Chumbawamba were an English musical group formed in 1982 in the Leeds squatting community. They have, over a career spanning nearly three decades, played punk rock, pop-influenced music, world music, and folk music. Their vocal anarchist politics exhibit an irreverent attitude toward authority; the band have been forthright in their syndicalist, pacifist, communist, mutlicultural, and feminist social stances. The band are best known for their song “Tubthumping.” Other singles have included “Amnesia,” “Enough Is Enough” (with MC Fusion), “Timebomb,” “Top of the World (Ole, Ole, Ole),” and most recently, “Add Me.”
On 7th July 2012 Chumbawamba announced their impending breakup before the end of the year. Their very last concert was given at the Leeds City Varieties. At this show former members of the band, such as Harry Hamer and Danbert Nobacon made their appearance. At this theatre, Chumbawamba already performed 'Big Society!' with radical theatre company Red Ladder.
The last EP of the band was released April 8th, 2013, when Margaret Thatcher passed away. The Margaret Thatcher EP 'In Memoriam' is a 5-track sound collage featuring a few small songs, which could only be pre-ordered. It was mailed to all who pre-ordered on that very day.
Early years (1982-1991)
The band was formed in 1982 from two other bands based in Yorkshire, The Passion Killers and Chimp Eats Banana. They released a series of albums (such as Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records and the a capella album English Rebel Songs) and singles on their own Agit-Pop label before moving to One Little Indian in the early 90s.
One Little Indian (1991-1997)
On One Little Indian, Chumbawamba released three albums, Slap!, Shhh, and Anarchy, on which influences of techno music are noticeable. The songs for these albums were written in a period when dance culture was thriving and the band were also influenced by it. The music had turned into a more popular sound, which they emphasized was to spread the message more effectively. Touring for Anarchy, the concert at Leeds was recorded for the live album "Showbusiness!".
The last album released on One Little Indian is Swingin' with Raymond (1995). The albums first six songs are about (the right to) love and ends with seven songs loaded with hate (in the broadest sense of the word: it includes a song about anorexia nervosa).
The EMI years (1997-2000)
Anarchy or not, the band signed to EMI by 1997. At EMI, Chumbawamba had brief mainstream success, with the singles Tubthumping and Amnesia, taken from Tubthumper. Like Slap! and Shhh, the album was noticeably influenced by techno music. The new Chumbawamba fans needed for an overview, EMI might have thought. So Uneasy Listening, a compilation of work from 1986-1998 was released by 1998.
This move alienated much of the anarchist punk scene that yielded Chumbawamba in the 80's. To their former cohorts, this new Chumbawamba -one that licensed songs for commercials and signed to a major label- was different than the one that took part in the Fuck EMI compilation record a decade before. In 1998, Scottish punk band Oi Polloi put together a 7 band compilation EP with other bands like Riot/Clone and Bus Station Loonies in response. The name of the record was "Bare Faced Hypocrisy Sells Records(The Anti Chumbawamba EP)" as a nod to Chumbawamba's first record. Chumbawamba responded by noting that even the smaller labels they had worked with were capitalist by definition and were often only driven by profit. They added that, with the help of good lawyers, they were doing what the Sex Pistols had done two decades earlier – what punk had initially set out to do before it was beset by righteous puritans looking for "a new set of rules", as the band put it. But also, in the words of Chumbawamba vocalist Danbert Nobacon, they "needed things to change", needed to "shake things up". According to the band, "even radical politics can get stagnant and repetitive." Much of the profits from the album were donated to radical groups, pirate radio stations, community organisations and anarchist projects.
By 2000, the album WYSIWYG was released, being entirely different from previous work (and thus defying the idea that the band just wanted to make commercial hits): a 22-track soundscape, comprising rock, folk, country and pop music. It includes a cover of the Bee Gees song New York Mining Disaster.
Return to independance (2002-2010)
In 2002, Chumbawamba formed their own label again, now naming it Mutt Records. On this record label, they released Readymades, followed by the world music influenced Un (2004). These two albums brought Chumbawamba to what it is now: a folk group.
Since 2005, the band decided it would be better to turn into an acoustic band. The line-up has changed to: Boff Whalley, Lou Watts, Jude Abbot and Neil Ferguson (former producer of the band). It was this line-up that released the fully acoustic album A Singsong and a Scrap on the small UK Folk and Folk-Rock label NoMasters by 2006. The album uses more traditional instruments and features English Folk artists such as Coope, Boyes & Simpson and Andy Cutting. In 2007 followed by the live album Get On With It.
In 2008, another No Masters album, The Boy Bands Have Won, was released. It contained 25 tracks of new acoustic material, some derived from traditional folk, such as Charlie. It also had guest performances by, amongst others, the Oyster Band on Hull or Hell and Roy Bailey on Word Bomber. It's this album where Phil Moody joined Chumbawamba as accordionist and vocalist.
The third album that Chumbawamba recorded on NoMasters, ABCDEFG, was released. The album is cut from very much the same cloth as the The Boy Bands Have Won, but is richer in sound. ABCDEFG stands for every note in the Western music scheme, and the album itself is about the power that music can bring to communities (Voices, That's All) and deliver to people in struggle (Wagner At The Opera). It's the first Chumbawamba album fully dedicated to music matters, though Shhh (1991) preceded this release, criticising pop culture.
On ABCDEFG, next to the five Chumbas, (amongst others) Ray Cooper plays cello and harmonica, Belinda O'Hooley plays the piano and Jo Freya plays alt and tenor saxophone.
Former members of Chumbawamba
Apart from the moment that Chumbawamba changed from electric band to acoustic band, Chumbawamba's line-up has changed several times after its first gig at January 8th, 1982.
Danbert Nobacon: Singer and keyboard player of the band, famous for wearing the brick suit, and for throwing a jug of water over UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott who showed up at the Brit Awards. He's still making music, see Danbert Nobacon and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts.
Dunstan Bruce: Vocalist, bass and saxophone player, percussionist and turntablist of the band.
Alice Nutter: Singer and percussionist of the band, famous for the drunk nun act she performed during live shows. Now writing scripts for radio, tv and theatre pieces.
Harry Hamer: Singer, drummer, programmer and percussionist of the band.
Mavis Dillon: Dillon did vocals, trumpet, french horn and bass for ten years, until he was replaced by Jude Abbot by 1995.
Paul Greco: Bass guitar, entered the band by 1992. He was replaced by Neil Ferguson in 1999.
Other former members include Coby Laan, Simon Commonknowledge, Midge (former Chimp Eats Banana) and Diane. There were actually loads of band members, especially in the early years. An extensive band history can be found at the Chumbawamba FAQ.