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30.06.19   >   Track Notes 58: Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out



Jimmy Cox




A blues standard written by Jimmy Cox in 1923, making it one of the oldest songs Katie has recorded. Old Jim would no doubt have been chuffed to know the song would be given such a lovely treatment almost a century later by a gorgeous Georglish girl (a shortcut for Georgian-English, though this explanation has rather defeated the object of it). The landmark recording was by Bessie Smith in September 1929. It was released as a 10-inch 78rpm record. For the Spotify generation, that last sentence might as well have been written backwards in Icelandic. Bessie's version is quite possibly the most prophetic record ever released since two weeks later the Wall Street Crash happened and many millionaires found themselves without a penny in their pocket (and presumably no friends either).


Here's the song set to some gorgeous art which fits the song very well -
Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out


Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out 

29.06.19   >   In Praise of the Interpreters

These days the singer-songwriter is held in high esteem. And rightly so, for performing your own music is something special. In theory, nobody should perform a song better than the writer since they are the only ones that know exactly why it was written—it has special meaning to them because it was born in their mind. However, it wasn’t always that way. At one time it was all about the interpreters—singers that took other people’s songs and made them their own, stamping their own personality and musical quirks upon them. Greats like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole didn’t need to write songs—they had writers queueing up to write for them. Nor did they need to play an instrument, for they had mastered the greatest one of all, the human voice.

Over the past couple of decades interpreters have begun to lose kudos as the public have developed the perception that it is easier to sing other people’s songs than to write your own. This, of course, is a fallacy. Take, for example, the seemingly simple catchy pop of ABBA. ABBA songs are actually pretty complex and often far from simple to sing, as you can easily discover in any Karaoke bar. But interpreting a song is not just being able to sing it; you need to understand the song and it needs to have meaning for you. Only then can you perform it in your own way. Interpretation can be subtle, remaining faithful to the original and just adding your own vocal nuances. Or it can be a complete reworking, with deviations to both melody and lyrics, with a different beat and tempo, almost transforming it into a new song.

Interpreters really score when they take an established favourite and manage to improve it. This was a common occurrence for Eva Cassidy—“Fields Of Gold” and “Time After Time” to name but two. Another example would be Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt”. Now I have repeatedly said I consider Katie to be the finest interpreter of song around, and I do, so I won’t play that broken record again here (except I just did. Oops.) The reason behind this article is a far more unexpected one. Bob Dylan. That’s right, the Bobmeister himself. This may come as mild surprise to some, and even a defibrillation-requiring shock to others, after all Dylan has written like a gazillion songs and won a nobel prize for his lyrics, so why on earth would he need to sing other people’s songs? Well, he doesn’t need to, that’s why. He does it because he wants to. Like anyone who understands music he appreciates the rich vein of quality that is the Great American Songbook, as it has come to be known. (You could shorten that to Sinatra stuff, since he pretty much sang every one of them at some point).

So, in his seventies, Dylan released some albums of covers from the GAS. Most notable was a triple album, cunningly called Triplicate. This album is nothing short of a revelation. Now whenever anyone says Dylan can’t sing I just LOL. Sometimes I even ROFL. Such people might as well proclaim their ignorance by having “IDIOT” tattooed on their foreheads. Listen to Triplicate. Not only can His Royal Bobness sing, he can interpret a song as well as anyone you may dare to name. I cannot overestimate the craftsmanship that has gone into those 3 CDs. Some of the songs are obscure, others are standards—all are delivered with consummate skill and backed by music of the very highest quality. It is a love letter from Dylan to the Great American Songbook, delivered with all the devotion and tenderness of a lover. In a career of remarkable achievements it is one more notch on a stick where you’d find it hard to find room to carve any more. After his stunning 2012 album Tempest, Dylan, far from slowing down in his old age, has produced some of his finest work in the last decade.

One track that particularly caught my eye on Triplicate was “Stardust”. This has been a favourite of mine since childhood and a few weeks ago I posted a piece on how it had been covered both by Katie and by Sammy Davis Jr. It is joyous to be able to throw Dylan into the mix too. His version is much different—sung at a faster tempo with more of a Jazz-lounge feel. It is fabulous just for being Dylan, but Katie’s version remains my all-time favourite and the fact that she performed it live at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival is one of my personal life treasures.

So, if you are one of those that dismisses interpreters as lazy or somehow second-rate then think again. Interpreting a song is an art-form that is difficult to master and worthy of admiration from all of us. And I’m prepared to write that down in Triplicate.


28.06.19   >   Katie Bite: When You Taught Me How To Dance

when you taught me how to dance

27.06.19   >   The Incessant Traveller

Since I saw Katie at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival last month she has spent quality time with her family in Georgia, performed at the Age of Sing concert in Legnica, Poland, returned to London for the Summer Song Festival at the Georgian School and then headed out with James to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Now I know a lot of you will be thinking that sounds wonderful but just think of all that travelling—waiting around in airports, customs, being strapped into a metal can in the sky for hours, checking in and out of hotels, hailing taxis, etc. I need a lie down after just typing that last sentence.

Maybe she just has itchy feet or doesn’t subscribe to the notion of “no place like home” but sometimes I think she spends more time in the air than she does at home. If you consider that technically cars and coaches ride on cushions of air in the tyres then that statement might even be true. As a writer I spend most of my time alone in my office and see maybe a handful of people each week. The very idea of all that travelling makes me anxious. People say it’s about the journey, not the destination. What rot. I want to live in a Star Trek world where I can beam over to Ertikava Cafe in Tbilisi for morning coffee and khachapuri, then over to a Cumbrian forest for a ramble in the woods and still be home for lunch. In that world, I too might become an incessant traveller.

26.06.19   >   Lyric Card: Forgetting All My Troubles

forgetting all my troubles

25.06.19   >   Katie's Been Gone

Listening to Bob Dylan's The Basement Tapes from 1975, one track tickled me particularly. "Katie's Been Gone" was written by J.R. Robertson and Richard Manuel (that's right—Dylan may have written thousands of songs but he has still recorded some written by others). Over the last few weeks Katie has been flitting around Europe (more on that in a couple of days) and it left me wondering how much time she actually spends at home. The following verse put it very nicely:

Katie's been gone and now her face is slowly fading from my mind.

She's gone to find some newer places,

Left the old life far behind.

Dear Katie, dont ya miss your home?

I dont see why you had to roam.

24.06.19   >   Track Notes 57: All Over The World



Françoise Hardy




French singer/songwriter Françoise Hardy remained in the Top 50 for 15 weeks back in 1965 with this song, peaking at number 16. In 1966 it appeared on her album Françoise Hardy Sings In English in which she, er, sings English adaptations of her French songs. "All Over The World" was originally called "Dans Le Monde Entier". How Katie came across it is anyone's guess (mine would be that Mike Batt stuck it under her nose. He'd have been 16 when the single was released and may well have had a crush on Hardy).

More than half the tracks on Secret Symphony were released as singles but despite the 1965 success, this was not one of them. Interestingly, neither was the title track. We will never know if either would have fared better than the six that were released, none of which proved hits even though the album itself made the top 10. That may have been the catalyst for Katie stepping back from the singles game altogether (Ketevan produced just two, despite having plenty of strong contenders, and In Winter none. It remains to be seen if Katie has become an albums-only artist but if that is indeed the case it is a perfectly viable model that many great artists have successfully adopted. Once you have a solid core fan base then hit singles are far less crucial—In Winter quickly reached silver certification (60,000+ certified UK sales).


No official video but here's the album version set to a few (and I mean a few) photos -
All Over The World

If you fancy hearing the original version check out Francoise Hardy - All Over The World. It is enough to make goo out of any adolescent boy.


 All Over The World 

23.06.19   >   Katie Bite: Red Balloons


22.06.19   >   Quiet, Genius at work!

genius at work

21.06.19   >   Lyric Card: Moonshine


20.06.19   >   Old Dogs, New Tricks

You are never too old to blow people away with your creativity. Nils Lofgren and Bruce Springsteen both released albums in the early 1970s. In 2019, with both of them approaching 70, they have, within a month of each other, released new albums that rank amongst their finest work to date. You are never too old to create something wonderful. I hope I’m still around to witness another critically acclaimed release from Katie in 2053...

Blue With Lou contains a mix of new songs and some previously unused material Nils wrote with Lou Reed in the late 1970s. Western Stars sees the Boss giving the E. Street Band some time off while he travels alone again and gives us insights like no one else can of what it is to be American. You know you’ve made it when you can release an album that doesn’t even have your name on the cover 🤣. The running time of Western Stars is 51 minutes. A 12” vinyl record can hold around 46 minutes. So the vinyl version comes as a gatefold double album, three sides of which contain just three songs each. You’ll certainly keep fit listening to the vinyl version of the album!

blue with lou and western stars

19.06.19   >   Katie Bite: Plane Song


18.06.19   >   Asteroid 25131, aka Katiemelua

The International Astronomical Union Minor Planet Center has an asteroid on its database that is named after Katie. It has to be said, Katiemelua sounds more inviting than Asteroid 25131, though whether an icy-cold dark lump of rock drifting through the vacuum of space can be considered inviting is a matter of opinion.

If you are the nerdiest of geek-nerds, or even the geekiest of nerd-geeks, then you will no doubt be beyond excited to learn that 25131 Katiemelua has its own web page with an absolute ton of data about it. For example, Katiemelua has an eccentricity of 0.1569054. Sounds about right to me. As of today (18th June) the latest recorded observation was on May 1st at the Purple Mountain Observatory. You may do what you wish with that information. (One suggestion would be to ring the Daily Mirror and tell them Katie Melua has been spotted at the Purple Mountain, then hang up and let some junior hack spend half a day chasing his tail.)

If you’d like to know more about Katiemelua and what she is up to visit Asteroid 25131 (Katiemelua)

You can even play around with an interactive orbit sketch of her position. Hours of fun.

asteroid katiemelua orbit

17.06.19   >   Track Notes 56: Forgetting All My Troubles



Katie Melua




Another cracking Katie song. When she goes it alone, she more than holds her own. (That would make a good line in a song.) The sixth and final single from Secret Symphony, released on 3rd December 2012. Lovely though it is it was never going to be in contention for the Christmas number 1, apart from in my mind.


A live version for French television. Just Katie and her guitar, showing yet again that nothing else is needed. It has to be said, she does spend most of this video frowning, ostensibly in concentration at the sheet music. I could understand such concentration if the music was unfamiliar but for a song she wrote herself? No matter, even frowning she looks lovely and sounds divine.
Forgetting All My Troubles

It is interesting to compare this performance with the one used for the Official video. Though the montage of video clips is lovely, the track itself, imho, is diminished by the thumping drum playing, which adds nothing to the song and distracts from Katie's nuanced vocals. I know I'm like a stuck record, but a guitar is all the accompaniment required. These two videos demonstrate that perfectly.


 Forgetting All My Troubles 

16.06.19   >   Lyric Card: The Bit That I Don't Get


15.06.19   >   The Henry Westons Sessions

Here's an enchanting performance of "Plane Song" Katie recorded for The Henry Westons Sessions at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival last month. As I've said before, Katie plus guitar is all you need...

14.06.19   >   100% Quality

Nils Lofgren, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan all have more songs I like than Katie…

“Wait. What!!” I hear your disgruntled wails of uncontrolled outrage, and instinctively duck as mice get thrown at me. Whoa, I think someone threw their cat at the screen. Calm down dears, calm down. Let me explain myself, hastily I might add.

For a start, they are all much older than me, whereas Katie is much younger than me. Even if maths is not your ideal Mastermind subject you can probably deduce then that Nils, Bruce and Bob are therefore much, much older than Katie. I shall spare the blushes of all concerned by not revealing actual ages, but you get the point. The elderly gentlemen in question have all released maybe four or five times as many studio albums as Katie. So they all have a massive back catalogue. Which sounds vaguely rude, I know. But they’ve all sung a ton of songs.

Now here’s the thing though. All three of those artists have recorded songs that I don’t much care for. At various times in their long careers they have all wandered off down paths I didn’t feel inclined to follow. For whatever reason they just didn’t seem that inviting to me. Interestingly, they have all since tried other directions that have got me chasing back after them. But each of them have tracks I will skip when they start playing.

Which brings me to Katie. For me, personally, she is unique in having a 100 per cent strike rate. That’s right—I like every single thing I’ve heard her sing. I can shuffle her entire playlist and never once think about skipping a track. (Actually, that’s not technically true. I have sometimes skipped “O Holy Night” in the middle of summer, but that’s because I don’t feel Christmassy rather than not liking the song.) What this shows is how much care Katie takes over the material she records. Her bar is set high.

Every path Katie has explored I have enjoyed following her tracks (geddit?) as much as she has making them. A lot of fans jumped ship at The House. I was elated. More fans wavered at In Winter. I was in a winter wonderland. I’m eager to see where she wanders off to next and by now I trust her enough to start following blindly because I know she’ll lead me somewhere wonderful. I can’t see that 100% record being threatened any time soon and I don’t think it will be too much longer before I like more of her songs than anyone else’s.

13.06.19   >   Katie Bite: If You Were A Sailboat


12.06.19   >   Track Notes 55: Moonshine



Fran Healy




The fourth single from Secret Symphony, released on 4th June 2012.

This song was the closing track on Fran Healy's (the Travis bloke) 2010 debut solo album Wreckorder.


Here's the gorgeous official video, probably my favourite of them all. Most musicians are a bit shy of cameras. Katie absolutely owns them.



11.06.19   >   Versatility

My favourite artists seem to have one thing (at least) in common: versatility. Katie, like Bruce Springsteen and Nils Lofgren to name but two, are associated with playing guitar but in fact they are all competent pianists and could easily accompany themselves on that instrument if they wished. Indeed, they all have. (Lofgren, widely regarded as one of the greatest guitarists in the world, actually played keyboards for Neil Young on his After The Goldrush album.) And they probably sit at a piano a lot when composing songs rather than picking up their guitars. Don’t ask me why, ask them. Maybe it’s just easier to make notes that way (no pun intended). But it seems to be the hallmark of great musicians that they are multi-talented. Katie can play violin, Springsteen plays harmonica, and Nils Lofgren can play the accordion and even the harp—I’ve seen him play it live and he is amazing. I’ll never forget him sitting down behind it and confiding to the audience “this thing still freaks me out whenever I see it”.

Lofgren is relatively new to the harp and that is another sign of a versatile artist—one who can try new things and have the courage to incorporate them into their performances. Springsteen, after two decades of his customary gravelly growl, suddenly channelled his inner Bee Gee and learned how to sing falsetto—which he does to great effect on songs like "Lift Me Up" and "Sad Eyes". Katie has also demonstrated her versatility by using the Gori Women’s Choir on In Winter—effectively utilising a new instrument she didn’t even have to learn to play! Katie also has time on her side so who knows what she might do in future. Perhaps she’ll visit Australia and return with a digeridoo sticking out of her rucksack (about eight feet out of it) or a Polynesian nose flute. I don’t really mind because whatever she does she always does it well. She has versatility.

10.06.19   >   Generation Gap

Here's a perfect illustration of the generation gap. During a break, Katie's phone-fiddling whilst Henry's havin' a brew. 😂

phone fiddling

09.06.19   >   Lyric Card: Better Than A Dream

better than a dream

08.06.19   >   Playlist: Katie's Little Gems

If anyone ever tells you that Mike Batt wrote all of Katie's songs you have my permission to place a cold mushroom omelette on top of their head. Whilst they sheepishly wear the omelette of enlightenment you may then proceed to recite this list of beautiful songs written by non other than a certain K. Melua herself. If these twelve songs had been released on an album of their own (albeit with a better title than my playlist) it would have been hailed a classic.

Katie's Little Gems

  1. Belfast
  2. Faraway Voice
  3. Forgetting All My Troubles
  4. I Cried For You
  5. I Do Believe In Love
  6. No Fear Of Heights
  7. Perfect World
  8. Piece By Piece
  9. Plane Song
  10. Spellbound
  11. Spider's Web
  12. The House

07.06.19   >   Track Notes 54: The Bit That I Don't Get



Mike Batt




The second of six songs from the album to be released as a single, this one on 10th February 2012. None of them troubled the charts and indeed Secret Symphony spent the least amount of time in the album charts of all Katie's studio albums. The fact that "Better Than A Dream" was released on 9th March, just four weeks later, shows how much they were struggling to gain traction with this material. It is all quality music, of course, but orchestra-backed ballads were just not where the chart music audience were at back then. The fact that a week after this song was released the top 20 singles contained no less than nine songs whose artist had "ft." another artist tells you all you need to know. If this song had been released by Katie Melua ft. Burnt Gristle (or whatever) then perhaps it might have fared better. I guess Burnt Gristle could have been Mike Batt dressed as a hip-hop Womble.


Here's the official video, in case you haven't seen it. And very lovely it is too.
The Bit That I Don't Get


 The Bit That I Don't Get 

06.06.19   >   The Agony And Ecstasy Of Bipolarity

My mother was bipolar. Except it wasn’t called that then since the condition was barely recognised or understood. She could be so full of life and bursting with creativity—painting, writing poetry, baking, making costumes for dolls—and then the darkness would descend and she would disappear to her room, sometimes for days. My Dad’s usual advice of “snap out of it” was as helpful as a paper sword. But the truth is, none of us could do anything to help her. She had to find her own way back to the light. Whether she was up or down, we never knew how long it would last. My Dad, raised a simple farmer’s son, could no more understand her manic bursts of creativity and whirlwind of ideas than he could her black silences. His lack of understanding made him seem harsh and cold but he loved her and it must have been a struggle for him to comprehend what was going on in her mind.

The reason I mention this is that one of Mum’s greatest passions was dancing. And Katie has recorded two gorgeous but very different songs about dancing. “When You Taught Me How To Dance” and “Never Felt Less Like Dancing”. Mum loved Katie but she passed before either of those songs were recorded. She’d have played them both non-stop, of that I have no doubt. What fascinates me is that those two songs capture polar opposite moods around a subject that was so close to Mum’s heart. If you listen to them back to back, within seven minutes you will know my Mum. That is why they will always be such special songs to me.

05.06.19   >   Katie Bite: The One I Love Is Gone


04.06.19   >   Katie on Instagram

katie on instagram

Don't worry! Katie hasn't suddenly produced daughters you didn't know about, though the girl on the left *so* could be. This is all about the song festival at the Georgian School in London, where budding young Katies perform her songs and leave a pool of melted hearts on the floor. Last year, it was this very event that inspired Katie to put together Ultimate Collection. I wonder what it will inspire this year...

03.06.19   >   BBC Radio 2 Piano Room 2019

bbc piano room

There's now a CD available of performances from Radio 2's Piano Room. It contains 42 tracks by all kinds of people from Paul McCartney to Rick Astley. Unless you've got *extremely* broad tastes I wouldn't recommend it, especially since it gets some pretty scathing reviews. So why do I even mention the thing? Well, Katie's performance of "Fields Of Gold" is on it, and it is worth noting she is the only female artist to have her pic on the cover. And it is no surprise that she comes out of the reviews in better shape than the others. This review sums it up nicely:

02.06.19   >   Lyric card: Gold In Them Hills

gold in them hills

01.06.19   >   Tempest: A Lyrics Masterclass

I’ve always been fascinated by the Titanic story. But how do you even begin to put it into words? James Cameron needed three hours to tell the story on the big screen, so how could anyone ever do it justice in a song? Well, leave it to the Master of course. Bob Dylan’s song Tempest, from the album of the same name, is a fourteen-minute lyrical tour-de-force that distils the tragedy into an epic song which, I warn you, is positively tear-inducing. I urge you to seek out those lyrics and read them closely. That is how you do it. They go on forever. How can he possibly remember them?

Tempest is an album packed with great songs written by a man in his seventies at the time—clearly blowing away any hint that his powers may be diminishing. I wonder if Katie will be making new albums in her seventies. I’d like to think so, though I don’t expect to be around to see it; ah but that’s forty years away and a lot can happen in that time…



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