BURNING BADGERS VINYL (Part 10)/ICA #273: CHUMBAWAMBA

Burning Badgers Vinyl #9 – The Lost Albums #2 (Swingin’ With Raymond, Island Records, 1995)
An Imaginary Compilation Album – Chumbawamba

There were no less than eight Chumbawamba records in the box of records given to me by Mrs Badger. Seven of them were twelve inches, amongst them almost mint copies of ‘Behave’, ‘Tubthumping’ and ‘Timebomb’ and a very battered 12-inch promo of ‘Give the Anarchist a Cigarette’ – some, all or none of these may feature in this hastily put together ICA. Because this wasn’t supposed to be an ICA. It was supposed to be about the one album amongst the seven twelve inches.

The only album that was in that box is as you may have guessed ‘Swingin’ with Raymond’, the seventh studio album by the band and it is genuinely a thing of beauty. I had a cassette version of this whilst at University and I remember it fondly. On the cover was a guy called Raymond, who had Love tattooed across the knuckles on one hand and Hate across the knuckles of the other.

The album followed a similar vein. Side A was designated the Love It Side and featured primarily the lovely and much underrated and unheralded voice of Lou Watts. A series of indie-folk songs where Lou’s voice is the main thing you can hear, often accompanied by a violin or an acoustic guitar. It might just be the finest twenty-two minutes and ten seconds the band ever recorded. Largely because it features absolutely no Danbert Nobacon.

Side B of ‘Swingin’ with Raymond’ is the complete opposite of the first, entitled ‘Hate It’. It features louder vocals, faster guitars and enough anger and vitriol to last a lifetime. It is much more what you expect from a Chumbawamba record including lots of Danbert Nobacon.

‘Swingin with Raymond’ nearly sunk without trace, it reached Number 70 in the UK Album Charts for one week and then vanished, which kind of makes it a lost record.

Badger once told me that he had seen Chumbawamba live more than any other band with the exception of Primal Scream and British Sea Power. He singled out a benefit gig in a community centre in the heart of the mining community of Yorkshire in the late eighties as one of the greatest gigs he ever went to. I remember nodding away and agreeing with him that when they were good (and anything they released from say 1988 to say 2001 is) they were one of the finest bands out there.

And so as I sit here on what would have been Badger’s 53rd birthday, spinning the 12 inch of ‘(Someone’s Always Telling You How To) Behave’ I present my Chumbawamba ICA, which will have a slight nod towards Swingin With Raymond.

Side One

Give The Anarchist A Cigarette (From ‘Anarchy’, 1994)

The legend goes that Chumbawamba named this song after a line in a film starring Bob Dylan of all people. In the film Bob Dylan plays of all things a singer, who is a bit controversial (I forget why). In one memorable line, the singer’s manager tells the singer that ‘People think you are an anarchist’ to which Dylan retorts “Well give the anarchist a cigarette…”. Chumbawamba in only the way Chumbawamba could do said in an interview that if Bob Dylan’s character in the film really was an anarchist he would have ‘burnt the fucking place down’.

This Girl (From ‘Swingin’ with Raymond, 1995)

I love it when a song makes you do a double take. ‘This Girl’ is a perfect example of this, because on a first glance you have what appears to be a saccharine heavy tune about rejection and all that, which sounds more like Belle and Sebastian than Chumbawamba. In fact Lou Watts sounds a little bit like Sarah Cracknell on this. Then you heard the end of the chorus and realise that it contains a line that Sarah Cracknell would never sing “She’s lacing all the party drinks with venom from her poison pen”.

Which makes it classic Chumbawamba.

Sometimes Plunder (from ‘Shhh’, 1992)

I maybe wrong here but I’m going to stick my neck above the parapet. I think this was the first time that little Matty Fusion (aka Credit to the Nation) rapped with Chumbawamba or was it ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again?.

‘Sometimes Plunder’ is an attack on the music industry who were so damning of the band during the time that the band tried to release ‘Jesus H Christ’ with all the samples in it. This song appears to accuse the Beatles and Stones of heavily plundering African music for their tunes, which you know, is a pretty pointless argument.

Oxymoron (From Swingin’ With Raymond, 1995)

For those who didn’t study English at Cambridge, an oxymoron is a paradox, a statement that goes against common sense but still appears to be true, ‘more is less’ for instance, or in this case ‘The Good Cop’.

‘Oxymoron’ is probably the standout track from the second side of ‘Swingin’ With Raymond’, certainly, after playing the whole thing this afternoon it’s the one that sticks in the mind more than the rest and certainly it has a killer chorus, that might just be a rip off of ‘Suffragette City’.

Enough Is Enough (from ‘Anarchy’, 1994)

Mrs SWC used to moan that whenever we used to see Chumbawamba live that they basically did the same show every time. To illustrate her point she would argue that Alice Nutter would roughly twenty minutes into the set disappear off stage and come back sporting a pair of boxing gloves and start shadowing boxing the crowd. Then she would disappear again and would come back dressed as a nun. She had a point that did always happen. Something else that always happened is that they would play ‘Enough is Enough’ as an encore, and Matty Fusion would always shyly shuffle out of the wings do his thing. ‘Enough is Enough’ is bloody marvellous though so we always forgave the band.

Side Two

Farewell to the Crown (B Side to ‘Tubthumping’, 1997)

Three of the twelve inches that were inside Badgers Box are the same song. All of them are different versions of ‘Tubthumping’. Two are promos containing dance versions of the track – remixed by people such as Natural Born Chillers and Tin Tin Out, which will probably mean more to some of you than it does me. The third twelve-inch is an EP which I think mirrored the CD single – which I have somewhere at home – so I will check – but tucked away on that at track three or four is ‘Farewell To the Crown’ a brilliantly vicious anti-monarchy ditty which calls for the death of various members of the Royal Family. It was a brilliant move by the band, there they stood on the cusp of real fame and with a bonafide worldwide hit on their hands and there on the B-side was a song that called Princess Di a ‘media whore’ and accused the dear old queen mother of being ‘mummified on gin and rum’.

Which makes it classic Chumbawamba.

Love Can Knock You Over (From ‘Swingin’ with Raymond, 1995)

I think Love Can Knock You Over is supposed to be ironic, it looks, sounds and feels like the sort of song that teenagers dance to at a school disco (do they still have school discos?) but again when you scrape away the surface, much like ‘This Girl’ you get barbed lyrics about “Useless metaphors, and fighting another day”. But….If you push that gently to one side, this song is kind of lovely and is as it happens one of my favourite moments by them as is…

(Someone Always Telling You How To) Behave (Single, 1992)

There are two versions of this song, the album version from ‘Shhh’ which contains trumpets and samples and is designed to highlight the rampant homophobia that exists in the music industry. Then you have this version, which has a faster tempo, no trumpets and no samples and is a slightly better rant against homophobia in the music industry than the album version. The much-missed Melody Maker famously when reviewing this called it “A cock up the arse of homophobia” which I think is wonderfully brilliant writing.

Amnesia (Jimmy Echo Version) (Single, 1998)

You can blame Oasis or rather Mike Flowers and his pops if you like, but I think Chumbawamba might have got there first. Jimmy Echo was, I believe, and I’m happy to be corrected, a cabaret singer who worked the Working Mens Club scene in Yorkshire, between 1992 and 1998 Jimmy Echo recorded several versions of Chumbawamba tracks as B Sides for their singles, there is certainly a Jimmy Echo version of ‘Timebomb’ and ‘Homophobia’ but for me, his version of ‘Amnesia’ shits all over the original.

I Wish That They’d Sack Me (From The Boy Bands Have Won, 2008)

In my last series for this fine blog I spoke about the time where Badger sang a couple of songs at a pub at their Open Mic Night. The songs he chose that night were by Radiohead and Billy Bragg but it very nearly didn’t happen because Badger wanted to open with a little-known Chumbawamba song but he couldn’t remember the words and forgotten what key it was in – he then convinced himself that he would be rubbish. Of all the songs that have gone before and after, this he said was Chumbawamba’s finest hour.

Bleak, honest and sung with a fist in the air, an anthem for a disaffected generation.

Take care out there – thanks for reading.

SWC

JC adds……and again, it’s to avoid taking up space in the Comments section.

I really had no idea that Badger was such a fan of Chumbawamba as they didn’t ever feature much in either of the blogs that he and SWC were responsible for.  Maybe, like most of us who are fans, myself and Jacques the Kipper included, there was this sense that they weren’t everyone’s cup of tea and the political leanings meant you’d probably end up getting into an arguement or scuffle if you said too much. There’s also the fact that sometimes they tried a wee bit too hard to be different that ended up bordering on the embarrassing, such as the Peel Session of August 1992 when they did covers of Agadoo, The Birdie Song, Knock Three Times and Y Viva Espana in a very straightforward and unironic way. It could be a bit cringey….

This, however, is a superb ICA, and I’m delighted that it opens with a song I’ve used in another draft piece for the Monday series, as well as having room for Behave and Enough is Enough. It’s another reminder that, had I ever met Tim B, I’d have spent countless hours talking absolute pish about wonderful music, singers and bands.

5 thoughts on “BURNING BADGERS VINYL (Part 10)/ICA #273: CHUMBAWAMBA

  1. Fucking loved Chumbawamba ever since Stiff sent away a tape to one of his Anarcho Punk pals and “The First Seven Years” demo came back . I kind of fell out with them when they signed to EMI.
    Great ICA but if I had to do one it would be heavily skewed towards the first three albums.

  2. Also these lyrics from the first vinyl single “Revolution” have stayed with me ever since:-

    Even though we disagree we share a common enemy
    Our methods may not be the same
    But together we can break the chain
    Different aims, different means with common ground in between
    Don’t sit back, it’s time to act
    This life is ours, let’s snatch it back

  3. My relationship with Chumba is well documented over at my place. They were a band I also saw more times than any other, mainly during the Shhh and Anarchy periods, but also once during the Swingin’ With Raymond tour when they were supported by Cardiacs!

    Shhh was probably the most played CD on our local pub’s jukebox, even by people who had no idea who they were. This was some five years before Tubthumper came out. I agree about SWR, it is a sadly overlooked album and both ‘sides’ stand up on their own merits. The single version of Just look At Me Now is also worth checking out. Like a lot of their singles, they completely reinvented the album versions.

    Some of the later stuff (when they were a stripped-back folky 4[piece) is also excellent as I Wish That They’d Sack Me illustrates. A really good ICA SWC, but I’d expect nothing less, of course!

  4. Chumbawumba have 1-hit wonder status in the US. Tubthumping was a big radio hit and gets played all the time at sports events. Can’t name any other song of theirs.
    Thanks for this ICA–never knew what the band were about and it appears it’s high time to find out.

  5. Their 1990 anarcho-punk dance cross-over Slap! is still one of my fave albums. They had initially grabbed my attention with an early animal rights “Knit your own balaclava” fund raiser compilation contribution. Great post btw 🙂

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