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.

SAME SONG CONVEYING DIFFERENT EMOTIONS

This song, and indeed its cover, have both featured on the blog before. But a while back it hit me that the two versions deal with very different feelings and emotions and in the case of the cover raises highly relevant social issues that have been with us for as long as I can remember and which nobody in power has ever made it a priority to tackle. But then again, that would require imagination, resources and a willingness to support and empower those who are most removed from the everyday norms.

mp3 : Soft Cell – Bedsitter (12″ version)
mp3 : Carter USM – Bedsitter

Where the original brought home the emptiness of living alone in the single-room within a multiple occupancy flat, the cover is an angrier and rawer version. Where the protagonist in the original goes between the highs of being the party animal and the lows of another night alone in a cold and damp space, the protagonist in the cover is bitter at the way life has given him a bum deal but resigned to his fate as there’s no prospect of escape. Where Marc and David had fun but knew it was a false front, Jim-Bob and Fruitbat feel nothing but utter misery.

As for the politicians:-

mp3 : Chumabawamba – Mouthful of Shit

JC

FIRST-RATE PROTEST POP

Chumbawamba-Enough-Is-Enough-162824
Chumbawamaba
were part of the UK music scene for 30 years prior to them calling it a day in November 2012.  In that time they released a whole bundle of singles and albums that raised awareness for all sorts of just causes and campaigns as well as getting across their viewpoint about a burning issue of the day, as was highlighted in the recent posting looking that 1992 single behave!

Some folk got awfully annoyed by Chumbawamba on the basis that they took life far too seriously, but any band that is prepared to tackle issues as diverse as domestic violence, religion, racism, fascism, war, homophobia and the decline of working class rights within short and catchy pop songs is all right by me.

It was really bizarre to seem them gain their 15 minutes of real fame in 1997 when the very catchy and anthemic Tubthumping went to #2 in the UK singles chart and I’m sure the band were bemused to see how it was adopted by the lager-swilling lad culture who regarded the concept of getting pissed and falling over only to pick yourself up and start all over again as something to boast and sing about at the top of your voice. Anyways, the song so was so ubiquitous at the time that just I quickly got sick of it and even almost 20 years on don’t enjoy listening to it.

Having wound up their own Agit-Pop label on the back of being frustrated at the failure of behave! to get into the charts they signed to One Little Indian with the first release in September 1993 being a joint single with Credit To The Nation, an act which was in fact a teenage UK hip-hop singer called Matty Hanson aka DJ Fusion with two backing dancers who had come to the fore earlier in the year thanks to the chart success of Call It What You Want, a single which sampled Smells Like Teen Spirit….a piece of music which got many of those in the press who worshipped Nirvana all hot and bothered under the collar.

This anti-fascism single, released at a time when right-wing politicians were rearing their ugly heads all over Europe, reached the Top 75 despite a lack of support from radio stations:-

mp3 : Chumbawamba & Credit To The Nation – Enough Is Enough
mp3 : Chumbawamba & Credit To The Nation – Hear No Bullshit (On Fire Mix)
mp3 : Chumbawamba & Credit To The Nation – The Day The Nazi Died (1993 mix)

Different versions of the b-sides can be found elsewhere

mp3 : Credit To The Nation – Hear No Bullshit. See No Bullsit, Say No Bullshit
mp3 : Chumbawamba – The Day The Nazi Died

Enjoy.

ON THEIR VERY BEST BEHAVIOUR

It was in August 1992 that Chumbawamba released a single on 12” vinyl and CD entitled (Someone’s Always Telling You How To) Behave. The sleeve contained a superbly worded essay drawn from a piece by Steven Wells (R.I.P.)  in which he highlighted how ludicrous it was for anyone involved in the arts, particularly pop and rock music, to be in anyway homophobic. The single was released on the back of two now infamous events, one being where a famous pop star of the day – Jason Donovan – launched and won a libel action against a magazine that had alleged he was homosexual and the other being where Shawn Ryder was riding the waves of fame on the back of stating openly and unapologetic that he hated ‘queers’ and releasing a press statement ‘confirming his hetrosexuality.’

The single however, was the third such version of the song in a little over six months wherein lies a fine tale.

Chumbawamba began the year with plans to release a new album that would rely very heavily on sampled music and dialogue. Said album, which was entitled Jesus H Christ, was recorded but never given an official release as it was going to prove far too costly and time-consuming to gain clearance for all the samples involved – there were more than 40 – and there was a real concern that someone would simply refuse permission and so lead to the song or indeed whole album being shelved. One of the songs was this:-

mp3 : Chumbawamba – Silly Love Songs

The music sampled on the track consisted of Silly Love Songs by Paul McCartney & Wings, Tell Me Lies by Fleetwood Mac and Gimme Some Truth by John Lennon. It also contained a snatch of dialogue involving the single word ‘Behave’ as regularly uttered by music producer Pete Waterman during his stint as presenter on the late night TV show The Hit Man and Her.

The band knew that they had written a decent batch of lyrics for the new songs and so rather than letting them go to waste they went into the studio and recorded the album Shhh with real music instead of samples under which Silly Love Songs had evolved into this very fine number:-

mp3 : Chumbawamba – behave!

Then the band came up with the idea of re-recording Behave! with a completely new lyric as part of their response to the homophobia scandals, particularly the Jason Donovan court case. There’s no little irony that his rise to music stardom was masterminded by none other than Pete Waterman whose contribution to the original version of the song was such that it had led to it being adopted as its new title when the album was released.

mp3 : Chumbawamaba – (Someone’s Always Telling You How To) Behave

The 45 version is quite a bit different from the album version, losing the trumpets and the constant refrain of behave!, as well as having a completely different lyric. The band had high hopes for the record which was being released, as usual on their own Agit-Pop label, but there were huge disputes with the distributor whose efforts were somewhat half-hearted to say the least and indeed went about things while the band were touring in the USA and unable to give it the support they wanted to here in the UK. The issues were so intense that the band would wind the label up almost immediately and sign to One Little Indian.

The 12” and CD had three other songs listed on the sleeve although there was an additional hidden track, which was yet another alternative version of behave!

mp3 : Chumbawamaba – (Someone’s Always Telling You How To) Behave (brittle mix)
mp3 : Chumbawamaba – Misbehave (brittle mix)
mp3 : Chumbawamaba – Misbehave
mp3 : Chumbawamaba – (Someone’s Always Telling You How To) Behave (version)

Misbehave isn’t a remix of behave!. Instead it is a brand new and ridiculously catchy song – particularly in its brittle mix form – in which the names of real people and fictional characters whose claim to fame was that they weren’t always good boys or girls are chanted over a punchy techno-lite track that once heard won’t be easily forgotten. Billy Joel and We Didn’t Start The Fire it certainly isn’t………………..

Enjoy

PS : Copies of Jesus H Christ did quietly make their way into some shops after Shhh was released; some of the owners have since put the songs out there on t’internet which is how I’ve been able to get a copy of Silly Love Songs for inclusion today…..