The Wombles (band)
The Wombles were a British novelty pop group, featuring musicians dressed as the characters from children's TV show The Wombles, which in turn was based on the children's book series by Elisabeth Beresford. Songwriter and record producer Mike Batt wrote the series' theme tune and went on to perform and write many successful albums and singles as 'The Wombles' with other collaborators. British Hit Singles & Albums jokingly referred to them as the "furriest (and possibly the tidiest) act... are natives of Wimbledon Common, London". In 2011, the band played at The Glastonbury Festival. The Wombles were finished in 2017 after Batt declared bankruptcy.
|Origin||Wimbledon Common, London, England|
|Genres||Novelty, bubblegum pop, pop rock|
|Years active||1973–1976, 1998-2000, 2011-2017|
|Past members||Jack Rothstein (deceased)|
Eddie Mordue (deceased)
Filmfair acquired the television rights to The Wombles and commissioned Batt to write the theme song. He waived the flat fee for writing a single song, and secured the character rights for musical production to write songs under the name 'The Wombles'.
The band released several albums and singles. All four studio albums went gold, and four of the singles reached the Top 10 in the UK Singles Chart. The Wombles were the most successful act of 1974, with albums in the UK charts for more weeks than any other act.
A song called "Wombling U.S.A.", written to break into the American market, was recorded in 1975 but was not released until 2000 when it was included on the cassette version of "I Wish It Could Be a Wombling Merry Christmas Every Day".
In January 1974, Mike Batt appeared on an edition of Cilla Black's television series as Orinoco, having been led onstage by guest Bernard Cribbins, to plug "The Wombling Song". Consequently, when the single charted, the "band" was invited to perform on Top of the Pops. Additional Womble suits were hastily made for the live performance.
When appearing as a band, the Wombles were always played by experienced musicians in full costume. Batt continued to perform as Orinoco, regularly accompanied by drummer Clem Cattini as Bungo and guitarist Chris Spedding as Wellington (complete with Spedding's trademark white Gibson Flying V)--both of whom had previously recorded with Batt. On one edition of Top of the Pops, the costumes were filled by members of Steeleye Span.
Tim and Andy Renton, who had worked with Batt in the latter incarnation of Hapshash and the Coloured Coat also donned the costumes, along with Robin LeMesurier, who also had a Gibson Flying V, but was kicked out of the band following an arrest for possession of marijuana.
The band was the interval act at the Eurovision Song Contest 1974.
The Wombles' split and Wellington's solo career
The Wombles 'split' in 1976 and, following a severe drought that summer, a single called "Rainmaker" (credited to Wellington Womble) was released.
Batt remains sensitive about the legacy of the band. In a 2008 interview, he said: "It is hard to be taken seriously with the Wombles hanging around my neck like a furry anvil." More recently (in a programme with Aled Jones on the BBC in 2010) Batt pointed out that, in balance, the Wombles also served as a "furry balloon" as it gave him his first chart success.
In April 2011, Batt announced that The Wombles would play at The Glastonbury Festival in June. Michael Eavis, the founder of the Glastonbury Festival, later said that booking the Wombles was "a bit of a mistake". Batt quipped that Uncle Bulgaria had been offended by Eavis' comments and had withdrawn an offer to tidy up the site after the festival.
|The Wombles discography|
|1974||Remember You're A Womble
|Keep On Wombling
|1975||The Best of The Wombles – 20 Wombling Greats
|1976||The Best of The Wombles – 20 Wombling Greats (reissue)
|1978||The Wombles Christmas Party
|1983||The Wombles Christmas Album
|1997||Underground, Overground – The Ultimate Wombles Collection
|1998||'The Best Wombles Album So Far – Volume 1
|2000||The Wombles Collection
|2005||The Very Best Of The Wombles
|2011||The W Factor
|1973||"The Wombling Song" / "Wombles Everywhere"
|1974||"Remember You're A Womble" / "Bungo's Birthday"
|"Banana Rock" / "The Womble Square Dance"
|"Wombling Summer Party" / "Wimbledon Sunset"
|"Minuetto Allegretto" / "Womble Burrow Boogie"
|"Remember You're A Womble" / "Wellington Womble"
|"Wombling Merry Christmas" / "Madame Cholet"
|1975||"Wombling White Tie And Tails" / "The Wombling Twist"
|"Superwomble" / "The Orinoco Kid"
|"Let's Womble To The Party Tonight" / "Down At The Barber Shop"
|1976||"The Womble Shuffle" / "To Wimbledon With Love"
|Wellington Womble – "Rainmaker" / The Wombles – "Wombling in the Rain"
|1998||"Remember You're A Womble" / "Remember You're A Womble (Dance Mix)"
|"The Wombling Song" / "The Orinoco Kid"
|2000||"I Wish It Could Be A Wombling Merry Christmas Every Day" (with Roy Wood)
|2011||"Wombling Merry Christmas" / "The Wombles Warning" / "Miss Adelaide (She's Got A Lot Of Knowledge)" / "The Jungle Is Jumping"
|1977||Wombling Free – Original Soundtrack
The BBC Four comedy program Don't Watch That, Watch This showed a dubbed footage of The Wombles from TOTP2, of the Wombles purportedly performing "Anarchy in the U.K." live in June 1988. The scrolling caption during the song read "During the early eighties the Wombles reformed as a funk soul fusion. But the project soon failed and the group disbanded, only to come together again as the Dixie Minstrel Wombles. In 1988 the original line up were reunited for the third time to record their version of this Sex Pistols classic.... for a Pot Noodle commercial. Later released as a single it reached 57 on the charts".
- McCormick, Neil (2008-04-10). "Mike Batt: he can't forget he's a Womble". The Telegraph.
- Neil Warwick; Jon Kutner; Tony Brown (2004). The Complete Book Of The British Charts: Singles and Albums. Omnibus Press. pp. 1203–1204. ISBN 1-84449-058-0.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 608. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Phil Hardy & Dave Laing (1988). Encyclopedia of Rock. Schirmer Books. p. 38. ISBN 0-02-919562-4.
- Stanley, Bob (2004-02-27). "Bob Stanley on the man inside the Womble suit". The Times.
- The son of actors John Le Mesurier and Hattie Jacques
- Andrew Perry "The Wombles at Glastonbury 2011: interview", telegraph.co.uk, 15 June 2011
- "Wombles of Glastonbury festival are we". Daily Mail. 22 April 2011.
- "Glastonbury boss Michael Eavis regrets Wombles booking". BBC News. 8 June 2011.
- "Wombles re-form to play Glastonbury". BBC News. 22 June 2011.