CHUMBAWAMBA /ˌtʃʌmbəˈwɒmbə/ were a British band that formed
in 1982 and had major success until their final performances in 2012.
The band constantly shifted in musical style, drawing on genres such
as punk rock , pop , folk , and experimental . The band's anarchist or
libertarian socialist political stance exhibited an irreverent
attitude toward authority, and the band have been forthright in their
stances on issues including animal rights , pacifism (early in their
career) and later regarding class struggle , feminism , gay liberation
, pop culture and anti-fascism .
The band are best known for their song "
Tubthumping ", which was
nominated for Best British Single at the
1998 Brit Awards . Other
singles include "Amnesia ", "Enough Is Enough " (with MC Fusion ),
"Timebomb ", "
Top of the World (Ole, Ole, Ole) ", and "
Add Me ".
In July 2012,
Chumbawamba announced their decision to end the band.
On its website the members stated "That’s it then, it’s the end.
With neither a whimper, a bang, or a reunion." The band performed
three last shows between 31 October and 3 November.
* 1 Band history
* 1.1 Early years
* 1.2 Sky and Trees and
One Little Indian Records
* 1.4.1 Band politics and mainstream success
* 1.5 Mutt Records
No Masters Records
* 1.7 Break-up
* 1.8 Documentary
* 1.9 Theatre
* 2 Personnel
* 3 Discography
* 4 See also
* 5 References
* 6 Further reading
* 7 External links
Chumbawamba formed in
Burnley in 1982 with an initial line-up of
Allan "Boff" Whalley ,
Danbert Nobacon (born Nigel Hunter), Midge and
Tomi, all four previously members of the band Chimp Eats Banana,
shortly afterwards joined by
Lou Watts . The band made their live
debut in January 1982. Their first vinyl release was a track ("Three
Years Later") on the
Crass Records compilation album Bullshit Detector
2. They were initially inspired musically by bands as diverse as the
PiL , Wire , and
Adam and the Ants and politically by the
anarchist stance of
Crass . Another of the band's early releases was
under the name "Skin Disease", parodying the
Oi! bands of the time so
successfully that they were included on 'Back On The Streets', an Oi!
compilation EP put together by Sounds magazine journalist Garry
Bushell . By the end of 1982, the band had expanded to include Alice
Nutter (of Ouch, My Hair's on Fire) and
Dunstan Bruce (of Men in a
Suitcase) and were living in a squat in
Leeds , with Harry
"Daz" Hamer and Dave "Mavis" Dillon joining soon after. Stalwarts of
the cassette culture scene, the band released a number of tapes
including Be Happy Despite It All and Raising Heck With Chumbawamba,
and were featured on many compilations.
Chumbawamba were at the
forefront of the 1980s anarcho-punk movement, frequently playing
benefit gigs in squats and small halls for causes such as animal
rights , the anti-war movement, and community groups. The band's
collective political views are often described as anarchist . They
made several songs about the UK miners\' strike , including the Common
Ground cassette and a song dedicated to the pit village of Fitzwilliam
, which was one of the worst cases of economic decline following the
SKY AND TREES AND AGIT-PROP RECORDS
By the mid-1980s
Chumbawamba had begun to release material using the
vinyl format on their own Agit-Prop record label, which had evolved
from an earlier project,
Sky and Trees Records . The first release was
the Revolution EP in 1985, which quickly sold out of its initial run,
and was re-pressed, reaching No. 4 in the
UK Indie Chart , and staying
in the chart for 34 weeks. The first LP, Pictures of Starving
Children Sell Records (1986) was a critique of the
Live Aid concert
Bob Geldof , which the band argued was primarily a
cosmetic spectacle designed to draw attention away from the real
political causes of world hunger .
The band toured Europe with Dutch band the Ex , and a collaboration
between members of the two bands, under the name "Antidote", led to
the release of an EP, Destroy Fascism!, inspired by hardcore punk band
Heresy , with whom they had also toured. Both the Ex and Chumbawamba
were released on cassette tape in Poland during this period, when
music censorship was entrenched in
Iron Curtain nations. The "RED"
label, based in
Wrocław in south-west Poland during the late 1980s,
only released cassette tapes and, despite the limits enforced by
Polish authorities, was able to release Chumbawamba's music, in
addition to bands from the USSR, East Germany and Czechoslovakia.
Chumbawamba's second album, Never Mind the Ballots...Here\'s the Rest
of Your Lives , was released in 1987, coinciding with the general
election, and questions the validity of the British democratic system
of the time. The band adopted another moniker, Scab Aid, for the "Let
It Be " song release that parodied a version of the
recorded by the popstar supergroup
Ferry Aid to raise money for
victims of the Zeebrugge ferry disaster .
The 1988 album
English Rebel Songs 1381-1984 , originally released as
English Rebel Songs 1381–1914, was a recording of traditional songs.
ONE LITTLE INDIAN RECORDS
By the late 1980s and early 1990s,
Chumbawamba had begun to absorb
influences from techno music and rave culture . The band members quit
their day jobs to begin concentrating on music full-time as they could
now guarantee sales of 10,000 and they moved away from their original
anarcho-punk roots, evolving a pop sensibility with releases such as
Slap! (1990) and the sample -heavy Shhh (1992) (originally intended to
be released as Jesus H Christ!, this album had to be withdrawn and
re-recorded because of copyright problems). They also toured the
United States for the first time in 1990.
Jason Donovan took The Face magazine to court that same year for
claiming he was lying by denying he was gay ,
Chumbawamba responded by
printing up hundreds of '
Jason Donovan – Queer As Fuck' T-shirts and
giving them away free with the single "Behave ".
After signing to the independent One Little Indian record label,
Anarchy (1994) lyrically remained as politically uncompromising as
ever, continuing to address issues such as homophobia (see song
Homophobia ", the music video of which features the Sisters of
Perpetual Indulgence ), the Criminal Justice Act and the rise of
fascism in the UK following the election of
Derek Beackon , a British
National Party councillor in south-east London in 1993. The album was
the band's biggest success to date reaching the top 30 in the UK and
the singles "Timebomb" and "Enough Is Enough" both entering the low
end of the
UK Singles Chart . The latter featured Credit to the Nation
's rapper MC Fusion. The live shows to support the album were recorded
and went to make up their first live album
Showbusiness! , released in
1995. One Little Indian also decided to re-release Chumbawamba's back
catalogue, which meant that the first three albums were released on CD
format for the first time. The first two, Pictures of Starving
Children Sell Records (1985) and
Never Mind the Ballots (1987) were
repackaged as one disc under the title First 2.
Chumbawamba parted with One Little Indian during the recording of the
1996 album Swingin\' With Raymond , although they did release one last
Portraits of Anarchists which came with copies of Casey
Orr 's book of the same name.
Chumbawamba vocalist Danbert
Nobacon pictured playing live at the University of
Leeds , 1986,
supporting Conflict .
Chumbawamba signed to
EMI in Europe in 1997, a move that was viewed
as controversial by many of their followers. They had been involved
with a compilation LP called Fuck
EMI in 1989, and had criticised the
label in many of their earlier songs. The anarcho-punk band Oi Polloi
Chumbawamba had previously toured and worked with on the
'Punk Aid' Smash the Poll Tax EP ) released an 'anti-Chumbawamba' EP,
Bare Faced Hypocrisy Sells Records (Ruptured Ambitions 1998).
Chumbawamba argued that
EMI had severed the link with weapons
manufacturer Thorn a few years previously, and that experience had
taught them that, in a capitalist environment, almost every record
company operates on capitalist principles; "Our previous record label
One Little Indian didn't have the evil symbolic significance of EMI
however they were completely motivated by profit." They added that
this move brought with it the opportunity to make the band financially
viable as well as to communicate their message to a wider audience .
Band Politics And Mainstream Success
Chumbawamba scored their biggest chart hit with "Tubthumping
" (UK No. 2, US No. 6), which featured an audio sample of actor Pete
Postlethwaite 's performance in the film
Brassed Off . This was
followed up in early 1998 with "Amnesia ", which reached No. 10 in the
UK. During this period
Chumbawamba gained some notoriety over several
controversial incidents, starting in August 1997 when Nutter was
quoted in the British music paper
Melody Maker as saying, "Nothing can
change the fact that we like it when cops get killed." The comment
was met with outrage in Britain's tabloid press and was condemned by
Police Federation of England and Wales . The band resisted
EMI to issue an apology and Nutter only clarified her
comment by stating, "If you're working class they won't protect you.
When you hear about them, it's in the context of them abusing people,
y'know, miscarriages of justice. We don't have a party when cops die,
you know we don't."
In January 1998 Nutter appeared on the American political talk show
Politically Incorrect and advised fans of their music who could not
afford to buy their CDs to steal them from large chains such as HMV
and Virgin , which prompted Virgin to remove the album from the
shelves and start selling it from behind the counter.
A few weeks later, provoked by the Labour government's refusal to
support the Liverpool Dockworkers Strike , the band performed
"Tubthumping" at the 1998
BRIT Awards with the lyric changed to
include "New Labour sold out the dockers, just like they'll sell out
the rest of us", and vocalist
Danbert Nobacon later poured a jug of
water over UK Deputy Prime Minister
John Prescott , who was in the
Chumbawamba has an ethical policy that determines their involvement
in multimedia products. In the late 1990s, the band turned down $1.5
million from Nike to use the song "Tubthumping" in a World Cup
advertisement. According to the band, the decision took approximately
"30 seconds" to make. In 2002, the band donated a payment of $70,000
General Motors for the use of the song "Pass It Along"
in an advertisement to activist groups
CorpWatch and the Independent
Media Center to mount an information campaign against GM.
EMI released the band's first collection album which featured a mix
bag of songs from between 1985 and 1998 under the title Uneasy
Also in 1998 came a Japan-only mini album entitled Amnesia,
consisting of country and western style versions of recent hits
"Tubthumping" and "Amnesia" alongside earlier songs like "Mouthful of
As a millennium present,
Chumbawamba sent out a limited edition
single to everyone on their mailing list. The song was a shoop shoop
style ballad entitled "Tony Blair ", which read like a heartbroken
letter to an ex-lover who had broken all his promises. The band would
send another free single out two years later, this time a re-worked
version of the
Beatles ' song "Her Majesty " to coincide with the
Queen 's Golden Jubilee, with lyrics denouncing royalty.
Chumbawamba released the album WYSIWYG in 2000 which included a cover
of the early
Bee Gees song "
New York Mining Disaster ". The single
"She\'s Got All The Friends That Money Can Buy ", was backed by
"Passenger List For Doomed Flight 1721 ", a song that listed all of
the people that the band would like to see "disappear." The list of
unfortunates included Tony Blair,
Ally McBeal and
Bono . Chumbawamba
EMI in 2001. The band later said that they got what they
wanted from the deal with EMI: "we released some great records, we
travelled all over the world, appeared on all these TV programmes, and
we made loads of money, a lot of which we gave away or ploughed into
To celebrate their 20 years together, the band made a documentary
based on footage that they had recorded over the past two decades.
Originally intended to be simply a compilation of their videos, the
result was entitled Well Done, Now Sod off. The title was taken from
an early review of a
Chumbawamba record and the film included both
lovers and haters of the band.
Chumbawamba formed their own record label, Mutt Records,
for UK releases.
Chumbawamba released their eleventh official album,
Readymades , which mixed samples of folk music with dance beats. For
the U.S. Readymades was repackaged under the title Readymades And Then
Some, the extended title referring to a second disc – a DVD which
featured clips from Well Done Now Sod Off and remixes of
"Tubthumping", one being a remix by the band
Flaming Lips . Under the
Mutt label the band also produced Sic – Adventures in
Anti-Capitalism, a paperback book of political and musical writings by
friends and acquaintances of the band.
General Motors paid
Chumbawamba $100,000 to use the song "Pass It
Along " from the WYSIWYG album, for a
Pontiac Vibe television
advertisement in 2002.
Chumbawamba gave the money to the
anti-corporate activist groups Indymedia and
CorpWatch who used the
money to launch an information and environmental campaign against GM.
The same year
Chumbawamba provided an original soundtrack to Alex Cox
's film adaptation of
Revengers Tragedy .
Chumbawamba released the
full soundtrack in 2003.
The band also revisited their a capella 1988 album English Rebel
Songs 1381–1914 and felt that as they were now more confident
singers, they should re-record it and bring it up to date. And so
English Rebel Songs was remade in 2003 with the added track "Coal Not
Dole" bringing the record up to 1984.
In 2004, the band released an album called Un . While less synth
driven than Readymades or the
Revengers Tragedy soundtrack, the album
relied heavily on samples, from tribal chants to
Frank Zappa interview
quotes. The album opens with one of the earliest recordings of a human
voice, that of
Thomas Edison reciting
Mary Had A Little Lamb . The
album gave an inkling of the folk sound that
Chumbawamba would move
towards on their subsequent releases.
NO MASTERS RECORDS
Chumbawamba took a hiatus from full-scale touring and
recording projects, but a trimmed-down acoustic line-up of Boff
Whalley, Lou Watts, Jude Abbot and Neil Ferguson continued to tour the
UK and Europe throughout 2005 and 2006. It was this line-up that
recorded the album
A Singsong and a Scrap , released late in 2005 on
No Masters records. They followed this up with a second live album,
Get On With It , recorded during 2006 at various venues
In 2006 Nutter wrote the musical drama Love and Petrol which played
for a week in
Bradford during June. Hamer wrote the music. Both
continue to work in theatre, with Nutter writing Foxes for West
Yorkshire Playhouse 2006 and Where's Vietnam? for Red Ladder Theatre
Company in 2008 – again Hamer wrote the music. Nutter has since
moved into radio and TV, writing for
Jimmy McGovern 's BAFTA-winning
drama, The Street and for Casualty . In 2007 Danbert released his
second solo album Library Book Of The World, his first being The
Un-fairy Tale in 1985. The Un fairy-tale was re-released in 1997.
Chumbawamba played at the
Glastonbury Festival . In early
2007, the band announced via their website that a new album was in the
works, stating that "the new album will be acoustic and probably won't
sound like A Singsong and a Scrap".
The result was
The Boy Bands Have Won
The Boy Bands Have Won , released on 3 March 2008 in
the UK and 14 March in mainland Europe. The record contained 25
tracks, some of them full length songs, some of them no more than a
minute long and was again acoustic folk in style. The album features
Oysterband , Roy Bailey and Barry Coope amongst others.
In late 2009
Chumbawamba toured northern England in their self-penned
pantomime, a comedy musical entitled Riot, Rebellion & Bloody
Insurrection with the Red Ladder Theatre Company. In late February
2010 they released their 15th album, titled ABCDEFG .
In September 2011, past and present band members protested when the
UK Independence Party
UK Independence Party used "Tubthumping" at their annual conference.
It was announced in 2011 that
Boff Whalley was working on a musical
for the stage. The soundtrack to the musical, entitled
Jude Abbott, Neil Ferguson and
Boff Whalley of
Chumbawamba in 2005.
The band's membership varied over the years, with the line-up and
musical assignments in the early years being especially fluid (members
were known to switch instruments between, or even during, gigs). This
is a list of principal official members and collaborators, drawn
mainly from the credits of their releases since 1985. Short-term
members and collaborators are not included. Former members The
band in 2004.
Boff Whalley – vocals, lead guitar, (1982–2012)
Danbert Nobacon – vocals and keyboards (1982–2004)
Lou Watts – vocals, keyboards (1982–2012)
Dunstan Bruce – vocals, guitar, turntables, percussion
* Alice Nutter – vocals, percussion (1982–2004)
* Harry Hamer (born 5 March 1964) – drums, percussion
* Dave Dillon – trumpet, French horn and bass (1984–1995)
* Paul Greco – bass & harmonica (1982–1999)
Jude Abbott – vocals, recorder, flute and trumpet (1996–2012)
* Neil Ferguson – vocals, guitar and bass (1999–2012)
Phil Moody – accordion and vocals (2004–2012)
* Neil Ferguson – producer, engineer, guitar & keyboards (promoted
to full band member in 1999)
* Simon "Commonknowledge" Lanzon – vocals, keyboards, piano and
* MC Fusion – vocals on Shhh and Anarchy
* Cobie Laan – vocals, live recording
* Stephen Blood - marracas, French horn
* Jimmy Echo – vocals on some versions of "Timebomb" and "Amnesia"
B.J. Cole – slide guitar on WYSIWYG
* Folk vocal trio Coope, Boyes -webkit-column-width: 30em;
column-width: 30em; list-style-type: decimal;">
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Sorted magAZine .
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