligence ever come up with a thought like “lost in time, like tears in rain”? That is something I can’t quite make my mind up on. How amazing it would be if humans could create a machine capable of that level of thought independent of programming. I could write a book on the subject, but for now I must rein in my thoughts and stick to the music of Blade Runner. Surely one of the finest soundtracks ever created, the marriage of a dystopian future with the music of Vangelis was one made in heaven.

blade runner

Blade Runner

Vangelis

The classical style of composition of Vangelis allied to his love of electronic instruments are a perfect blend for science fiction and space-themed imagery. Carl Sagan, in his legendary series ‘Cosmos’, used several Vangelis pieces for his soundtrack and with similar memorable results.

The light and shade Vangelis delivers is breathtaking. Music that can be futuristic but also nostalgic, or full of longing, or dramatic or poignant. Rachel’s Song features achingly beautiful vocal instrumentation by Mary Hopkin (best known for her early 70s hit ’Those Were The Days’). 'Damask Rose' is both haunting and enchanting, transporting you instantly to some bustling Middle-Eastern market bazaar. Then there’s the ending… 'Tears In Rain'. Hauer’s memorable words float around your brain before Vangelis takes you on a fading journey towards the eternal light with an ever-soaring yet diminishing melody that gradually dissipates into a howling wind. It is impossibly moving and an absolute no-brainer as the last song I want played at my funeral! It is so rare to find a film where the visual and audio elements are so inextricably intertwined that you cannot imagine the one without the other. I can think of a few other examples but none better than Blade Runner.

Listen to Blade Runner on Spotify via the link below:

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09.01.21   >   Lyric Card: Diamonds Are Forever

Diamonds Are Forever

07.01.21   >   Track Notes 114: Fields of Gold

Album:  

Writer:

Sting

Length:

3:32

Notes:

This is what I might call a 'stealth classic'. Upon its release in 1993 it was unable to climb any higher than 16 in the UK charts, yet most people would probably assume it had been a number one for Sting. Songs that seemingly under-perform yet ultimately are considered classics are a bit puzzling. My own theory is that it might have something to do with dreamy ballads. Catchy pop songs that get your feet tapping and have a hook that becomes an earworm in your brain tend to dominate the number one spot, whereas a song like "Fields of Gold" may make you think, 'aw, how lovely' without necessarily rushing out to buy it. And of course, young people are less into ballads and they tend to be the prime market for singles purchasing. By the time those young people have lived another decade they will start to become more receptive to ballads and realise that actually, songs like "Fields of Gold" are pretty good. In time, such songs get a booster shot from cover versions; in this case, notably, by Eva Cassidy who took the song to another level, and hence they burrow ever deeper into the collective consciousness.

Katie recorded the song as the BBC Children in Need single for 2017. She could easily have put her own stamp on it but instead chose to follow Eva's stunning interpretation. This backfired slightly as there were some grumblings amongst Cassidy fans on social media that Katie was merely copying their idol—clearly they were ignorant to the fact that Eva was Katie's idol too, and she was honouring her with this performance. It is also worth pointing out this was for charity and not Katie's own financial gain. Personally, I actually prefer Katie's performance, probably because my ear is now perfectly attuned to the frequency of Katie's voice (yes, technically frequencies, I know, but I'm referring to tuning as in a radio dial—I'm tuned in to her radio station if you like). In that sense, I would have liked to have seen how Katie might have interpreted the song her own way but you can't have your cake and eat it and I think on balance she was right to emulate Eva. But that is why I trust Katie—she always makes the right choices.

YouTube:

If you haven't seen the official video then I'm actually torn between pitying you and being ragingly indignant. If you have you'll be more than happy to see it again. So here is the link: Fields of Gold

Lyrics:

Fields of Gold 

03.01.21   >   The Stats Don't Lie

What exactly is a singer-songwriter? Simplistically, I suppose it is someone that sings and also writes songs. Glad I could clear that up for you. Of course, I’m talking more about public perception of an artist. Katie was a singer-songwriter before she ever met Mike Batt. But after her first three albums the perception was that she was a singer, being fed hits written by Mike along with a fair sprinkling of covers. I’ve crunched the numbers in gruesome detail in the past so I won’t bore you with a spreadsheet of stats again but the reason I’m bringing all this up now is that with the release of Album No. 8, Katie has passed a significant landmark: her songwriting involvement has now passed 50% of her studio-recorded songs. Just over 51% in fact, of released studio material has been written or co-written by Katie herself. She officially writes more of her own songs than she sings covers and songs written for her. Covers are important, and I still have a wishlist longer than a horse’s face of songs I’d love Katie to record, but Album No. 8 needs to be the album that finally makes the public realise that not only is she a songwriter but she’s a bloody good one at that. It is time she was given the writing respect she deserves, especially for her lyrics. If people ask me who my favourite singer is I tell them Katie. If they bothered to ask who my favourite songwriter is they’d get the same answer. It is likely she will always be associated with “Closest Thing To Crazy” and “Nine Million Bicycles” since they were her biggest hits and the singles chart is a much different animal these days, but I do hope that one day, when I mention Katie’s name to someone, they’ll say “oh, didn’t she do ‘A Love Like That’?”. And I’ll say “Yes. And ‘Faraway Voice’. And ‘Belfast’. And ’Spider’s Web’. And ‘I Cried For You’. And ‘Forgetting All My Troubles’. And… er, how long have you got?” (I’m gambling that Katie will write a song called “Er, How Long Have You Got” at some point.) So there you have it. Armed with the awesome power of statistics to back you up, I now expect you all to perform your Ketefanistic duty and make sure everyone you ever meet (including Katie herself, should you be so lucky) is fully informed of what a wonderful songwriter she is. That’s all. You can go now.

01.01.21   >   Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Has a year ever been more warmly welcomed than 2021? It is understandable that we are glad to see the back of 2020, though I will forever be grateful to it for delivering Album No 8. Of course, we mustn’t expect too much of 2021, not right away. Today is only its first day on the job and it has a lot of mess to sort out. It is likely the first three months of the year will remain pretty bleak. We just have to hang on in there a bit longer. But come spring when the vaccines have rolled out the world will begin to seem a brighter place once. By summer, we might even be thinking about concerts again. So yes, it will take 2021 a while to find its feet but there is every reason to hope it will come good and deal with the problems it has inherited from 2020. Just imagine how much better next Christmas and New Year’s Eve is going to be! We can see a way out of the nightmare at last. For now, let’s keep supporting each other, spreading love and friendship, choosing to be nice rather than nasty and remember that we’re not just all in this pandemic together but we’re all on this little blue marble in space together and it is the only home we’ve got. Whatever your circumstances, be the best you can be, be yourself and appreciate others. Here’s to the year when humanity pulls together, overcomes an invisible enemy and then begins to realise that anything can be achieved when we work towards a common goal. Goodbye year of despair, welcome, year of hope!

31.12.20   >   End of Year Review 2020

Where do you even begin? Deep breath, here goes...

It was the best of years, it was the worst of years. No, hang on, that sounds a bit familiar, I think maybe some other hack has beaten me to that one. I suspect some of you already know what I’m getting at but I might as well be orderly and start at the beginning.

January. Good lord, it seems so long ago now doesn’t it? Sweet, innocent, much-maligned January. We all began with 2020 vision, hopeful of many things and suspecting nothing. Most of us were concerned with nothing more than trite hashtag fashions like ‘veganuary’ and whether we could cling on to our new year’s resolutions for more than a week. Yet, beneath our unsuspecting noses, global trouble was brewing, and it was brewing very fast! In the mean time, Katie was in Tbilisi recording tracks for her new album. All seemed well with the world...

February. Normality was still more or less upon us, but ill winds were blowing. Mid-month we were dismayed to hear that television presenter and former Strictly winner, Caroline Flack, had taken her own life. Press hounding and social media trolling had become too much for her. Social media can be such a wonderful thing but until humanity as a whole can eradicate hate and intolerance it will also be a breeding ground for the worst people as well as the best. Those of us that continue to dream of a world filled with peace and love may not live long enough to see it come to pass but we must carry on the fight to achieve it till our dying breath, and trust that those following behind us will pick up the baton. Love will prevail in the end. But if we needed cheering up, Katie, as usual, obliged when she took part in a concert at the London Palladium to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. She blew everyone away with “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”, “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright”, and quite possibly the most beautiful version of “Scarborough Fair” you will ever hear. She still has no idea just how good she is.

March. Here we go then. It started innocently enough and seemed to be going rather well by mid-month. Katie announced she had written a song called “No Better Magic” for Lisa Batiashvili’s album “City Lights”. It was a joyous announcement for us out of the blue. A less joyous announcement was that we would all have to go into lockdown. The news had been increasingly focussing on Covid-19 in the days and weeks before but it had always seemed like Somebody Else’s Problem. Suddenly it was a problem for all of us. Out of nowhere, the world was about to change.

April. We were all in shock at how quickly our lives had been turned upside down. We were self-isolating, washing our hands until we had no fingerprints left and rummaging around at the back of the store cupboard for anything still edible as panic-buying had stripped the supermarket shelves more effectively than locusts. One of the abiding images of the time will be that of people pushing supermarket trollies piled high above their heads with toilet rolls. To this day I have no idea why. For those of us living alone, self-isolation didn’t feel greatly different but for families and social animals it was already apparent it would be a challenging time. Yet already there were signs that the British ‘wartime spirit’ would come to the fore and unite us all in a time of need. We were beginning to pull together. Katie, yet again, gave us a boost we all needed when “No Better Magic” was unleashed. It was aptly titled, because for some of us there is no better magic than Katie’s voice. A video for the song was released featuring photos from Instagram. Somehow, yours truly made the cut. Blink and you’ll miss it. I advise you to blink. Mind you, Katie wasn’t the only one doing her bit to boost morale. Across the pond, his Royal Bobness, despite being busy practising how to spell ‘octagenarian’, calmly threw us a bone in the form of a 17-minute epic, “Murder Most Foul”. In fact, it wasn’t so much a bone as an entire cow. Those who thought his sixteen and a half minute “Highlands” would never be exceeded clearly made the mistake of underestimating the peerless Mr Dylan. Back in Katieland, our Queen hadn’t finished treating us either. She appeared on Instagram Live and treated us, along with her brother Zurab, to beautiful acoustic performances of “No Better Magic” and “Maybe I Dreamt It”. A sign of things to come—just a couple of weeks later she gave us a ‘mini-concert’ live from her home as part of a wider event called “LCKDWN”. With all live music events on hold, it was a real oasis in the desert and fans drank from it with gratitude and glee.

May. By this point most of us were struggling. If there was ever any ’novelty’ value in lockdown it had long since worn off. For many, the highlight of the day had become seeing Boris Johnson or one of his sidekicks trudge up to the podium at Downing Street to deliver a daily update of doom. And Professor Chris Whitty, as one of his trusted advisers, had already become something of a national treasure with his trademark expression that makes a bloodhound look like a Cheshire cat. It is no surprise that by Christmas people would be unwrapping mugs with his picture on it and the caption “next slide please…”. Katie was still keeping our heads above water, playing her heart out from her sofa with another ‘mini-gig’ for “The Takeover Festival”. I’m not sure how we’d have got through this year without her. Bob Dylan continued to help too, with the release of a storming new album “Rough And Rowdy Ways”, proving you are never too old to make good music.

June. The spirit of unity throughout the country was as heartwarming as the daily stats on covid were chilling. Every Thursday evening at 8pm people were opening their front doors and ‘clapping for carers’. It resulted in neighbours you had never even seen becoming friends. A new sense of community was developing all over the country. And yet again, Katie stepped up to the plate and gave us a home video performance of “Scarborough Fair” for ‘Artists4NHS’ that was so magical I almost stopped breathing. A few days later she began teasing us with photos which would have us all pondering and guessing. They would turn out to be stills from the videos for Album No. 8, but that was something we still knew nothing about. Just before midsummer’s day, AllAboutKatie hit something of a landmark with the 1000th post on Craggie’s Blog. Hardly seems possible. How time flies! Towards the end of the month, Katie gave us another cracking performance from home for The Wildlife Trust’s Big Wild Weekend Music Night, and she also gave us a breathtaking livestream concert in aid of Red Cross Georgia. But the real blockbuster news came right at the end of the month when “A Love Like That” was released. The 30th was a day to remember. “Album No. 8” was announced at long last. A day we had been waiting so long for. We’d had a taster more than two years earlier with “Maybe I Dreamt It” but finally we were getting new songs to pick us up just when we needed them. Fans gathered together on Katie’s YouTube channel to watch the premiere of “A Love Like That” and you could palpably feel their jaws dropping in unison. Back on the 4th March I suggested that Katie could write a Bond theme. Within ten seconds of this track I knew she had proven me right. It would have been a better Bond theme than any we have heard in the last 30 years. That it isn’t is not our loss. We already had goosebumps and knew that the new album was going to be something very special, though the release date of October 16th seemed such a very long way off.

July. We were being allowed out of lockdown at last, but it certainly didn’t feel anything like normality had resumed. People were beginning to wear masks and shops had long queues as social distancing became the new buzzword. Everyone was trying to work out how to judge what kind of distance 2 metres is. Walking along the street left you thinking you’d had a deodorant malfunction as oncomers quickly crossed to the other side ahead of you. We were entering the age of wariness and mistrust, a time when everywhere you went you were viewed as a potential leper. But spirits were soaring within the Katie community as she released another new song and video, “Airtime”. Already we could feel something very special was unfolding before our eyes.

August. We were flagging. It felt like we were winning the battle against covid, yet casualties were still mounting and life was nothing like normal. Mask wearing was becoming compulsory. A year ago, people seeing me put one on before entering a shop might think I was about to rob the place. One benefit for those of us that don’t happen to have the looks of Clooney is that masks do at least level the pulchritude playing field. Meanwhile, Katie was engaging with her fans like never before with live Instagram “interviews” she labelled “extreme fan engagement”. This basically involved her video-calling fans then looking slightly bemused as they freaked out; presumably bemused because they’d requested the chat in the first place so probably shouldn’t have been that surprised. Mind you, having spoken to her face-to-face myself I know just how knee-melting an experience it is. She has a lovely way of putting people at ease, though her claims to be ‘just a normal person’ deserve an Oscar for ‘most brazen, bare-faced lie on a live social media broadcast’. It’s akin to Lewis Hamilton saying something like “I’m a bloke that drives.” Naturally, for those on the receiving end of Katie’s interrogation it was a case of year made. And she continued to give the rest of us a lift with another breathtaking single from AN8—“Leaving The Mountain”. Talk about being on a roll!

September. A cruel, bittersweet month. It started well with the release of the video for “Leaving The Mountain” but less than a week later we were devastated by the news that Katie’s 2020 Tour was being cancelled. It came as no real surprise to anyone but nonetheless, the extinguishing of the only light we could see at the end of this long tunnel was a crushing disappointment, not just for fans but for Katie herself. She immediately tried to lift our spirits with another song, “Your Longing Has Gone”. It helped, of course, but we were all feeling like our hope had gone, never mind longing. Katie at least managed to sneak in a couple of live performances in Poland, a nice birthday present for her, but live music was already searching for ways to reinvent itself for a changed world. On a personal note, I completed my goal of walking 3.66 million steps in 2020, with more than a quarter of the year to spare. It seemed folly back in January on freezing, wet days but it just goes to show if you are determined and prepared to do the hard work then persistence eventually pays off and you can achieve anything.

October. There aren’t many years when you can say “October to the rescue”, but this was definitely one of them. We were on our knees, desperate for something to lift our spirits as the chill of winter began to prod at our bones whilst the grim realisation that covid was going nowhere fast set in. The 16th finally saw the release of Album No. 8. The lazy naming of the album was the only uninspiring thing about it—musically, it was staggering. An absolute masterpiece from first note to last. The regular release of singles had prepared us for it to be something special but even so I can’t honestly believe anyone expected every track to be quite so incredible. The icing on the cake was that Katie wrote all the lyrics—something I’ve prayed for since I can’t remember. They are, of course, magnificent. She has provided us with ten exhibits of evidence in the case that she is one of the great singer-songwriters of our era. AN8 was *so* what we needed, exactly when we needed it. If the fight against covid had become a marathon, Katie had just given us our second wind.

November. The fight against the virus was going badly again. There was another lockdown, and we were soon all in tiers. Life was certainly more bearable for Katie’s fans as she embarked on a whirlwind of tv and radio appearances promoting AN8 and treating us to acoustic performances left, right and centre. And there was another joyous video for us to saviour, for, well, “Joy”. It was also announced that Katie would be doing a livestream concert in early December from the Rivoli Ballroom. Not how most of us envisaged seeing her at the start of the year but definitely better than nothing!

December. Not a great start to the month as Katie and her fans were dealt another blow when the Rivoli gig had to be put back because an outside-broadcast van couldn’t park at the venue. It was a deeply frustrating twist we could all have done without. Katie went ahead and recorded the concert but the fans had to wait another two weeks before they could see it. It was such a beautiful show, just tinged with the sadness of thinking about how incredible it would have felt to experience it live as she performed. But if 2020 has taught us anything it is how to take disappointment on the chin and be grateful for anything good that comes our way. The Rivoli concert lifted our spirits again but covid was determined to have the last laugh of this difficult year and days later it was announced that Christmas had been, if not actually cancelled, severely crippled. It was to be a Christmas like no other. More than ever before it was just about spending some precious time with loved ones, where possible, and reflecting on this unprecedented year and how the world may well have been changed forever. As the year draws to a close we have cause for hope and optimism in 2021. A vaccine is already being rolled out, and by next summer most of us will have had it and be immune from the wretched virus. Yet you wonder if ’normality’ will ever be returned to. Mask-wearing may persist for some time after it is no longer compulsory. This experience has forced everyone to re-evaluate their lives and many of us have made changes that may have become permanent. The world has felt like a computer ‘hanging’ and we’ve had to turn it off and turn it on again. It should work like it did before but we may have lost a lot of files that can never be replaced. And it reminds us that there is no backup planet; if this one stops working that’s an end to everything. In 2021, we all need to be more mindful, caring and loving both for each other and for all living things that share the planet with us. It needs to be a year of healing and renewed hope for a brighter future. And, fingers crossed, by this time next year many fans will have experienced the joy of seeing Katie perform live once again. Be safe, be hopeful, revel in the healing power of music, and above all, be happy in 2021!


27.12.20   >   Playlist: Dinner Jazz with Katie Melua

A couple of nights ago, Katie played guest DJ on Jazz FM for a two-hour 'Dinner Jazz' slot. And she treated us to a beautifully curated selection of music for a perfect chilled Christmas Eve. Wine, candles, DJ Katie and suddenly the world doesn't seem such a bad place. It left me so chilled there were icicles on my beard. "At Last" and "Moon River" are two of my favourite songs ever, and I also have a soft spot for “The Nearness Of You”. That was balanced by a few standards, both jazz and Christmas, and a few tracks I hadn’t heard before, as well as an enchanting little concoction called “Maybe I Dreamt It”, though I didn’t catch who the singer was of that one….

Also in there was “What A Wonderful World”, the original and second-best version by the inimitable Louis Armstrong. Yes, second best—there has been one better version but I’m not naming names and I’m sure Katie couldn’t possibly comment.

Since it was broadcast on Christmas Eve, some of you may have missed it. You may be able to find it if you poke around in the Jazz FM archives but if you you can live without Katie’s dulcet tones in between the records then what’s wrong with you and just want to hear her music selection then Supercraggie to the rescue! I’ve recreated the playlist on Spotify just for you. (Okay, that’s a lie. It’s for me too.) Give it a try, it’s a super selection (though admittedly with a Christmas flavour, so you may want to favourite it for next Christmas!)

Dinner Jazz with Katie Melua

  1. The Christmas Song (Nat King Cole)
  2. She Was Too Good To Me (Chet Baker)
  3. Blues In Green (Miles Davis)
  4. Night And Day (Diana Krall)
  5. Moon River (Melody Gardot)
  6. Naima (George Benson)
  7. Away In A Manger (Dave Brubeck)
  8. Peace (Norah Jones)
  9. At Last (Joni Mitchell)
  10. Paranoid Android (Brad Mehldau)
  11. Maybe I Dreamt It (Katie Melua)
  12. Smile (Gregory Porter)
  13. Little Girl Blue (Nina Simone)
  14. Have Thine Own Way Lord (Brian Blade and The Fellowship Band)
  15. Dolphin Dance (Herbie Hancock)
  16. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (Ella Fitzgerald)
  17. Que Reste T-il De Nos Amours? (Françoise Hardy & Alain Bashung)
  18. When Sunny Gets Blue (McCoy Tyner)
  19. What A Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong)
  20. The Nearness Of You (Nancy Wilson)
  21. Saturday Sun (Nick Drake)
  22. Christmas Caught Me Crying (Jamie Cullum)

Play on:

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26.12.20   >   On Approval

Everyone wants to be liked. Humans seem to have a genetically inbuilt need for approval. It is deep-rooted in our psyche. We are social animals, pack animals, and it is a primal urge within us to be accepted by others of our kind. We fear being outcast, alone and unneeded, and we endeavour to do whatever it takes to please others, be accepted by them, and cement our position within the fold. All of this behaviour is understandable in the context of prehistoric humans, where mere survival dictated the necessity for grouping; safety in numbers was the key. Looking out for each other, protecting each other, working together to find food—life was hard and being part of a community was a natural way to make things easier for all. Going it alone back then was not a great option if you wanted to survive.

Fast forward to the 21st century, the digital age, and you would think we might have evolved into more autonomous beings, perfectly equipped to go it alone. After all, we can get just about anything we need delivered to us at the click of a button online. We can also interact with other people online, anywhere in the world. There's no longer any reason to be accepted as part of the local pack for now we can be part of the global pack. Therein, perhaps, lies the problem. It is no longer enough to welcomed within our own little community—nowadays we feel pressure to be accepted within the ultimate pack, the whole of humanity. Because the internet gives us access to everyone in the world we have come to feel as though we need everyone in the world to like us in order to validate our membership into this global club.

As is usually the case, amongst the first to recognise human needs and behaviour are marketing people. And you can quickly see how the tech giants are all fully switched on to this. Look at all the major players: Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on. What do you notice they have in common? They are all taking advantage of our need to be liked. Everywhere you go on the internet you are confronted with it—approval ratings, feedback requests, 'likes' and 'followers'. How much of our day is now spent engaging with such things? The answer is probably more than you realise. We are becoming obsessed with these concepts. If we are buying or selling something we become paranoid about ratings and reviews. Doesn't matter if you are in the market for a pencil or a Porsche, an app or an amphibious landing vehicle, whatever it is you won't be able to get through the transaction without being begged for ratings and reviews. You can buy a bog-standard toilet brush (sorry) on Amazon and in the days following you will get emails pleading with you to rate it and write a review about it. It is bordering on insanity.

Social media does basically the same thing but it is far more sinister for in effect we are being asked to rate and review each other. Oh, that innocent little heart symbol, how it consumes us! It was such a good idea to give people a way to share their photos and thoughts with the world, ah but they had to go and spoil it didn't they? Likes and comments. Two jovial, friendly little words that are quietly taking over our minds and ruling our lives. It is no longer enough to simply share a lovely thought or photo with everyone—now we need feedback. We need to see how many likes it gets, how many comments it receives. If the response exceeds our expectations we are filled with childish excitement; if it fails to meet them then we are crushed. We become fixated on the feedback. We can be disappointed that a photo we were particularly proud of gets few likes, then elated when we put out a pic of our sleeping cat and it wins the internet. What does that say about us? About all of us? Why are we even playing this game? It is madness, and living for the tally of those little hearts is a dead end if you are searching for the road to happiness. But what can we do? The 'like' culture has already become engrained in us. It isn't simply going to go away; it is here to stay. Well, I have an answer for you, a little advice.

I call it 'pre-approval'. In effect, it is 'self-liking' but that's not a term I particularly want to promote. Pre-approval is a simple idea—before you post anything stop for a moment and try to see it through the eyes of your intended audience. If you are happy with it then mentally give yourself a like, and then post it. If you can't give yourself a like then hold back on posting. If you are true to yourself and follow this idea strictly then you can have confidence that you are happy with whatever you post. And if it meets your own approval then that is all the approval you need. Once you have posted it then you need to let go of expectations. You have no control over the approval of others so don't give it any consideration. If you were happy with your post then you have done a good thing in sharing it but move on and get your mind back to things that are within your control. If you are curious later on to see how your post was received then fine, take a look, but don't allow the figures to consume you. It really isn't that important. Whether hit or miss, just move on to your next thing. You really don't need approval from the rest of the world. You just need to focus on gaining approval from the only person you have control of—yourself.


25.12.20   >   Craggie's Christmas Message

If we can learn one thing from Covid-19 it is that we can never take life for granted. Our health, our freedom, our way of life—there is so much that has formed the basis of our entire lives that we never stop to give it a second thought. How lucky we are to be able to experience life at all, let alone in the relative comfort most people enjoy. Even those that would consider themselves poor usually have a dry and warm place to stay, food on the table and a life free from predators. Of all the species on the planet, humans are the most priviliged and yet we are the only ones that are dissatisfied with our lives and complain. On a freezing winter’s morning look at the robin sitting on that branch merrily singing away. He accepts his life for what it is and makes the best of it. He doesn’t gaze longingly into our warm kitchen and wish he could have a bite of our bacon butty. To put it bluntly, humans are spoiled. Look at the room around you: the gadgets, the pictures, the ornaments, the furniture… everything is a wonder. Even your coffee mug—someone has dug the clay from the ground, designed it, fashioned it and decorated it. Time, skill and love have gone into making it just to make your life a little easier when having a drink. Everything you see has required time, energy, thought and work to produce. Just imagine all the hours of effort from so many different people that have gone into producing what you see in the room around you. There is much to be grateful for!

Some people may be forced to spend this Christmas away from loved ones. You shouldn’t feel sorry for yourself—just remember that there are thousands of people who spend every Christmas alone. Instead, you should reflect with happy memories on all the good Christmasses you’ve had in the past. And you should strengthen your resolve that you will make the most of those that are still to come. As Joni sang, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”—this year feels for many like they have lost Christmas but it is a perfect opportunity to re-evaluate our lives and consider what are the most important things to us. In recent years too many people have been living to work instead of working to live. Family is so important yet so easily taken for granted. It is all too common to find them annoying and wish you could distance yourself from them. Yet you miss them when they are gone. It is easy to believe they wil always be there. I remember a time when there were a hundred presents under the family Christmas tree. Now there are none. And the change seems to have happened in the blink of an eye. As my parents suffered ill-health in their final years I began to treat every Christmas as if it might be our last together, aware that that day would come. It paid off—our last few Christmasses together were amazing and I’m so glad I chose to put them before work and my colleagues and friends in London. I would urge that advice for anyone—make the most of every Christmas, even this one, for you never know what life may hold in store for the year ahead. I seem to repeat my mantra like a broken record but I refuse to apologise for it: live for now, not for tomorrow.

Finally, I want to say a massive, heartfelt thank-you to Katie. In this most challenging of years when we’ve all felt desperate and down, she has given us the most amazing gift in Album No. 8. and I don’t think she can ever truly know just how much it has helped so many people in their time of need. It was the best present of all.


24.12.20   >   Lyric Card: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

23.12.20   >   Christmas Katie Conundrum

Unscramble the letters to reveal the title of a seasonal Katie track.

*conundrum*

 30 

 


22.12.20   >   Katie Bite: Voices In The Night

Voices In The Night

21.12.20   >   Album No. 8 Word Search

It's nearly Christmas and you're bound to have a bit of time on you hands so why not chill out for a bit with a glass of port and a fiendish Craggie puzzle? Somewhere in this jumbled grid of letters all 10 tracks from "Album No 8" are hiding from you. Can you find them all? They could be across, down or even sneakily diagonal.
If you can't remember all 10 tracks from the album then you must live with the guilt, but hit the "clues" button to show them. If you need putting out of your misery then click 'reveal all' to expose those hidden tracks.
If you want to print it out to play just click on the puzzle to open it in a separate window and hit CMD-P (Mac) or CTRL-P (Windows).

word search

20.12.20   >   Merry Christmas

christmas card

Christmas is a difficult time of year for many but in this unprecedented year it is a challenge for most. Rise to that challenge. Whatever your circumstances, make the most of it and greet it with joy and gratitude. And why not start planning for how you are going to knock Christmas out of the park next year? Stay well, stay safe, stay positive—good times are on the horizon waving at us.


19.12.20   >   Playlist: Relive the Rivoli

Katie's sensational livestream concert at the Rivoli Ballroom was a groundbreaking event for her and her fans, and such a colossal lift for everyone in the darkest year many of us have known. We can only hope this amazing show is released on DVD at some point, but for now you can relive the show in your mind by playing the set list, and here it is. Click the link to find it ready made for you on Spotify.

Relive the Rivoli

  1. A Love Like That
  2. English Manner
  3. Joy
  4. The Closest Thing To Crazy
  5. Belfast
  6. Leaving The Mountain
  7. Maybe I Dreamt It
  8. Voices In The Night
  9. Nine Million Bicycles
  10. Your Longing Is Gone
  11. Heading Home
  12. Wonderful Life
  13. Airtime
  14. Remind Me To Forget

Play on:

spotify

18.12.20   >   Review: Katie's Livestream from the Rivoli Ballroom

rivoli gig

17th December 2020. Remember the date, for it is a special landmark in Katie’s illustrious career. Her first online livestream concert, filmed at the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley, London, was streamed to eager fans across Europe. It was Katie’s only opportunity to perform the songs from her new album live this year following the cancellation of her 45-date tour in the autumn. For Katie and fans alike there was a great deal of trepidation about how this would work in reality. Would their be atmosphere without an audience? Would there be technical hitches with the delivery? Now, at last, we have the answers.

The streaming began on Katie’s YouTube channel at 8pm. For those experiencing their first livestream it was a tense time, wondering if their email link would arrive in time, and work, and whether their broadband would be able to handle the streaming, and so on. That tension all slipped away in moments when Katie stepped up to the mic, dazzling in a gold silk dress, and began singing “A Love Like That”. Her mesmeric performing ability drew you in immediately and it almost felt like you were actually there at the venue. A massive sigh of relief all round—this was clearly going to work.

The resplendent Rivoli, sumptuously lit in red, was oozing atmosphere. Joe Yoshida may have looked like he was playing drums in a photographer’s dark room but Katie was shimmering in the spotlight like a golden queen, an effect enhanced from certain angles by the sparkly chandelier appearing to rest on her head like an extravagant crown. A beautiful rendition of “English Manner” was next and we were already lost in the moment with her.

Then came the first reality check: several seconds of ghostly silence as Katie waited patiently in silence at the mic as Zurab changed guitars for the next track. At a normal gig, of course, this kind of time would have been filled with rapturous applause. It will take time to get used to that, but eventually it will just become accepted. As Joe clicked his drumsticks together to count in the next song, the sound echoed around the hall—another thing we’ll probably get used to. “Joy” was next up, appropriately, because we were already consumed with it.

Whilst there are obvious drawbacks to not being at a concert in person, it has to be said there are also advantages to this livestreaming alternative. For one thing, the use of multiple cameras gives you views you could never get if you were there in the room, even with front row seats. Panning, zooming, close-ups of Katie and the band, are all bonuses. Another benefit is that Katie could effectively have a second stage, and this was taken advantage of as she walked to the centre of the dance floor and turned back towards the band, so we could only see her, and she then picked up her guitar and delivered a lovely acoustic version of “Closest Thing To Crazy”. Then Zurab joined her on ’Stage 2’ for another old favourite “Belfast”. Nina Harries was next to join in the fun with the concert-within-a-concert as she slipped in alongside Katie and Zurab for “Leaving The Mountain”, rather like the video they made of the song. Finally, the little acoustic session was ended with Katie performing solo again, this time singing “Maybe I Dreamt It”. Her guitar playing on this track was some of the best I have ever seen from her and it was a delight to see her play so confidently—it is worth pointing out that in many of her performances from home during lockdown she has let Zurab accompany her for that song, which he could easily have done here too, so well done Katie for going alone. It was brilliant.

In a normal concert there might have been an interval at this point; clearly that wouldn’t really work with a livestream. Instead, Katie quietly disappeared backstage as the band treated as to a couple of minutes of instrumental jam, featuring some gorgeous playing by Zurab. Katie reappeared in a stunning dark green velvet dress and we were treated to “Voices In The Night”, a song that seems tailor-made for the late-night vibe of the Rivoli.

Another fan favourite followed: “Nine Million Bicycles”. Katie can still make these early hits sound fresh, and it helps when you’ve got Zurab sounding like Hank Marvin on the guitar. It’s incredible how already every track on Album No. 8 feels like an old friend, and “Your Longing Is Gone” was the next one for us to welcome. Then the band slipped away, apart from Tim Harries who shuffled to his left to take over the piano. Katie joined him on stage and the pair gave us a simply breathtaking rendition of “Heading Home”. This is a song that I already know will be with me for the rest of my life.

Katie left the band to have another jam, which those with a musical ear may have noticed had a “Wonderful Life” vibe, giving a clue as to which song was coming next. Perhaps more of a surprise was seeing Katie reappear in dress number 3, a classy cream outfit. Another flawless performance, followed by another gig tradition as she proceeded to introduce the band members one by one. Then the concert was wound down with fabulous performances of the remaining two songs from Album No. 8: “Airtime” and finally, “Remind Me To Forget”.

The old saying goes “leave ‘em wanting more” and that’s exactly what Katie did after a show lasting just over an hour. It went by so quick, always an indicator of having a wonderful time. That it was a triumph will come as little surprise to fans, who already knew what an accomplished and immaculate performer she is. As for the band, Katie has surrounded herself with an exceptionally talented group of musicians who just get tighter and tighter the more you see them. She will say she is lucky to have them, which she is, but equally of course they are lucky to play with one of the best singer-songwriters of our generation. It is a joyous match.

What have we learned from this exciting event? I think it is clear that there is definitely a place for streaming concerts even after the pandemic becomes a distant memory. Of course, nothing can really beat the thrill and immediacy of live concerts and the energy a crowd generates for each other and for the performers. But I would hope artists might seriously consider adding a livestream event to every tour. For one thing, it gives an opportunity for people to see an artist live who might not, for whatever reason, be able to attend a conventional gig. It also allows someone who might have been hidden away at the back of the theatre with a view obstructed by some hulk in the row in front to relive the show with a far more agreeable view! Only time will tell if that is a realistic path to go down. Would having a livestream event affect ticket sales for the tour itself? Who knows. Someone needs to guinea-pig the idea but I have a feeling such a combo-tour would do very well. It’s even possible that livestream events may become more popular than traditional gigs in future as a climate-change conscious generation realises the massive carbon-footprint gains of streaming. But that’s all for the future. Back in the here and now we are left to bask in the indulgent glow of a ground-breaking show that will long stay in our memories. And can I just say that if this Rivoli performance were never to be seen again it would be tantamount to a crime against humanity! What do we want?A DVD OF THE SHOW”. When do we want it? AS SOON AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE”. Let’s just hope I shouted that loudly enough...


17.12.20   >   It’s Finally Here! Gig of the Year! Rivoli airs Tonight!

rivoli gig

The ridiculously ravishing Rivoli, redolent of retro revelries, resplendent in red, revealing rhyme and rhythm to rejoice in and repel rapacious revellers by religiously replenishing reduced rates of reflection and realigning reiki rejuvenation resulting in rapture reminiscent of rapid resuscitation. Which is another way of saying it’s a nice place.

Right, a reminder that the Ravioli, I mean Rivoli… oh dear, I can’t get R’s out of my head (probably because I don’t know my R’s from my elbow)… anyway, the most important event of 2020 is finally being beamed to us this evening. Actually, not sure that’s entirely accurate—probably more a case of flickering light down fibre optic cables—but the end result is the same, i.e. you get to see Katie performing her incredible new songs at long last. I can’t begin to contemplate the idea that you haven’t yet purchased your ticket but there’s still time. This is hands down the best music event of 2020, and heaven knows we’re desperate for some cheer so get the goodies in and start counting down the minutes. I’ll see you on the other side...


16.12.20   >   Katie Conundrum No 9 - Rivoli Special!

Unscramble the letters to reveal the title of a Katie track.

*conundrum*

 30 

 


15.12.20   >   On Joy and Gratitude

Joy and gratitude are best friends, and they belong together. Joy without gratitude can seem selfish and indulgent. Gratitude without joy can seem insincere. If you feel gratitude without joy you won’t be happy. If you feel joy without gratitude you won’t be happy. The two need to be in balance. Joy without gratitude will be short-lived. Gratitude without joy will feel empty. Happiness comes from keeping them together.

It is easy to confuse joy with happiness but they are different. Joy is like happiness turned up to 11. Happiness is a serene emotion, a general feeling of well-being and contentment. It is a sustainable state; it is possible to be happy most of the time if you choose to be. Joy is like applying the afterburners; you get an exhilarating burst of intense happiness that makes you glad to be alive, but it is short-lived. You couldn’t live your life in a state of permanent joy—it would be too overwhelming for your senses and besides, people would probably think you were a nutter. More than that, if joy were the normal state then it would soon become mundane. Think of your favourite chocolates—what a treat it is whenever you get them. But imagine if all you ever had to eat was those chocolates, three meals a day, every day. I know many of you will be saying “bring it on”, to which I reply with a challenge: go ahead, try it. See how long they remain your favourite chocolates. Treats are so because they are infrequent. They give us something to look forward to and reward us for all the trials and tribulations we put up with in everyday life. They are special simply because we cannot have them all the time. And joy is a treat.

Gratitude is the humble voice of reason that stands beside joy and keeps her grounded. She graciously allows joy to consume you for a while but she’ll patiently wait her turn and then quietly help you back down to earth and remind you to be thankful. It is gratitude that allows you to fully appreciate joy for without it you may simply see joy as something you deserve and are entitled to. Once you get into that mindset, the power of joy diminishes. Gratitude is the quiet, unsung hero that lays the foundation on which joy is built. Once you learn to feel gratitude for everything you have, everything you have will give you more joy. Like Yin and Yang, Joy and Gratitude fit together to create harmony in your mind, and it is the circle they create together that will bring you long-term happiness.

14.12.20   >   Is Katie About to Break America?

amazon movers & shakers chart

It’s looking like she might! After her appearance on the Saturday Sessions for CBS last weekend there was suddenly a lot of interest and love being flung her way from across the pond. One chap said “wonderful new artist.” 😂
I’ve got news for you, USA: this party is already in full swing and has been for some time!! But you’re more than welcome to join. And if you’re reading this then you’ve already found the best place to find out all about the best singer on the planet. Feel free to poke around and have a rummage through the archives.

As Katie’s post above shows, there has been a strong reaction on Amazon.com to ‘discovering’ this amazing ‘new’ talent. Let’s just hope she doesn’t forget about little old us when she becomes the next Global Superstar! (Don’t worry. She won’t!)

13.12.20   >   Katie Bite: Heading Home

Heading Home

12.12.20   >   Katie Performs from Rivoli for CBS Saturday Sessions

live at the Rivoli Ballroom

These songs from the Rivoli Ballroom gig are outrageously spectacularly incandescently magnificent. And the good news is, if you like these there is still plenty of time to grab a ticket for the full livestream event on December 17th!

A Love Like That > A Love Like That (via CBS Saturday Sessions)

Voices In The Night > Voices In The Night (via CBS Saturday Sessions)

Your Longing Is Gone > Your Longing Is Gone (via CBS Saturday Sessions)


12.12.20   >   Don't Feed The Trolls

Social media is such an incredible development in human history. It has brought people together from all corners of the world and allowed them to connect in a way that science fiction certainly never saw coming. You can become lifelong friends with people that, just a few years ago, you almost certainly would not have met at any time in your life. Even if you live alone in the middle of nowhere, if you can connect to the internet you can connect to other human beings anywhere on the planet. What a beautiful thing!

But… oh come on, you knew there was a but coming didn’t you? The fact that social media is there for everyone is a double-edged sword. Whilst (hopefully) the majority of people want to use it to spread love and friendship with others there are always some that see it as a golden opportunity to spread hate and malice, with hurtful comments and harmful pictures. Yes, trolls. These disturbed, poisonous creatures hide away in their dark holes spewing out venom wherever and whenever they can. They cause untold pain and distress to innocent, normal people that are just living their lives and trying to connect with like-minded souls. Trolls will target anyone, not just people they know. As long as they can get their fix of upsetting someone that is all they care about; they have zero regard for the consequences of their vitriol.

The problem is how to deal with trolls. Social media is gradually getting better at finding ways of providing some protection, but it is often too little too late. Tools like blocking and reporting provide self-help but they are like sticking plasters on cuts when you’d rather avoid being cut in the first place. Yes, you can report and block an offensive message and have it removed but it can’t be removed from your mind so easily. Sadly, there is no obvious solution to preventing the messages in the first place. Shutting down a troll account is merely mole-whacking; they’ll simply set up a new one and go again. And do we really want to go down the road of having out messages vetted and policed by some nefarious all-seeing A.I. that can play God with what we can and can’t show or say? We value our freedom of speech highly so how could we possibly tolerate having it restricted by a machine? How can a computer ever distinguish between a genuinely hurtful comment and a bit of cheeky banter between two old friends?

As with many problems in society, the solution may not lie in technology but rather in education. Why do trolls behave the way they do? How can we raise our children in a way that prevents this kind of behaviour? If we understand what is making people spread hate we can begin to take measures to ensure that need simply never develops in them. A societal change of course, is no trivial matter and even if we identified solutions today they could take a whole generation to become engrained. Which is isn’t much comfort to you here and now if someone is being horrible to you online.

Let’s look at some practical advice on dealing with trolls then. The most important rule, the Golden Rule, is * Do Not Respond *. There is nothing you can say that is going to hurt them back. The nastier you get the more they’ll laugh. You’ll be playing into their hands. The one thing they crave more than anything is the attention. They are desperate to elicit a response from their victim. They don’t care what it is—if you reply, they have won. And once they know they can get at you they’ll keep doing it. Your words are fuel to their fire. Starve them. Do not feed the trolls. They loathe being ignored and if they can’t get a response from you they’ll soon turn their attention to another target. However, having resisted the urge to fight back, it does not necessarily mean you should do nothing at all. Don’t make any knee-jerk reactions. Take a moment, calm yourself, and then think rationally about what you feel. Is it really a vile, abusive or malicious comment or is it just ill-informed or ill-judged? If you are clear that there is deliberate malice intended then you should have no hesitation in blocking the sender and reporting the message as offensive. Most social media platforms have ways in place for you to do these things. This will usually result in the offending message being taken down. Sometimes, that may not be enough for you. For example, if you have been threatened harm then you should take a screenshot of the message and you may consider informing the police. It is horrible that an article like this even needs to be written but that is how the world is today. One last piece of advice I would give you is this: try to be thick-skinned. Don’t allow words to hurt you. It is your choice whether or not you are upset by them. You have the power to say to yourself “these words mean nothing to me, they cannot hurt me”. And it is true. You can decide to be upset or you can decide you are not going to be upset. Always take the positive action. Don’t allow anyone to upset you. You are in control of how you feel. So feel good. And get back to interacting with the good people out there.


11.12.20   >   AYMHM 11: Time (The Revelator)

Another album you may have missed... (see them all HERE)

I don’t know about Revelator, more of a revelation when I stumbled across this album nearly 20 years ago. This was one of those rare albums that blew my mind and changed how I thought about music and in particular ‘genres’ of it. Quite why music artists must be pigeon-holed into a category is a mystery to me but Gillian Welch was lazily shoved into the ‘Country’ hole in the same misguided manner that saw Enya classed as ‘New Age’. But like Enya, Gillian is in a category of her own. There may be hints of country in her music but there are also hints of bluegrass, Appalachian, folk and rock. Yeah, pick the bones out of that. Despite the American musical styles, her delivery struck a chord with me as reminiscent of English folk. The songs are low tempo, stripped-back, almost plaintive in their delivery. The lyrics are interesting and reward repeated listenings whilst the songs also grow on you in your subconscious. It is intelligent, understated yet finely-crafted music performed by someone that clearly cares about her music. (Remind you of anyone else?) If anyone is still struggling to scratch out that country label then track 10 should settle things—the beautiful and positively Dylanesque “I Dream A Highway” clocks in at almost fifteen minutes long. Try line-dancing to that.

time the revelator

Time (The Revelator)

Gillian Welch

Listen to Time (The Revelator) on Spotify via the link below:

Play on:

spotify

10.12.20   >   Katie in Action: York 2018

Katie in York

09.12.20   >   Give, Not Take

Three simple little words. But it is a mantra that has the power to change your life and bring you untold happiness. One of the troubles with the world today, and there are many, is that people want stuff. They don’t want to wait for it, they don’t want to earn it, and they believe they are entitled to it. They want it right now. They think they need it. They think it will bring them the happiness they crave. Therefore they get stuff. Then they are dismayed to find the happiness it brings them is fleeting, so they decide they need more stuff. And so on, in an endless cycle of misery that can last a lifetime. Material possessions do not bring happiness. They are a sticking plaster on a wound that will never heal. You are born into the world with nothing and you will leave the same way so why do you think having ’things’ during your life is so important? You never actually own anything anyway. Everything you think is yours is only borrowed—both you and your precious item are fleeting and finite and your atoms will return to the stars in time.

One of the most repugnant phrases in the English language is “what’s in it for me?” In a world ruled by and obsessed with money you are generally considered something of a lunatic if you do something for nothing. Everyone seems to be constantly on the the take; be it money, favours, love or whatever, they are always looking for what they can gain themselves. And if they can get more than they are asked to give they are highly pleased with themselves, oblivious to the fact that their soul dies a little more with each selfish transaction.

Christmas, of course, if the ultimate example of this behaviour. People ‘drop hints’ of things they would like to receive or even make out lists of things they want! I’ve always found this bizarre. For as long as I can remember, when asked what I wanted for Christmas or a birthday I’ve simply shrugged and said ’nothing’. Not because I’m any kind of saint but because I discovered as a young boy that real happiness lies in giving rather than taking. I must have been 5 or 6 when I wrote a note to my mother apologising because I couldn’t buy her anything for her birthday because I had no money and instead I made her a card and drew pictures and wrote little poems. Rather than telling me directly, she wrote me a little letter back saying she would always prefer having things made with thought and love instead of just bought from a shop. Naturally, later on when I did have money I always bought her nice things but I never forgot her message. After she died, I didn’t find much evidence of all the fancy gifts I’d bought her in later life but I did find that note in a box of her treasured things along with a stupid clay fish I’d made her at school.

Once you can master the art of giving without wishing for anything in return you will find something magical starts to happen. You will become happier! And the good news is, the more you give the happier you will become. Next time you find yourself thinking, for example, “ooh, I really want that new phone” just stop and ask yourself why? Has the one you already have stopped working? Has it suddenly become rubbish because a newer model exists? Of course not. Get out of the ’new stuff’ mindset and instead think about something you can do to make someone else happy. Even if you have no money you can still be generous and kind by giving your love and your time. If you see someone struggling, be the one to help them. If someone seems lonely then talk to them. Be creative in finding ways to give. If you do have a little spare cash one of my favourite ideas is to go to a bookshop and find a book that has really inspired you in the past and just tuck a banknote in between the pages. I know I’m not going to change the world—the “what’s in it for me” crowd are unlikely to take heed of any of this is. But that, sadly, is their loss. The joy and happiness of a recipient of your kindness will make you far happier than any other gift you could wish for. If the entire concept seems alien to you then just begin with small steps. Go on social media and leave a lovely comment on someone’s post. See how surprised and grateful they are. See how good that makes you feel. Isn’t that better than leaving some hateful, vitriolic comment that ruins their day and does nothing to help you out of your own pit of misery.

If you have taken anything positive from this post then please do me a favour: go and do something nice for someone today that you hadn’t been planning to do 5 minutes ago.


08.12.20   >   Seven Second Challenge 20

Bit of a tricky little minx for you this time. Could it be a seasonal one?
Press the play button and guess the song. Click "Show Me The Answer" when you think you know it or if you're stumped.

Seven second challenge: intro 20


07.12.20   >   Katie Bite: Joy

Joy

06.12.20   >   Driifting apart...

I feel so badly for Katie at the moment. After spending four years crafting an album of breathtaking beauty and flawless musicality it should have had concert arenas all over Europe bouncing and bursting with celebrating fans. Instead, we got COVID and cancellations. Being unable to perform those exquisite songs, all of them dripping with the golden nectar of her own lyrics, must have been heartbreaking as not a single concert from the 45 scheduled survived.

That would all have been bad enough, but then the highly anticipated “consolation” gig, the livestream from the Rivoli Ballroom had to be postponed late in the day because of a “technical issue”, those being Katie’s diplomatic words to describe what was actually “un fuckup Royale”, if you’ll pardon my French. I mean, you would think anyone whose job it was to arrange live satellite-broadcast events would have
“[ ] suitable location for outside broadcast vehicle” somewhere near the top of the to-do list.

Fans following Katie on social media were almost unanimously understanding and supportive despite their disappointment that the event would no longer be live (“as live” is not a thing—it is a binary condition; something is either live or recorded. So, when fans see the show it will be “recorded live” as opposed to “live”. If you are not sure of the difference, ask any football fan who recorded a match and is trying to avoid finding out the score.) The concert will still be an amazing must-see for fans but it will lose that strangely intangible ingredient that you get when witnessing something in the moment, as it happens. Some won’t be that bothered, but I have seen others that consider it a deal-breaker—which I think is a bit extreme, rather like cutting off your nose to spite your face. For Katie herself, it was another gut-punch setback. In terms of recording, you could say that it wouldn’t have been much different for her because there weren’t any fans inside the Rivoli Ballroom anyway but it is hard to imagine how it couldn’t have been on her mind as she performed that fans weren’t seeing her in real time. She’s way too professional a performer for you to be able to tell that of course, but, if you’ll permit me another football analogy, I think she played on despite carrying an injury. When she finally does get to play these songs in front of an audience, hopefully next year some time, that lucky first audience is going to get blown away by the pent up frustration that will be channelled into pure performance energy. Wherever that happens to be I’m fairly certain I won’t be there so I’m pretty jealous of that crowd but I have no doubt they’ll give Katie the reception and feedback she deserves.

Talking of deserving feedback, it was inevitable I guess that Katie would get some flak on Twitter about the late postponement of Rivoli. She’s an easy target, sitting right on the front line as opposed to those actually responsible for the issues who remain hidden away either in ivory towers or artificially lit offices. There were two monumental cockups in all of this. The first, as mentioned earlier, was the planning mistake regarding the satellite van, and the second was the failure of informing those who had purchased tickets that the event wouldn’t actually be taking place on the 4th. The former is down to Driift, the livestream event company borne of ATC Management, the very company that manages Katie. Unfortunate does not really cover it; it is a monumental PR disaster for the fledgling event broadcaster to let down one of ATC’s brightest stars so badly. To add insult to injury, they don’t even appear to be getting behind her in appeasing the disgruntled ticket holders. They should be grovelling at her feet for letting her down like that. The second issue, also criminal, was more down to the ticket companies, Ticketmaster and Universe. Those that tweeted Katie about not being informed were clearly not actual fans because had they been they would have been following Katie’s account and hence would have seen her message days before about the concert postponement. But the ticket companies failed to release immediate emails to ticketholders about the cancellation, leading to a situation where many people were actually plonking themselves down on the sofa with a bucket of popcorn and bag of jelly babies and getting ready to log on and watch the show. Had it not been for Katie’s own social media posts I myself would have spent Friday afternoon driving around Lincolnshire with mounting anticipation for the evening. That is a disgraceful handling of the affair by the ticket companies. Many people were left disappointed enough just by the postponement but the manner in which they were notified at the last minute, many of them only after frantically trying to contact the ticket providers, is simply not good enough. Some people have prior commitments for the new date and won’t be able to attend so having to fight to get a refund and missing out on the show when it does happen is going to leave a bad taste in the mouth for a lot of people. And it is Katie’s reputation that bears the brunt of the damage despite her being utterly faultless in the whole debacle; I’d even go so far as to say she’s a victim just like her fans. All I would say to Katie is it’s done, move on. Her core fans only dig in behind her more resolutely when she has setbacks, and it is worth pointing out that her fanbase has grown in recent months, particularly in terms of Instagram followers, whilst Album No. 8 has been universally well received. I think we are all ready to kick 2020 into touch and look forward to a far brighter 2021. Well, after Katie has blown us all away on the 17th that is….

05.12.20   >   Lyric Card: Bridge Over Troubled Water

NOTE: Regarding lyrics in general on AAK. I try *so* hard to make sure the lyrics on this site match what Katie actually sings. I'm prepared to put my money where my mouth is and declare this site to be the most accurate resource for her song lyrics in the world (and that includes her own web site!) But oh, does she ever like to keep me on my toes! I'll be the first to hold my hands up and admit that they are not yet perfect in every case but I'm getting there, and at least I care enough to try. Why is it so tricky to get them right? Well, I'm glad you asked that, even if I did have to ask it on your behalf. It's because dear Katie isn't averse to fiddling with a verse. Her astonishing skills at song interpretation means she sings what she feels is right, which is not always identical to the official lyrics. Obviously, this happens most with her covers but sometimes she even sings her own lyrics differently to what you see printed in the CD booklet. This is merely an observation and in no way a criticism; in fact, I love that she does it. But it can give me a headache when I come to make these lyric cards! "Bridge Over Troubled Water" is a case in point. In her studio recording of the song she omits the entire second verse but takes a line from it and swaps it into the first verse! This makes the song around three minutes long. If you listen to her live performance of it on the In Winter Special Edition CD you'll find she sings the full version, as in the 5-minute original. Personally, I prefer the live version, but my take on these lyric cards is that they should always be based on a studio recording if there is one. Hence, you get the cut-down version here because it is just how she sings it on Ultimate Collection. I imagine most of you couldn't give a monkey's loyalty card about any of this but for those of you that like to dive onto social media and say "ooh, you got a word wrong you idiot" I hope you will take note of this note and listen carefully to what Katie sings before jumping on me. If you then find I really have got something wrong then I deserve to be jumped on so jump away.

Bridge Over Troubled Water

04.12.20   >   Track Notes 113: Diamonds Are Forever

Album:  

Writers:

John Barry & Don Black

Length:

3:34

Notes:

Katie sings an actual James Bond theme. Who'd have thunk it? I mean, anyone that has heard the original (has anyone not?) will know that Shirley Bassey absolutely wrestles the song to the ground and kicks seven shades of sherbet out of it, leaving it on its knees begging for mercy. Which was about right for a Bond theme, but it is hardly the vocal style of Ms Melua is it? If she was ever going to tackle one I'd have thought it might have been something like "We Have All The Time In The World". Yet, here we are. And though I would never have bet on Katie covering this, one thing I also would never bet against is her reinventing any song and making it her own. And guess what? Oops, she did it again! (And if she ever covers that I'll start to question whether my whole life is just a dream.) This is a beautiful reworking of the song. I think Katie has said she performed it at a friend's funeral a few years ago. I saw her perform it on a TV special about James Bond music with lyricist Don Black a few years ago—which may be how Katie met Don and got talking about the collaboration for In Winter.

YouTube:

Is there a video for this? You may wonder. Oh boy, you bet your sweet sister's sweaty socks there is and it is quite unreasonably wonderful: Diamonds Are Forever (live)

Lyrics:

Diamonds Are Forever 

03.12.20   >   Spotify 'Song of the Year' stats announced

spotify my top song

Well, I did stream the living hell out of it, that’s for sure. “A Love Like That” was number two. It is worth pointing out though that those two songs were the first releases from AN8, and it is also only songs I’ve streamed on Spotify. All 10 from AN8 are in my Top 100 of 2020 but most of the rest are ambient tracks from the likes of Eno, Carbon Based Lifeforms and Solar Fields—I mostly listen to Spotify whilst writing and have ambient background music on. So what this doesn’t tell you is that when I received the vinyl and digital downloads of AN8 I played that album until its gonads were groaning. Therefore, if you ask me, and I notice none of you have, then I might tell you that my top song of 2020 was probably “Heading Home”. As for Top Album, well that was never in doubt from the moment I heard about it—that’s right, “Daniel O’Donnell”…. oh, come on, I’ze joshin wid ya! Since AN8 was on a shortlist of 1 it was never going to lose that. Honorary mentions for sure to Polly Scattergood, Bruce Springsteen and the incomparable Sir Bobness of Dylan, all with corkers this year, and even a commendation to Taylor Swift, but Album No. 8 has been the absolute saviour of a dreadful year. Yet again, Katie was there when I needed her. Which is why this web site exists.

02.12.20   >   BREAKING: Rivoli date revised...

Gutting news coming out of Camp Katie this morning. The Rivoli Concert will no longer be live. This is such a shame, but they can’t park a satellite can at the venue! Doh! Well, it’s early days for this type of concert but that’s not a mistake I think will be made again...

UK and Europe fans will now get to see a broadcast of the show on Thursday 17th December. Not sure why that date was chosen instead of keeping that Friday feeling but it is what it is. I really hope nothing else goes wrong for Katie, who hasn’t had the best of luck performing these incredible new songs to her fans. The show will still be wonderful, have no doubts, but it will inevitably lose that edge that live performances have. For Katie, she’ll be performing knowing that no one is seeing it with her and for the fans they’ll watch it knowing that they are not sharing a moment with her and she’ll be miles away doing something else. It is such a strange thing of human psyche that watching something “as live” never has the same buzz about it. In a way, it is like living in the past rather than in the moment. We just have to make the best of it. So, scratch the 4th from your diaries (make a date with a Netflix boxset or something) and whatever you had pencilled in for the 17th, well, boot it unceremoniously out of the window to make room for the revised Rivoli Concert.

If you haven't yet booked your ticket you can do so here: * HERE *

revised rivoli date

02.12.20   >   Crossword No. 5

Now look, have I ever let you down before? (Don’t answer that.) So far I’ve given you a shiny new crossword puzzle to celebrate every single released from Album No. 8. And, joy of joys, here is number 5 for you in honour of Joy. En-joy!
(By the way, if a clue sounds like nonsense then it is probably an anagram. Hope that helps!)

If you want to print it out to fill in just click on the puzzle to open it in a separate window and hit CMD-P (Mac) or CTRL-P (Windows).

crossword puzzle 5

Across

2. Not just kindness and laughter...
6. Only UK female with more consecutive top 10 albums than Katie
7. Producer of Album No. 8
9. Car driven by Katie in "Your Longing Is Gone" video
12. These need a good clean before rolling
13. Katie's new global publisher
14. English vampire fashions
16. A truly global song?
18. TV show Katie appeared on at 15
19. 'cos it's not my fault!
20. Stranglers classic the colour of Katie's eyes


Down

1. Elvis classic covered by Katie
3. More gifted mentor
4. Robbie Williams collaborator who co-wrote with Katie
5. Georgian director of "Your Longing Is Gone" video
8. Tree fit for a King?
10. Former South African President Katie met in 2005
11. For tea be wet
15. Red wolf crept
17. Katie's age at release of "Call Off The Search"


01.12.20   >   Seven Second Challenge 19

Press the play button and guess the song.
Click "Show Me The Answer" when you think you know it or if you're stumped.

Seven second challenge: intro 19


30.11.20   >   Katie Bite: Joy

Joy

29.11.20   >   Katie Conundrum No 8

Unscramble the letters to reveal the title of a Katie track.

*conundrum*

 30 

 


28.11.20   >   Lyric Card: It's Over

It's Over

27.11.20   >   This is just too good...

26.11.20   >   It's In Winter time again!

its in winter time
There's frost on the car
and a nip in the air
it’s feeling brass monkeys
but I don’t really care
dance on the rooftops
let the bells chime
for it’s that time of year—
we’re In Winter time!

26.11.20   >   Albums You May Have Missed Gets Own Page!

I mean, am I actually Santa in disguise or something? AAK, the gift that keeps on giving! Albums You May Have Missed, my highly ignored series of sporadic music recommendations, now has its very own page on the site. Shut up! I know. How on earth do I do it? (Boredom, probably.)
Is there a reason for this momentous happenstance? Well, I just thought that if you happened to stumble across one of these intermittent entries and like the idea of it and wonder what other albums I have suggested then you no longer have to go trawling through the archives to find them because they are all conveniently listed in one clutter-free space! Better still, they are stripped of my inane ramblings so you can just head straight to the music. That said, if you are partial to my inane ramblings seek help you can click on the album cover to jump straight to the original blog entry no matter where it may be hiding in the archives. Go on, admit it, I'm good, aren't I?
So, where is this revolutionary member of the AAK family hiding, I hear you cry. Well, don't cry, I'll tell you. If you click on "Miscellany" in the menu panel to the lift you will find a link to the new page right there at the top. And because I know you'll be impatient to hot foot it there you can do so by merely clicking this little screenshot below. It's all magic is it not?

new page!

25.11.20   >   Track Notes 112: Bridge Over Troubled Water

Album:  

 

Writer:

Paul Simon

Length:

3:14

Notes:

Without doubt one of the greatest songs ever written. The only way you won't know this song is if you've been living in a cave in outer Mongolia doing needlepoint for the past fifty years. Even then, there's a chance you've heard a passing eagle humming it. For those that feel the need to label everything it is often described as pop with a gospel influence. The reality is that the best songs defy labels and simply blow your mind. Beauty is beauty and transcends pigeon-holing.

I feel so lucky in that there are several songs I really wanted to hear Katie sing and she has kindly obliged without me having to do any grovelling whatsoever. BOTW was a big tick. There are still a few on that list to go but I'm going to stay firm and refrain from begging just yet to see if she gravitates towards them naturally. (She did perform Scarborough Fair from home a couple of times during lockdown but that doesn't get a tick until there's a studio recording.) I know she has plenty of recording years ahead of her, but I have less listening years. Still, que sera sera and all of that.

As for the song itself, well it would be nice to think it popped out of Simon's brain like a perfectly formed jewel but, as is often the case with these things, it began life as a rough diamond. Garfunkel thought Simon should sing lead, Simon thought Garfunkel should sing it all, and there were doubts and deliberations over the lyrics and arrangement. By the time the dust had settled and compromises had been reached, Garfunkel sang most of it with Simon adding harmony on an extra verse at the end just to beef up the finale. In January of 1970 they threw it out to the world, not knowing what to expect (or even if it would get played —many radio stations wouldn't play songs over 3 minutes and BOTW weighed in at 5.) As it turned out, the radio stations wisely decided exceptions could be made and the discerning US and UK public soon made it no. 1 on both sides of the big puddle.

YouTube:

We've had a lean spell with videos over the last few Track Notes but now we have that rarest of treats: an official video! Sit back and melt at the delicious golden caramel delight that is Katie performing this song with the Georgian Philharmonic Orchestra and the Gori Women's Choir. Pure class from the Queen of Interpreters.

Bridge Over Troubled Water

Lyrics:

Bridge Over Troubled Water


24.11.20   >   AYMHM 10: The Ice Castle

Another album you may have missed...

Kirsty Hawkshaw is a singer/songwriter/producer within the Electronica scene who has stayed largely under the radar despite being in demand for collaborations, of which she has had many. However, it is her solo work that interests me. As something of an ambient junkie, it is her sublime album The Ice Castle that brought her into my sphere of consciousness.

the ice castle

The Ice Castle

Kirsty Hawkshaw

This album works on different levels. You can have it on low in the background as mood music, equally effective when chilling out or working, or you can don headphones, close your eyes and utterly lose yourself in the beautiful soundscapes Kirsty creates. The music also makes a wonderful soundtrack to a nature walk as it opens your mind to the beauty of your surroundings. I’m always wary of using the word “ambient” because people so misunderstand the genre; they see it as either ‘lift’ music or something designed to help you sleep. In fairness, it can do both of those jobs very well if called upon, but it offers so much more, especially to a creative mind. It can stimulate thoughts and ideas and alter your perception of things. Ambient music is my genre of choice when I’m writing fiction for it helps me to escape from the real world and deep dive into the world I’m creating. Kirsty’s masterpiece is one of my most trusted companions and for anyone thinking of dipping a toe into ambient waters it would be one of my first recommendations. One caveat: track 10 is a repeat of track 1 but with spoken ‘mindfulness meditation’ that you will either find helpful and evocative or an annoying distraction. If you are trying to meditate it is great but if you are trying to create it may be better to skip it.

Listen to The Ice Castle on Spotify via the link below:

Play on:

spotify

23.11.20   >   A Snapshot of Chris and Nino

Sometimes it is fun to set yourself little challenges. Album No 8 made me wonder if I could come up with a little micro-story that included all the song titles. Here is my attempt:

chris and nino

22.11.20   >   On This Day... 2019

On this day last year, tickets went on sale for Katie’s 2020 Tour-That-Would-End-Up-Not-Being-A-Tour-Because-Of-Covid Tour. We were all hovering over the ticket sites hitting ‘refresh’ like lunatics every 5 seconds so we could get our hands on them before they sold out. Soon after, we were able to slump back in our seats, exhausted with the stress of the process but with a childish grin of glee on our faces as we looked at the confirmation emails sitting in our inboxes. It was such a happy day. Exactly one year later, today, I should be walking on air, basking in the afterglow of having seen Katie perform in Leicester last night. Instead, I’m looking back through my journal entries, reflecting ruefully on how the future pays no heed to our hopes and wishes; the future will do her own thing and we have no choice but to go along for the ride. Sometimes she will take us to amazing places. Other times, such as this year, we will be huddled on the back seat feeling nauseous and saying “are we nearly there yet” with every bump in the road. But think on this: if good can turn bad in a year then equally it holds that bad can turn good. So on this day next year we may be on cloud nine again. Enjoy the ride, bumps and all.

on this day 2019

22.11.20   >   Seven Second Challenge 18

Press the play button and guess the song. Click "Show Me The Answer" when you think you know it or if you're stumped.

Seven second challenge: intro 18


21.11.20   >   A Choral Christmas

Katie will be making a guest appearance at the Barbican on December 15 as part of "A Choral Christmas", a festive concert conducted by Bob Chilcott (if the name rings a bell—Katie has collaborated with him before). For more info on this, click the pic!


20.11.20   >   Happy Day of Joy!

Don't forget to toddle off to Katie's YouTube channel at 5pm today to experience some Joy! Click the pic for instant transportation...

Joy

19.11.20   >   Do Your Own Thing

They say ‘dance like no one is watching’. You can extend that idea. Sing like no one is listening. Paint like no one will see it. Sculpt like no one will feel it. Write like no one will read it. Creating something is about expressing yourself. It is a conduit between your thoughts and the real world, a uniquely human way to conjure something tangible from something imagined. Why do we do it? Is it merely a form of communication? Or perhaps an attempt to achieve a kind of immortality? Is it for fame or fortune? Or is it simply unknowable? It could be a blend of all those things. And we are all different so that blend will vary from one person to another. I have no idea why I write. It is almost as though I’m possessed: words appear in my mind and demand to be let out. I cannot merely utter them; they insist on being written on paper or screen. Nor do I really know where they come from. Sometimes I can pinpoint what triggered the flow but like some underground mountain spring throwing up an endless supply of crystal clear water, all I can do is drink gratefully from the magical gift and worry not so much about from whence it came but rather when it might dry up. Deep down, my brain must feel some need for all this industry but it chooses not to share its reasons with my consciousness. I dread the very thought of fame, and I’m old enough and wise enough to know that writing for fortune is the most chance-less of lotteries. Nor do I have any desire to be appreciated when I’m no longer here—I’d much sooner be appreciated right now, thank you very much. No, I have to admit defeat: I’m at a complete loss to explain why I’m driven to write. And I haven’t the will to fight. I give in to it constantly, let it have it’s way. It must be serving some need or purpose within me just as surely as your body needs vitamins or minerals.

One thing I am sure of is this: I’m not bothered if anyone reads what I write. My only concern is to let the words out of my head—what they do once they’ve escaped is their business. Yes, I have observed that others occasionally derive some interest or amusement from my creations yet I do not feel it is the pull of their eyes drawing the stream of words from my mind. Whether it is something I am destined to do or merely my brain feeding a perceived unconscious need, all I can say is it just something it seems I have to do. It is my method of expressing myself, though I have no recollection of choosing it over, say, art or music.

I don’t believe it is wise to see creativity as a means of pleasing others; first and foremost you are addressing your own needs. If your creations happen to please others then that may be seen as a satisfying bonus, but don’t let it be your driving force—that is a path that can lead to madness. The biggest mistake a writer can make is thinking she should write a book people want to read. Rather, she should be striving to write a book she wants to read. An artist should paint a picture she wants to see. A musician should write a song she wants to hear. When I write fiction I only ever write stories that I want to read myself. By concentrating on fulfilling your own needs the work you produce will be so much better and therefore be more likely to please others anyway without you having to try. It is an exercise in futility trying to predict what the general public will like and then force it on them. Far better to understand that they are probably just like you so if you create something you like then chances are they will like it too. If you want to churn out content just to make lots of money then fine, go for it—but I’ll tell you now, that money won’t bring you the happiness you think it will. Nor will the creation of mindless content for commercial purposes fulfil your own inner needs. Worse than that, fans of your work will have no connection with you—the real you—whatsoever. But express yourself through your work and those fans you attract are far more likely to be in tune with your personality, like-minded souls with similar hopes and dreams who see the world in much the same way as you. Connecting with people on a deep level is far more rewarding than numbers in a bank account. It is about how you live life not what you accumulate. After all, you never truly own anything—your house, car, cat, favourite pen, first edition of “The Railway Children”, mug with “Not until I have drunk this” on it, and so on—everything you think you own is merely borrowed. Sooner or later you will cease to be and all of your “stuff” will belong to someone else. The only thing that is truly yours is you mind. That is the one unique possession that is non-transferable and makes you the remarkable individual you are. But it too is finite and fragile, dependent on the health of your body to protect it. That makes it more precious than anything. So remember, you only have a limited amount of time, and no way of knowing how much, which is why making the most of every precious minute is the only path to happiness. Never stop looking, learning, loving; find your passion and immerse yourself in it. It actually is all about you. Don’t pay too much thought to what anyone else says about you, be it good or bad, just concern yourself with living your own life and doing your own thing.

18.11.20   >   Joy to the World!

As we start to turn our thoughts to Christmas it is very fitting that Katie is about to bring Joy to the World! On Friday she is releasing the video for “Joy” on her YouTube channel. By now you should know how all this works: at 5pm the video goes live, at which time Katie and her fans can all jabber away in the comments pane with insightful remarks such as “luv u kate😍”, “will you marry me”, and “when are you coming to Timbuktu”. So engrossing are these pearls of wisdom that it is usual to miss most of the actual video but fear not—once it is released it will be available for you to watch whenever you like and without the fan stream-of-consciousness to distract you.

Here is the link you need: Joy video on YouTube

Note: this link may change *after* the premiere when the video gets added to Katie's portfolio on YouTube. If that happens I will post an updated link to the video because I look after you all even though you don't ask me to.

Joy video

17.11.20   >   Lyric Card: Love Me Tender

Love Me Tender

16.11.20   >   Track Notes 111: It's Over

Album:  

Writers:

Roy Orbison, Bill Dees

Length:

3:20

Notes:

The final song from The Secret Sessions (that we know of, anyway). This Roy Orbison classic gave the dark-spectacled warbler his 2nd UK number 1 back in 1964, some two decades before Katie began to trouble the census takers. The Big O is an acquired taste but he did crank out some corking tunes and it goes without saying that the Queen of Kutaisi would get the best out of them.

YouTube:

Nothing doing here on this occasion. Sorry. Look, don't get shirty with me, I don't run YouTube. If you're that bothered you could contact your local MP and ask him/her to demand an explanation from YouTube (which would probably be along the lines of "well, nobody has uploaded one"). Anyway, I know that some of you are weird enough not to own the Special Edition CD of Secret Symphony so I'm feeling a little sorry for you and kindly providing a link to Spotify so you can at least listen to the track. And if you're not on Spotify either then tough turnips—some people just don't want to be helped...

It's Over (on Spotify)

Lyrics:

It's Over


15.11.20   >   Voices Of The Ancestors Podcast

If you love the Gori Women's Choir then you will probably love Georgian polyphonic singing in general. And if you are a woman living in the UK then you may be surprised to learn you are not the first! (Fan of Georgian singing that is, not woman. There were definitely other women living in the UK before you.) Earlier this month, a couple of ladies started a podcast all about their love of GPS (Georgian polyphonic singing, that is, not global positioning satellites, though there's probably a podcast about that somewhere too). It is a quite extraordinary musical form so it is lovely to see a site like this pop up in England. Highly recommend you trundle over and take a listen at Voices Of The Ancestors

14.11.20   >   Katie Bite: Gold In Them Hills

Gold In Them Hills

13.11.20   >   Katie's Sodajerker Podcast

Simon Barber and Brian O'Connor are a couple of blokes from Liverpool that write songs and run a podcast about songwriting. If you want to learn all about the craft of songwriting then it is probably a good site for you to poke around in. They've had some big names on, such as the legend that is Burt Bacharach, and now they have finally snared the biggest of them all: our very own Katie! Click the pic below to go off and listen. You can even download the whole thing to listen whenever you want. There are some people that you could listen to talking all day and half the night, such as Stephen Fry and David Attenborough. I put Katie in that group. She is always intelligent, informed and charming and this podcast is a perfect example of it. By the way, if you are interested, they nabbed Mike Batt back in 2012 so if you want to check that out click here.

sodajerker

12.11.20   >   Katie Live Online Concert Announced!

Well I'm dancing around the room to Mariachi music even as I type this! We are going to get to see Katie perform her new songs live at last, on December 4th. No, it's not the same as actually being there and I know it doesn't quite make up for the cancelled concerts but hey, it is still wondrous news and it's better than nothing isn't it? Obviously, Katie would rather have a normal concert but in these wretched days we have to take what we can get. It will be odd for her too, not hearing rapturous applause and getting standing ovations. Of course, she'll be getting those in my living room and hopefully yours too, but she won't hear us no matter how much we holler. Tickets go on sale this morning but don't panic, there's enough for everyone and you won't get a better seat by being one of the first. It's up to you where you sit, after all. If you happen to have a 100" television and you sit on the floor right in front of it then it'll feel like you're right in the middle of the front row in the concert hall. Or, you could watch it on a smartphone and feel like you're outside the concert hall watching through the letterbox.

If you don't buy a ticket you won't get to watch this since it won't be available afterwards. And please don't begrudge having to pay for an online gig. Think about all the musicians, technicians and support staff that aren't able to work at the moment. You are supporting the music industry by buying tickets like this.

rivoli gig

11.11.20   >   Mind Your Language

Language is a weird and wonderful invention. And a rich language such as English has a staggering number of words available to you. Sadly, in everyday life we only use a few thousand on a regular basis. Some studies suggest the average person uses about 1000 different words in 89% of their daily writing. Adult vocabulary is estimated to be between 20,000 and 35,000 words, so clearly we only use a small percentage of the words we actually know. The currently accepted figure of words still in use in English and appearing in dictionaries is around 171,000, with a further 45,000 considered “obsolete”. I put “obsolete” in quotes because it merely means the word has fallen out of use. What it does not mean is that it is wrong to use such words. In fact, there are no rules or laws at all when it comes to words. Many writers make their own words up. Roald Dahl was famous for it but many others do it too, especially in science fiction and fantasy genres. I do it all the time. In fact I’ll make one up for you right now. Just give me a sec to engage the cogs… okay, friggle. So what is a friggle then? I’m going to use it to name that tiny little piece of hard, pointy skin that sometimes appears at the side of one or your fingernails and catches on your clothing. Remember me and chuckle next time you notice you have a friggle. Does that mean ‘friggle’ is now part of the English language? Not officially, because it isn’t yet in any dictionary, but there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t start using the word whenever you like. You don’t even need to be referring to that bit of skin, you could simply utter it as a replacement for an expletive.

The thing is, language is about communication. The whole point of it is to make someone understand what you are thinking. If you scour the dictionary and learn hundreds of wonderful, obscure words then that is all well and good; but if you actually try to throw them into an everyday conversation then you are likely to be greeted with blank looks (at best), because the other person won’t have a clue what you’re on about. Instead, we take the safe option and try to stick to the words we think everyone will understand. When we write we can take more risks because we know the reader can always pause and look up an unknown word in the dictionary, whereas in conversation that would be, well, a bit awkward. If I now asked you if you have any friggles you’d understand what I was asking because you are aware of the definition. This is how writers can get away with using their own words—they let you know what the word means, or at least provide enough information for you to work it out. Indeed, this is how many words came in to general use. Shakespeare provided plenty of new words and because he was so popular, those words began to circulate and be used by the public and hence ended up in the dictionary. Nowadays, with television, the internet and social media, words can quickly spread into common usage. I don’t expect the word ‘friggle’ to take the world by storm any time soon but imagine if, for example, Sir David Attenborough or Greta Thunberg made up a word to describe the state of the planet. It would be retweeted to millions within minutes and people around the globe would be uttering it within days.

Words are a wondrous invention. Think how many different songs can be made with just seven notes. The alphabet has 26 letters, so the number of possible words you could have is astronomical. 171,000 barely scratches the surface. But when I hear an odd word I can’t help thinking about who was the person that came up with it in the first place. Butter, demeanour, testicles, ostentatious, flatulence, turgid and whelk. Who would think up such words? And I confidently predict that I am the first human being in the history of the universe to use those in the same sentence. To celebrate, I'm going to do it again! "His normally ostentatious demeanour was affected by his desperate attempt to cure his turgid flatulence by rubbing butter on his testicles, which left him feeling as miserable as a whelk." Such fun. I was tempted to throw floccinaucinihilipilification (the action or habit of estimating something as worthless) into the mix, but that would just be showing off. In most cases, the origins of words have been lost in the mists of time. Many, like ‘friggle’, have simply been made up on the spot for want of any other suitable word, but a lot have actually evolved from different words over the course of time. There are thousands of words in English that have actually been derived from Latin, French, German, Spanish—in fact just about any language you care to name. These ‘borrowed’ words get mispronounced and mis-spelled and yet somehow the rogue variants are the ones that stick in the minds of the masses. It is all delightfully organic and unpredictable. We tend to think of language as being stable and permanent but it is in fact fluid and ever-changing. People often fantasise about jumping in a time machine and going back a thousand years but if you could you might actually find yourself really struggling to be understood. Most of the words you would use would be considered gibberish back then. The same would hold for the future—if you could nip forward to 3020 you might find you can’t understand a word people are saying, assuming they even talk any more; it seems likely that by then people will have something like Bluetooth implants in their heads that would allow them to communicate silently. They would seem to you to be mute aliens, whilst you would appear to them to be a noisy raging lunatic. And on that delicious note, I shall leave you to fiddle with your friggles.

10.11.20   >   AYMHM 9: Canticles of Ecstasy

Another album you may have missed...

You may well have heard of the name Hildegard von Bingen, or Saint Hildegard. She is also known as Sibyl of the Rhine, which is definitely the name I’d have gone with—would have looked great on her album covers, that is, if they’d had albums in the 12th century. That’s right, 12th century. You see, Hildegard was born 922 years ago, which was, like, even before the Rolling Stones. The sharper amongst you might be wondering how, if she died before albums were invented, you could possibly have missed one of her albums. Patience, I’ll get to that. Firstly, let me just give you a hint of background to this extraordinary woman. The youngest of ten children, she was ill from birth and in pain most of her life, which nevertheless stretched out to 8 decades, an age that, given the healthcare of the time generally consisted of making you forget about the pain by causing you even worse pain, was pretty astonishing. She was many things: for example, she was thought to be the originator of the science of natural history in Germany, which is cool enough on its own. But we are more interested right now in her achievements as a composer of sacred monophony. Monophony is simply a single line of melody (as opposed to polyphony, which is two or more melodic lines, as found for example, in Georgian polyphonic singing). Traditional folk songs are often monophonic but probably the most known example is Gregorian chant. Monophony is sometimes referred to as plainsong or plainchant. It was popular in Christian music because of its simple purity. Hildegard wrote many songs of monastic chant, though her style often involves soaring melodies that set her apart from regular Gregorian chant and explain why they are usually sung by women.

canticles of ecstasy

Canticles of Ecstasy

Sequentia

Right then, let’s talk about Canticles of Ecstasy. This is an album of Hildegard’s music recorded by the early music ensemble Sequentia in 1993. It was recorded in the church of St. Pantaleon in Cologne. How to describe it? Basically, Gregorian chant with female voices. But that hardly does it justice. Perhaps think of it as the 12th century equivalent of Katie Melua. Music to calm your mind and soothe your soul. You don’t need to be even remotely religious to be enveloped in the beauty and tranquillity of this exquisite music. Try this: turn off the tv, turn off your phone, turn off the lights, turn off the kids, light some candles, sprawl out on the sofa and lose yourself for an hour in this gem of an album. Feel your spirit being cleansed. Thank me later.

Listen to Canticles of Ecstasy on Spotify via the link below:

Play on:

spotify

09.11.20   >   Katie Conundrum No 7

Unscramble the letters to reveal the title of a Katie track.

*conundrum*

 30 

 


08.11.20   >   Do You Hear What I Hear?

How many times have you seen an actor on a chat show close their eyes or look away when a clip of their performance is being shown? I suspect the answer to that is “countless”. It seems like such a bizarre reaction, but is it though? If you think about it, an actor regards acting as their job. It’s what they do. And they do it because they love acting. They love the process of trying to get into a character, adopt their mannerisms and behaviour, and try to see through their eyes. They enjoy living in the moment as that other person. When they are sat in a television studio, with an audience, and watching themselves act on a screen, they are no longer in that moment. Instead, they are forced to be themselves and made to watch their work be scrutinised by thousands of other eyes. It is irrelevant that many of those eyes will belong to adoring fans who will be looking on favourably. The actor may simply be shy and awkward in the limelight. Again, this is often perceived as odd but you have to remember that acting means you are pretending to be someone else. It doesn’t matter if you are not comfortable in your own skin because you convince yourself that you are somebody else and because of that you can behave any way you like since it isn’t you, it’s them. It actually makes a lot of sense.

Do you remember the first time you heard your own voice played back from a recording? It was a shock wasn’t it? Our voices sound deeper and more mellow to us because they are emanating from our own bodies—our chest cavity is behaving like a built-in subwoofer. So when we are speaking we don’t just hear the sound in our ears but we feel it resonating in our bodies. When we hear a recording back we don’t get that physical aspect to the sound. So it comes across as weaker and higher pitched. If you only hear your recorded voice occasionally you never quite get over how different you sound. On the other hand, those you know well may seem to sound the same on recordings as they do when they speak to you face to face, because, naturally, you never get to hear them with their own body resonance. It is just one of those curious things about life. Before recording was invented, no human being in history had any idea how they sounded to other people.

It can take time to get used to how you really sound. If it is a necessary part of your job then you can probably soon accept it and not think too much about it. Personally, I still find it weird. As my eyesight has dictated the need for reading glasses I have found making notes in notebooks more of a faff since it involves scrambling around for and donning glasses before you can proceed. But with smartphones and now even smart watches, you can quickly record ideas. This is still a new way if working for me and I’m still taken aback by how different I sound in recordings, so much so that I still tend to soldier on with notebooks, despite the inconvenience of needing optical accessories in place.

How, then, does this all play out with singers? Let me quickly point out that I’m no singer myself, but I would imagine many of them are quite similar to actors. I see being a recording artist as kind of an audio equivalent of acting, with live gigs being like theatre work. During the recording process a singer will hear their work back many times. In this respect they are very different to actors, for whom it is perfectly possible to make an entire movie without having seen a single frame of their performance. Yet the recorded sound a singer makes will still seem unlike the version they heard as they were recording it even if the reproduction is considered faithful to the sound engineer. This is something the singer has to get used to, though someone that has been recording music as long as Katie, for example, will be perfectly tuned in to how their recorded voice sounds.

What, then, if you don’t actually like your own voice? Well, I don’t believe that actually matters. Let’s take Katie as an example again (it would be rude not to given the name of this site). As far as I know, she doesn’t actually *mind* the sound of her voice but neither does she consider it to be great. But she loves singing. Like those actors that love acting, for Katie, singing is her job. It’s what she does. Now, when she hears her own songs on the radio she may be thinking to herself that her voice doesn’t sound particularly special but she *knows* that somehow it is. How? She knows that Mike Batt started a record label just to sign her up. She knows that millions of people have bought her records. She knows that only Kate Bush has had more consecutive top ten studio albums as a UK female recording artist. And she knows she has spoken to many fans who claim her voice has helped them through difficult times. It doesn’t really matter how highly she rates herself, the evidence is there to show how highly others rate her. I can understand her bemusement—she is just a woman that loves to sing but considers there to be far better singers out there; I’m just a guy that loves to write but considers there are far better writers out there and whenever people tell me they love my writing I’m taken aback. I write because I love writing; it’s what I do. So the question is, is there a moral to all of this? No. Good night. Oh wait, wait, I’m just kidding. Of course there is. The point is to do what you love doing, whether it be acting, singing, writing, painting, dancing, or whatever, and do it for the joy it brings you. How your work comes across to others is out of your control; you may not see what they see, you may not hear what they hear, but if you learn to live with the sound of your own voice and do what you love doing and strive to do it to the best of your ability, then you will find yourself with a life well-lived.


07.11.20   >   Katie Bite: Joy

Joy

06.11.20   >   Katie In Action: Nottingham 2018

katie nottingham 2018

05.11.20   >   Quick Fact

Prior to Album No 8, Katie had never recorded songs beginning with an 'E', 'Q', 'U', 'V', 'X', 'Y', or 'Z'. Thanks to 'English Manner', 'Voices In The Night', and 'Your Longing Is Gone' she's whittled 3 off that list with the new album. Only 'Q', 'U', 'X' and 'Z' to go! Shall I be mean and challenge her to write a song beginning with X? As if I'd be mean to Katie... I'll settle for 'U' instead.

04.11.20   >   On Fame

Fame is a bizarre creature. Some people crave it, others shudder at the mere idea of it. Many who seek it never find it. Many who have little time for it find themselves helplessly swamped by it. Whatever level you may be blessed (or cursed) with having, the Stoics would advise you pay little heed to it: it is something out of your control so don’t waste your time trying to deal with it. It is what it is. That advice holds true whether you have no fame at all and desire it or have so much it is overwhelming. Of course, like all advice, it is easier to hear than to act on.

Perhaps the most odd thing about fame is that it is something of an illusion. It has no unit of measurement. I guess we could create one. How about calling it the Known? If we were to say, for example, that if 1000 people know you then that is a basic level or fame, or 1 Known. If your level is 1000 Knowns then a million people have heard of you. On this scale, I could put my personal level of fame in the region of a few milliKnowns. So, that’s great, we can measure fame then. Hold your horses, it isn’t quite that simple. There are around 7.8 billion people in the world (let’s not get into that again—Mike was correct enough at the time he wrote NMB). In order to accurately assess the fame level of any given person you would have to ask every single one of those 7.8 billion if they had heard of that person (except for the person in question, who you would reasonably take as given to have heard of them self.) It’s the same problem as calling someone ‘the most beautiful’ or ‘the best singer’—it is only meaningful in the context of the people you have actually seen or heard sing, not the entire population. And since every one of us has encountered a different number of people in our lives, nor even the same ones, there is simply no standard frame of reference. And we can’t all be right so we have to accept that none of us are. So it is a pointless thing to make these declarations. Naturally, it won’t stop me from repeatedly proclaiming Katie is the best singer in the world but I cannot offer you any empirical evidence to support my claim; it is a feeling in my own heart and mind and hence meaningless to anyone else. I know there will be others out there that agree with me but we would be greatly outnumbered by those that disagree or haven’t even heard of Katie.

That raises another point about fame. We all see it from a different perspective. Who would you say is the most famous person in the world? The Queen? Donald Trump? Paul McCartney? Jackie Chan? Again, there is no way to know the answer definitively but none of the above would have 100% hit rate: there are still plenty of people around the world that would maintain a blank expression if you showed them photos of any of the aforementioned icons. There are stars in Asia that are instantly recognisable to billions in that part of the world yet wouldn’t get a flicker of recognition in Burnley, Bromley or Bognor Regis.

Is fame dictated by mere recognition anyway? Do you have to be able to put a face to a name? I’ve heard of Ariana Grande, for example, but I wouldn’t know her if she knocked on my front door and slapped me across the chops with a moist herring. I assume she is famous because her name is known to me but I have no picture of her in my mind so does it count? I know she sings but I haven’t heard her sing. So I guess that same level of ‘fringe’ fame is applicable to everyone. Certainly, I have met many people that struggle with the name ‘Katie Melua’ when I mention her. Quite often it takes “Closest Thing To Crazy” to trigger enlightenment in their eyes. I have also met many people that simply have never heard of Katie. As one of the ‘illuminated’ few that see Katie as the sun at the centre of their solar system, to the point of being constantly tanned, if not sunburnt, it seems unfathomable when we encounter a person that has no concept of who she is or what she does. We are filled with incredulity and scorn for this ignorant creature because we, having convinced ourselves of what an astonishing human Katie is, can barely conceive how someone could even live their life without knowing about her. That, of course, is purely down to fan bias. She means so much to us that we see her in terms of how famous we think she should be. The reality is very different. It is likely that millions of people will say they have heard of Katie, which sounds a lot but keep in mind that global population which numbers thousands of millions. And of those millions, many would probably not be able to put a face to the name. So it is entirely possible that something like only one in a thousand people might recognise Katie if they saw her. Of course, that is a global average. In China, the number could be much lower than that, whereas in most of Europe you would expect it to be a lot higher. In Georgia, you would probably need to head up into the remote mountain villages to find someone who hasn’t heard of Katie. My personal experience in England suggests maybe as many as half the people I meet have heard of Katie (I don’t actually ask them all; that would be weird), but that figure would drop dramatically if I merely showed them a current picture of her and asked them to name her (in fact, that experiment would get better results using a 2003 picture of Katie with those iconic curls).

What does all this mean anyway? Okay, well for one thing it means that Katie feels differently about herself than her fans feel about her. She will tell you that she is just an ordinary person. Her fans are utterly baffled by this statement, naturally, but Katie can only see the world through her own eyes, and what she sees is that she is able to walk the streets, run in the park, wander around shops and generally not be bothered for selfies every five seconds everywhere she goes. She sees the same ‘real world’ as the rest of us, where she can get the same level of gruff service as the rest of us rather than expecting 5-star VIP service. So she is quite correct: she is a human being just like us, with the same hopes, fears, loves and daily tribulations. She isn’t an other-worldly goddess that needs to be put on a pedestal and worshipped constantly. Do you assume that when Katie steps on a plug or stubs her toe she emits a girlish giggle before exclaiming “oops, silly me!”? Or do you imagine she may yell a choice expletive? My money would be on the latter. So really, fame is like an arrogant, dominant twin that a celebrity struggles to distance themselves from. It is an imaginary twin for them, and it must be such a weird feeling, almost like an out-of-body experience, to see this outrageous imposter representing them whilst seeming completely unrelated to their own concept of themselves. From the fans perspective, the opposite is true. They see the perfect, flawless, faultless goddess who must be worshipped and can do no wrong. For them, the imaginary twin is the one that claims to be ordinary, just like them, shopping in Tesco and getting the same surly service from some soulless waitress in a café. This disconnect between how the celebrity actually feels and how their fans perceive them is reinforced because the celebrity is usually encouraged to live up to the expectations of their fans whenever they meet. They have little choice but to play the game and let the fan experience the celebrity twin rather than the real one. This doesn’t have to mean a dramatic difference—if you meet Katie and she comes across as lovely then that is likely to be closer to her true self than a raging ranting lunatic or something, but you should also accept that she is almost duty-bound to be on her best behaviour and underneath she may be having a horrible day. The best thing a fan can do is to understand they really are dealing with another human being and behave as such rather than bowing and babbling to the almighty Fame Monster. Fame is an illusion, it should have no relevance to how two people interact. See it for the imaginary barrier it is and ignore it—you will have a better experience meeting the celebrity and they will have a better experience meeting you.


03.11.20   >   Track Notes 110: Love Me Tender

Album:  

Writers:

George R. Poulton, Ken Darby

Length:

3:14

Notes:

The third song from "The Secret Sessions"—four bonus tracks added to the special edition of Secret Symphony. This one shouldn't need much of an introduction—it's an Elvis Presley classic from 1956. It has been recorded by so many artists I think it would be quicker to mention those who haven't recorded it. But that would be silly, and in any case how remiss of me would it be to fail to bring to your attention a duet by Julie Andrews and Johnny Cash? By all means read that last sentence again, but I promise you your eyes did not deceive you. Such a nugget of musical majesty does exist in the world, which is exactly why the world is such a magical place.

Now the songwriting credits on this take a bit of unpicking. The music is an adaptation of the 1861 Civil War song, "Aura Lee" by George R. Poulton. New lyrics were penned in 1956 by Ken Darby ahead of the song being used in the movie of the same name. However, credits are often shown as Elvis Presley & Vera Matson. Matson was Darby's wife so that was either a lovely, romantic gesture or some kind of tax evasion (depending on how cynical you are). As for Elvis, well he made little tweaks here and there and got 50% of the credits because that was stipulated in his recording contract. Happy days.

What of Katie's version then? Flawless and beautiful, just as you would expect. And without the help of Johnny Cash.

YouTube:

No actual footage sadly, but a nice picture of a rose with the song lyrics on it accompanying the album recording:

Love Me Tender

Lyrics:

Love Me Tender


02.11.20   >   Lyric Card: Too Long At The Fair

Too Long At The Fair

01.11.20   >   Katie on Martin & Roman's Sunday Best

Katie was erudite, eloquent and elegant as ever on Martin & Roman's Sunday Best, which aired this morning. She chatted about AN8, performed a few bars of "Your Longing Is Gone" and even had a go at a Rubik's cube. What better way to spend a Sunday morning? You can catch it on ITV Hub.

Spellbound


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