Artist Interviews

Q&A: The Wombles

By | Published on Thursday 23 June 2011

The Wombles

After many peaceful years of recycling, mushroom-gobbling and generally wombling free from the media glare, Wimbledon-based collective The Wombles shot to fame via one of the first ever reality TV franchises in the early 1970s, a candid documentary series called, simply, ‘The Wombles’.

As has since become the norm for reality TV stars, a pop career soon followed. Although the group’s chief, Great Uncle Bulgaria, has always had a nominal creative role in the Wombles’ musical enterprise (though he does play a mean fiddle), it was he who drafted in a then emerging Mike Batt to be the group’s creative director in 1973, a partnership that resulted in four classic albums in as many years, namely ‘Wombling Songs’, what many consider the real masterpiece, ‘Remember You’re A Womble’, plus ‘Keep On Wombling’ and ‘Superwombling’.

That prolific era came to an end in 1977, possibly as a result of inter-band politics caused by frontman Wellington Womble’s brief attempt at a solo career the previous year, a venture that resulted in a solitary single release, ‘Rainmaker’. However, regular reunion tours and hits compilations have followed in subsequent decades, leading to a full re-release this week of all four albums on both CD and digitally, thanks in part to Batt’s subsequent career heading up Dramatico Records, who are behind the re-release campaign.

To celebrate that fact, the whole band will reunite this Sunday at 2pm on the Avalon Stage at the Glastonbury Festival for what Michael Eavis is apparently tipping as the hottest ticket of the weekend. With that in mind, we got some quality time with band leader Bulgaria to ask those all important Same Six Questions.

Q1 How did you start out making music?
When I was a lad in 1780 (we Wombles live long lives), Mozart was all the rage. I particularly liked his 41st symphony, ‘The Jupiter’, which, by the way, we later adapted for our song ‘Minuetto Allegretto’. But the young Wombles prefer rock & roll, so I join in on the fiddle!

Q2 What inspired your latest album?
We are very excited about the first ever CD release of all four of our studio albums this week. They have only ever been out on vinyl before. The first album was very much for kids (I even get my own march!), but as we progressed the records got more adventurous, and that’s why we think of ourselves as more of an albums act.

Q3 What process do you go through in creating a track?
Orinoco is the brains, probably the Mick Jagger of the group, while Wellington is the guitar hero, more the Cliff Richard. (Or is that Keith? I forget). They tend to drive the musical side. Wellington does not do drugs like Cliff Richard though. Just the occasional mushroom.

Q4 Which artists influence your work?
Picasso, Rembrandt, Giles, Tracey Emin.

Q5 What would you say to someone experiencing your music for the first time?
Play it loud. And be aware that the next time you play it – it will not be for the first time.

Q6 What are your ambitions for your latest album, and for the future?
We don’t have a latest album (well, except ‘Superwombling’ from 1977) but we will probably bring out a compilation at Christmas. We have plenty of plans. In the near future they include some theatre concerts and lots of Christmas appearances. Longer term, it’s more about saving the world from pollution and destruction by careless human beings. That kind of thing.