Thatcher planned to meet Kate Bush at Abbey Road, but got the Wombles
When Margaret Thatcher visited Abbey Road Studios in what would prove to be the final year of her premiership she may have hoped rubbing shoulders with a music legend would boost her flagging popularity.
Her newly released public papers reveal No 10’s desire that she meet a “pop star”, namely Kate Bush and/or the Who’s Roger Daltrey, only for her to have to settle for Mike Batt of the Wombles.
Instead of briefing the prime minister on Hounds of Love or My Generation, Thatcher’s private secretary, Caroline Slocock, brought her up to speed on “puppet characters who spent their lives collecting litter”.
She helpfully provided Thatcher with the lyrics to the opening verse of the “still very well remembered” theme tune beginning “Underground, overground, wombling free”.
Before the visit, Slocock asked Thatcher whether she would be happy to be photographed on the Abbey Road zebra crossing to recreate the iconic Beatles album cover, and also beating drums used by Ringo Starr. Thatcher agreed readily to the former but dismissed the latter as “too gimmicky”.
However, by the time of the visit on 31 May 1990 she had had a change of heart. Thatcher did both, but unfortunately walked the opposite way over the zebra crossing from the Beatles.
Me teaching Mrs Thatcher how to play drums, at Abbey Road studio two, a few years ago! Sadly she couldn't manage the full paradiddle. pic.twitter.com/z7PRWl55rr
— Mike Batt (@Mike_Batt) April 1, 2017
She hit it off with Batt, who shared her dislike of the Musicians’ Union. Afterwards, he wrote to the prime minister suggesting they continue their conversation about the state of the music industry, ending his letter: “Please be sure to win the next election.”
Slocock politely declined a further meeting on Thatcher’s behalf but Batt had the consolation of a separate letter from the prime minister in which she thanked him for helping to make her visit enjoyable and for the music he gave her, “which I look forward to sharing with my grandson”.
The papers can be viewed from Monday at Cambridge University’s Churchill Archives Centre and hundreds will go online at www.margaretthatcher.org.