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Chumbawamba Biography

Chumbawamba were an English rock band that formed in 1982 and disbanded in 2012. The band drew on genres such as punk rock, pop, and folk. Their anarcho-communist political leanings led them to have an irreverent attitude toward authority, and to espouse a variety of political and social causes including animal rights and pacifism and later regarding class struggle, Marxism, feminism, gay liberation, pop culture, and anti-fascism.Band history Early years 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. ...
Chumbawamba were an English rock band that formed in 1982 and disbanded in 2012. The band drew on genres such as punk rock, pop, and folk. Their anarcho-communist political leanings led them to have an irreverent attitude toward authority, and to espouse a variety of political and social causes including animal rights and pacifism and later regarding class struggle, Marxism, feminism, gay liberation, pop culture, and anti-fascism.

Band history

Early years

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 Fall, 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 Ow My Hair's on Fire), and Dunstan "Dunst" Bruce (of Men in a Suitcase) and were living in a squat in Armley, Leeds on Carr Crofts road – the building, and surrounding buildings, have since been demolished – with Harry "Daz" Hamer and Mavis "Mave" 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 cassette Common Ground and a song dedicated to the pit village of Fitzwilliam, which was one of the worst cases of economic decline following the strike.

Band politics and mainstream success

In 1997, 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 the Police Federation of England and Wales. The band resisted pressure from 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 audience.

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 the EA Sports soccer game World Cup 98, the song "Tubthumping" is one of the soundtrack titles.

In 2002, General Motors paid Chumbawamba a sum of either $70,000 or $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.

EMI released the band's first collection album which featured a mixed bag of songs from between 1985 and 1998 under the title Uneasy Listening.

Also in 1998 came a Japan-only mini album, Amnesia, consisting of country and western style versions of recent hits "Tubthumping" and "Amnesia" alongside earlier songs like "Mouthful of Shit".

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, "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 parted from 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 worthwhile causes".

To celebrate their 20 years together, the band made a documentary film 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.

Charity work

Chumbawamba is a member of the Canadian charity Artists Against Racism and participated in a Radio PSA for them.

In 1998, Chumbawamba contributed to the album released by the Polish Never Again Association as a part of its "Music Against Racism" campaign. In 2021 the album was reissued as vinyl record 'One Race – Human Race. Music Against Racism: Part 2'.


On 8 July 2012, Chumbawamba announced that they would be disbanding at the end of the year. On their website they opened the statement with "That's it then, it’s the end. With neither a whimper, a bang or a reunion." They stated they would continue with individual efforts, and ended their official statement:

We do, of course, reserve the right to re-emerge as Chumbawamba doing something else entirely (certainly not touring and putting out albums every 2 or 3 years). But frankly, that's not very likely. Thirty years of being snotty, eclectic, funny, contrary and just plain weird. What a privilege, and what a good time we’ve had.

In December 2012, the final UK show, filmed at the Leeds City Varieties on Halloween night, was released as Chumbawamba's only live DVD, entitled Going Going.

The band's final show at Leeds City Varieties was performed by the latest line-up of: Boff Whalley, Jude Abbott, Neil Furguson, Phill Moody and Lou Watts, with the more folk style instruments, and arrangements the band had grown and become. The show included special guests who performed on songs, such as former band members: Danbert Nobacon, Alice Nutter, Harry Hamer and Dunstan Bruce, and fellow recording collaborators like Belinda O'Hooley. Mike Harding, radio folk presenter and supporter of the band, was present at the gig and came back stage to the dressing rooms to speak with the musicians. A group of people on the front row of the audience all wore Margaret Thatcher masks. When coming on to play, Jude Abbott pointed them out and Boff Whalley commented "Oh my goodness the entire front row is Margaret Thatcher. They have come to collect our poll tax." A 'washing line' of band T-shirts was hung at the back of the stage and they included prints from the early 80's to the present. It was the idea of Boff Whalley to use them on the stage as he turned up in the morning with a suitcase full of T-shirts and a bag of pegs as a way to make a backdrop on the stage.[citation needed]

The show was stage managed by Alyson Howe who had met Harry Hamer some years before as he was beginning a career in theatre work, and then later met and worked with the Chumbas during their collaboration with Red Ladder theatre company on the show Riot Rebellion and Bloody Insurrection and later Big Society! Her duties mostly involved getting pizza for everyone, arranging dressing rooms and making sure all the guest musicians were present in the wings before performing. The Leeds City Varieties technicians had already met and worked with most of the band the previous winter during their two-week run of Big Society! The set list changed once half an hour before the doors opened, moving Time Bomb, one of their better known songs, to a later slot and cutting one song to save time. Although it was the band's final show in Leeds, the band flew the next morning to do their second to last gig in Oslo.[citation needed]

A mail-order EP, In Memoriam: Margaret Thatcher, was released on 8 April 2013. The CD had been recorded in 2005 and made available for pre-order on the group's website, to be issued upon the death of Margaret Thatcher.

After leaving Chumbawamba, vocalist Dunstan Bruce founded Dandy Films, an independent film and video company whose projects have included a "video blog" of the Levellers UK tour during 2010 and Sham 69's tour of China.

In 2012 former Chumbawamba members Dunstan Bruce and Harry Hamer formed a new band, Interrobang?!, with guitarist Stephen Griffin of London-based Regular Fries.

In August 2017, Dunstan Bruce, Boff Whalley and Jude Abbott were interviewed on BBC's The One Show from the Leeds City Varieties and near their former home celebrating 20 years since the release of Tubthumping.


On 1 July 2015 Dunstan Bruce started a Kickstarter to fund a documentary titled I Get Knocked Down (The Untold Story of Chumbawamba) that told the band's entire history from different members' perspective. He surpassed his £40,000 goal. That same year, Chumbawamba was the featured subject on two podcasts produced by Gimlet Media: StartUp #16 "The Secret Formula" and Surprisingly Awesome #4 "Tubthumping".


Red Ladder Theatre Company

In 2009, Boff Whalley and Dominic Grace produced a theatre script: Riot Rebellion and Bloody Insurrection, a musical theatre show where the band (Boff, Phill, Neil and Jude) were present on stage and played live numbers alongside actors/singers Jo Mousley, Dean Nolan and former band member Harry Hamer. Phill Moody doubled as band member and character narrator who relayed the story centre stage in rhyming couplets accompanied by his accordion. It was directed and produced by Red Ladder Theatre Company and toured Northern UK venues winter 2009–2010. It was a historic play set in the 19th century with elements of musical theatre, agitprop and audience interaction. Set during the Luddite rebellion it included satiric and humorous parallels to the then Gordon Brown government and state of living in the UK. The show included songs from the 2003 album English Rebel Songs, and a rendition of Time Bomb where the cast and band would substitute the venue in the last lyric of the song, e.g. "Gateshead Sage is falling down".[citation needed]

2013 Chumbawamba and Red Ladder collaborated again on Big Society! Written by Boff Whalley. The performance played 18 January to 4 February. The band were again on stage as live musicians. The songs were composed by Boff Whalley and the band created specifically for the show, except for the traditional song 'It's the same the whole world over'. The company cast well-known comedian Phill Jupitus alongside actors Dean Nolan, Harry Hamer (former band member), Kyler Goodie, and Lisa Howard. It played for two weeks at Leeds City Varieties, the venue where Chumbawamba would later play their final Going, Going gig. Set in a struggling Victorian music hall, the show made specific parallels to David Cameron's 'big society' and Tory government in its 'front of cloth variety' scenes.[citation needed]

Leeds Playhouse

I get knocked down but i get up again

Former member Alice Nutter has had a number of plays performed at the Leeds Playhouse, where she took a writing course in 2006. In addition, a neon sculpture on the side of the theatre features the lyric "I get knocked down but I get up again" from the band's single Tubthumping.

Musical style

Chumbawamba has been described as various genres including, anarcho-punk, pop, folk, world, dance, alternative rock pop rock, electronic, rock, and a cappella.


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 2007
  • Boff Whalley – vocals, lead guitar, clarinet (1982–2012)
  • Danbert Nobacon – vocals, rhythm guitar, banjo, ukulele, keyboards (1982–2004)
  • Lou Watts – lead vocals, keyboards (1982–2012)
  • Dunstan Bruce – lead vocals, guitar, turntables, percussion, saxophone (1982–2004)
  • Jude Abbott – vocals, recorder, flute, trumpet, flugelhorn (1996–2012)
  • Alice Nutter – vocals, percussion (1982–2004)
  • Harry "Daz" Hamer – drums, percussion, guitar, programming, vocals (1982–2004)
  • Mavis "Mave" Dillon – trumpet, French horn, bass, vocals (1984–1995)
  • Paul Greco – bass, harmonica (1992–1999)
  • Neil Ferguson – vocals, guitar, bass (1999–2012)
  • Phil Moody – accordion, vocals (2007–2012)

Frequent guests

  • Neil Ferguson – producer, engineer, guitar, bass, keyboards (promoted to full band member in 1999)
  • Simon "Commonknowledge" Lanzon – vocals, keyboards, piano, accordion
  • MC Fusion – vocals on Shhh and Anarchy
  • Cobie Laan – vocals, live recording
  • Stephen Blood – marracas, French horn
  • Jimmy Echo (actually a band member's father impersonating Elvis) – vocals on some versions of "Timebomb" and "Amnesia"
  • B. J. Cole – slide guitar on WYSIWYG
  • Folk vocal trio Coope, Boyes & Simpson on A Singsong and a Scrap, Get On With It! and The Boy Bands Have Won
  • The Charlie Cake Marching Band on The Boy Bands Have Won and ABCDEFG
  • Members of Oysterband on "Goodbye to the Crown", A Singsong and a Scrap, The Boy Bands Have Won and ABCDEFG
  • Roy Bailey and Robb Johnson – guest lead vocals on The Boy Bands Have Won
  • Jo Freya – saxes on The Boy Bands Have Won and ABCDEFG
  • Belinda O'Hooley – piano on ABCDEFG
  • Michelle Plum – vocals on "Sewing Up Crap" on Readymades and live vocals/keyboards from 2001–2004


Source : Wikipedia
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Chumbawamba Discography

  • 1986AlbumPictures of Starving Children Sell Records
  • 1987AlbumNever Mind the Ballots
  • 1994AlbumAnarchy
  • 1995AlbumShowbusiness (Live)
  • 1995AlbumSwingin' with Raymond
  • 1997AlbumTubthumper
  • 1999AlbumThe ABCs of Anarchism
  • 2000AlbumWYSIWYG
  • 2002AlbumReadymades
  • 2003AlbumReady Mades and Then Some
  • 2004AlbumUn
  • 2007AlbumA Singsong and a Scrap
  • 2008AlbumEnglish Rebel Songs 1381-1984
  • 2008AlbumGet On With It: Live
  • 2008AlbumThe Boy Bands Have Won
  • 2009AlbumRich Pop Stars (Single)
  • 2010AlbumABCDEFG
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