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Encyclopedia > Chumbawumba

Chumbawamba are a band from the UK who use their music to promote anarchist ideas.



Originally called The Mirror Boys, Chumbawamba were formed in 1982 from two other bands based in Yorkshire in the North of England, The Passion Killers and Chimp Eats Banana. Inspired musically by The Fall and the anarchist politics of Crass, Chumbawamba's activities in their early years were based around a communal house in Armley, Leeds. Stalwarts of the cassette culture scene, 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 name

Over the years, the band has been asked many times what "Chumbawamba" really means. While there are many speculations, the band generally answers that it's a gibberish word, meaning nothing. According to Chumbawamba's official FAQ [1] (http://www.chumba.com/_faquestions2.htm):

Chumbawamba doesn’t mean anything. At the time we formed (early 80’s) there was a rush of bands with obvious names. It was the time of ‘peace punk’ and you couldn’t get across a youth club dance floor without bumping into a Disorder, a Subhumans, a Decadent Youth or an Anthrax t shirt. We liked the sound of Chumbawamba because it wasn’t nailing ourselves down. Thatcher On Acid were a good band but it’s lucky for them that Thatcher stayed in power for 11 years. If her influence had only lasted 18 months Thatcher On Acid’s sell by date would have come and gone a lot sooner. We wanted a name which wouldn’t date.
Chumbawamba playing live at Luton Library, May 1985

Agit-Prop Records

By the mid-1980s Chumbawamba had progressed to releasing their material using vinyl format on their own Agit_Prop record label, which had evolved from an earlier project, Sky and Trees Records. Their first LP, Pictures Of Starving Children Sell Records (1986) was a scathing and articulate critique of the then current Live Aid concert organised by Bob Geldof, which they argued was primarily a cosmetic spectacle designed to draw attention away from the real political causes of world hunger.

One Little Indian Records

By the late 1980s and early 1990s, Chumbawamba (now signed to the larger but still independent One Little Indian record label) had begun to absorb influences from techno music and dance culture. Moving away from their original anarcho-punk roots and evolving a pop sensibility, releases such as Slap (1990), 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) and Anarchy! (1994) lyrically remained as politically uncompromising as ever, continuing to address issues such as homophobia, the Criminal Justice Act and the rise of fascism in the UK following the election of a British National Party candidate in south-east London in 1993.

EMI controversy

Chumbawamba drew criticism from their original following in 1997 when they signed to the major label EMI, particularly as much of their earlier output had explicitly attacked this corporation and they had even been involved with a compilation LP called Fuck EMI in 1989. However, the band argued that this move brought with it the opportunity to communicate their message to a far wider audience and make some money, although ironically their biggest chart hit, "Tubthumping", features what are probably the most apolitical of any of their lyrics. It was also during this period that Chumbawamba gained some notoriety when male vocalist Danbert Nobacon poured a jug of water over the UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott at the 1998 Brit Awards.


Chumbawamba performing at Guildford Live 2001

Chumbawamba parted from EMI in 2001, and in 2002 released their eleventh official album, Readymades, as well as Sic- Adventures In Anti-capitalism, a paperback book of political and musical writings by friends and aquaintances of the band.

General Motors paid Chumbawamba $100,000 to use their song "Pass it Along" for a Pontiac Vibe television advertisement in 2002. Chumbawamba gave the money to the anti_corporate activist groups IndyMedia and CorpWatch.

In 2004 they released an album of 'world music' influenced songs entitled un (sic), which addressed such current concerns as eBay and Buy Nothing Day.


The band membership has varied over the years. The longtime members are:

  • Alice Nutter - vocals and percussion
  • Lou Watts - vocals and keyboard
  • Danbert Nobacon - vocals and keyboard
  • Boff Whaley - vocals and guitar
  • Harry Hamer - drums
  • Dunst Bruce - vocals
  • Mave Dillon (left 1995)
  • Neil Ferguson - bass
  • Jude Abbot (1996-) - vocals and trumpet
Revolution, the first single released on Agit-Prop Records

Partial Discography

(Original releases dates and labels given. Some material has been re-issued on other labels in the US.)

  • "Three Years Later" - track on Bullshit Detector Volume 2 compilation LP, Crass Records, 1982 (Nb, Chumbawamba guitarist Boff Whaley (Boffo) also has a solo track, "Garageland" on this LP)
  • "I'm Thick" - track on "Back on the Streets" compilation EP Secret, 1982 (Chumbawamba recording as 'Skin Disease', a mock skinhead/Oi! band)
  • Be Happy Despite It All, Sky and Trees, 1983 (Cassette only release, joint with The Passion Killers, featuring hand coloured cover)
  • Raising Heck with Chumbawamba, Peaceville records, 1983 (Cassette only release, live material plus songs by Simon Lanzon)
  • It Could Be So Much More, Acid Rain Products, 1984 (Cassette only release, joint with Flux Of Pink Indians, recorded live at the Conway Hall, London)
  • Let Us Show Them Our Hearts, Sky and Trees, 1984 (Cassette only release, joint with The Passion Killers)
  • Another Year of the Same Old Shit, Sky and Trees, 1984 (Cassette only release)
  • History Luddite, Sky and Trees, 1984 (Cassette only release, live material)
  • "Common Ground", Sky and Trees, 1984 (A benefit 'cassette single' for striking miners)
  • To Thine Own Self Be True, Sky and Trees, 1984 (Cassette only release)
  • The Unfairy Tale/The War Inside Our Heads, Sky and Trees, 1984 (Cassette only release, Danbert Nobacon solo material, much was re-recorded for release on vinyl the following year)
  • The Unfairy Tale, Sky and Trees, 1985 (Danbert Nobacon solo release)
  • "Revolution", single, Agit Prop, 1985
  • "We Are The World", single, Agit Prop, 1986 (Joint release with US band A State of Mind)
  • Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records, Agit Prop, 1986
  • Know Your Enemy, Doomsday Tapes, 1986 (Cassette only release, live material recorded at the Bull and Gate, London)
  • "Destroy Fascism!", Loony Tunes, 1986 (Collaboration with Dutch band The Ex under the name 'Antidote')
  • Never Mind the Ballots, Agit Prop, 1987
  • "Let It Be" single, no label stated apart from Anti-copyright, 1987, (Released under the name 'Scab Aid' following the Zeebrugge Ferry Disaster)
  • "Smash Clause 28!Fight the Alton Bill!", single, Agit Prop, 1988
  • English Rebel Songs, Agit Prop, 1988; re_recorded 1998
  • Sportchestra: 101 Songs About Sport, Agit Prop (Chumbawamba collaborations with various other musicians recording under the name 'Sportchestra')
  • Slap!, Agit Prop, 1990
  • "Whoopee, We're All Gonna Die", EP, Rugger Bugger records, 1991 (3 members of Chumbawamba recording under the name 'Passion Killers')
  • Jesus H Christ (unreleased due to legal issues (see above). Bootleg copies are in circulation however)
  • "I Never Gave Up", Agit Prop, 1990
  • Shhh, Agit Prop, 1992
  • "Behave", single, Agit Prop, 1992
  • First Two, rereales of Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records and Never Mind the Ballots, Agit Prop, 1990
  • "Enough is Enough", single, One Little Indian, 1993
  • "Timebomb", single, One Little Indian, 1993
  • Live In Armley, independently produced live album, 1993
  • Anarchy, One Little Indian, 1994
  • "Homophobia", single, One Little Indian, 1994
  • Showbusiness, One Little Indian, 1995 (A live album)
  • Swingin' with Raymond, One Little Indian, 1995
  • Portraits of Anarchists (Book and CD collaboration with photographer Casey Orr), AK Press/One Little Indian 1996
  • Tubthumper, EMI, 1997
  • "Tubthumping", single, EMI, 1997
  • "Amnesia", single, EMI, 1997
  • The ABCs of Anarchism, Seeland Records, 1999 (Collaboration with Negativland)
  • WYSIWYG, Universal, 2000
  • Readymades, MUTT, 2002
  • "Jacob's Ladder (Not In My Name)", Limited Edition anti-war single, MUTT, 2003
  • Shhhlap!, double cd of Shhh and Slap!, MUTT, 2003
  • Revengers Tragedy, MUTT, 2003
  • "Home With Me", single, MUTT, 2003
  • "Salt Fare North Sea", single, MUTT, 2003
  • English Rebel Songs 1381-1984, MUTT, 2003
  • un, MUTT, 2004
  • "On eBay", single, MUTT, 2004

Chumbawamba Songs in Film

A partial list of films featuring songs by the band.

  • Home Alone 3 (1997) _ "Tubthumping"
  • Dirty Work (1997) - "Tubthumping", "Amnesia"
  • Senseless (1997) - "Tubthumping"
  • In God's Hands (1997) - "Tubthumping"
  • Air Bud 2 (1998) - "Tubthumping"
  • Varsity Blues (1998) - "Tubthumping"
  • The James Gang (1998) - "Outsider"
  • Soft Fruit (1998) - "Tubthumping"
  • Mystery Alaska (1999) - "Amnesia"
  • Joe Somebody (2001) - "Tubthumping"

See also

External links

  • Official website (http://www.chumba.com/)
  • Music and lyrics to 'Jacob's Ladder (Not on My Name) (http://www.peace-not-war.org/Music/Chumbawamba/index.html)
  • Flight 1721 - non-official, but comprehensive, Chumbawamba site (http://www.flight1721.co.uk/)



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