Lost Heroes Of Kids Music: Mike Batt

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This blast from the past comes to us from the other side of the pond - at the same time the boys in Queen were releasing their early albums, the booming British rock trend made inroads into kids TV in the form of the soundtrack to "The Wombles," a stop-motion animated show about a group of furry creatures that collect and recycle garbage in Wimbledon Common.

When the time came for the inevitable LP tie-ins, production company Filmfair recruited a man named Mike Batt, who previously had done time with chamber-pop outfit Hapshash & The Coloured Coat. Batt was only hired in 1973 to write the show's theme song, but he instead waived his fee to set up The Wombles as a full-fledged recording group, even wearing a Womble suit for a week to get into character! When the first Wombles album went gold, the "band" was invited to play on Top of the Pops, and unlike other Saturday morning bands, all of the people in the suits were trained musicians, actually playing live. On one occasion, members of British folk legends Steeleye Span pulled Womble duty.

All four Wombles albums were best-sellers, and Batt's charming, quirky tunes range from twee pop to horn-driven reggae. Alas, a dispute over the rights to stage shows resulted in "imitation Wombles" hitting the tour circuit, disappointing kids who came to see them and ending the short-lived Womble craze by 1977.

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