Katrina Leskanich, former lead singer of the '80s band Katrina and the Waves, whose one hit, "Walking on Sunshine," became a top 10 smash in the summer of 1985, knew something was up when she checked on her Web site one day in late August and saw it was suddenly getting thousands of hits.
"Before I was up to speed on what was happening in the States," says the 45-year-old singer, who now lives in London, "I noticed I was getting a lot of airplay on BBC Radio 2, for some reason. And so I thought, 'Well, I guess this is what happens when you get played on the biggest station in the UK.' But then I kept watching the numbers come in, and something just didn't seem right. I smelled a rat."
Katrina and the Waves
What Leskanich was getting, in a word, was tail. Tail, in this case, refers to the phenomenon of long-forgotten -- or, in some cases, barely heard -- music suddenly experiencing a surge of popularity thanks to a news or pop culture event that somehow links to it.
When news of hurricane Katrina first broke -- and before anyone knew the devastation it would ultimately cause -- radio deejays began dredging up "Walking on Sunshine" just so that they could come out of the news with a clever segue like, "Speaking of Katrina's waves . . ."
All too soon, however, the humor value was kaput, and "Walking on Sunshine" became the most inappropriate song anyone could link to the new Katrina, which had thousands of people walking under water.
For Katrina Leskanich, who had just completed recording her first solo album and was already planning for an October 17 release, the timing of the hurricane has proved particularly troubling.
"Of course, it was never a design to release a single right after this disaster," she says. "I want to keep a respectful distance from all that."
And yet, she does have a new album to push -- her first independently-released project -- under a name that's suddenly on everyone's mind for the first time in 20 years. "It's kind of tricky."
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Leskanich is being careful not to appear she's capitalizing on the connection.
"We put a link to the Red Cross on my home page [katrinasweb.com], because we felt quite sorry for people coming in and seeing little ol' me there when they're trying to find out what's happening with the other Katrina," says Leskanich.
She hopes to come to New Orleans after the rebuilding and sing "Walking on Sunshine" again, when the song's upbeat spirit will have a new poignancy.
"It's nice to be associated with a song as positive as that," says the good Katrina. "And I hope people won't hear it now and feel a sinking in their hearts. It's created some sleepless nights for me, to think that my name may now have a negative association for people -- for probably the rest of my life. It's an odd feeling."