Amazingly, this isn't the most off-the-wall thing they've done
I get knocked down, but I get up again. Chumbawamba
You're never gonna keep me down.
were a British "anarchist rock" band whose career spanned over 30 years, having formed in 1982 in Burnley, although the band called Leeds its home. Today, they're best remembered as the band that penned the hit "Tubthumping" (from 1997's "Tubthumper", whose album cover graces this page), whose "I get knocked down..." chorus has become ubiquitous as an anthem for perseverance, even though that's not even close to what the song is about.
The band gained initial fame in anarcho-punk movement in the 1980s, being a dedicated part of the cassette culture scene. They frequently made appearances on numerous benefit albums for a wide variety of causes, such as animal rights and anti-war. This led to their first real chart success, "Revolution" (1985, UK Indie #4), eventually leading to their first LP, "Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records" a year later. It was a scathing criticism of Bob Geldoff's "Live-Aid" effort, which the band derided as a "cosmetic spectacle designed to draw attention away from the real political causes of world hunger" and featured the sound of bandmate Danbert Nobacon vomiting into a toilet.
By 1990, the band started to develop their pop sound, with "Slap!" (1990) and the sample-heavy "Shh" (1992), with the band having their first tour of the United States in 1990. In 1992, the band gained some notoriety after handing out T-Shirts that read "Jason Donovan – Queer As F***" T-shirts packaged with their single "Behave", done in response to Jason Donovan
magazine for claiming Donovan was a liar for denying his homosexuality. 1994 would see the release of "Anarchy", which gave the band their first singles that reached the bottom part of the UK Top 40, their best showing at that date.
Then came...their song. A staple of late night drunks, sports games, and anything else that called for a dose of "keep your head up, kid!", "Tubthumping" became one of the most played songs of 1997, hitting #6 in the U.S. and #2 in the UK. The song's success- and its fuelling by the band's signing with EMI- were a lightning rod with fans, with some accusing the band of selling out. The band responded to this criticism by explaining that no matter what record label they were signed to, big or small, they would use the band for profit, so the distributor of their music didn't matter. It was hardly the first controversy their time in the spotlight would produce. In early 1998, bandmate Alice Nutter said in an interview that fans who couldn't afford the album should steal it from the record store shelves, causing Virgin Records stores to sell the album from behind the counter. At around the same time, at the 1998 BRIT Awards, the band sung the song with altered lyrics showing support for the Liverpool Dockers' Strike, punctuating the point when Nobacon poured a bucket of cold water on the head of then Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who was in the audience.
They would follow up their smash with "Amnesia", which was a modest hit, before fading back into obscurity, where they were more comfortable. 2000 saw the release of WYSIWYG
, followed by the band's parting with EMI in 2001. A year later came the autobiographical documentary Well Done, Now Sod Off
to celebrate twenty years together. 2003 saw Readymades
, folk songs redone electronically, and a year later came Un
, featuring "The Wizard of Menlo Park" which sampled Thomas Edison
's first recording, "Mary Had A Little Lamb".
By 2006, the band was winding down, trimming its membership (they had as many as ten members before going down to four in 2005). Chumbawamba played Glastobury
in 2007, promising a new album that turned into 2008's The Boy Bands Have Won...
. 2010 saw the release of their final album, ABCDEFG
, before the band announced in 2012, that they were breaking up after thirty years, though they did leave the door open for a reunion.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: A large number of their songs have themes of that. Especially Farewell To The Crown and The Diggers Song.
- Blatant Lies: The official word on what their name comes from now is just that they didn't want to have a similar name to every other anarcho-punk band from the same era, but throughout their career they have given dozens of mutually impossible explanations of the name
- Comically Missing the Point: The UK Independence Party used "Tubthumping" at their 2011 annual conference, not realizing that the song criticizes politicians like them.
- Conspiracy Kitchen Sink and Conspiracy Theorist: Parodied in "Everything You Know Is Wrong"
- Contemptible Cover: Anarchy (which shows doctor's hands pulling out the head of a blood-covered baby from a mother's uterus) and the full cover of WYSIWYG (dogs having sex).
- Cool Shades: Lou wears them in the Timebomb video.
- Fading into the Next Song: The whole of WYSIWYG.
- Hymn to Music: "The Wizard of Menlo Park" and all of ABCDEFG.
- Long Title:
- Their first album had the full title Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records: Starvation, Charity and Rock & Roll Lies & Traditions.
- They later surpassed it with The Boy Bands Have Won, and All the Copyists and the Tribute Bands and the TV Talent Show Producers Have Won, If We Allow Our Culture to Be Shaped by Mimicry, Whether from Lack of Ideas or From Exaggerated Respect. You Should Never Try to Freeze Culture. What You Can Do Is Recycle That Culture. Take Your Older Brother's Hand-Me-Down Jacket and Re-Style It, Re-Fashion It to the Point Where It Becomes Your Own. But Don't Just Regurgitate Creative History, or Hold Art and Music and Literature as Fixed, Untouchable and Kept Under Glass. The People Who Try To "Guard" Any Particular Form of Music Are, Like the Copyists and Manufactured Bands, Doing It the Worst Disservice, Because the Only Thing That You Can Do to Music That Will Damage It Is Not Change It, Not Make It Your Own. Because Then It Dies, Then It's Over, Then It's Done, and the Boy Bands Have Won.
- This earned them a world record, beating Fiona Apple's When the Pawn...
- Looped Lyrics: The entire lyric of "Ugh! Your Ugly Houses" comprises the six words "Ugh! Your ugly houses look so..." over and over.
- Lyrical Dissonance: Lots of their songs are upbeat songs with dark lyrics, such as "Timebomb".
- Multiple-Choice Past: The origin of the name Chumbawamba.
- New Sound Album: Most of them.
- Non-Appearing Title: "Tubthumping"
- Odd Friendship: with novelty-song specialists Black Lace, via former Black Lace producer and latterday Chumba Neil Ferguson. They've even covered each others' songs (the Chumbas did "Agadoo", Black Lace recorded "She's Got All The Friends Money Can Buy").
- Orphaned Punchline: The band's name is actually this for a dirty joke.
- Protest Song: Most of their output.
- Refrain from Assuming: "I get knocked down..."
- This eventually got to the point where the CD single attached the subtitle "(I Get Knocked Down)" near the name of the song.
- Retraux: The song "Tony Blair" is basically a throwback doo-wop song.
- Shout-Out: Just about every song in a 20+ year career.
- Something Completely Different: Even for a band who loved to wrongfoot listeners, the entirely a capella English Rebel Songs LP was a bit of a departure.
- Take That: In 2001, GM gave Chumbawamba $10,000 for a Pontiac Vibe commercial. Chumbawamba turned that into a donation to Indymedia and CorpWatch who used the money to start an information and environmental campaign against GM.
- Their first album, Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records was a big one against Live Aid, with shots directed to the organizers of the event, the musicians who took part in it, and the companies who sponsored the concert.
- The Man They Couldn't Hang: Invoked in their song about Wenseslao Moguel, a Mexican revolutionary who survived being shot 11 times by firing squad; once in the head, and lived to tell about it, El Fusilado .