One of the great frailties of the mind is the subconscious ability to pick up on a tune from nowhere and then run it round your head a million times until it’s marginally less enjoyable than being water boarded. With piss. It doesn’t even matter if it’s an absolute belter of a tune, sooner or later it will start to get on your tits and way before then it will have done you the enormous disservice of winding up everyone around you. My wife particularly hates it when I kind of half hum/mumble tunes just under my breath so it’s just a feint wave of deeply irritating noise with no real structure. Like listening to Ken Bruce on Radio 2. The other day I really annoyed a friend of ours because I couldn’t get rid of the theme tune to Tony Blackburn’s Pick Of The Pop’s show, purely because we’d been discussing his recent difficulties. Does anyone really care and is anyone really surprised it’s all turned out a bit, well, iffy? All that aside, the reason I bring up this topic is because a song pounced onto my flabby brain this morning and it’s in my head still and as it won’t let go I have to channel my feelings, because I would suggest that it’s one of the worst songs ever. Of all time. Since the most basic of creatures made a noise. In fact since noise was created, either through seismic shifts in universal matter or on Thursday, the fourth day, when God created butter, steering wheels, anaphylactic shocks and homosexuality (but he forgot to put the last one in the bumper bible list of things people are allowed to do, hence all the religious intolerance).
Please stop teasing us Monsieur Hewitt! I can hear you now, gripped with intrigue, gasping for the next bit, utterly unable to decipher the title of this offering. The song is Tubthumping by a briefly and bizarrely popular band called Chumbawumba. There’s two strikes already, an annoying song title by a band with a galactically crap name. I don’t even care what it means. As far as I’m concerned they may as well have been called ‘A Bunch Of Useless Pricks’ but having said that ‘A Bunch Of Useless Pricks’ is actually a pretty good name for a band. Perhaps I should copy-write it in case Simon Cowell uses it for his next teen, heart-throb, talentless non-event group. Tubthumping is more popularly known as that ‘I get knocked down’ song and it came to haunt us in the mid 90’s when Britpop was reaching its peak and all of a sudden any kind of daft band had a look in. There were some good bands too, but lots and lots of shit ones. Shed Seven anyone. Because I hate Tubthumping so very, very much I thought I should read up a bit about Chumbawumba and present my findings. I appreciate that I’m frequently wrong about a lot of things but I just can’t bear the injustice of having such a crappy skid mark of a song wrapped around my delicate head since 7.23am. If you are Chumbawumba’s biggest fan then I’m sorry, but also can I suggest you try listening to some good music at some point.
- Chumbawumba (who disbanded in 2012, thank Christ) were around for 30 odd years having formed in 1980 and are described as occupying the genres of pop, folk and anarcho-punk. Hold on, say again. Pop, yep I like a bit of pop, who doesn’t eh? Folk, some great folk music out there, though it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. And finally that most ear friendly and popular of genres – anarcho-punk. I thought music was meant to be pleasurable. How wrong am I? Even the name anarcho-punk sounds awful. I mean, some punk isn’t half bad but in the scheme of things I would say that as a genre it is massively over-rated. Spiky, spitting bed-wetters snarling at the camera because their shoulders hurt from the massive chips sitting on them. John Lydon may have written some great stuff but it doesn’t stop him from being an obnoxious, unpleasant, opinionated tool. Takes one to know one maybe?! So mix up punk with a bit of anarcho magic and you end up with a leaking sack of unlistenable, whiny dog dirt. Here’s a thought, keep your anarchy on the side and go and get a proper fucking job. But we have one, we’re anarcho-punk musicians, taking it to the top of the capitalist regime. Ok, well done. Why are my ears bleeding? Anyone tired of the genre anarcho-punk yet. Is there anyone out there for whom anarcho-punk is the BEST genre ever??
- Shit album covers. As a rule of thumb I get put off by albums with babies being delivered on the front. Or dogs having sex. Is this to provoke a reaction? To make me think? It does both actually. My reaction is ‘get that thing away from me’ and my thoughts generally fall in the ball park area of ‘fuck off, Chumbawumba’. Whatever point they’re trying to prove they have failed because ultimately very few normal people like to look at photos of bloodied infants popping out from a set of engorged fanny flaps. I no keen on infants of any kind. It’s probably why I don’t play Nevermind by Nirvana very often (that reminds me, I must resurrect yet another piece on startlingly over-rated music). The cover of the Tubthumping album should have ended with an arrest for crimes against art. And a sound kicking.
- Brit Awards. I can’t be arsed to look this up but I’m fairly sure they poured a bucket of water, or something like that, over John Prescott, or someone like that, at the Brit Awards, or somewhere like that. I get the idea – Chumbawumba are anarcho-punks and didn’t like Tony Blair being a hypocritical, grinning turd etc etc. Now, to make my stance clear, I don’t like Tony Blair either. I’m not sure many people do to be honest. It’s not because he’s married to a money grabbing, horrid little woman with a face like a robber’s dog or that his son, Euan, sounds like a cock. No, Blair’s main weakness is that he is a lying little fucker who’s terribly judged decision to send us to war was just one in a massive list titled ‘cunty things to do when in power’. However, much as I despise Blair I somehow have a greater loathing for Chumbawumba (it might fade once I get this sodding song out of my head) and they have a ‘reasons we’re awful’ list too which includes being call Chumbawumba, calling themselves anarcho-punks and, greatest crime of all, making awful noises and trying to pass them off as music. Anyway Prescott got the dousing and I would have watched for eternity a clip of him doing a Prescott thing like knocking their teeth out. One by one. The main protagonist was a chap named Danbert Nobacon. Notfunny Smallpenis would have been better.
- US advertising. Tubthumping made it to number 6 in the states, which I’d consider a glaring error for a country that consistently (and rightly) refused to let Robbie Williams crack it. Wikipedia claims that the band turned down a $1.5 million offer from Nike to use the song for an advert. The band stated that it took them approximately 30 seconds to make this decision. Call me suspicious but surely for a group of leftist anarcho-punks 30 seconds seems like a lifetime. Why would such a bunch of left wing anarchists even take a call from Nike. What did they think Nike wanted? To sell them ankle socks? To take a warm shower with them? I would take $1.5 million off Nike in a heartbeat, shower or not, but to take 30 seconds for Chumbawumba suggests they’re stupid or liars. Or both. I don’t know how much they took from EA Sports, or Sega, or Nintendo but I can only assume that it went to good causes. Such as ear plug technology development. Or free hearing and sight termination with any Chumbawumba album.
- Other songs. Amnesia was a top 10 hit in 1998 and I am unreliably informed that its content relates to the sense of betrayal that English leftists felt during the rise of new Labour. Diddums. Did poor little leftists feel betrayed by someone winning a labour election after nearly 20 years of winning ever so slightly less than fuck all? Blimey, I’m shocked that Amnesia isn’t still all over the radio given its gripping content and perpetually relevant message. Wait a second, I don’t think I’ve ever actually heard it so I’m off to Youtube for a couple of minutes. When I return I shall have a better analysis of this top 10 smash……………………………………………………………………………..bear with me……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………nearly there……………………………………………….it’s shit. Dull guitar riff, awful trumpets, the world’s flattest, most unintentionally emotionless singer. The chorus of ‘do you suffer from long term memory loss?’ is most appropriate and comes with responses of yes thankfully, and do you mind not reminding me of what I had preferred to forget. In a world of bollocks masquerading as rubbish Amnesia is all powerful. Another classic is a song called Mouthful of Shit with the timeless, charming, kid friendly, anarcho-punk rallying call of ‘can’t hear you cos your mouth’s full of shit’. I hope for the sake of all music that this was self-addressed. A thought has just occurred! I’m just imagining what it must have been like being an impressionable teenager in 1997 and buying a ticket to a Chumbawumba gig purely on the strength of quite liking Tubthumping. What a treat for your money, listening to a bunch of mithering, bleating left wing tosspots trying and ultimately failing hugely to set the world to rights. I suspect I would have sent a bottle of urine arching towards the stage within the first 10 seconds of every song. Very anarchic. I’ve spent a few minutes looking at their albums online and see that some helpful person has written a little synopsis of some of the songs, just to give an idea of what they’re about in case you don’t catch all the lyrics. Because you’re busy hammering knitting needles into your ears. Sorry, I can’t go on with this so let’s finish this off with a reflective and impartial conclusion.
First of all I would like to apologise to all former members of the now disbanded anarcho-punk/pop/folk group Chumbawumba. I have never liked anything you have ever done but that is just as much a result of my taste in music than your ability as performing artists. I have no evidence that you are anything but probably nice people and if I have caused offence I can only reiterate that this is the result of having your song going on in my head all fucking day long, and that as I believe it is amongst the worst things in the history of culture, this has caused a bit of friction. Anyone reading this really should listen to the whole thing again. And again. And a third time. Then please just ask yourself, now we’re all out of the 90’s music bubble – is it any good? Does it invoke a strong positive reaction in you? Frankly if you feel you love it then you feel you love it and I can’t help what you feel. Chumbawumba must have made quite a bit of money out of Tubthumping and I don’t think it all went to the ‘Home for the Brow Beaten Leftist Trade Unionists’. You can tubthump all you want. Tell us all about feminism and gay rights and the class struggle and politicians being cocks but don’t then piss money up the wall on expensive videos and offensive album covers and think that makes a point. I follow music fairly closely and the demise of Chumbawumba didn’t even herald a mouse fart on my or anyone else’s radar. The reason? Because they’re valueless and they only became famous for a vapour of a chorus. One chorus of such naffness it makes Shadup-a-your-face sound like Handel’s Messiah. Music deserves better than this and we should have shamed them into splitting earlier. Maybe 1981 or something like that. I get knocked down. Good. Lots, I hope.
Ps, apparently the band is actually spelt Chumbawamba. Either way it comes up as utter nonsense on my spell check, so the wrong version stays.
G B Hewitt 5/3/2016