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What's All About Katie All About?

Welcome to All About Katie. This site is an appreciation of Katie Melua - the beautiful and talented singer-songwriter with the caramel eyes and sublime voice, and the finest interpreter of a song I have ever heard.

It is also a repository of information about her music, DVDs, videos, tour dates, images, and anything else of interest to her fans. I have put my heart and soul into this project. Katie has given me so much and this is my way of saying thank-you. I hope Ketefans all over the world will find something interesting here about our favourite artist. Enjoy!

Any opinions expressed here are mine, not Katie's. And if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter remember this: I am NOT Katie!


Note:

You can collapse the blog entries to just their headings by clicking on the Craggie's Blog banner. Click again to expand them. Click on an individual heading to hide/show it.









Bob is meditating...



A Random Song Title





The Planet Baggers

If my writing tickles you why not have a go at my novel, The Planet Baggers, available at an Amazon store near your browser. (Click the image below to be transported magically to my book page!)

The Planet Baggers

Eva Cassidy Fan Club

If you are a fan of Katie, why not check out this great site for Eva Cassidy?

Eva Cassidy Fan Club

14.11.19   >   Lyric Card: Chase Me

chase me

13.11.19   >   Joke

Q. What is Sherlock Holmes' favourite kind of tree?

A. A lemon tree.

You're whelks.

12.11.19   >   Songs Of A Nation

I discovered in Georgia that you can get anyone to sing along with you by just singing two words. All you have to do is begin “Kviteli potlebi…” and they’re off. Everyone knows the song. And it isn’t even the national anthem (“Tavisupleba”, თავისუფლება, if you must know). It got me thinking—every nation seems to have a song that rouses the spirit of the people from childhood through to old age. Every nation, that is, except England. I can’t think of a single song that everyone knows, that unites the country with fierce pride and togetherness. The Scots can all join in “Flower of Scotland” (or “Donald Where’s Yer Trousers”, or anything by The Proclaimers). The Welsh are a nation of singers and have a hatful of songs that all Welsh people know and will launch into at the drop of said hat. The Irish can croon “Danny Boy” at you. But the English? Nope. Nothing. Not a sausage. I have no idea why this is. Perhaps it has to do with it being such a multi-cultural melting pot with so many blended nationalities that ‘being English’ is just too broad a group to get everyone singing from the same sheet. It may not always have been that way. I get the feeling that everyone in the Middle Ages went around whistling “Greensleeves” despite there not being any radio or pop charts. And of course, during the wars there have been rallying songs like “Pack Up Your Troubles” and “We’ll Meet Again”. But nowadays there’s nothing to get us warbling in unison (though if the “Strictly” theme had lyrics…)

It doesn’t help to have a dreary dirge for a national anthem. There have been many calls to change it to something more rousing. The likes of “Land Of Hope And Glory”, “I Vow To Thee My Country” and “Jerusalem” have all been championed, along with the more ponderous “Abide With Me”. Any of those would be better, but they are all old and hard to sell to a younger generation. There are songs within communities that everyone knows. For example, who in Liverpool doesn’t know “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, whilst rugby fans can all chant “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”. Yorkshire has “On Ilkley Moor B’aht ‘At”, bless ‘em. But outside of their communities those songs may be known but have less meaning to people. Most Ketefans could sing “The Closest Thing To Crazy” for you but I don’t think even Katie can unite this disparate nation. Or can she? Maybe it is time for a new talent show. Something like “Britain’s Favourite National Song”. Let the public make online suggestions and the ten most popular ones get performed live by an established artist and put to the vote. The overall winner then becomes required learning in the school curriculum. That way, the next generation at least will have a song that everyone knows. Now, any non-English person reading this won’t give a pregnant meerkat about it, that’s fine, but if you are English you will no doubt have your own ideas about which song should win BFNS. As you might have guessed, I’ve been giving it some thought and my choice would be Katie Melua (didn’t see that coming, did you?) singing The Beatles’ “Let It Be”. I reckon that might win, though I'm sure the nation would remain divided. But even if it did become a national song, good luck getting a stranger to sing along with you after two words. “When I…”


11.11.19   >   Katie Bite: Crawling Up A Hill

crawling up a hill

10.11.19   >   EōN by Jean-Michel Jarre

I’ve said before that a computer can never write a song because it has never experienced human emotions such as love and loss. But—and it’s a big but—that’s not to say a computer couldn’t generate music. More than a decade ago, Brian Eno released an iPhone app that could randomly generate ambient music. It blurred the boundaries. Was the music you were hearing his or the computer’s? He may have programmed the algorithm behind it but the music you were hearing at any given time was unique and Eno wouldn’t have heard that same sequence himself. So it’s a grey area. That said, all the iPhone was doing was juggling bytes around in its memory. It was in no sense aware of what it was creating, nor was it applying any of its own feeling or emotion to the creative process. And this is where a quantum leap will be required before a computer can create music by A.I. It may never be able to. Robots, or androids, may fare better since they will be constructed as autonomous entities, able to ‘see’ the world. They’ll also be able to hear and have tactile feedback, as well as inputs that humans don’t have such as thermal and infra-red. That will mean each android would have a unique experience of interaction with the world, just as humans do, and that could be enough to allow them to create art or music in a way that their creators never anticipated. That is still a long way off though.

Jean-Michel Jarre seems to be marmite with people. Some hate electronic music in general and think of it as cheesy lift music or whatever. Others, and I include myself among them, were utterly blown away by Oxygene in the 70s and fell madly in love with Jarre and other pioneers like Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk, and many modern ambient music giants such as Marconi Union and Carbon Based Lifeforms are influenced by them. It was Jarre who opened a door in my brain to a world of sonic possibilities and now forty years later he has done it again. EōN is not a new album, it is a new app for iPhone and iPad. And it is astonishing. You could even describe it as the missing link—it provides a glimpse of what AI music might one day become. Eno’s Bloom app was innovative but the variation was too limited. In theory you may never have heard the same thing twice but it quickly all began to sound the same and the novelty soon wore off. Jarre has adopted a similar concept but he has really nailed it. When you launch the app it plays like an album with each track lasting three or four minutes or whatever, with a slight pause between them. And each new track sounds different. There are enough variations that you never think “didn’t I just hear that a few minutes ago?” It plays like a Jarre album. The difference is, you’ll never hear the same thing twice. Every time you launch the app it’s like listening to a new album. And what you hear is so good you quickly wish you could hook it up to a digital recorder because it begins to bother you that you might never that same sequence again. It is billed as an infinite musical creation, an endless album, and it is exactly that. The app costs the same as a CD but it is in effect free because what you are getting is unlimited free music forever (well, at least until Apple muck about with iOS to a point where it won’t run anymore—it will rely on the developers keeping it updated in future.)

If you are at all a fan of ambient music you really need to give EōN a go. It may not be true A.I. music but it feels like it could be, and that is pretty exciting. Even as I write this I’ve just heard a choral blast reminiscent of the Gori Women’s Choir and that is something I hadn’t heard before, though as yet I haven’t been treated to anything like Katie’s lovely voice (not that I’d expect to with ambient electronica). This app is art. Indeed, the screen doesn’t just sit idly be like a lemon while you’re ears are being treated—your eyes get some fun too with a never-ending, never-repeating display of evolving digital art. What a triumph the whole thing is. Mind blown.


09.11.19   >   Playlist: Moon Madness

Is Katie mad about the moon? I don't know. But I imagine she is. Isn't everybody mad about the moon? I think you'd have to be mad not to be mad about the moon. After all, it has a palpable influence on us all. Anyway, you're probably wondering when in the name of deep-fried Tunnock's Tea Cakes am I going to get to the point. Well, I had Katie's entire back catalogue playing on shuffle the other day whilst I was decorating, as I'm prone to do (shuffling her back catalogue that is, not decorating—and why does "shuffling her back catalogue" sound wrong?), and the thing is, it struck me that she seemed to sing about the moon a lot. Me being me, I felt compelled to find out exactly how much was a lot. So here you are—a playlist of songs that mention the moon. You lot don't deserve me. Actually, it's not as big a list as I expected though it is quite big considering she's never once sung about gerbils, Lego, Bruno Tonioli, Pop-Tarts or unexpected low-frequency radio emissions. (I may have just given her some song ideas.)

Moon Madness

  1. Blame It On The Moon
  2. Moonshine
  3. Better Than A Dream
  4. Chase Me
  5. I Do Believe In Love
  6. I Think It’s Going To Rain Today
  7. Red Balloons
  8. The House
  9. Deep Purple


08.11.19   >   Track Notes 71: Chase Me

Album:  

Writer(s)

Katie Melua, Toby Jepson

Length:

3:41

Notes:

The second pearl to be grown from Katie's collaboration with Toby Jepson. This surprisingly dainty and delicate offering (Jepson is known as a hard rocker after all) follows on from a couple of quirky Batt tracks and brings the album back to a more dreamy feel which it then retains to the end. This is a song that Eartha Kitt might have growled in some smokey backstreet club, or it might have been hummed by John Inman in Are You Being Served? (If you've heard of either of those people you're probably as old as me. Google.)


YouTube:

A couple of live performances available. Decent quality, if a little unsteady. Here's the better one from a performance in Innsbruck, April 2014 Chase Me live.

Lyrics:

Chase Me 

07.11.19   >   Katie Bite: Cry Baby Cry

cry baby cry

06.11.19   >   Quick Fact

Katie's 6th studio album, Ketevan was released on her 29th birthday. From what I can gather this was serendipitous rather than planned so it must have been a nice feeling for her. (On my last birthday a box of print copies of my book The Planet Baggers arrived and it certainly made my day. One day, I intend selling a copy...)

05.11.19   >   The Meaning Of Lyrics

You may have a great melody tumbling round in your brain but what will really define it and turn it into a great (or otherwise) song is the lyrics you marry it with. And there’s far more to lyrics than meets the eye. They can be simple, repetitive, epic, cryptic, mysterious, funny, nonsensical, or a blend of some of those things. But which is right for your song? For everyone that listens to the melody it will paint a different picture in their mind. You may have a subject planned already or you can just let the music suggest something but your approach to the lyrics can make or break a song. A catchy pop song often has simple or repetitive lyrics with a relatable subject like falling in love. But you may want to say something deeper. The trouble with that is you may not wish to bear your soul to the world. This is where you begin to disguise your message. You can make the words mysterious or even cryptic. Some people may get what you’re alluding to; others may miss the point completely but still like the sound of your words. It is a difficult balancing act. If you are too cryptic then no one will understand what you’re on about and that can frustrate people and turn them off the song altogether. On the other hand, you don’t want people to see straight through the disguise. You need to leave a little ambiguity—you could be talking about yourself or equally somebody else.

If you try to be too mysterious you can end up with a nonsense song. The Beatles probably started off that trend in the late 60s, with the aid of some dubious substances. You can get away with unfathomable lyrics if your melody is good (and with The Beatles it generally was), but writing nonsense lyrics is a dangerous game to play and can lead to people jumping to their own conclusions about the meaning (Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds anyone?).

You may have a political message you wish to get across. Obviously, this is always a risk and can be a good way to lose a lot of fans very quickly. Some artists consider it a price worth paying, and of course you might win new fans too. Generally, if you stay true to yourself and say what you want to say then the fans that stick with you will be the right ones. For a struggling artist though it may be too much of a gamble to get too political unless you really have your finger on the pulse of public feeling.

The most ambitious type of lyric is to tell a story instead of a simple message. The shorter the song, the more challenging this can be. Mike Batt is good at it—just listen to “Market Day In Guernica”, a song that paints a complete picture in under four minutes. Bob Dylan, naturally, could do it concise though his general philosophy seems to be it takes as long as it takes. His epic Tempest consists of 45 verses (count ‘em!) which takes him around 14 minutes to sing. If commercial success is a priority for you then it may be best to hold back with the epic tales for now.

If you’re lucky, the right approach may come naturally to you. If it doesn’t, and you end up with a lyric you are not entirely happy with then walk away for a bit, come back and try doing it a different way completely. You may start with Happy Talk and end up with Bohemian Rhapsody. Or vice versa.

04.11.19   >   Lyric Card: Mad, Mad Men

mad mad men

03.11.19   >   Stats Of The Day

Soap box time. There are still people that think Mike Batt wrote most of Katie's songs. Time for a stat attack! Katie's seven standard studio albums have totalled 80 tracks (the first four each had 12, the next two had 11, and In Winter had 10. I've no idea why those numbers are gradually diminishing!)

Of those 80, Katie co-wrote 7 with Mike. Mike was involved with 24 others, Katie with 29 others. 19 were covers. (If you've been counting and paying attention you'll be thinking that those numbers add up to 79. Well done. Luke Batt wrote the other one!) So Katie was involved with the writing of 36 of the 80 tracks compared to Mikes' 31. Booyakasha. In real terms, the gap is actually even wider—allow me to explain. Several of Mike's songs were written for himself or other artists before he even knew Katie, so technically they are covers as they weren't written *for* Katie. Within her next couple of albums, Katie's overall involvement in the writing of her music is likely to creep above the 50% mark. Songwriter. Big Badda Boom.

02.11.19   >   Sketch effect

sketch

01.11.19   >   The Spider’s Web of Self-Confidence

It’s nice when people believe in you. It’s also a complete waste of their time. Unless, that is, you believe in yourself. And that is something every one of us should do. Of course, some people already do, often to excess. But that is fine. Being over-confident is not a crime. Not believing in yourself should be. It’s okay to understand your limitations, in fact it is a good thing, but that should never lead you to conclude that others are better than you because their abilities appear to exceed yours. Every single human being that is born is unique and has their own value to add to the world. No one is more precious or worthy than anyone else. The thing worth remembering is that it is impossible to compare achievements or measure success in any meaningful way—certainly not by fame or fortune, both of which can be fickle and fleeting. To some, our impact in this life may seem minimal, our very existence pointless, but that is never actually the case. If you could study any one life in microscopic detail you would begin to discover just how important we all are. Our very existence influences the world in subtle ways we cannot know. Perhaps you think you have never done anything worthy of mention. Never won anything. Never achieved anything. But you can never know that for sure. What if, say ten years ago, you stopped a child running under a bus? You may have been a hero for two minutes but that was long since forgotten. What if that child was, for example, Greta Thunberg? You would have no way of ever knowing that but it just goes to show how we all have a role and purpose in this life even if it isn’t apparent to us. There is a point to you, whether or not you realise it. You may not be better than the next person but equally, they are not better than you despite any apparent evidence to the contrary. We each have our own tangled thread to follow through space and time and we each cross the timelines of many other people during our life creating a massive invisible spider’s web of interaction that is impossible to unravel and make sense of. We cannot ever truly know the meaning of it all. We just have to go about our lives and do the things that call to us, regardless of what others may say or think. You may not ever discover your true purpose but by the time you exhale your final breath you can rest assured that you will have achieved it somewhere along the line.

Well, that was all a bit heavy, wasn’t it? So what brought it on? I was listening to Spider’s Web and thinking what a great song it was. It made me wonder why Katie lacks confidence in her ability to write lyrics. I’ll show you the lyrics right here and let you make your own mind up but I can’t help feeling the likes of Dylan, McCartney or Simon, or indeed Batt, would be proud to have that song on their C.V.

If a black man is racist, is it okay
when it’s the white man’s racism that made him that way?
Because the bully’s the victim they say
By some sense they’re all the same

Because the line between
wrong and right
is the width of a thread
from a spider’s web

The piano keys are black and white
but they sound like a million colours in your mind

I could tell you to go to war
or I could march for peace and fighting no more
how do I know which is right?
and I hope he does when he sends you to fight

Because the line between
wrong and right
is the width of a thread
from a spider’s web

The piano keys are black and white
but they sound like a million colours in your mind

Should we act on a blame?
or should we chase the moments away?
should we live?
should we give?
remember forever the guns and the feathers in time

Because the line between
wrong and right
is the width of a thread
from a spider’s web

The piano keys are black and white
but they sound like a million colours in your mind


31.10.19   >   Katie Bite: Spellbound

spellbound



I don't like to repeat myself but that's veggie bacon for you, anyway just wanted to remind you of the excellent Halloween Katie playlist which goes perfectly with carved pumpkins and cinder toffee. Scroll back down to last Friday's entry if you missed it.

30.10.19   >   Track Notes 70: Mad, Mad Men

Album:  

Writer(s)

Mike Batt

Length:

3:21

Notes:

Another catchy Batt confection. How does he do it? (Don't answer that, I'm not listening. It was rhetorical.) Who even thinks of writing about Oscar Wilde and Joan of Arc in the same song? (Don't... ) Looking at the title, I'm wondering if it was autobiographical as well.


YouTube:

Not a lot of this one to choose from other than the obligatory slideshow type job, but as they go this one is quite nice. Mad, Mad Men.

Lyrics:

Mad, Mad Men 

29.10.19   >   In Winter etiquette

At this time of year many people’s thoughts start to turn to winter. Mine start to turn to In Winter. The burning question for Ketefans is “when can I start playing In Winter again?”.

The simple answer, of course, is whenever the hell you like. It’s music, not EU law. But as glorious as Katie’s voice is, there are songs on In Winter that will get your brain’s hackles rising if heard during the summer. (What exactly is a hackle anyway?) It’s a bit like seeing the tubs of Roses and Quality Street appear in the supermarket in mid-September. Christmas is only special if we confine it to a small window of our year. The further out we start thinking about it the more watered down it gets until we reach the point where we’re fed up of it before it even arrives. Thankfully, In Winter is less critical because it is about winter and not just Christmas. So we can get into it sooner and cling on to it longer. That said, there is still a degree of etiquette required concerning when we should pull it down from the shelf and dust if off. (Yes, I know that isn’t strictly necessary if you have a digital copy in iTunes but some people actually do still use CDs. Or better still, vinyl.)

To date, my rule of In Winter has been to follow the Met Office definition of winter, i.e. December 1st through to February 28th (or 29th, just to keep the pedants quiet). The problem is, that’s just an arbitrary three-month window so they can split the year into four equal seasons. The reality is the seasons are anything but equal. Often, the best (or worst, depending on your point of view) month for snow is March. And November can feel pretty wintry. The seasons are not as clear cut as they used to be (I’m not going to bang on about climate change but basically it’s because of climate change). These days, spring seems to last longer, making summer later, whilst winters seem to be getting longer as well. It is autumn that appears to be paying the price, getting squeezed from both sides. October can start with warm sunny days and end with cold frosty ones, rushing the leaves into turning pretty colours and dropping off almost before we know it. Because of all this, I am changing my rule for In Winter listening. I’ve decided it is legal to listen to it from the first frost (post midsummer’s day) until the first tulip opens in spring. I should hastily add that I’m not entirely happy with the latter parameter. Tulips could hold off until May. But in recent years they have been poking around in early April, and as I mentioned earlier you really can’t count winter out before the end of March. In days gone by, daffodils would have been a better choice but as plants go they are exceptionally thick and I’ve even seen them flowering in January before the snowdrops are out. (Snowdrops are brilliant time keepers and know exactly when to show up but they usually get their business done while winter is still in full flow so I can’t consider them as an end marker.) If tulips suck at the job I may well give it to lawnmowers and declare winter to be over when I hear the first lawnmower in spring.

bamboo socks

So there you have it. Feel free to make your own rules. But if you’re happy with mine then the good news is there was a proper frost yesterday morning (a proper frost being one that needs at least a fingernail to scrape off a windscreen rather than just a fingertip) and so I am officially declaring In Winter season open. Yay.

28.10.19   >   Lyric Card: Idiot School

idiot school

27.10.19   >   K.I.S.S.

Keep it simple, stupid.
Seems like good advice, but it is increasingly being forgotten in this complex world we live in. It is most apparent in movies and television shows where the trend seems to be a million things going on at once with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cuts. You don’t have time to listen to the dialogue and think about what you’re seeing—instead you are bombarded with eye-candy visuals and relentless sound effects. A good example is the latest Star Trek series, Discovery. It looks *incredible* but the writing is awful. Television and movies need to get back to basics—telling stories well. If they started from that base they’d find they wouldn’t need to spend millions plastering on the make-up of special effects.

It is the same with music. A lot of songs have the kitchen sink thrown at them, but is it really necessary? Enya gets her famous choral sound by recording backing vocals herself hundreds of times so she effectively becomes her own choir. But I can’t think of a single one of her songs that wouldn’t sound just as good if she simply sang it with just the piano as accompaniment. When James Horner was writing a theme for Titanic he sent a demo tape to James Cameron which was simply an instrumental version of himself playing the music on the piano. It was only intended to give Cameron a taste of the basic melody before letting an orchestra (and Celine Dion) loose on it, but Cameron loved it so much he used it in the film (for the portrait scene, where Leo sketches Kate). Indeed, you can find it on the soundtrack as “The Portrait”. It is as simple as music gets—just a piano and nothing else—but it is a stunningly emotive piece and a perfect example of less is more.

As for Katie, I’ve always said I prefer her playing alone with a guitar. The version of “Fields Of Gold” she recorded for BBC Children In Need was a perfect example of how breathtaking that simple combination can be. The orchestration on Secret Symphony was all very lovely but I personally think it would have been a better album without it. It’s not that I didn’t like it, just that I didn’t feel it was *necessary*. Katie’s interpretation and delivery of a song is so good that it shouldn’t have to be competing with backing music. I’m not suggesting for a second that she ditches the band or the Gori Women’s Choir, but I would like to see two or three tracks on every album that were just Katie and her guitar. But hey, what do I know. If she released an album accompanied by Harry Hill on the bongos I’d still love it.


26.10.19   >   Sketch effect

sketch

25.10.19   >   Playlist: Halloween

This is a cracking playlist so I'm getting it in early this year so you can program your player and play it for a whole week. I think we can deduce two things from this image—(1) Katie has a penchant for spooky songs and (2) she's still gorgeous even as a witch.

halloween playlist

24.10.19   >   Track Notes 69: Idiot School

Album:  

Writer(s)

Mike Batt

Length:

3:35

Notes:

Now this is an oddity. Katie does comedy. Actually, it is a sweet little song about lost love but the combination of the jaunty 1920s ukulele sound and Katie's *sublime* delivery of a couple of clever lines make it highly amusing. Pronunciation and timing needed to be spot on for the gags to work and Katie nailed it. Although Mike wrote it for Katie it wouldn't have been out of place as a Two Ronnies showpiece. He must have been channelling their spirit anyway.

Couldn't let this opportunity pass to remind you of the ringtone I made from this song.


Idiot School ring tone (click the 3 dots to download)

YouTube:

A few fan videos of this knocking about. Here is a good one from a live show in Lyon in 2013. (Nice touch to add a bit of accordion for the French audience, along with Katie doing a little Piaf "la-la-la-ing") Idiot School live.

Lyrics:

Idiot School 

23.10.19   >   Katie Bite: Bridge Over Troubled Water

Bridge Over Troubled Water

22.10.19   >   Song Title Generator update

There are now more than a quarter of a million possibilities that can be generated! I strongly suggest if you see one you like you write it down since the odds of you getting the same suggestion twice are low! You can find the STG at the top of the Miscellany page and also in the panel on the right.


22.10.19   >   Sock Music

bamboo socks

Here's a first—Katie being compared to socks. Well, not Katie herself but rather her songs. Presumably the song in question is Two Bare Feet. Ahem.

Anyway, if you've ever wished you could wear Nine Million Bicycles I suggest you grab a pair of these naughty boys right now. They are far better than the Rick Astley socks, which are wearing thin and rather cheesy.

(In fairness, this ad is absolutely accurate. I have several items of bamboo clothing myself and I can confirm that as a material it is indeed the badgers' nads. Bamboo fibre clothing is soft and warm but above all is highly sustainable. Find out more at BAM Clothing.
Better still, get 15% off with this link ;-) 15% Off at BAM!)


(In case you were wondering, this was found in Country Walking magazine.)

21.10.19   >   Lyric Card: Where Does The Ocean Go?

where does the ocean go

20.10.19   >   Song Title Generator

Want to write a song? Stuck for inspiration? I'm here to help. Sometimes having a title can get your creative juices flowing. But what if you can't even think of a title? Well, it's your lucky day. Behold my shiny new Song Title Generator. A mere click of a lilac button will deliver you a random suggestion to get you up and running. You're welcome. There are currently more than 200,000 possible suggestions (and rising as I feed the generator). You can keep on clicking until something grabs you. Some are silly, some are weird, some are slightly amusing, some are just odd; but some are actually really good. So the STG is both a fun little amusement *and* a genuinely useful tool. Use it how you will. (Note: If you're a writer these suggestions could equally well be titles for a novel. *mic drop*)

Although you can play with STG right here it will of course drop further down the blog each day and eventually be trapped in an archive page. But don't despair, you can always find it right at the top of the Miscellany page (bottom option of the menu on the left) or use the little widget in the panel on the right.

P.S. You can't have "His Scent Endangered The World" — I've baggsed that one for myself.



A Random Song Title

19.10.19   >   Katie Bite: Just Like Heaven

Just Like Heaven

18.10.19   >   Gallery upgrade

I've been doing some housekeeping in the Gallery section. Three sections have been revamped: Favourites, Katie Bites and Lyric Cards. Because there are so many of each the pages were unwieldy and slow. I've changed them to show one at a time with buttons that let you navigate through them or show one at random. The Bites and Cards also let you choose a specific song. I was so chuffed with the improvements I treated myself to half a Snickers bar. I don't expect you to be quite so enthused by the changes but I hope you like the new system anyway.

Here are links to the pages just in case you are too idle to click on the "Gallery" option in the menu on the left.





17.10.19   >   The Wisdom Of Bob

bob

As I was idly flipping through my 600-page book of Dylan lyrics it struck me that there was simply too much wisdom in those pages to be languishing on a coffee table. I needed to spread the word of Bob. So I made a little widget called The Wisdom Of Bob to do just that. Scroll down a little and you'll find it in the panel on the right. Click the "Seek guidance" button and Bob will give you his enlightened response to whatever pressing need you might have. How you interpret his response is up to you. Do enjoy.

Warning: you may find it ever so slightly addictive.

16.10.19   >   Track Notes 68: Where Does The Ocean Go?

Album:  

Writer(s)

Katie Melua, Mike Batt, Luke Batt

Length:

3:37

Notes:

Katie was the filling in a Batt sandwich writing this one with Pops and Junior. And what a tasty concoction they came up with. Another gorgeous song from the mightily impressive Ketevan.
There is something of a French theme going on with this album. "Where Does The Ocean Go?" contains some French words,"Shiver And Shake" contains the word "French", "Sailing Ships From Heaven" bangs on about Paris and some bloke called Jean-Michel (Jarre maybe?), and "Mad, Mad Men" mentions Joan of Arc. I suspect it is all accidental rather than calculated but hey, just thought I'd point it out.

YouTube:

Here's a video of Katie performing the song live mixed with footage of a bloke painting a massive picture. Not just any old massive picture mind, it was one that Katie stood in front of for Ketevan promo shots.Where Does The Ocean Go?.

Lyrics:

Where Does The Ocean Go? 

15.10.19   >   Acting Katie

Hands up who knew Katie was also an actress? Okay, that may be stretching it a bit but she has appeared in a movie and here is a still shot to prove it. This is from Grindhouse, if you must know. Katie has always been ridiculously photogenic and effortlessly camera-friendly, though clearly in this scene she found the camera more terrifying than the supposed *evil thing* the other actors are looking at. (I think the *evil thing* in question may have been Mike Batt, whose trousers had just fallen down revealing he'd decided to go commando that day.) 

grindhouse

14.10.19   >   Katie Bite: Heartstrings 

heartstrings

13.10.19   >   Ignore Governments

An Englishman, a Georgian and a Russian walked into a bar.... They ended up good friends. I know you don't get it. That's because it wasn't a joke. But there is a moral. Treat people as you find them. And you will find that wherever in the world you go people are lovely. So take no notice of what governments and the media tell you about foreigners. Meet them with an open mind and get to know them. You will find they have much more in common with you than you might think and it is wonderful to know you have friends in faraway countries. If we all made these connections instead of blindly believing what we're told the world would be so much better.

3mentbilisi

12.10.19   >   National Album Day

It is National Album Day. Yay. Quite honestly, I've no idea who decided that should be a thing. Or why. But apparently it is, and there's no way I'm letting it pass without giving a shout out to our girl.

My choice of album was not difficult. I'm going back to the beginning to the album that stopped me in my tracks and nudged my life down a different path. Call Off The Search was an instant masterpiece. When I first heard "The Closest Thing To Crazy" on Terry Wogan's radio show it was a <stands still and stares at the radio in disbelief> moment. (Terry had a habit of doing this—he also got me with Dire Straits' "Private Investigations" and Kate Rusby's "Underneath The Stars").

It was love at first note. There's something about Katie's voice that penetrated my shields, went straight through my heart and proceeded to hug my soul. I had no idea what she looked like but she sounded, well, older and chubbier but sultry, perhaps like Angelina Jolie if she'd let herself go a bit. I certainly wasn't expecting a gorgeous curly-haired kid. For a debut album by a teenager, Call Off The Search is astonishing. The maturity in Katie's voice and the subtlety of her interpretation is breathtaking. The theme of National Album Day (look, I'm not making this up - nationalalbumday.co.uk) is #DontSkip and I think that is a good choice. No skipping, no shuffling. Sit down and listen to Call Off The Search from beginning to end, the way an album is meant to be listened to, and just savour the brilliance of a new born star.

cots

11.10.19   >   Support the Indies!

Don’t worry, this isn’t about cricket. I’m talking about independent artists. Which is what Katie is since parting with Dramatico. But I’m not too concerned about Katie struggling to make ends meet—her ends met a long time ago and fused together nicely. I’m more worried about the many indie artists that make a living from music but remain unable to penetrate that elusive and fickle bubble called ‘The Big Time’; or indeed those that have managed to get inside it for a while but have been ruthlessly dumped out of it again with not so much as a ‘thank you’.

The struggle to survive is not confined to young artists just starting out and trying to catch a break. A good example is Nils Lofgren. One of the world’s greatest guitarists, Nils is a member of the E. Street Band, Bruce Springsteen’s legendary wing men, but he has also been in bands with Neil Young and Ringo Starr, and he has played alongside the likes of Bob Dylan. He co-wrote songs with Lou Reed. He has also been releasing albums of his own since the early seventies. In fact, his career ran parallel to Springsteen’s in the early years—they crossed paths a couple of times and had similar levels of success. But one day Bruce got yanked into the bubble and the rest is history. Nils never did. He still has a large enough fan base to keep touring and making records to this day, but he has to do it all as an indie—the record companies are not interested despite his astonishing c.v.

Indie artists are the real deal in music. They make honest, meaningful music, not the manufactured synthetic rubbish that hogs the lion’s share of the airwaves. But if there are indie artists you love you should help them. They have to eat and pay their bills too. You should go see them live whenever you can. That’s important. As for their music and merchandise—go to their web site and buy it directly from them. Please don’t just stream them on Spotify or whatever. Artists get nothing from that—no, seriously, they don’t. Lofgren gets annual royalty cheques often for a couple of dollars and sometimes just a few cents. Streaming picks the pockets of musicians. By all means, listen to the major stars that way, but not indies. As for merch, it is always tempting to buy a tour T-shirt or something at the concert but again, this is bad for the artist. The venue always takes a big chunk of merch takings, which is grossly unfair but that is how it is. Wait till you get home and then order the item from the artist themselves. Nils’ wife Amy handles all his merch. She takes the orders, packs them and posts them herself. She even designs most of the T-shirts. The two of them are a self-contained music business. The wonderful Kate Rusby has her own little cottage industry at home, where her parents help her packing and sending off orders. Judie Tzuke has her daughters helping out (as well as being backing singers). Indie artists are often part of a little family business, but like all small businesses they are in a daily fight to survive in a world where the giants like Apple, Amazon, Google and Spotify descend on the public like locusts, barely leaving crumbs for the rest to forage. So, if you care about an indie then support them. Better still, champion them. Blog, tweet, whatever—spread the word and get others supporting them. Support the Indies.

10.10.19   >   Playlist: Love Is In The Air

There are plenty of songs in Katie’s catalogue about love that is breaking, is broken or is lost. More than plenty for a good playlist to listen to alone with a bottle of Rioja and a box of tissues. But that’s for another time. Today’s playlist is for lovers. When you still have the dizziness in your head, fluttering in your heart and lack of appetite in your stomach. God help you. So, curl up on the sofa with the poor creature that is responsible and let Katie do the rest…

Note that this list is in alphabetical order. If, like me, you can't stand playing lists of songs ordered thus then all I can say to you is "shuffle button".

Love Is In The Air

  1. Anniversary Song
  2. Better Than A Dream
  3. Call Off The Search
  4. Chase Me
  5. Heartstrings
  6. If The Lights Go Out
  7. My Aphrodisiac Is You
  8. Nine Million Bicycles
  9. No Fear Of Heights
  10. Scary Films
  11. Shiver And Shake
  12. The Closest Thing To Crazy
  13. The Love I'm Frightened Of
  14. The Walls Of The World
  15. What It Says On The Tin

09.10.19   >   Lyric Card: The Love I'm Frightened Of

the love I'm frightened of'

09.10.19   >   Oops! Brief shutdown

Imagine if you had to change the engine in your car. Obviously, between taking out the old one and putting in the new one the car wouldn't run at all. Well, yesterday I had to do a web site equivalent of that which meant that for a few hours the site was down. I doubt if anyone actually noticed but if you did and were left mildly traumatized by seeing some nasty error message instead of Katie's caramel eyes then I do apologize. I misplaced a vital bolt and it took longer than expected to replace the engine. But it is done now and the new engine is purring like a kitten. The site should be running faster and smoother than ever and your eyes can once again be caramelised...

08.10.19   >   Age Demographics

The other day I mentioned Katie’s transition to album artist from singles artist. I realised that was a very simplistic observation. If you look more closely at her career and poke around in the stats you could argue that she has always been an album artist. After all, she hasn’t had a Top 40 hit since “The Flood” in 2010 (not counting “Fields Of Gold”, which was guaranteed success as the official Children In Need single in 2017). Her albums paint a different picture. Call Off The Search and Piece By Piece both made number one, Pictures number two. Indeed, when Ketevan charted at number six, Katie became a member of a very exclusive club of female artists to have six consecutive top ten studio albums in the UK, joining the likes of Kate Bush and Madonna. When In Winter made the top ten, she nudged her score up to seven. (At the moment, Kate Bush has ten and Madge fourteen but lets not forget they are both in their sixties now; Katie has 25 years of catching up to do!)

Having got all that straight, it is worth looking at how Katie has been so successful despite only modest success in the singles chart. Well, it is all down to age demographics. Yeah, baby. Let’s get statistical… Put simply, Katie’s fans are old. If you go to one of her concerts you can observe this for yourself. You’ll see the odd brave fresh face but predominantly the audience will be over fifty. Her average fan will be much older than Katie herself, which is rather unusual. Taking The Beatles as the obvious benchmark, although they were basically toddlers themselves when they started out their fan base was even younger—millions of screaming adolescent girls. How awful. Of course, later on everyone loved The Beatles and many a 63-year-old went around humming “When I’m 64”. But their initial demographic was fairly normal. Most artists will have fans predominantly of their own age or younger. So, why is Katie exceptional?

It’s all down to TOGs. No, I’m not talking about duvet thickness. Terry’s Old Geezers (or Gits, depending on your POV). It was basically Terry Wogan that launched Katie into the stratosphere by pushing “The Closest Thing To Crazy” so hard he almost got a hernia. And Terry’s massive army of fans—TOGs—were predominantly, shall we say, of a certain age. When he fell in love with Katie so did the TOGs. So Katie’s fan base from day one has been far older than Katie herself. Actually, she is beginning to catch up considering the average age of a Ketefan is probably somewhere in the 50s and always has been whereas she began at eighteen and has crept up into her thirties. But it is still something of an anomaly that she is so much younger than her fans. And there is a down side to it. The fact that Katie has been in the business for nearly twenty years means her initial fan base is nearly twenty years older too. We have sadly lost Terry himself but also many of those TOGs have followed him. Katie’s fans are falling off a cliff. Her albums are still commercially successful but you can see a steady decline in sales over the past decade or so as time takes its toll on her ageing followers. It isn’t all doom and gloom—she is attracting new fans all the time, though not yet at a rate that can achieve equilibrium. I’m struggling to think of another artist that is in this odd age-gap position. Twenty years from now Katie will have finally caught up with her fans and be playing to audiences of her own age. Hopefully I’ll cling on to the cliff edge long enough to see it.

07.10.19   >   Katie Bite: Ghost Town

ghost town

06.10.19   >   Track Notes 67: The Love I'm Frightened Of

Album:  

Writer(s)

Luke Batt

Length:

3:35

Notes:

Well, hello Luke Batt! Block chip indeed. Pops must have been proud of this one, though it begs the question what else does he have up his sleeve? We may never know now that Dramatico has dissolved and Katie has gone her own way. The engineering on Ketevan may have been awful but in terms of songwriting and performance it was a triumph. I hope one day it will get the proper remastering it deserves.
This was the last single Katie released (not counting the Children in Need charity single, "Fields of Gold"). It was released on 17th October 2013, along with a version of "Alfie" (that's right, the Bacharach song made famous by Blind Date queen Cilla Black). The world failed to catch fire, underlining the suspicion that Katie had ascended to the ranks of album artist. In other words, she has a large enough fan base for her albums to be successful without the boost of hit singles. To remain successful in the music industry without hit singles is a sign you've properly made it.

YouTube:

The official video is simple and effective, showing Katie could have been a fine actress had she been so inclined. The Love I'm Frightened Of.

Lyrics:

The Love I'm Frightened Of 

05.10.19   >   Vocal Trends in Music

I’ll be honest—most popular young singers these days have voices that grate on my ears. The modern trend seems to be a blend of shouty whine mixed with ridiculously elaborate embellishment and guttural Cherokee chant. Young people love it, probably because old people like me hate it. But that’s the way it has been ever since records began.

In the 1920s and 1930s songs were clean and clear, sung with a kind of vocal received pronunciation—think “One More Kiss Dear” from the Blade Runner soundtrack, sung by Peter Skellern. In the 40s and 50s the laid back crooners took over, as the likes of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole became the superstars of their day. The next generation favoured Elvis and The Beatles as rock and roll came to the fore with its high volume high energy squawking that mesmerised young people and horrified their elders. In the late 60s and 70s there was a split as different styles proved popular at the same time; there was sullen and moody prog rock, anthemic shouty glam rock, loud screeching heavy metal, catchy disco pop and sultry soul. And, of course, anarchic angry punk. That was a mad era of anything goes when even comedy songs could top the charts. In the 80s and 90s electronic music introduced monotone melancholy as a vocal style, then came boy bands and rap. It seems as though every new style of music was embraced by young people purely because their parents hated it. The weird thing is that as you grow older you always love the music that shaped your teenage years but you also begin to discover the music that your parents and grandparents loved. Your tastes expand backwards into time. But not so much forward. It is far less common for people to get into the music of their children and grandchildren. Part of the reason for this is that if they tried the young people would be compelled to find something new and more outrageous in order to maintain the distance between the generations. Young people need to find their own identity; older people need to find a connection with their ancestors.

Singer-songwriters like Katie have transcended most of these eras, often out of the limelight but always popular. From time to time they hold their own and grab the attention, like Dylan in the 60s and the likes of Donovan and Cat Stevens in the 70s. In the noughties, Katie regularly had chart hits, as did artists like David Gray and Daniel Bedingfield. Nowadays, singer-songwriters are still popular but in a less chart-troubling way. There is still the odd phenomenon like Ed Sheeran but most of the time the charts are stuffed with songs that have “ft.” linking two artists to a song. But whatever fashions come and go in music, singer-songwriters will always have a voice and they will always have loyal fans that want to listen to it. They may not trouble talent shows but their music will always find an audience, and the right one at that.

04.10.19   >   Lyric Card: Shiver And Shake

shiver and shake

03.10.19   >   Giya Kancheli გია ყანჩელი (10.8.35 - 2.10.19)

giya and katie mourned by the wind

Yesterday, Georgia lost a legend. Internationally acclaimed composer Giya Kancheli died in hospital in his home city, Tbilisi. He was 84.

Although he said he'd lived a happy life his music, which included around 40 orchestral pieces as well as many cinematic scores, often had a tragic, melancholic feel. He said the reason for this was that "everything that is happening around me - in my motherland, in the world –never gave me the right to write the music of another kind."

If you have Katie's album Live at the O2 Arena, you can hear her sing a Kancheli song, "Yellow Leaves". It is not an overstatement to say that every Georgian knows this song, it has become written in their DNA. As I write this, I'm listening to Mourned By The Wind, which seems appropriate as today a wind of mourning blows across the whole of Georgia.

02.10.19   >   Notes on Georgia

Katie is off the radar right now, possibly trying to remember where she lives, so I thought I might while away the odd no-news day with an occasional observation on the quirky, quaint, borderline bonkers country of her birth, Georgia 🇬🇪, inspired by some of the 2500 pictures I took during my September visit.

Every other car in Tbilisi is a taxi, i.e. either a hybrid Prius or a vintage Mercedes. Since there are so many taxis, passengers are highly sought after. This means that most taxi drivers don't spend much time driving but instead just loiter around on the pavement muttering "tagsee" to any non-Georgian (i.e. anyone that is actually looking around and appreciating their surroundings).
There is no equivalent of "the Knowledge" in Tbilisi. If you ask to go 50 metres down the road they'll have to program it into their satnav app on their phone (whilst driving, naturally). You won't get any English smalltalk from your driver but at least the journey won't be in awkward silence since you'll have the dulcet tones of a Russian dominatrix barking out instructions every few seconds—something that is so curiously compelling that I may well download it for my own satnav. I won't have a clue where I'm supposed to be going but I won't really care.

georgian taxi

01.10.19   >   Katie Bite: Deep Purple

deep purple

30.09.19   >   Katie Sings The Beatles at Abbey Road

If you missed Katie's magical performances of three Beatles songs on BBC Radio 2 last Friday then I feel for you. The show is available at BBC Sounds for another 26 days, though it is likely that content will be unavailable outside the UK (don't ask me why, possibly something to do with copyright issues.) If you just want to hear Katie's contribution you can do so below, but don't hang about—if the BBC get sniffy about it these clips may need to be removed (unreasonable but feasible).

29.09.19   >   Friday Night Is Music Night: The Beatles Orchestrated

friday night is music night

There was a very special live music event a couple of days ago. The Beatles Orchestrated (better than the "Beatles are castrated") was part of the Radio 2 Beatles season and broadcast from Abbey Road Studios for Friday Night Is Music Night. Katie performed three sumptuous and, as host Guy Garvey so accurately put it, spellbinding performances. Her tracks were "In My Life", "Here Comes The Sun", and "Here, There and Everywhere".
The concert is available on BBC Sounds for 28 days. Katie's segment starts around 17 minutes in. It is well worth catching before it disappears into the bowels of the BBC Archives, though it is worth pointing out that although Katie nailed her performances there are one or two other artists that murdered their songs. They shall remain nameless—your ears will let you know when they hear them.
Oh, if only someone had thought to record and edit Katie's bit for posterity... ( 😇 😉)

28.09.19   >   Track Notes 66: Shiver And Shake

Album:  

Writer(s)

Katie Melua, Luke Batt

Length:

2:59

Notes:

My word this is a catchy song! It gets your foot tapping from the start but once the syncopated drum beat kicks in adding an almost tribal rhythm it's hard to imagine even the most curmudgeonly grump not leaping up to do a little booty-shaking. Then it all stops for a bit, allowing Katie's vocals to soar whilst the grump stands there rather sheepishly, unsure what to do. Thankfully, the rhythm kicks back in again and the grump can flick his combover about like a L'Oreal superstar before trudging back to his stout and pork scratchings when the criminally short record ends. How I wish there was a 12-minute FatBoy Slim mix of this song.
Some of you may just have breezed past the writing credits, seeing it as another Melua/Batt magical creation, which it is, but the eagle-eyed may have noticed the Batt in question is Luke, not Mike. Yep, Batt junior is a chip off the old block. Luke certainly feels the force, with writing credits on four Ketevan tracks as well as playing guitar, piano and drums. (Mike's daughter Hayley is also a songwriter and a bass player. There must be a music gene.)

YouTube:

A few live performances of this around. One of the better ones is Shiver And Shake live at Rockhal, Luxembourg, 2013.

Lyrics:

Shiver And Shake 

27.09.19   >   Katie Bite: Market Day In Guernica

market day in guernica

26.09.19   >   Georgian Church Chorals

This CD of Georgian Church Chorals is one of the most beautiful 73 minutes of music I have ever heard. Good thing I ripped it to mp3 as soon as I got home otherwise I would soon have worn it out. Don't bother troubling iTunes, Amazon or Spotify for it—you can only get it at Bagrati Cathedral in Kutaisi. It is an absolute steal at 10 lari (about £2.60), though if you factor in flights and accommodation it becomes a tad more expensive. But it is worth every tetri.

georgian church chorals cd

25.09.19   >   Hope And Homes For Children Christmas Concert

Katie will be performing at St Mary Abbots Church, Kensington on Wednesday 4th December, for the Hope And Homes For Children Christmas Concert. It's a local event for Katie but for those outside North London, who may need to involve trains and hotels in their thinking, even if Katie only performs one song it will be a lovely evening with other performances and celebrity appearances with a festive atmosphere and above all it is for a very good cause. Tickets are limited, so if you are interested you can find out more at
hope and homes for children

24.09.19   >   Lyric Card: Love Is A Silent Thief

love is a silent thief

23.09.19   >   Thank You Georgia

For stunning statues...

ali and nino

mother of georgia

and silly sculptures...

boy on barrel

white bridge

for dogs playing dead...

sleeping dog

and cats being cute...

playful cat

for being exciting and quirky...

okatse canyon

mtatsminda park

for the food and friendship...

party at Shuamta

I thank you, Georgia
Farewell, ნახვამდის

Black sea sunset

Just like Arnie, I'll be back...

22.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 19

Other than filing a tax return online, walking out to the end of the suspension platform over the Okatse Canyon is the scariest thing you can do. The sign advises no more than ten people at a time, so when there are nine of you gingerly standing there, trying to act nonchalant, and you see Fatty Arbuckle waddling towards you, you have nine very nervous individuals weighing up if it's time to leg it.

okatse canyon

The Prometheus Cave is the biggest underground cave system in Georgia. Only a tenth is open to the public but there's still about a mile of it to explore, including a section that requires a boat trip (warning: being a midget is advisable). It is all lit up with spectacular LED coloured lighting which, like the stalactites and stalagmites, has naturally evolved over millions of years.

prometheus cave

martvili gorge

A boat trip along the Martvili Gorge is another large thing to do, though they do make you paddle the buggers yourself (given the echo of outboard motors might cause millions of tons of rock to land on your head, probably a small price to pay). The three things mentioned today can all be done in a single day trip from Kutaisi (as well as seeing an impressive waterfall), a trip that blows Cheddar Gorge and Wookey Hole well out of the water.

21.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 18

As I entered into Borjomi park I spotted this chap taking my photo. So I reciprocated. Mind you, I didn't have a top hat with a bird on it, so he wins.

borjomi park statue

A stunning waterfall being guarded by a bronze bloke with his modesty protected. Just. I think there are more statues in Georgia than actual people.

waterfall and statue

great tit

Tits in Borjomi are very friendly. This is because they are Georgian, naturally. Who doesn't like a friendly tit?

20.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 17

My new favourite place in the whole world, the spa town of Borjomi. It is like a cross between Coniston, Buxton and Portmeirion (minus the big white balloons). It is just the most magical place with trees everywhere and mountains all around. Some people might want to retire to a hot place with a sandy beach. I'd rather retire here. A true paradise town.

borjomi

The Love Bridge. A bit like The Love Boat, but cheaper. Instead of getting lucky for the price of an ocean cruise you can get lucky for the price of a padlock.

love bridge

spring water

The natural spring water here is freely available at this pump station. As you can see, some people even bring buckets. It comes out of the ground naturally warm and, like any warm water, is a bit gross. The water is said to have great healing properties. This, of course, is largely bollocks, but at least it is pure and hasn't been through a tramp and recycled twelve times. The true healing in Borjomi comes from the location itself, which is like a comfort blanket for the soul.

19.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 16

The cave city of Vardzia is a must see. It is without doubt the most incredible place I have ever been. It is awe-inspiring to think how much work went into making these caves and they are so much more complex than you would ever imagine. One of the wonders of the world. You can truly feel a connection to your ancient ancestors and it is humbling to visualise the city when it was thriving and teeming with life. The caves are numbered. I put a deposit down on 89 and I hope to move in before winter. Put Vardzia on your bucket list. Now.

vardzia

Cow chaos is an everyday experience in Georgia. In fact, it is an every minute experience. Scenes like this are normal. If you wondered why there are so many kittens in Georgia it is because British tourists have them whilst travelling on Georgian roads. The sheer anarchy of it all is terrifying to foreigners. Georgians don't bat an eyelid.
Whilst on the subject of cows, it is worth noting that in Georgian villages everyone owns a cow. You would be considered a lunatic if you didn't have one. And maybe a pig, goat and a few chickens too. Each house is a micro-farm. People don't want their cows munching their way through their own gardens so they turf them out on the roadside to eat the grass verges. Seems sensible enough, though you would think a little basic road safety training wouldn't go amiss.

cow chaos

athaltsikhe castle

It's not all about the churches and cathedrals. There are some fine castles to be found in Georgia too. Like this massive complex at Athaltsikhe Castle. Like Vardzia, you could spend an entire day exploring this impressive place. Georgians don't do things by halves.

18.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 15

Gelati Monastery near Kutaisi. This is a stunning place, still undergoing a lot of renovation but well worth a visit. The glazed roof tiles are stunning, though I wouldn't want to be the one having to replace them.

Gelati Monastery

Sweet Memories Hotel in Kutaisi. Small, but perfectly formed. This is a typically Georgian property, utterly delightful, and the owners always go the extra mile for you and make sure you do, indeed, leave with Sweet Memories.

sweet memories hotel

lizard

More evidence of dinosaurs thriving in Georgia. Okay, this guy may have shrunk down to three inches over time but if he was three metres long you'd be thinking twice about getting close enough for a selfie.

17.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 14

The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi. The churches, monasteries and cathedrals of Georgia are beautiful and iconic. And there are many of them. In fact, I think Georgians have one each.

holy trinity cathedral

Georgians are never short of good advice...

call the wife

blue box3 blue boxes

You're just what it says on the tin!

16.09.19   >   Happy Birthday Katie!

happy birthday

16.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 13

From most places in Tbilisi you can see either the radio tower or the iconic Mother Of Georgia statue. The latter may not light up in all manner of funky colours at night but in daylight it is a wondrous monument. Like all mothers, she is holding a bowl of porridge and a sword. She stands guard over her children, ready to give them breakfast and then go out into battle. Like all mothers. You may be thinking she appears to have turned her back on the people but, like any other statue, you can view it from behind and this is one of the many stunning glimpses of her you can get in the Tbilisi Botanical Gardens.

mother of georgia

The Botanical Gardens are a gorgeous place to while away a day. In September the weather can be just right even if the fauna isn't quite at its best. It is for this reason that I'm not showing you some rare species of dog-eating carniverous, or indeed canineverous, plant. Instead, here is an owl made out of bits of wire.

owl

grasshopper

There are still dinosaurs in Georgia. No, not people without a smartphone but actual monsters that see you as dinner. This nightmare beast has a row of teeth along its stomach and stripey eyes. I mean, come on, who the hell has stripey eyes? How does a creature evolve with built-in Venetian blinds?

15.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 12

It is hard to walk very far in Tbilisi without having to put some effort in since it was built on the side of a hill. Quite how the first settlers here failed to notice this is uncertain. There is a plus side of course in the stunning views afforded and a walk up to Erti Kava coffee room means you have officially earned the right to one of their lovely cakes without feeling guilty about it. It also means there are some spectacular roads of the kind that deserve a really good bike race. Tour De Georgia?? Georgians are kind and thoughtful people and you can usually find somewhere to sit and have a rest. Below you can see some nice benches cleverly built in to the handrails. If you are the kind of person that enjoys sitting with your backside overhanging a cliff then these are for you.

cliff seat

I've taken a thousand photos in Georgia already. I've seen things you people wouldn't believe—attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion... well, maybe not that, but a ton of jaw-dropping scenery. But I'm not showing you that. Oh no, I'm showing you the underneath of a funicular railway. You have to admit, of all the things you might see every day, such as your other half or a bill on the doormat, this would not be one of them.

under the funicular

graffiti

Ancient cave art half way up Mtatsminda. Nobody knows how old this is, but experts have suggested it could be thousands of hours. Is it a dog? Or a moose? Or a mouse with unusually long legs? You decide. Just gaze in wonder and feel the connection with your ancestors.

14.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 11

Don't ask. I have no idea. I was expecting to see one of those little information boards explaining everything but nope, nothing. This would have building inspectors in the UK snorting their Chardonnay out of their nostrils. Clearly, Georgians see the world differently.

wonky building

The funicular is the easy way to get up the ridiculously steep mountain that overlooks Tbilisi, though it's a sardine special and there are better places to be on a hot day. Going down, it is far better to take the million or so steps (probably an inaccurate figure since I didn't even try to count them, but there are a lot) which have been beautifully constructed from red bricks and cobbles in a wonderfully twisty-turny adventure leading you back down the mountain. You do pass the odd lunatic trudging up them. It is best to avoid eye contact so they don't detect the pity and disbelief you feel for them.
The theme park on Mtatsminda wasn't really designed with grumpy Englishmen in mind but I can imagine it is something of a wonderland for kids. On the face of it, it is still a lovely place to just sit and chill but in reality the endless repetition of the slightly sinister music from the rides quickly begins to bore into your brain and turn you into a zombie. You have been warned. But there is little doubt that Mtatsminda is worth the effort of getting to simply for the jaw-dropping views of Tbilisi in all its glory. Tbilisi is the sprawling, throbbing engine of Georgia. You can see the twin exhausts in the middle of the picture.

tbilisi

wedding hall

Couples get married on the mountain at Mtatsminda. I imagine all the guests riding up on the funicular might be a dainty sight. For a moment, I got my hopes up when I saw this place but they'd just sold their last bride that morning and won't be getting any new stock until I've left for Kutaisi.

13.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 10

Seems even giants can hire a bike in Tbilisi.

big bike

Georgian cuisine is wide, varied and unique. You may not find everything to your taste but there will almost certainly be things you do like. It's hard to see how anyone couldn't like khachapuri, for example. There is also a delicious sweet called churchkhela (that's just its name, nothing to do with an actual church) that is made by threading loads of nuts on a piece of string and then dipping them repeatedly into a mixture of flour-thickened grape juice. They dry into firm, chewy, knobbly energy bars. No artificial flavourings or preservatives. You'll see tons of them hanging up on roadside stalls, though these are probably best avoided unless you like a good coating of carbon monoxide from traffic fumes, and are available in a wide range of colours due to different grape varieties though I don't really understand why this doesn't just mean green or purple.
Anyway, even if the food doesn't float your boat you won't starve in the major Georgian cities since you'll see the likes of McDonald's, Subway, Dunkin' Donuts and the mighty KFC. Old Colonel Sanders was one of the first to dip a chicken's toe into Georgian waters and you'll see that famous red and white logo on advertising screens and posters all over. This one is telling you about an ice cream for 1 lari, which is about 27 pence. You couldn't get an empty cone for that in the UK. Food is cheap here for most visitors.

kfc

wine

The best thing ever made in Georgia is Katie Melua but, as far as I know, there is only one—I've checked in nearly all the gift shops without luck. But the next best thing is wine, and this is everywhere. And I mean everywhere—if you venture into the woods you'll probably come across a black bear trying to sell you his homemade wine. There are plenty of high-class wine shops, tastefully lit and suitably shiny, trying to sell you all manner of wondrous liquids. Wine was invented in Georgia and they do it really well, so even a ropey backstreet Spar will be well-stocked with good stuff. You can get a bottle of Kindzmarauli for 11 laris (around £3) that will taste so much better than any pretentious plonk that will set you back £20 in Tesco's (other supermarkets with pretentious plonk are available).

12.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 9

Ah, those Love Bridge sculptures. Here we have a lovesick lad leaping over to end it all as a couple of passers-by rush to stop him. Such drama, frozen in time for us all to ponder over.

bridge sculptures

The massive radio tower on Mtatsminda, მთაწსმინდა, can be seen from just about anywhere in Tbilisi. You will often catch a glimpse of it between buildings and streets, following you around like some kind of iron stalker. In many countries it might be regarded as a bit of an eyesore but I love it. One Christmas they adorned it in colour-changing lights and it looked so good they left them on and it has been lit every night since.

radio tower

pay booth

In Georgia there are orange touchscreen pay booths on just about every street, even the dodgier-looking ones. It seems they are used for everything from paying your gas bill to telling your fortune. They aren't cashpoints but seem to have a hundred other options and people use them all the time like some sort of dystopian high-tech necessity of life. Wandering around Tbilisi at night is actually the closest you can get to being in Blade Runner.
Oh, and they have graffiti in Georgia too.

11.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 8

Tbilisi is the city of sculptures. There's even one of me. I don't recall sitting for it but no matter, the likeness is uncanny.

fat man sculpture

More sculpture genius. A man lighting the gas lamp. Or changing the LED bulb. Depends how old it is I guess.

lamplighter sculpture

alleyway

In Tbilisi, even the view up a back passage can be surprising, though thankfully in a good way.

10.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 7

Another day in Tbilisi, another bridge. This one is known as the Love Bridge, which admittedly rolls off the tongue rather more easily than the official name of the Nikoloz Baratashvili Bridge. It features some lovely sculptures, such as this elegant lady, whom I admired for quite some time before realising she might be being a bit rude about my personal endowment.

love bridge

It is a little known fact that Jules Verne once had a premonition about an underground passageway deep below the streets of Tbilisi (or 'Tiflis' in his time). It inspired him to write "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth". Okay, I might have made that up, but really, the escalator ride takes so long you expect to re-surface in New Zealand. I'm surprised Katie hasn't held a concert down there and got Guinness World Records involved again.

tbilisi underground

clock tower

This is Georgia's answer to the leaning tower of Pisa. A quirky, wonky clock tower at a marionette theatre. It is arguably more interesting than Pisa because at 7pm a puppet appears in the upper window and whacks a bell seven times. Then, in the lower window, various other marionettes parade by in a little show set to chimed music. A bit like a cuckoo clock on steroids. Dafter than a bucket of brushes, as Georgian as it gets, and utterly wonderful.

09.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 6

The Peace Bridge in Tbilisi. This city looks lovely during the day but at night it is magical. The red lights in this photo aren't random, they are lighting the bridge as the Georgian flag. (Some wags have suggested the bridge was sponsored by Bodyform but we'll gloss over that.)

peace bridge

Cats in Georgia don't speak English at all. I was being very complimentary to this little fella but he just looked at me as though I'm the village idiot. I bet he's already told his mates about it. And by the way, those are the finest set of whiskers I've ever seen on any creature. I should add that there's a marked difference between cats and dogs in Tbilisi. Cats seem wary of everything, as though they've stumbled upon the set of "Blade Runner". The dogs can't be arsed and just play dead.

cat

tardis

It has long irked me that Doctor Who encounters most of the alien baddies turning their evil eyes on England. Why not China? Or Argentina? Or indeed, Georgia. But she does at least holiday in Tbilisi. She first visited Georgia thousands of years ago when it was the only place on earth she could get wine. And she keeps coming back for that Kindzmarauli...

08.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 5

Animals own all the roads in Georgia. They kindly allow humans to use them too. This is one of the many patrol cows that wander up and down the highway and enforce random brake tests by crossing in front of you. Lorry drivers in particular are very nervous of failing. Patrol pigs also carry out the checks in some areas, whilst spy dogs operate pretty much everywhere.

cows

Stacey Dooley has yet to make a film about the Goat Gangs of Georgia but the world needs to know. These laid back thugs intimidate motorists even on the major highways, as you can see from this pic snapped from the Metro Bus to Tbilisi. The police are too scared to take them on so the wave of terror continues unabated.

goats

party

Georgians know how to party, even in a thunder storm. The band played modern Georgian folk music with the addition of some rolling thunder and a lightning light show. Some people were dancing in the rain. I was bang in the middle of the food tent sipping Saperavi and sampling the wonderful cuisine. All research, you understand.

07.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 4

Something new to discover around every corner. This photo is ironic because Batumi is not too dear at all. Mind you, they are not always this tasteful—I'm hastily glossing over the sculpture called "flip flops on eggs", which is one of many *wtf* installations.

2 deer

Japanese Garden in Batumi Boulevard. Perfect for a Zen moment to restore your inner calm after crossing any street in Batumi. Drivers in Georgia don't worry too much about pedestrians since they are quite soft and unlikely to do much damage to their cars.

japanese garden

cable car

The cable car provides spectacular views of Batumi. It is a serene ten-minute ride up to the viewing platform but the views are amazing all the way. (I say serene but you might not want to pick a windy day and it goes without saying that you'll need a solid head for heights.)

06.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 3

The statue of Medea With The Golden Fleece in Europe Square. Placed here in 2007 as a symbol of close ties between Europe and Georgia. Which makes it unnecessary in my view since I consider Georgia to be in Europe. End of story.

statue of medea

There are nine million fountains in Batumi
That's a fact
Or it may just be a lie....

There are quite a lot anyway. And they look especially amazing at night. Pick a balmy night and go on a fountain crawl. There was a saying "See Naples and die" (which is why I've stayed away from Naples). I prefer "see Batumi and live".

fountains

batumi

Cormorants in Georgia are deeply religious.

05.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 2

One of the many impressive skyscrapers in Batumi. And yes, those of you with eagle eyes, there are three men in the picture, working whilst dangling on the end of ropes. Amazing views as long as you've got amazing gonads.

batumi

Georgian humour. Sign at the Kolkheti National Park Visitor Centre. Mars Base 51 (bit of a dig at Area 51, Nevada) only 46 million km away. Just when you think you can't love Georgians any more...

kolkheti visitor centre

batumi

Batumi, the gift that keeps on giving.

04.09.19   >   Postcards from Georgia 1

Greetings from Georgia! გამარჯობა საქართველოდან!
I'm in beautiful Batumi by the Black Sea and it is wonderful. It is a curious mix of old and modern, vibrant and exciting, with something to marvel at on every street and there are miles of tree-lined Boulevard to wander, every inch spotlessly clean. A feast for the senses and a massage for the soul. I had to make a beeline for the Ali & Nino monument, which I've been dying to see. It is a both a stunning sculpture and a marvel of engineering. Once a day, the two lovers come together, pass through each other and then part in silence. Magnificent.

ali and nino statue

The amazing Alphabet Tower is a must-do. Batumi's answer to Blackpool Tower is adorned with the graceful letters of the Georgian alphabet. The lift whisks you up 300ft into the glass dome where you can dine in a lovely restaurant which slowly revolves through 360 degrees giving you a constant panoramic view. If you time this for sunset it is spectacular. A truly unforgettable experience.

alphabettower

P1010032

Sunset over the Black Sea from the Alphabet Tower

03.09.19   >   Track Notes 65: Love Is A Silent Thief

Album:  

Writer(s)

Katie Melua, Toby Jepson

Length:

3:00

Notes:

The first of two songs on the album Katie co-wrote with Toby Jepson. Who he? Well, a hard rocker for one thing, so how he came to get involved with Katie is unclear, though the timeline suggests new hubby James Toseland might have had something to do with it and we know she has the witchy ability to bring out the soft side of metal heads, such as her brother Zurab and drummer Joe Yoshida—both of whom had toured with Toseland. (Worth pointing out that Katie was there first though—Yoshida worked with her as far back as 2012 when he was regularly used by Dramatico and he was even involved as a session drummer on Ketevan, and of course with Zurab she goes back all the way!) To be fair, you could imagine this song being ramped up to a hard rock version quite easily, unlike their other collaboration "Chase Me", which is hyper-girly and sounds like it could have been co-written by John Inman rather than Toby Jepson.

YouTube:

Katie released a video for the song where it is set to scenes from a 1969 Armenian movie, "The Colour of Pomegranates". It begins with a dedication to director Sergey Parajanov, citing him as inspiration for the song. It's fair to say the most common reaction to it will be along the lines of "wtf", but it is worth remembering Katie's Georgian background. You can tell from the church towers that some scenes were shot in Georgia and it is probably more culturally important to Georgians than to the rest of us, though worldwide critical acclaim was generally good and the film has appeared in some lists of the world's greatest films. If this video piques your interest it is worth noting the original movie has now been restored and released on Bluray.
Love Is A Silent Thief

Lyrics:

Love Is A Silent Thief 

02.09.19   >   Lyric Card: Sailing Ships From Heaven

sailing ships from heaven

01.09.19   >   Happy Anniversary Katie & James!

happy anniversary



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