He arranged the strings on Family's prog-rock classic Music in a Doll's House, you know. Good arrangements they were as well, but not a patch on his work with The Wombles, who were genuinely a great band. Well, not a band as such, but a great act at least.
Originally commissioned to write the theme song for the TV series The Wombles (little furry things who collected litter on Wimbledon Common, for those of you too young or old to remember), Batt decided he wanted to go beyond the one-off novelty single and negotiated the musical rights to the name. The original 'Wombling Song' was followed in 1974 by 'Remember You're A Womble', 'Banana Rock', 'Minuetto Allegretto' and 'Wombling Merry Christmas', all of which made the British top twenty and won the 'group' the accolade of being the biggest-selling singles act in the country that year.
A dispute over the rights to the stage-show, however, meant that Christmas 1974 saw a rash of Wombles shows throughout the country, none of which had anything to do with Batt. It was a PR catastrophe, with hundreds of tearful kids protesting that that they'd been fobbed off with imitation Wombles. (Amongst those imitators, curiously, was David Van Day appearing in Manchester as Captain Yellowstone, an American Womble). A storm of media outrage - it was a quiet week for news - severely affected sales of the Christmas single and left Batt reluctant to pursue the dream of Womble world domination. In 1975, following a few smaller hits, the group split and although Wellington Womble made a solo single, it seemed clear that it was all over.
Until the late-1990s, of course. 1998 saw the release of a Wombles compilation album and the return to the charts of 'Remember You're a Womble' and 'The Wombling Song'. And they still sounded fantastic.
This is the real secret of The Wombles: they made brilliant records that survive perfectly intact. Batt wrote the songs, arranged them and sang, whilst a collection of the best session-men in the country (notably Chris Spedding on guitar) provided the impeccable musical backing. The lyrics may have been ropey - Batt claims that there was only one song that didn't include the word 'Womble' in it - but the imagination, quality and sheer variety of the music was undeniable. Best of all, every song was entirely different, from the calypso of 'Banana Rock' to the bubblegum punk of 'Super Womble' to the prog-rock parody 'Orinoco's Dream' (which took up an entire side of an album).
Batt knows that The Wombles have obscured some of his other work (including the most satisfying Kursaal Flyers album), but really - deep down - even he realizes that they represent the best of his talent. Trust me on this one, The Wombles are the hippest of all cult bands.
1975 Summertime City (#4)
1974 The Wombling Song (#4)
1974 Remember You're A Womble (#3)
1974 Banana Rock (#9)
1974 Minuetto Allegretto (#16)
1974 Wombling Merry Christmas (#2)
1975 Wombling White Tie And Tails (#22)
1975 Super Womble (#20)
1975 Let's Womble To The Party Tonight (#34)