👉🏻 All About AAK
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!
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. Click on the heading above to hide this blurb!
28.09.20 > Katie on YouTube: Performing in Poland
There is a gorgeous performance of "A Love Like That" up on YouTube, filmed on Katie's recent trip to Poland. Vocals as magical as ever, and immaculate accompaniment by Zurab. This kind of thing just soothes your soul.
Click the pic to go see...
27.09.20 > Lyric Card: Somewhere In The Same Hotel
26.09.20 > AYMHM 6: Kavkasia
Another album you may have missed...
The previous entry in this series fell firmly into the category of "golden oldie". Today I'm only going back 3 years, but to an album you might classify "obscure".
Minco Eggersman is a Dutch musician based in Amsterdam. He plays in bands, writes soundtracks for movies and even runs a record label. Kavkasia is one of his solo albums.
As you may have guessed from the title, Kavkasia is inspired by Minco's trip to Georgia a few years ago. Georgia has a habit of inspiring its visitors—it certainly gave me plenty of ideas for a future novel. This collection of tracks may resonate more with you if you have actually been to Georgia, especially "Melisma & Gurian" which gives you a flavour of the goosebump-inducing polyphonic singing you will find there. "Stepantsminda" is an organ piece which suitably encapsulates the religious awe that place fills you with. Several tracks are symphonic, some have understated vocals, a couple even have a brass band vibe, which admittedly feels a bit more Barnsley than Batumi, but overall it does stir up my longing for Georgia, and it is definitely an album I'd listen to on a flight to Tbilisi.
Listen to Kavkasia on Spotify via the link below:
25.09.20 > Katie Bite: Your Longing Is Gone
24.09.20 > John Lennon at the BBC
John Lennon would have been about to turn 80. I'm sure he would have still been making music. Just imagine what we have missed (pun intended). The BBC are celebrating his life with some programs in early October, including "John Lennon at the BBC" on October 4th, 7pm. This will contain archive footage of the great man as well as covers of his songs by various artists including none other than our favourite gal herself. We don't yet know which track Katie will sing but if I had to guess I'd go with "Love". Whatever it is, seeing what she has done with Beatles material in the past, it will be amazing.
24.09.20 > Katie's Rarities
The music industry is a business. A cut-throat one at that. And like all businesses, it involves deals being struck. These deals are not always in the best interests of either the artist or their fans but someone, who cares little for either, sees an opportunity to make money or otherwise gain advantage and this invariably leads to a handful of winners and a legion of losers. And the majority of fans end up, you guessed it, on the losing side.
Katie’s album B-Sides may have been titled Tracks That Got Away but they didn't: they are on B-Sides for all to enjoy (unless you have no way to access digital music). Sadly though, there are some tracks that really have got away.
I imagine that over the course of Katie’s long career there have been quite a few tracks she has recorded that, for one reason or another, have not found a place on an album. As frustrating as that is for fans, it isn’t unusual. What is more frustrating though is when the fans know of tracks but simply have no way to access them. And I know of at least 4 examples...
“How Sweet Is It To Be Loved By You”
This Marvin Gaye classic was covered by Katie and added to the Tesco Digital Music version of The Katie Melua Collection. There was no other way to get it. And since Tesco bailed out of digital music years ago this song has evaporated like a wispy cloud in summer sun. Even a lot of people who shelled out for it found they could no longer access it. Shambolic, Tesco.
“By The Light Of The Magical Moon”
This Marc Bolan song was covered by Katie for a Times Online exclusive download. Pretty niche market, that. And again, no way for the legion of her fans to get to hear it now.
“I Put A Spell On You”
This track was an exclusive for the US iTunes Store. Which is pretty hard luck on the bulk of Katie’s fans, who reside in the UK and Europe. But at least you can find a version of Katie performing it live on YouTube.
“Under The Cherry Moon”
Finally, my old favourite I’m always banging on about. This Prince cover is listed as a track on the iTunes version of Pictures. But if you play it you get “Somewhere In The Same Hotel”. No one seems to know why. Nor does anyone seem to care (apart from yours truly) so most likely nothing will ever get done about it.
My hope is that Katie has the rights to her recordings so perhaps one day we could see some of these tracks on another B-Sides type collection. I guess it depends on the nature of those exclusivity deals—if they don’t have an expiry date then these tracks may be lost to us forever. It’s a crying shame, but Katie loves her fans and if there’s anything she can do I’m sure she will at some point so don’t abandon all hope just yet! (Equally, don't hold your breath...)
23.09.20 > Katie Conundrum No 3
Another tricky Katie Conundrum. I'd love to have a go at these myself but already knowing the answer tends to diffuse the tension somewhat.
22.09.20 > Track Notes 106: Kviteli Potlebi (Yellow Leaves)
Giya Kancheli (გია ყანჩელი)
This little beauty of a song is by Georgian composer Giya Kancheli, who sadly died last year. It appeared on a 2005 album "Music For Film and Theater". It could easily have been overlooked in the grand scheme of Kancheli's massive body of work but thanks to Katie's live performance of it on this album it has served as an introduction to the great man for many who may otherwise have never discovered him.
Now, when you visit Georgia—and I say 'when' not 'if' because if you don't promise to visit that amazing country then I'm not talking to you any more—I advise you to listen to this song carefully and learn the first couple of lines. Doesn't matter if you don't understand them, just learn them phonetically. When you arrive in Georgia and meet some actual Georgians (not the customs guards I hasten to add, who are as joyless there as everywhere) then just start singing the opening lines of this song. If you tried something like that with a stranger in the UK they'd consider you a nut job; in Georgia they will join in and love you like family. That's the best tip I can give you. That and don't even think about hiring a car. Just remember, it is pot-lebi not pot-belly, which always seems to find its way past my lips.
Here's a lovely performance by Katie in Tbilisi. I think it was filmed by a chimpanzee that nicked someone's camera but never mind, sounds great anyway. Kviteli Potlebi, Tbilisi 2009
21.09.20 > Crossword No. 4
You thought I'd forgotten didn't you? Well, I hadn't, it's just that clues take a bit of coming up with. But here you are, crossword no. 4 to celebrate "Your Longing Is Gone". By the way, if a clue sounds like nonsense then it is probably an anagram. Hope that helps!
If you want to print it out to fill in just click on the puzzle to open it in a separate window and hit CMD-P (Mac) or CTRL-P (Windows).
4. Ugly Senior Ongoing?
9. Artist who originally recorded Wonderful Life
10. What’s Katie’s tribute to Cilla Black all about?
11. Katie’s bass player of many years
13. Famous place where Katie studied music
15. A song Katie won’t sell you
16. Katie’s first album not to have a ‘Special Edition’
19. Katie got a World Record for this gig
20. Song used in movies “The Tourist” and “5 Days Of War”
1. Though We Ate Document Anyhow?
2. Katie has performed for this person as well as with the band!
3. Katie’s producer on The House
5. Thumb Ratios of Katie’s manager?
6. Katie sang “Fairytale Of New York” with this band
7. Georgian violinist for whom Katie wrote “No Better Magic”
8. Georgian composer, “Yellow Leaves”
12. Homes In On?
14. 2007 Tarantino film in which Katie makes an appearance
17. Katie’s star sign
18. City where In Winter Special Edition live concert was recorded
4. Ugly Senior Ongoing? [YOURLONGINGISGONE]
9. Artist who originally recorded Wonderful Life [BLACK]
10. What’s Katie’s tribute to Cilla Black all about? [ALFIE]
11. Katie’s bass player of many years [TIMHARRIES]
13. Famous place where Katie studied music [BRITSCHOOL]
15. A song Katie won’t sell you [TOYCOLLECTION]
16. Katie’s first album not to have a ‘Special Edition’ [PICTURES]
19. Katie got a World Record for this gig [CONCERTUNDERTHESEA]
20. Song used in movies “The Tourist” and “5 Days Of War” [NOFEAROFHEIGHTS]
1. Though We Ate Document Anyhow? [WHENYOUTAUGHTMEHOWTODANCE]
2. Katie has performed for this person as well as with the band! [QUEEN]
3. Katie’s producer on The House [WILLIAMORBIT]
5. Thumb Ratios of Katie’s manager? [SUMITBOTHRA]
6. Katie sang “Fairytale Of New York” with this band [THEPOGUES]
7. Georgian violinist for whom Katie wrote “No Better Magic” [LISABATIASHVILI]
8. Georgian composer, “Yellow Leaves” [KANCHELI]
12. Homes In On? [MOONSHINE]
14. 2007 Tarantino film in which Katie makes an appearance [GRINDHOUSE]
17. Katie’s star sign [VIRGO]
18. City where In Winter Special Edition live concert was recorded [BERLIN]
20.09.20 > Katie Bite: Your Longing Is Gone
19.09.20 > The Healer From A Family Of Healers
I don’t watch very much television these days and when I do I’m very selective, but one show I always have to see is the BBC’s The Repair Shop. If you haven’t seen it, basically it involves members of the public taking battered and broken old possessions to a converted barn in the country where a team of experts fix, restore and rejuvenate them. Things like your granddad’s clock that is dusty and broken and that you haven’t seen working since you were a kid but remember ticking and chiming in his hallway. And when you return to The Repair Shop you find it working perfectly and looking exactly how you remember it and the memories come flooding back as if you’re right there with him again. It’s tearjerking for the owners of the item but also for the repairers and indeed the viewers. In this modern throwaway society it is beautiful to see old, cherished items given new life so they can be passed on to future generations and keep the link with people long lost alive. Imagine writing with a fountain pen knowing that your great-grandfather wrote love letters with it to your great-grandmother during the First World War, after it had been left forgotten and not working for fifty years. How does that compare to a disposable biro from the supermarket? It doesn’t, that’s how.
As usual, I’m taking a geological age to get to the point but hey, what’s the rush? The point about the expert craftspeople in The Repair Shop is that they are not just fixing objects, they are fixing memories. They are fixing people. And that is exactly what Katie does—she fixes people.
It is interesting that Katie’s father is a doctor and her mother a nurse. Katie may not have followed in their footsteps but in her own way she has become just as potent a healer. More so, in fact, because she can heal someone on the other side of the world without even knowing they exist. That really is a gift. Whilst her Dad has to be with a patient to help them, Katie can be sat at home merrily munching a chip butty and watching Love Island (more likely sipping a herbal tea and reading poetry but that’s not such a humorous image) whilst someone somewhere far, far away, though perhaps not another galaxy, though you never know, is listening to her music and starting to feel a little better about themselves and life itself. It is a truly remarkable thing, but she has a gift of getting into your mind and telling you that everything is going to be all right. And somehow you believe her. When she fixed me I was so grateful but I had no idea how she’d done it and I began to wonder if it really had been her or whether some other change in my life had caused it. Now I know it was 100% all Katie. Whenever I have even the slightest of wobbles a quick listen of her keeps me balanced like stabilisers on a bicycle. There’s some kind of magic at work but I no longer even care how it works, I’m just grateful it does and I have the confidence to tackle anything in life knowing that her steadying hand on my shoulder is never more than a set of earbuds away. And since she has started her weekly online engagement with fans it has become apparent I’m far from the only broken soul she has mended. Only the tip of the iceberg has been revealed but it is clear that there are any number of people out there, from all corners of the globe (not that a globe has corners of course) that have found solace and healing in Katie’s music. Her parents can be proud that their daughter is saving lives and easing pain on a daily basis. If I were a doctor I’d be making Katie’s albums available on prescription for there is no drug known to science that can compare with the healing power of her music. And the joyous news is that her skills and powers are still being improved and strengthened. It is already clear that Album No. 8 is going to be able to soothe more suffering than ever before. On behalf of all those she has nursed back to health I simply say: thank you, Katie.
18.09.20 > Lyric Card: Toy Collection
17.09.20 > Video: Your Longing Is Gone
This sublime song deserved a really good video. It got one. A masterpiece. Three minutes of pure aching beauty, directed exquisitely by Mariam Sitchinava. On the face of it, just a couple of gorgeous Georgian girls having fun. It captures that kind of dreamy perfect day you may experience once or twice in a lifetime, if you are lucky; the kind of day you never want to end. If you want to you can ask questions and try to analyse meanings and messages but why do that? Better you jump into this world in your mind, hear the laughter of the girls, smell the Black Sea and wild grasses, share in that magical day, and take a break from the troubles of the real world. They used to say "see Naples and die". I say "see Batumi and live". The stunning Black Sea resort of Batumi and the Adjaran coastline provide the backdrop to a video you could never tire of watching. The same goes for the carefree happiness on Katie's face, the kind of happiness you wish upon her for the rest of her life. Combining her innate talent, understated intelligence, natural pulchritude and Georgian work ethic, Katie is producing breathtaking music and imagery for her latest album. If you haven't seen it yet then stop listening to me drone on and click the pic below to go and watch this work of art. (But by all means do come back afterwards!)
16.09.20 > Katie's Timeline
Katie wanted me to share with you this timeline graphic of her life so here it is. To see it in its full glory click the image and it will load the full version in your browser. Enjoy!
16.09.20 > Happy Birthday Katie!
You have now spent half your life in the bonkers business you love so much. That curly-haired girl that wowed Wogan stuck to her Georgian work ethic and all these years later has become a truly world-class singer-songwriter who can hold her own in any company. You've given me more than you can know. Thank you for being you. May you keep doing what you love as long as the longing remains. Have a beautiful day! AAK
15.09.20 > New Video Alert!
Katie is giving us gifts on her birthday. The video for "Your Longing Is Gone" premieres at 6pm tomorrow on Katie's YouTube channel. It's looking like a stonking corker. I mean, with the combined photogenicity of Katie and Georgia how can it possibly fail to smack your gob? Watch it with her and type lots of little hearts in the comments box and wish her happy birthday! Oh, and don't forget to ask her when she's coming to your country because she has that kind of information right on the top of her head. You can click the pic below to go straight there because that's how good I am to y'all.
15.09.20 > Seven Second Challenge 14
Press the play button and guess the song. Click "Show Me The Answer" when you think you know it or if you're stumped.
Seven second challenge: intro 14
Tiny Alien (The House)
14.09.20 > Katie in Poland
Katie is in Poland ahead of her three concerts there next month, the only ones that have survived the covid cull. She was trying, though not really succeeding, to channel Hannibal Lecter at the airport, but in Warsaw she was more Van Gogh, resplendent in pastel yellow and blue.
13.09.20 > New wallpaper and tweaks
I hang my head in shame as I admit I've not been near the gallery and wallpaper sections in quite a while. I do hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. But rejoice! There are now some new wallpapers in there, so bang up to date that even "Your Longing Is Gone " is covered. So if you fancy redecorating your desktop then why not let Katie stare at you all day and prevent you from getting any work done? If you want to download them then choose the "Wallpapers" menu option on the left, though I'm fully confident you had figured that one out already. Less obvious is the fact that I've sneakily bumped up the contents of the "Favourites" section in the gallery to 200 pics. Why am I so good to you all? I have no idea, I want shooting.
Whilst I have this opportunity I'll just mention, though I'm sure none of you could give a rat's dental appointment card, that I've spent most of the weekend slaving over a hot keyboard tweaking the site to within an inch of its life. They are not cosmetic tweaks this time, so you won't see a difference, but I've been tuning the engine, so to speak, for better performance so the pages should load a lot quicker. There are so many trade-offs in this kind of thing and I can't yet implement all the changes I'd like, such as converting GIFs to video for faster loading and so on because Safari isn't quite playing ball like the other browsers. But I... oh, you're asleep.
* Backs slowly out of the room and gently closes the door *
13.09.20 > Track Notes 105: Somewhere In The Same Hotel
Somewhere In The Same Hotel
Katie Melua & Mike Batt
Yet another corking collaboration between Katie and Mike. Whenever they co-wrote they came up with gems. You'll only find this one, *officially*, on The The Katie Melua Collection, which is a shame since it is a lovely song. But there's an odd anomaly and a long-running saga I've given up hope of resolving: this track appears as a bonus track on the Apple Music/iTunes edition of Pictures. It isn't supposed to. The bonus track you are meant to get is a cover of Prince's "Under A Cherry Moon ". At least, that is the track you see listed in Apple Music. But if you play it you get "Somewhere In The Same Hotel " instead. Go figure. I asked Mike Batt about it and he doesn't know what is going on with Apple but he did confirm that Katie recorded a version of UACM. Presumably it is sat on a shelf gathering dust somewhere, which is a tad frustrating, isn't it? Seems someone must have sent the wrong file to Apple. Anyhow, I've shouted about it a few times and nobody will listen. I assume nobody but me cares. So the lost track may never find our ears. Feel free to cry in your beers.
Not much to see here other than one of those fan videos of random pics of people and hotels made to look a bit video-ish with heavy use of the Burns effect. Still, it's better than nowt and the image and sound quality are decent. One of the images is a tad risqué so hide the kids before watching, or yourself if you're something of a prude. Somewhere In The Same Hotel
12.09.20 > AYMHM 5: If You Could Read My Mind
Another album you may have missed...
When Bob Dylan describes someone as one of his favourite songwriters you could be labelled a fool for not investigating why. Dylan famously said that when he heard a Lightfoot song he wished "it would last forever". His debut album Lightfoot! was released in 1966. In March 2020, now in his 80s, he released a new album, Solo. It is criminal that such an outstanding legend of folk music isn't more widely appreciated.
If You Could Read
If you need a place to start with Gordon's back catalogue then album no. 6 is probably the one. Released in 1970, originally entitled Sit Down Young Stranger, the album was quickly retitled If You Could Read My Mind after that single proved a massive success for him. And that song is why this album is one you need to hear. Whilst packed with good folk songs, including one of the first covers of Kris Kristofferson's "Me And Bobby McGee ", "If You Could Read My Mind " is the standout composition. If you could write a perfect song, it might well sound like this. Without doubt one of the finest songs ever written, it has that magical rare marriage of beautiful lyrics and exquisite melodies. When you hear it, it may put you in mind of the Whitney Houston track "The Greatest Love Of All ". So much so that Lightfoot took legal action against the writer of that track, Michael Masser. He eventually dropped it because he didn't want to have a negative effect on Houston's career, but the case was settled out of court and Masser issued a public apology. As beautiful as the melody is, it is the lyrics that floor you. Written about the failure of his marriage, it is a lyrical masterclass, summed up by poignant lines like
❝ I don’t know where we went wrong, but the feeling’s gone and I just can’t get it back ❞
Budding lyricists may want to note the technique of putting a rhyme word in the middle of the second line instead of at the end of it to give it a real yo-yo snap.
If you take a shine to Gord then happy days for you—he as 19 studio albums for you to catch up on!
11.09.20 > Deutscher Radiopreis
It was wonderful to see Katie performing "A Love Like That" live in Germany at the Deutschen Radiopreis 2020 event yesterday. She looked radiant and happy, and why wouldn't she be after finally getting the chance to do what she loves doing most—performing her music for people. And the performance was pure class: assured and note perfect, as we've come to expect from her. It is bittersweet to watch; on the one hand a joy to see her in her element again yet a sad reminder of what we are missing out on this autumn.
Click the pic below to go to the website and watch her performance.
11.09.20 > So Sad...
What a lovely message Katie has written on her face mask: "I am so sad some of my shows are cancelled". Make that "most" though. And not convinced her eyes are backing up the message... 😉
11.09.20 > More thoughts on Album No. 8
I do try, really I do, not to be too lavish in my praise for Katie cos I know the lady don’t like it, though she does kind of bring it on herself by being generally phenomenal, so I’m going to restrain myself and merely call her a bucket. There, that’s not at all over the top is it? Yes, Katie is a jewel-encrusted enchanted golden bucket of purest magnificence. I should get away with that. So, let’s have another chat about Album No. 8 then.
Right, thanks to a tongue-loosening bottle or two of chacha, I’ve got to the bottom of how Album No. 8 came to be written. It seems Katie chained up Don Black and Burt Bacharach in her basement and fed them nothing but cold gruel and wouldn’t let them go until they wrote her a bunch of great songs and signed statements declaring it to be her work. Oh, I’m just joshin’ with y’all, of course. It was Dylan, not Bacharach…
If I could be serious for a moment
it would be a first I think we have seen enough evidence now to prove beyond all doubt what most of us already knew—that Katie is a world-class songwriter. If the three names I mentioned in the previous paragraph set up a songwriting academy I have no doubt they’d be thrilled to have Katie as one of the tutors. And her pupils would be the luckiest students ever for I know she would inspire and bring out the very best in them.
In these modern times of digital overload there is so much content out there vying for our attention—the multitude of terrestrial television channels has been joined by on-demand video, online radio, YouTube, vlogs, blogs, podcasts, social media, streaming music, apps, audiobooks, ebooks, multiplayer games, virtual reality, augmented reality and even, occasionally, actual reality. Prior to the digital age, a new album release by a major artist was a big deal and caused much excitement. Nowadays, even the biggest global superstars need a fleet of monster marketing machines to cut through the noise and get attention for their new record. All of that is to say that I fear Album No. 8 may not enjoy as much success as I am convinced it will deserve. I predict the critical acclaim will be high, and rightly so, and if there is any justice in the world it will maintain Katie’s run of top-ten album entries. I hope I am wrong but I’m worried sales might be solid rather than spectacular. In my eyes, this is an album that deserves to be number one for a few weeks and hailed as a classic. It should make Katie a national treasure in the UK (she already is in Georgia) and a global superstar. She has a rock-solid core fanbase and I’m certain that is about to increase but she is still vastly underrated and I just don’t know if even this masterpiece of an album is going to be enough to change that. What I do know is that the fans who already love her are going nowhere and that will never change. And if you listen very carefully in 34 days from now you may just hear the explosion of their collective minds being blown.
10.09.20 > Thoughts on "Your Longing Is Gone"
Katie continues to fling singles at us with dizzying speed and we are getting punch-drunk on her knockout blows. “Your Longing Is Gone” is the fourth single from Album No. 8, and the fifth track we’ve now heard from it so far. Half way there and I’m wondering if I can go the distance because every one of those tracks has floored me so far. If this was a boxing match then my corner would have thrown the towel in and Katie would be declared world champion. But it is a poor analogy because there’s nothing pugilistic about this music—it is about love, not war. And these songs are like being wrapped up in your favourite blanket and hugged to within an inch of your life.
Love is a strange thing and something with which we all have a different experience. The songs on this album really make you think about love and what it means to you. I remain unloved but I no longer worry about it. It is a numbness compared to the pain of losing love—a pain I haven’t felt for a long, long time and I hope I never do again. I consider myself fortunate to be a giver rather than a taker and my approach is to spread as much love as I can, whether people need it or not, without paying mind to any of it coming back. Instead of sitting huddled up feeling sorry for yourself, get out and be positive towards others and it will help you feel so much better about life.
“Your Longing Is Gone” is sumptuous. The lyrics are exquisite, whilst the music is dripping with sweet melody as always and the astonishing arrangements given to all the tracks on Album No. 8 ensure she has another polished gem to blind us with.
I’m running out of words with this album. Every track I hear makes me think it is the best thing I’ve ever heard and then the next one comes along and raises the bar even higher. I keep waiting for the track that breaks the trend and makes me think “oh, that’s a bit meh” but this is Katie we’re talking about so I have to accept that isn’t going to happen and there are five more beautiful songs I’m going to have to find a way to survive. This music is sophisticated, assured, accomplished and mesmeric. I already know that Album No. 8 is the album I always hoped Katie would make but she’s done a far better job than I could ever have imagined. I feel sorry for all the other musicians in the world because I’m starting to think this album will be the only one I’ll ever need.
09.09.20 > and so, it seems, has Your Longing...
If you like women and cars, here's your Christmas present 😎
09.09.20 > The Tour Has Gone...
08.09.20 > UK Tour Cancelled
Desperately sad news but confirmation of something we were all expecting: the UK 2020 Tour has officially been cancelled. With just weeks before they were due to take place and the rising uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, it was inevitable. Even if they had been allowed they would have been restricted and not the experience the fans, nor indeed Katie, deserve.
Katie will be back, rest assured. At the moment it is impossible to even think about when that could happen so please don't bother throwing that kind of question at her. Only when concerts are allowed again can any thought be given to the planning of a new tour. By the time that happens, certain venues may not be available. These major tours involve complex logistics so even if concerts can resume within a few months please do not assume a full-blown tour will be possible in 2021. I'm sure Katie would try to get some dates in next year but the likelihood is that the replacement tour may have to wait until 2022. This is, of course, gutting for all of us but it is what it is and there's nothing we can do about it. And just imagine how desperately disappointing this is for Katie, to be bringing us these incredible new songs and not be able to perform them live in front of us. Also spare a thought for elderly fans who may no longer be up to attending a concert in two years' time. Let's just hope everyone who had tickets is able to attend when next the opportunity arises.
In the mean time, keep showing Katie your love and support through social media. Remember, even school books have last pages—we'll get through this wretched time and Katie's glorious new album is something to look forward to in just a few more weeks. It is a supernova of light in the very darkest of years. Stay safe everyone, and keep doing whatever it takes. We'll all meet up further on down the road.
08.09.20 > Katie Bite: Airtime
07.09.20 > More Than A Voice
There are many good singers out there. Too many to mention. The fact that you are reading this means you probably think Katie is pretty special (unless you are Katie, in which case you should know you are pretty special) but no doubt you could reel off a list of other favourites too. Some of your favourites might be on my list too. Yay! Others might make me go "What? Seriously?".
The problem with liking things is that it is such an inexact science. Our brains are not computers; they do not operate on pure logic that is built upon rules based on binary decisions. Our "computers" are heavily influenced by chemicals (both natural and self-administered ;-). The balance of these chemicals is delicate and ever-changing. If you have a Big Mac and Coke one day then your brain might reach a different decision about something than if you'd had broccoli and cider. And the whole thing is a lottery because it is impossible to know how what you eat is going to influence your thinking (I'm sure some of you will be saying you know chocolate and wine will make you happy, but that is a general feeling and not the same as knowing exactly how your brain will react to a particular thing). All of which means are brains are constantly evolving and changing. In fact, during your entire life your brain will never be the same twice. It has even altered since you began reading this sentence. If you wrote down a list of your top ten favourite singers every year then it would, for most people, be different each year. Even if the names were the same, the order might change. What chance then that your list is going to match someone else's? Very little, that's what.
When you like someone's voice it is a decision your brain has made based on a mountain of little micro-decisions that you are unaware of. It is not simply about the vocal quality of the singer. Your emotional state when you first heard the voice is significant. Other factors you may not realise could have played a part, such as the colour of their eyes, their hairstyle, what they were wearing. Maybe your cat was asleep on your lap purring away contentedly—even that could have played a subconscious part in your brain's calculations. There are millions of reasons why you might have reached the conclusion that Katie is your favourite singer, and though someone else might agree with you about it, their reasons will be completely different to your own. Another person might consider Norah Jones their favourite singer but not give Katie a second listen. Yet another person might not like either Katie or Norah and wonder what all the fuss is about when Harry Styles is the best singer, *obvs*.
The point is, when we talk about great singers and who has the best voice and all that there can never be a definitive answer. Some will use statistics to force an answer, but as we all know, statistics are merely numerical lies. For example, ask a thousand people to name the best singer of all time. You will get a wide spread of answers but somebody, let's say Sinatra, might just get the most votes. Some people would then take that result as an assertion that Sinatra is indeed the greatest singer ever. The thing is, although he may have had the most votes, it might only have represented perhaps 30% of the votes. Which means that 700 people out of the 1000 did not consider Sinatra to be the greatest. And 700 is a lot more than 300, isn't it? The reasons we have for liking someone's voice are so varied that it makes the whole thing indefinable. There is no sensible way to decide whose voice is best. If you wanted to approach it from a purely scientific perspective then perhaps you could come up with a list of parameters like vocal range, amplitude, harmonic distortion and variation and so on. But the list of parameters would have to be agreed upon by the scientific community, which is never easy. Even if that happened, you would need several good samples of every singer since recordings began, and good luck gathering that, and then you'd need to feed it all into a supercomputer to crunch the numbers and wait for it to spit out the answer. And guess what? The answer wouldn't be Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald or Katie or even Harry Styles... It would most likely be someone you've never heard of. Maybe a Finnish part-time elk-herder called Arvi Panntilynen would turn out to be *technically* the best singer ever. Who knew? At the end of the day it doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks. If a particular voice is special to you then that is your business. No one can say you are wrong. Similarly, you can't really tell others that your idol has the best voice (unless you happen to be Arvi's number one fan); they have their own ideas and you have to respect their choice no matter how weird it seems to you. We are all individuals, no two the same, so let's just all revel in the sea of wonderful voices that wash over us and not worry in the slightest about which of them is best.
(p.s. It is Katie though. *hangs up quick*)
06.09.20 > AYMHM 4: Suzanne Vega
Today's album you may have missed is the debut album by Suzanne Vega.
❝ It's a one-time thing; it just happens a lot ❞
This is the opening line of Suzanne Vega's self-titled debut album and it hooked me instantly. Her unadorned voice speaking the lyric in Cracking with just an acoustic guitar accompaniment was a revelation in its breathtaking simplicity. I realised you didn't need a Spectoresque wall-of-sound to fill your mind with colours and imagery. These days, Katie is my musical Princess, hence AAK, but she was just a year old when this album arrived. If Dylan is the King of Lyrics then, for me, Vega is the undisputed Queen with words that are clever, quirky and imaginative. She paints pictures in my mind the like of which I'd never seen before and it changed how I thought about music. Her voice isn't amazing but it doesn't need to be; she doesn't require dazzling vocal gymnastics because her music and lyrics do all the work so her simple delivery never detracts from the story she is telling. Like all good storytellers she leaves you so engrossed in the tale that you barely notice she's there.
Here's a few lines from Freeze Tag:
❝ We play that we're actors on a movie screen I will be Dietrich and you can be Dean You stand with your hand in your pocket and lean against the wall You will be Bogart and I will be Bacall ❞
Those names may mean nothing to young people in 2020 but in 1985 we could all identify with Suzanne's childhood recollections.
The song that put Suzanne on the map was Marlene On The Wall. Again, it is a song of its time, referring to a famous poster of Marlene Dietrich that countless teenage girls had on their wall whilst boys either had a Lamborghini or the girl with the tennis balls.
❝ Marlene watches from the wall Her mocking smile says it all As she records the rise and fall Of every soldier passing ❞
These wonderful lines from the chorus are dripping with layers of meaning and I'm sure Dylan himself would have been proud of them.
Whilst every track on this album is a gem in its own way, the one song that still blows me away to this day is The Queen And The Soldier, a stunning fable of impossible love. It is achingly beautiful and sad and by the end of it you feel as though Suzanne has read you an entire novel because you see the whole story in your mind.
If you have never heard this album I recommend you give it a go and if I do manage to convert you to Suzanne then the good news is she's still active so there's a good back catalogue for you to catch up on.
05.04.20 > Katie Bite: Leaving The Mountain
04.09.20 > Katie's Perfect 21
Katie: "Before we started making Album No.8, Bob Ezrin asked me to compile a list of ten perfect songs to act as a touchstone for the record… but I couldn’t stop at ten."
Katie has shared a Spotify playlist of "Perfect Songs". I think it's a safe bet that no one else would have picked the same 21 tracks but it's a beautiful selection and several would have made my list too and you may think the same. Making lists like this is something I do all the time (you may have noticed) and some may consider it a pointless exercise but it really isn't. Anything that gets you thinking about songs that mean something to you is worthwhile.
I'm sure Katie could have gone on past a hundred. It's such a difficult task. I mean, you really could go on and on: Wichita Lineman, MacArthur Park, I'll Never Fall In Love Again, Close To You, At Last, Streets Of London, On Days Like These... it is nigh on impossible isn't it? I'm so, so happy to see Dylan songs in there too. (I think I could have picked 21 of his alone!). Of course, the one BIG difference between Katie's list and any of ours is that there are no Katie Melua tracks on it...
But see how it gets you thinking about great songs? Thanks Katie for sharing this.
04.09.20 > Katie Conundrum No 2
Today's Katie Conundrum is a bit more difficult, but it should be one that is on your mind at the moment!
03.09.20 > Leaving The Mountain video released
I hope you all joined Katie live for the premiere of the "Leaving The Mountain" video on her YouTube channel yesterday. She claimed to be nervous. Bless. I mean, it's not as though a single one of the hordes of us who spent the day impatiently drumming our nails on the desk was ever going to react with anything over than pure love for it. It's a bit like Cadbury's saying "who wants some free chocolate?" and hundreds putting their hands up and saying "me! me! me!" and Cadbury's thinking to themselves "god, I hope they like chocolate". We like chocolate.
[heckler front of stage: if you're gonna talk about the video get on with it]
Anyway, so, how to describe the video. Well, imagine if you'd been the director tasked with creating this video and decided to make it as minimalist as you could possibly imagine. Imagine harder, because it is more minimalist than that. Basically, it is three people standing in a cave with only the camera man's head torch to see by. Katie stands in the middle like a vision in white whilst either side of her an acoustic guitar and double bass at first glance seem to be playing themselves until varying camera angles reveal glimpses of the musicians playing them (Katie's brother Zurab and bass player Tim Harries' daughter Nina.) This approach is spot on. The lush cinematic visuals that were so right for "A Love Like That" and "Airtime" would have been a distraction for "Leaving The Mountain". This song is a musical cuddle. Allowing Katie's immaculate lyrics to paint images in our minds was absolutely the best way to do it. Every one of us that has listened to those words will have imagined our own scenes and no two would be the same. It is yet another example of the painstaking thought and attention that has gone in to the crafting of Album No 8 and its presentation to the public. In what has been a difficult year for all of us, Katie is turning it into a special one by giving us a masterpiece of an album. Twenty years from now, covid will be forgotten and 2020 will be etched in our minds as the year of Album No. 8.
Click the pic below to head over to YouTube and watch three minutes of exquisite music.
02.09.20 > OK Georgia!
Well Hello! Sorry, wrong one. Well OK! Seems the legendary stapling of glossy tree slices is available in Georgia too. And why wouldn't it be? Georgia may be a cultural gold mine but they have still found room for McDonalds and KFC and so on so why not the mags too. Is it different? Yes. In two ways: it is written in Georgian, fair play, and clearly, judging by the sample below, they have far classier covers! I'd be much more inclined to shell out my hard-earned lari for this than a UK version with a picture of Wayne Rooney wearing a knotted handkerchief on his head. Talking of lari, the price for this mag appears to be 4 of them. Which is 97 pence to you and me. So that's three ways it's different then.
Oh, and since this mag is all about poking into celebrity lives this seems like a good time to remind you all of something: Katie's private life is exactly that. None of our business. Let's just appreciate the unbelievable music she gives us.
01.09.20 > New Video Alert!
Set your alarms! The video for "Leaving The Mountain" premieres at 5pm tomorrow on Katie's YouTube channel. Watch it with her and type lots of little hearts in the comments box and tell her how much you love her, because she doesn't know, and ask her when she's coming to your country, etc. etc. You know the drill.
01.09.20 > Track Notes 104: Toy Collection
Here's another little beauty from the lady that needlessly doubts her own lyrical ability. I love this song to bits, but then I say that about all Katie's own songs so the message is perhaps getting tired. It is true though, and not just about Katie—I always prefer it when artists sing their own songs, there's just something about it, like they're telling you their own stories instead of reading them from a book.
This track was released as a promo single in 2008 from "The Katie Melua Collection".
Now then, for those of you sat there thinking "oh, I wish I could see Katie perform this song live with the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra", well, you are obviously luckier in life than me because all you have to do to get your wish is click on the following link: Toy Collection live
31.08.20 > Lyric Card: Two Bare Feet
30.08.20 > Subjects For Songs
One of the interesting things that has come up through Katie’s extreme fan engagement sessions is just how many people say they write songs. I found a similar thing when I dived into the writing community. It is amazing how many people consider themselves writers of some kind. And it is very easy to get snooty about them—a common put down is “anything I’ve heard of?”, as if that in any way represents validation. The thing is, being a writer or songwriter is not a label you achieve by having a book published or a song released. Rather it is simply about you. If you write, be it stories, poems, lyrics, novels, or anything, then you are a writer. By definition. A writer is someone who writes. That is all there is to it. If you keep a daily journal you are a writer. Being a *successful* writer, well that is a different thing altogether, but never be afraid to label yourself a writer if you write and if others want to be cynical about it then that is their problem.
Since there are so many songwriters out there I wanted to talk about writing songs. Specifically, lyrics and poems. Is there a difference between lyrics and poems? Not a great deal. Songs can be just poems set to music, but often lyrics are shaped to fit the music and have repetitions like choruses and fade outs. You have more freedom with poems to structure them however you like. There are no rules—there may be conventions and guidelines, but not rules. Some song lyrics can be read like poetry. There’s a good degree of interchangeability. When I write a piece it is generally about wanting to express some thoughts. Only when it is done do I stand back and consider whether it works better as a poem or a song lyric. (If I decide it’s a lyric I’m in trouble because I can’t compose music. It ends up in a pile marked “find my Elton John”).
Anyway, how do you get ideas for songs? With any kind of writing the common advice is often “write about what you know”, but that’s rather simplistic and in any case, if you don’t know about something you can always go and learn and do some research. If you can learn anything you can know anything and therefore you can write about anything.
There’s no magic formula for getting ideas for songs, or any kind of writing for that matter. We all have different minds that respond to different triggers. Ideas come when they come. Usually out of the blue and at completely inconvenient times. However, there are things you can do to encourage them to come more often. I think the best tip is to be passionate—about life, about everything. Take an interest in everyone and everything because everyone has a story and everything is interesting. Question things rather than simply accepting them. Don’t say “ooh look, a blue dog!”, ask “why is that dog blue?”. It’s too easy to snap it, Instagram it and move on. A better idea is to go over to the owner and find out the story behind it. If I can plunder a little from Sherlock Holmes—it is not enough to merely see the world, you need to observe it.
If something or someone inspires you then that is prime motivation for writing—just think of Katie writing “Faraway Voice” about Eva Cassidy or Dylan writing “Tempest” about the Titanic disaster. But that’s not a well you can dip into all the time, you should use it sparingly. Another solid idea is to write about things that have happened to you or that you witnessed first hand, that have made an impression on you. Perhaps you had an argument with your boyfriend about cheese. At the time, it might have been heated (the argument, not the cheese, unless the argument was about toasted cheese) but months later it might inspire you to write a song about it (something like “Don’t Blame Brie”). Writing a song about a painful experience can be cathartic, whilst writing about a joyous experience can be celebratory—either way, it’s good to share.
If you really get stuck for inspiration the best advice is to get out into the world and just watch it all go by. A street café is a wonderful place to while away some time and watch the world go about its business. Just listen to the lyrics of “Tom’s Diner” by Suzanne Vega to see how much you can observe whilst quietly sipping your coffee in a corner. Look at the guy sweeping the pavement and picking up the litter. He’s invisible to all the passers-by but he probably has a story just as interesting as any of them. It’s a wonderful world indeed, so let it inspire you. Oh, and since I’ve mentioned Suzanne, she wrote a song called “My Favorite Plum”—here is some of it:
My favorite plum Hangs so far from me See how it sleeps And hear how it calls to me See how the flesh Presses the skin, It must be bursting With secrets within, I've seen the rest, yes And that is the one for me
You see, you really can write about anything.
29.08.20 > Crossword No. 3
"Leaving The Mountain" is yet another jaw-dropper from Katie's incredible mind. Which means I've had to dust off my inedible mind and conjure up another crossword to celebrate it. It's Saturday morning so what better time to sit back and relax with coffee, croissant and a crossword? (Or prosecco, peanuts and a puzzle if that's more you).
If you want to print it out to fill in just click on the puzzle to open it in a separate window and hit CMD-P (Mac) or CTRL-P (Windows).
2. innate volume hating
4. Katie's No. 1 (with Eva Cassidy)
6. the width of a thread
7. Katie's current record label
9. an album you could live in
10. Sparks flew when this song got remixed
13. Utmost compilation?
14. This stuff makes Katie's strings (and stockings?)
15. Like Elvis had, but not suede
16. cheesy Georgian flatbread
17. Legendary lyricist who worked with Katie on "In Winter"
18. Womble maestro
20. Perhaps Hermione wrote this song for Lisa Batiashvili?
21. Black Sea resort where Katie grew up
22. Bashful Lad
1. Apt song for the Tour Bus
3. Katie covered this Simon &Garfunkel classic
5. informed ears?
8. Life is just a slow train...
11. Katie's mate and "Red Balloons" collaborator
12. "A Love Like That" video co-star
19. flower named after Katie
2. innate volume hating [LEAVINGTHEMOUNTAIN]
4. Katie's No. 1 (with Eva Cassidy) [WHATAWONDERFULWORLD]
6. the width of a thread [SPIDERSWEB]
7. Katie's current record label [BMG]
9. an album you could live in [THEHOUSE]
10. Sparks flew when this song got remixed [AHAPPYPLACE]
13. Utmost compilation? [ULTIMATECOLLECTION]
14. This stuff makes Katie's strings (and stockings?) [NYLON]
15. Like Elvis had, but not suede [BLUESHOES]
16. cheesy Georgian flatbread [KHACHAPURI]
17. Legendary lyricist who worked with Katie on "In Winter" [DONBLACK]
18. Womble inventor [MIKEBATT]
20. Perhaps Hermione wrote this song for Lisa Batiashvili? [NOBETTERMAGIC]
21. Black Sea resort where Katie grew up [BATUMI]
22. Bashful Lad [SHYBOY]
1. Apt song for the Tour Bus [ONTHEROADAGAIN]
3. Katie covered this Simon &Garfunkel classic [BRIDGEOVERTROUBLEDWATER]
5. informed ears? [DREAMSONFIRE]
8. Life is just a slow train... [CRAWLINGUPAHILL]
11. Katie's mate and "Red Balloons" collaborator [POLLYSCATTERGOOD]
12. "A Love Like That" video co-star [BILLYHOWLE]
19. flower named after Katie [TULIP]
28.08.20 > Katie Bite: Leaving The Mountain
I let birthday girl Angie choose today's blog entry and she went for another "Leaving The Mountain" Katie Bite. Excellent choice.
27.08.20 > Katie Conundrum No 1
Here's my latest way to waste half a minute of your time. Say hello to the Katie Conundrum! Hit play and an anagram is shown. You then have 30 seconds to guess what it says (probably a song title or album name). As soon as you think you've got it hit REVEAL to see if you were right. If you don't get it within 30 seconds the world will end. Just kidding! Nothing bad happens: the answer is simply revealed and you can spend the rest of the day trudging around like a dunce. There are no prizes other than the reward of trying to set your best time. Such fun. Oh, and sorry there's no jazzy tick-tock music to ramp up the pressure—you'll just have to hear it in your head...
26.08.20 > Katie Bite: Leaving The Mountain
25.08.20 > Nobody's Perfect
That’s how the saying goes, isn’t it? And as sayings go, it is probably the most accurate one of all. For it is true—nobody is perfect. Nope, not even Katie. I know some of you will be choking on your custard creams to hear such heresy, especially from one who has constructed an entire web site seemingly suggesting the reverse. There’s no doubt there are many that *think* she’s perfect; I’m just being straight with you. After all, if you really think about it, what does perfect actually mean? You can apply it in a technical sense to describe say, a circle or a diamond. And I’m beginning to form the impression that Album No 8 could come close to attaining the P-word. But a human being? Perfection requires every conceivable aspect to be correct, from emotional and mental traits to physical appearance, right down to the molecular level—perfection would require 100% error-free DNA. Maybe one day the genetic side of the equation could be engineered to attain perfection but personality is a different thing altogether. If you asked every person on the planet to name who they consider the perfect human being and to describe exactly why then someone, somewhere will get more votes than everyone else but that person will still only have a fraction of the overall vote and the reasons given for choosing them will vary between all those that voted. This is the crux of it: every single one of us has a different idea of what perfection means. If I asked those fans that consider Katie perfect to list 10 reasons, then no two lists would be identical. There would be repetition of course, with things like “her voice”, “her eyes”, “her smile” and so on, but there would also be more arcane choices like “her ear lobes” or “her left tibia”, or “the sinusoidal amplitude of her vibrato”.
Another curious thing about all this is that often the people we cite as being perfect are celebrities. If you describe your wife or husband as perfect then fair enough—you should know them better than anyone—but how much do you really know about the celebrity upon which you are bestowing this grand title? After all, how many celebrities do you suppose are WYSIWYG (does anyone still use that term? What you see is what you get, if not). They are the face of their own “brand” and in this brutal age of marketing and money, image is everything. So the celebrity you see is the person they want you to see and not necessarily their true persona. It isn’t about being dishonest, it’s just how the world works and if you want to get on in it you have to play by the rules whether you like them or not. Katie is more than clever enough to know the rules by heart. Perhaps she’s a right twiglet once you know her but you’re not going to get to know her. As Billy Joel so beautifully put it, she only reveals what she wants you to see. If you meet her at a gig you will be blown away by how lovely she is but you need to remember that she is still “on duty” and representing her brand—she will smile sweetly at you even if she considers you an absolute cocktail sausage. It would be interesting to see if she comes across as gracious if you are in Tesco and just beat her to the last Pot Noodle… My gut feeling is that Katie genuinely is a phenomenal human being, easily perfect enough for me, but not everyone. And I hasten to add that “perfect enough” is an oxymoron; perfection is binary—it is or it isn’t—but you get what I mean. That said, I do get a lot of things wrong (I’m not perfect) and maybe at home she swears like a sailor and rolls reefers like they’re going out of fashion whilst slouching on the sofa in a ketchup-stained vest watching Love Island and pigging out on cheesy nachos. (Could I have just come up with a future album cover?) So just remember next time you are about to describe Katie (or anyone for that matter) as perfect: she may be the closest thing to perfect that you’ve ever seen, but she could be acting twenty-two when she’s really seventeen…
24.08.20 > Quick Fact
Katie is one day younger than Prince Harry. She is two days older than Dizzee Rascal. Do feel free to use this information in any way you see fit.
23.08.20 > Acoustic Version of "A Love Like That"
There are songwriters that aren't great performers. They can write gorgeous songs but usually rely on others to sing them. Then there are great performers who can hold an audience in the palm of their hand and squeeze every last ounce of goodness out of a song, even make an average song sound great, but their songwriting efforts are perhaps a bit, well, meh. What is rare and special is when one person has both talents. Like, for example, Katie Melua. She can craft a song like Burt Bacharach and deliver it like Ella Fitzgerald. What is even more extraordinary is that she can give a seemingly effortless rendition of a song in a studio backed by a full orchestra and yet somehow replicate the quality of performance live on stage and, as we've discovered this summer, even sat on her sofa at home with just a guitar. I cannot think of any other performer that can adapt their music to any situation so seamlessly without losing any of the power of the song. Katie illustrated this perfectly last night with a home recording of "A Love Like That" for BBC Radio 4's "Loose Ends" program.
As you will know, "A Love Like That" is a sophisticated tour de force akin to a Bond theme with its sweeping orchestration and classy vocals. How on earth could it be possible to adapt that to a stripped back sofa song without breaking the foundation on which the song is built? I'll tell you how. It's because Katie is one of the greatest interpreters of a song the world has seen: she is right up there with the likes of Sinatra, Fitzgerald, Dylan and Eva Cassidy. She has a mystical ability to instinctively understand what makes a song tick and how to get the best out of it no matter what the circumstances or conditions are. The skill lies in being able to distil the essence of the song so that it retains its identity even if the costume and makeup have been removed. Her acoustic version of "A Love Like That", with her brother Zurab accompanying her on guitar, was just as sensational as the full-blown studio version. That is some trick to pull off. I don't know how she does it. But the fact that she does do it, time and again, is why I'm in awe of her talent and why she's my undisputed number 1 and indeed why AAK even exists at all. If Katie weren't so brilliant you might now be staring at a blank web page! (Or perhaps something like "All About Vega", cos I like Suzy too, but no doubt that particular website would attract, and quickly disappoint, legions of astronomy geeks). But she is brilliant and you are here and now I'm telling you to go away! (Nicely, of course. I mean, you may want to toddle off and listen for yourself.)
If you'd like to hear this delectable performance of "A Love Like That" it will be available for the next 29 days at BBC Radio 4: Loose Ends
22.08.20 > Seven Second Challenge 13
Bit late posting today. Sorry. I was up half the night working on something rather special, but you'll have to wait until next month for that. Anyway, I'm going easy on you with today's 7 Second Challenge. If you don't get this one then I'll have no alternative than to label you a misshapen and unsugared jelly tot. Press the play button and guess the song. Click "Show Me The Answer" when you think you know it or if you're stumped.
Seven second challenge: intro 13
Perfect World (In Winter)
21.08.20 > Katie's On A Roll! Leaving The Mountain
I'm gonna need a bigger thesaurus. (Is there another word for thesaurus?) I'm fast using up my annual allowance for each and every adjective I know that can convey just how timber-shivering Katie's new songs are. Exquisite. Immaculate. Divine. Sensational. You're probably getting the drift. I'm talking about career-defining brilliance. And I'm not the least bit surprised—after all, this is the beautiful mind that created “Faraway Voice” at sixteen. Two decades down the road I’d be hoping that mind would be producing works of fine art, and Katie is not disappointing. I’m even thinking now that when the vinyl of Album No 8 finally arrives in my paws I won’t play it but rather frame it and hang it on the wall that I may admire it for the masterpiece it surely is.
If I’m honest, Katie has me worried. I try my best to make this quirky little site a suitable homage to her talents but ever since I first heard “Maybe I Dreamt It” I’ve had the feeling that she’s a star about to turn supernova and it seems this album is going to trigger it. And I’m concerned about whether I’ll be able to keep doing her justice. I’ll try of course but I’ll have to up my game. She’s raising the bar and I’m on the top rung of the step-ladder already. Maybe I need a new ladder. Anyway, I digress, none of that is your concern so that thing you see lumbering over the horizon puffing and panting is the point and I’ll try to get to it—today Katie has released the latest track from Album No 8. It is called “Leaving The Mountain” and it is exquisite. No, immaculate. No, divine. Oh for heaven’s sake, give me a minute while I grab that thesaurus… let’s see now, here we go, winsome, ravishing, beguiling. Yeah, it’s all of those. (And more, but I need to save some for next time). It would really make my life easier if Katie would just release an absolute stinker, a rancid turkey of a song. But we all know that ain’t gonna happen.
Katie has said the song was inspired by a trip with her father around the mountains of the Caucasus near the Black Sea. I’ve been there myself and it is a bewitching part of the world, as is most of Georgia, and it deserves to be celebrated with suitably bewitching songs. “Leaving The Mountain” is exactly that. It could have been written by Burt Bacharach and sung by Dionne Warwick. It’s that smooth. No, it’s smoother. It makes me want to go into the woods and hug a squirrel. For all that is wrong with this world—which is a lot—music like this makes it all worth the struggle. I think it is one of the best songs Katie has ever written, and I thought that less than a minute into it. I’m going to get lost (and I know some of you wish I would) in this song for a long time to come. Bravo, Katie.
20.08.20 > Lyric Card: When You Taught Me How To Dance
19.08.20 > Leaving The Mountain
Just gonna leave you with this. Night, night.
19.08.20 > Track Notes 103: Two Bare Feet
18.08.20 > Katie Bite: A Love Like That
17.08.20 > Katie's Extreme Fan Engagement
Those of you who are on Instagram will no doubt be enjoying the weekly live events Katie has been doing for the past, I think, nine weeks now. For those that aren’t, let me tell you about them. She calls them “extreme fan engagement” and basically it involves her talking one-to-one with fans and asking them questions rather than the other way round. She has been doing them every Thursday at 6.30pm. It is quite an extraordinarily lovely thing for her to do for her fans. I’ll be honest: I don’t really understand how it works (a shocking admission for someone with a degree in computer science, I know, but social media is something I really struggle to get my head around). What happens is, she starts a “live video” session just like when she does one of her “home” gigs, and then there’s the usual flurry of hearts and “hello” messages as fans start watching. Somehow you can then ask Katie to be interviewed and she can see a list of the requests. She’ll pick a name that takes her fancy and by some sorcery she is suddenly talking to them via video link. Everyone else can see both Katie and chosen fan in a split-screen arrangement. It is then like a private conversation between them except the rest of Instagram can become voyeurs and watch and listen. It isn’t always a smooth experience; the technology involved is still not quite able to handle what is being asked of it. The clearest glitch-free episode was the one where Katie was in Georgia, which may surprise some but is exactly what I expected—when I was in Georgia I found the wifi and phone signals to be excellent everywhere I went. When Georgians do something they do it well.
There’s no strict format to these “interviews” but Katie so far has chosen three fans every week and chatted for 10-15 minutes with each of them. She always comes across as a woman of great probity. (In private she might be an utter minx but that is not our business.) She doesn’t set timers or glance at the clock so her lucky victim doesn’t feel rushed or that they are wasting precious time with each “um” and “er”. That said, she is clearly skilled at this kind of thing and always manages to draw each conversation to a natural conclusion without hurrying anyone or cutting them off. Wogan himself would be proud of her mic-side manner.
Given that music is Katie’s life I’m surprised she doesn’t poke around into her fans musical influences more, though of course there is the obvious hurdle of her not wanting it to be all about Katie (see what I did there?) so questions like favourite artist or song are non-starters because they are something of an open invitation for a fan to gush uncontrollably, which would be embarrassing for all concerned. But perhaps a question like “if your life was a movie name a song from the soundtrack” would be interesting. She might hastily add “other than mine” to that but really, if a song of hers has meant that much to someone then why shouldn’t they explain why? She does try to ask the same questions to each fan, the idea being that they have time to think about their answers in advance but frankly I think she is underestimating the sheer heart-pounding deer-in-the-headlights panic induced by suddenly having someone you fair worship staring back at you from your screen. It is a constant surprise how well most people handle it; Katie is extremely good at putting her fans at ease but even so it is clearly overwhelming for many of them. This tends to mean that even if they had prepared a top answer for each question, in the heat of the moment their brain turns to mush and they struggle to think straight. It’s just a weird thing about human nature that certain people we idolise can have that effect on us yet at the end of the day we are all just people. But somehow they get through it and their personalities begin to shine. As well as Katie getting to know some of her fans it is also introducing many of them to each other, which is lovely.
There are very few stars of Katie’s magnitude that would give their time to fans in such a manner as this. She will tell you she gets a lot out of it herself—and frankly, why would she do it otherwise?—after all, it is an interesting insight into the lives of some of the people that love her music, but for the chosen fan it is an almost out-of-body experience that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. I don’t think it would be too dramatic to say for some of them it may even change their lives.
16.08.20 > Seven Second Challenge 12
Bit of an easier one for you this time. Press the play button and guess the song. Click "Show Me The Answer" when you think you know it or if you're stumped.
Seven second challenge: intro 12
Spider's Web (Piece By Piece)
15.08.20 > Part 2, Behind the Scenes: Songwriting
Part 2 of Katie's mini-documentaries about the making of Album No. 8. These films are just gorgeous. Everything about Album No. 8 oozes class. Katie speaks so softly, almost reverently, you may need to turn the sound up.
(NB: Due to YouTube copyright policy the video won't play right here—clicking the pic above will take you to the YouTube site to watch it.)
15.08.20 > Katie on TalkRadio
Lovely little, actually quite long, interview with Katie on TalkRadio on Thursday. If you want to watch it then click the pic. Yes, I did say 'watch' and yes, it is a radio station, and yes, it is a video and well, that's just how the world works in 2020. Embrace it. The interviewer is a bit of a gherkin—hadn't done even basic research such as when the album is out and thought that Georgia was a town, the clown, and also thought Tbilisi was a town (one he couldn't begin to pronounce), and probably even thinks his wife is a town—but Katie remained gracious and kept flashing that smile that could lighten the darkest heart and revealed some lovely insights into the process of making AN8. I don't think she'll take up his suggestion of calling album number nine Album No. 9; personally, I rather hope she calls it "Albert" (for no real reason other than I'm a fool).
(Katie is on at around 2hrs 3mins but you can, and I suggest you do, scrobble, or whatever you want to call it, to that point in the timeline. Oh, and ignore the banner at the bottom: if you do call 0344 499 1000 you won't find Katie waiting to chat on the other end. At least I don't think so. I haven't actually tried it. Maybe she has a temp job on reception for them...)
14.08.20 > Katie Bite: I Do Believe In Love
13.08.20 > Katie on BBC Radio 2
A real injection of class for BBC Radio 2 this morning as Dermot O’Leary interviewed Katie in between playing “A Love Like That” and “Airtime”. The sheer quality of these songs is a cut above anything else around at the moment. I was talking about “Airtime” only yesterday and hearing it on the radio (which weirdly is somehow different to hearing it on Spotify or whatever, even if the sound is coming from the same speakers) just reinforced the exquisite nuance and detail woven into every note. If it were a painting it would be hanging in the Louvre already. Listening to it is like relaxing in a bath of liquid gold whilst being fed salted caramel chocolates by the woman (or man) ((or horse)) of your dreams. I watched the video for it again last night and it is starting to give me goosebumps. Katie could have been a cracking actress. She’s more photogenic than a puppy kissing a kitten whilst riding a dolphin into a sunset. I *really* hope she puts out a DVD of the “Album No 8” videos. It might go some way to replacing the cancelled gigs this winter. There are now only 63 days to go until we get our sticky mitts on “Album No 8”. Excitement is mounting. It is going to be something very special indeed.
12.08.20 > Not Enough Airtime?
There’s an utter muppet on Twitter accusing Katie of being bland on “Airtime”. It’s a sad fact of life that some people only like what they know. They want every song Katie sings to be like “Nine Million Bicycles”. Well guess what? If you want to stay stuck in the past then listen to “Nine Million Bicycles” on repeat. Sorted. But if you really appreciate good music then you need to embrace the new and listen to it properly. “Airtime”, along with “A Love Like That”, are two of the best songs Katie has ever recorded. The understated singing style on “Airtime” reflects the helpless resignation of knowing you’re in a relationship where the love has all but ebbed away. It is not a song of joy, nor is it one to march down the aisle to—it is a lament to lost love. It is a song that should not be delivered with screeching rage and seething pain but rather numb acceptance of the cold reality of how relationships can deteriorate in real life. The sparkle has gone, life has gone flat. It is acutely observed and divinely delivered. “Airtime” is a thinking person’s song—subtle, intelligent, adult music. For me, it is a masterpiece and Katie, as always, has absolutely nailed the delivery. If a song isn’t your cup of tea then that’s fine, you don’t have to like everything an artist does, but don’t go on social media and call them bland and criticise their lyrics—they have every right to make whatever music they want. All the listener has to do is decide whether it is for them or not. I know I’m not alone in thinking that “Airtime” is a sublime track. And I would point out that the tweets calling it bland received zero likes. Personally, I can’t get enough “Airtime”.
11.08.20 > Trust Katie!
Trust is a very big word. Massive in fact. No, I know it is only five letters smartypants, but it is a Tardis word and is in fact bigger than antidisestablishmentarianism on the inside. Trust me. But think about it. How many people can you *really* trust? For most of us the answer will be ‘not many’. If you trust everyone you’re a fool. If you trust no one then you’re paranoid. Generally there’s a handful of people we think we can trust but if push came to shove we might discover otherwise. It’s an important gift to give someone your trust and you should never do it lightly. “Okay boss, great,” I don’t hear you say. “but where is all this leading?”
Katie earned my trust a long time ago. There wasn’t one defining moment when I suddenly thought “right, I’m going to trust her”, rather it gradually evolved over time, in the background, until one day it dawned on me that I’d given it to her. I know, I’m still not making sense. It’s about her musical choices.
I often blather on about songs she could cover or albums she could make and so on. That’s all a bit of fun. In truth, I just sit back and let her take my breath away with every new thing she comes up with. And I never worry about what she will do next because she hasn’t once let me down or disappointed me with any of her music. There’s no one else I can say that about. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that whatever she does in the future I will love it. How can I be so sure of that? Because I trust her. I’m tuned in to her frequency so her music will always resonate with me, whatever direction she takes it. And I trust her because she cares about her music and crafting something beautiful and timeless rather than banging out a string of disposable hits to cash in on gullible youngsters. She is an artisan songwriter and gifted performer on the front line of making the world a better place to exist in. I suspect she doesn’t always trust herself as much as she should but at the end of the day her talent and desire to create wonderful music will not let her down and she will always deliver. I trust her implicitly. If aliens turned me into a pile of sand I’d want Katie to be holding me in her palms. (In reality she’d probably just bin it and carry on with what she was doing but hey, I’d never know and the chances of that scenario actually occurring are about on a par with a hamster named Algernon discovering three new elements and a cure for the common cold.)
So there you have it. Trust needs to be earned. I hope Katie has earned yours. She has mine, and I’ve seen enough from Album No 8 to know my trust is going to be rewarded handsomely. But I already knew that…
10.08.20 > Lyric Card: What A Wonderful World
09.08.20 > "A Love Like That" Chrome Theme
I was perusing Google Chrome themes in search of a new look, as you do, though maybe you don't—it's probably just me, and nothing was quite tickling my fancy. And I'd rather set my heart on having my fancy tickled. So I decided to do what I normally do in these situations and tickle my own fancy (stop making your own jokes). I thought it would be bordering on spiffing to have a browser themed to match the new look of AAK. Not entirely surprisingly, no one else in the whole world had had the same idea and created one so I had to make it myself. Well, it's more fun that way in any case. Here's what it looks like then, though you've probably looked before even reading a syllable of my inane blurb:
If you want it, and I'll be crushed if you don't, then you can get it from A Love Like That Theme. Installing it requires a bit of settings tinkering but assuming that holds no fear for you then there's full instructions here.
08.08.20 > Katie Bite: No Better Magic
07.08.20 > Seven Second Challenge 11
Press the play button and guess the song. Click "Show Me The Answer" when you think you know it or if you're stumped.
Seven second challenge: intro 11
What It Says On The Tin (Pictures)
06.08.20 > Katie's 2020
Well, what a year this has beeen, and it's only August...
05.08.20 > Track Notes 102: When You Taught Me How To Dance
When You Taught Me How To Dance
Mike Batt, Nigel Westlake, Richard Maltby
Oh my, Mike Batt worked a little magic on this number that Nigel Westlake had floating around for the soundtrack of the movie "Miss Potter". Nigel had the bones of the song but was struggling to flesh it out so he called in Mike and Katie. With virtually only a few hours to work with, Mike tweaked the song and wrote fresh lyrics along with Richard Maltby. Katie arrived and recorded the thing pretty much instantly and the movie had a classic song under its belt. No one would suspect it was a last minute rush job listening to it. Mike's beautiful lyrics and Katie's timeless performance combine yet again to give the world something simply divine. One of my favourite Katie tracks.
Well now, if you are a fan of a certain Harold Potter and Hermione Granger then this is going to make you melt...Harry and Hermione
04.08.20 > Why Album No 8 Is Important
Album No 8 is just over ten weeks away now after what seems like an eternal wait. But all good things…
Whilst it would be premature to start reviewing it, even though I’m convinced it is going to be astonishing, I think it is worth reflecting on why it is such an important album. Let’s start by noting that most artists never even make it to an eighth album, but of those that do does it stick in the memory? For The Beatles, for example, it was “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” but would you have known that was their eighth? Okay, I know there will be a clever-clogs out there that did know that, but would you have known Dylan’s was “John Wesley Harding”? (If that’s a yes too then I want you on my pub quiz team).
The point is, album number eight is usually unremarkable. Not in musical terms, necessarily, I hasten to add—after all, at the time of release every artist will canoodle their creation like a new baby and time might even reveal it to be a classic—but the fact that it was number 8 will generally be forgotten.
In Katie’s case, things may be very different. For a start, no one is ever going to forget that it was her eighth album. But it is important because it is in some ways her second album, and we all know how difficult they are rumoured to be. Of course, I’m not writing her first six studio albums out of the history books. They are all wonderful and any artist would be proud of them. Now, I need to be careful here because the last thing I would ever want to do is offend Katie, but I think she will understand what I mean when I say that in a sense all she had to do with the Dramatico albums is turn up and sing. Obviously, she played a much larger part than that, getting involved with the writing and arranging and production and what not, especially on “The House”, but had she not been quite so eager to learn everything she could have, quite literally, just turned up to sing and let Mike Batt and Dramatico worry about all the mixing and engineering stuff. Once she parted with Dramatico she effectively became her own record label and it was up to her to think of and handle everything. (BMG distributes her music but in a sense they work for her rather than the other way round—a bit like me writing and producing my own books then getting Amazon to sell them).
You could therefore look at “In Winter” as something of a franchise reboot and therefore the first album for “new Katie”. Yet in some ways it was a bit of a free hit. She was still carrying the momentum from the Dramatico years and most people would have seen “In Winter” as a new Katie Melua album without even being aware of her split from Dramatico. It was also less of a gamble because of the ‘Winter’ theme—although that was a distinction from a ‘Christmas’ album it is still often perceived as such. That is a double-edged sword: some people may consider it to not be a ‘proper’ album but ‘just a Christmas album’ and hence not take it as seriously or give it the credit it is due but by the same token anyone that wasn’t that impressed with “In Winter” can write it off as a Christmas album and not count it against Katie in the grand scheme of things.
Album No 8 is different. This time, there is nowhere to hide. This is a full-blown, proper album, written and produced by Katie. If it is well-received, she can take the credit and bask in the glory whereas if it flops she has nobody else to blame. I’m not a fan of spoiler alerts, so I’ll just blurt it out right now—she has nothing to worry about. Nothing, that is, except how to stay afloat in a raging sea of compliments. The songs we’ve heard so far are enough to tell us that she is going to deliver a classy, polished album of intelligent, highly crafted songs that will enhance her reputation within the industry and, hopefully, among the public too. It is an important album because it is one she needed to get right, and I have a feeling she’s nailed it. Naturally, as a loyal fan I am going to support whatever she does but I really do think she's going to win a lot of new admirers with this material.
03.08.20 > Katie Bite: A Love Like That
02.08.20 > AYMHM 3: Tomorrow's Harvest
Last time out on Albums You May Have Missed I mentioned I had a penchant for instrumental music. That was deliberately phrased to stop me looking *too* weird, but I cannot in all conscience continue to disguise the fact that I'm heartily obsessed with ambient electronica. Of course, you only have to look at the web site you are on to realise that whenever I need comfort or inspiration then Katie's voice is the first port of call. For most of the remaining time though you'll find me lost in a world of atmospheric noises that allow me to travel to other worlds in my mind. When I'm writing, especially, I don't want the distraction of lyrics but I find it hard to work in silence. Ambient electronica is just the ticket—it gets the creative juices flowing without taking over your brain entirely. Perhaps you could write a love sonnet whilst listening to heavy metal but I know I couldn't. A man's gotta know his limitations.
Boards Of Canada
So, where do I begin? It's a tricky one. There are a ton of candidates and I've already changed my mind a couple of times. I could probably run another web site along the lines of "All About Ambient", but you know, I can't be arsed. These things are a lot of work even if they are a labour of love and AAK is a big enough drain on my batteries so I'll just resort to sneak tactics like this to get the odd bit of ambient mention in and cross my fingers that Katie doesn't get cross with Craggie for lowering the tone of what is ostensibly her site.
I decided upon Tomorrow's Harvest by Boards Of Canada. This band isn't really a band, nor are they Canadian. They are a pair of elusive and reclusive Edinburgh-based brothers that spend most of their time making music and very little of it performing or releasing said music. But their sound is quite unique. It has an ethereal sense of vague nostalgia about it, almost as though it was made in the 60s or something. As it turns out, this evocative past-longing vibe is something BoC deliberately try to create and they are rather good at it. They use a wide range of techniques to get that distinctive blend, including knackered old analogue tape machines that can give a wobbly pitch-variance, distorted samples from 70s television documentaries and probably even their mum's best set of pans if they could get away with it.
Whenever you mention the word "ambient" people's eyes glaze over and they are immediately picturing scented candles and tacky health spa "wellness being" music with tinkling pianos and fluttering flutes. Get that nonsense out of your head right now. Ambient is about painting a picture in your mind with music, a panoramic soundscape. You should be able to close your eyes and drift away to improbable worlds where your brain can make anything it desires a reality. So do yourself a favour: get yourself alone, mute your phone, don your favourite pair of cans, close your eyes and just see where Tomorrow's Harvest takes you. (If the answer is "nowhere" then soz about that, it don't work for everyone!)
01.08.20 > Seven Second Challenge 10
Press the play button and guess the song. Click "Show Me The Answer" when you think you know it or if you're stumped.
Seven second challenge: intro 10