Katrina and the Waves

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Katrina and the Waves

Pop group

Katrina and the Waves made a big splash in 1985 with their international hit single "Walking on Sunshine." Catchy, feel-good pop was the group's forte, and for a brief while in the 1980s they were at the top of their game. With their first three albums in the early 1980s, the group captured an era of fun and light rock from the 1960s, updated for the 1980s. Lead singer Katerina Leskanich, hailing from Nebraska, served as the group's front woman, although guitarist Kimberley Rew wrote the group's most successful music, including, in addition to "Walking on Sunshine," the band's breakthrough hit, "Going Down to Liverpool." Continuing success proved elusive, however, and after the Capitol record label cut the group loose because of disappointing sales, they struggled to stay together through the 1980s and 1990s. The group briefly re-emerged from obscurity to win the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest, but then disbanded in 1999.

Katrina and the Waves was composed of British rockers Kimberley Rew and Alex Cooper, and American expatriates Katrina Leskanich and Vince de la Cruz. The group began its life as simply the Waves when it was formed in 1983 in Cambridge, England. Initially Rew, formerly of the influential punk band the Soft Boys, sang the lead vocals, but Leskanich recalled to Peter Doggett in Record Collector that Rew had been uncomfortable taking center stage, "so he started writing songs that I could sing." Rew's songwriting, combined with Leskanich's vocals, proved to be the band's winning formula.

With Leskanich now singing lead vocals, it became natural to rename the group Katrina and the Waves, especially since, as Leskanich explained to Doggett, "it was a time when it was still a novelty to have a girl singer." It was as Katrina and the Waves that the group picked up an initial record deal with Attic Records of Canada. Their first album with Attic was Walking on Sunshine. Released in 1983, the album included "Going Down to Liverpool," a song about being unemployed in England. The track was covered by the pop band the Bangles, and through them it became a hit song on the radio in Britain as well as in North America. The song attracted the notice of the giant Capitol record label, and after producing one more album for Attic, Katrina and the Waves 2, in 1984, the group moved to Capitol.

Katrina & the Waves, released by Capitol in 1985, was an upscale reinterpretation of songs from the group's first two albums. With enhanced production values and with the marketing and distribution power of Capitol behind it, "Walking on Sunshine" became a smash hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Featuring a new horn section inspired by the music of Motown, this was a catchy, feel-good song about being in love, and fans around the world responded. It became an anthem to summer, played all over Europe and the United States. Riding high on the success of "Walking on Sunshine," the band released Waves on the Capitol label in 1985. The album injected a soul flavor into the group's sound, but it began a downturn for the band, partly because Rew was largely absent from this effort, contributing to only two songs. The album did not sell as well as expected, and Capitol cut the group loose.

The group found a new home on the SBK label, and released their next album, Break of Hearts, in 1989. This album generated a Top 20 single "That's the Way," but was otherwise unremarkable, and it too moved poorly at record stores. The group largely dropped out of the public eye in the early 1990s, playing on at small clubs and securing a record deal in Germany on the Virgin label, and released Pet the Tiger in 1991. Next the group moved to Polydor, releasing Edge of the Land in 1993 and Turn Around in 1995.

But the group's fortunes continued to sag, and Leskanich and Rew began considering solo careers. In 1997, however, the group received an invitation to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest. The famous contest had been a showcase for European pop bands since 1956, and for Katrina and the Waves it represented a chance to return to the spotlight. Although they had been without wide distribution for a number of years, and the contest represented a chance to make a comeback, the group had mixed feelings when they accepted the invitation. The contest carried with it something of a stigmamusic fans couldn't decide whether to love or hate this popfest, which had a reputation for playing to the lowest common denominator at the expense of real musical innovation. For this reason, Leskanich chose to perform her band's entry, "Love Shine A Light," with session musicians rather than with the band's usual lineup. The group won the contest for Britain, and once again became the favorites of record producers, fans, and DJs. A record deal with a Warner Brothers label followed, and the group released Walk on Water in 1997. Unfortunately, however, the Eurovision contest turned out to be the group's swan song. In fact, winning the contest seemed to seal their fate. "After Eurovision," Leskanich explained to Alun Thorne in the Birmingham Post, "we basically turned into a cabaret act."

In a desperate attempt to recover, the group booted Leskanich in 1998 and brought in another female vocalist. Leskanich later told Thorne that this change accelerated the group's demise. "People would expect to see Katrina and the Waves and they would turn up with some other chick."

Leskanich moved on to a solo career as a DJ on the BBC 2 radio station, and performed in musicals and as a solo recording artist. She had to fight a protracted legal battle with the remnants of her former band for the right to perform and record under her own name. After winning the suit she returned to the studio in 2002 to work on a solo album. She has continued to make her home in London. Rew, like Leskanich, went on to a career as a soloist. He also rejoined his old band, the Soft Boys, in the early 2000s.

For the Record

Members included Alex Cooper , drums; Vince de la Cruz , bass; Katrina Leskanich (born on April 10, 1960, in Topeka, KS), vocals; Kimberley Rew , guitar.

Group formed in Cambridge, England, 1983; signed with Attic record label, released debut album, Walking on Sunshine, 1983; released Katrina and the Waves 2, 1984; signed with Capitol label, released Katrina & the Waves, 1985; song "Walking on Sunshine" became a hit in Europe and North America, 1985; released Waves on Capitol, 1985; released Break of Hearts on SBK, 1989; released Pet the Tiger on Virgin, 1991; released Edge of the Land on Polydor, 1993; released Turn Around, Polydor, 1995; won Eurovision Song Contest with "Love Shine a Light," 1997; disbanded, 1999.

Awards: Eurovision Song Contest, winner, 1997.

Addresses: Management Kyboside Ltd., 17 Durnford Way, Cambridge CB4 2DP, England. Website Katrina and the Waves Official Website: http://www.katw.com.

Selected discography

Walking on Sunshine, Attic, 1983.

Katrina and the Waves 2, Attic, 1984.

Katrina & the Waves, Capitol, 1985.

Break of Hearts, SBK, 1989.

Pet the Tiger, Virgin, 1991.

Edge of the Land, Polydor, 1993.

Turn Around, Polydor, 1995.

Walk on Water, Warner Bros., 1997.

The Original Recordings 1983-1984, Bongo Beat, 2003.



Birmingham Post (England), June 20, 2002, p. 15.

Mail on Sunday (London, England), May 9, 1999, p. 38.

Record Collector, November 1997.

Toronto Star, May 9, 1986, p. D23.


"Katrina & the Waves," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (February 27, 2004).

Katrina and the Waves Official Website, http://www.katw.com/ (February 27, 2004).

Michael Belfiore