…And In A Nutshell
From the album ‘Pictures Of Starving Children Sell Records: Charity, Lies and Tradition’ 1986
Bad pineapple hair-do’s and recent memories of mounted police batoning the striking miners and printworkers. Yuppies, Heysel Stadium, an actor in the White House. Television pictures of starving children, Status Quo snorting “Give Generously” as they hoovered up half of Columbia. Thatcher’s mad dog eyes and campaigns to ‘keep music light’. They said pop and politics didn’t mix, (they still say it now) then sung another chorus of Greed Is Good. Aah, the eighties..
Chumbawamba’s first album, tightrope-walking between pamphleteering and pop. Here’s one where we first discovered sampling.
Mouthful Of Shit
From the album ‘Anarchy’ 1994
Eight years later, still shouting at the telly as Bush, Major, Bono or Princess Di delivered another sermon from the mount. The air’s thin up there… surrounded by sychophants and starved of the oxygen of daily life, they babbled bullshit. At the same time, Britain’s pop culture was celebrating the emergence of a clutch of hip new rebels. It was the start of Britpop – Back to the Union Jack. Here we stole a heckler put-down and discovered the beauty of singing the word “piss” sweetly.
I can’t hear you ‘cos your mouth’s full of shit Do something about it Well I’m really back to basics right beside the bar Chalk the double trouble big one to the joker with the card Good call! What’s the crack? What’s the damage done today? From the Commons to the common a banana skin away Knock it back knock it out chuck a nightmare dart “Quiet!” Compere on the mic turns turning to the court Putting beef vol-au-vents across the Union Jack Bolinger and bitter says the colonies are back I can’t hear you ‘cos your mouth’s full of shit Do something about it You think you’re god’s gift You’re a liar I wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire Up yer ronson – take a tab – with a flash of zippo light Catch the hip parade passing to the Polaroid’s right Check the manic little rebel with a bottle in his hand A rhyming manifesto and a butty from his mam Local lad made bad with cowboy charm Claims he doesn’t really mean every screw-’em-all barb “Pass the mic!” Karaoke with the yesteryear stars Time to weep into your beer ’til the fireworks start I can’t hear you ‘cos your mouth’s full of shit Do something about it You think you’re god’s gift You’re a liar I wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire
Sometimes it’s hard to believe the lengths that some celebrities will go to to prove that they are actually as boring and as small-minded as their public image suggests. In 1992 former soap star Jason Donovan sued The Face magazine for “suggesting he was gay.” His lawyers claimed that this was “a poisonous slur on his reputation” and a court awarded him £200,000 damages. Donovan was reacting to an article that the magazine had carried an ‘outing’. The piece had contained a reproduction of a poster of Donovan which had gone up in London’s West End as part of an outing campaign. The Face had quoted Donovan as saying he was heterosexual; but he still sued them for libel. The magazine was forced to launch a survival campaign. Donovan had the cheek to stand on the court house steps and announce that he resented the suggestion that he was anti-gay!
A couple of weeks later, Richard Fairbrass (famous for singing “I’m too sexy for my shirt…”) found himself seated next to Jason Donovan at a music industry bash. Fairbrass requested a move, explaining to the other guests: “I don’t want to sit next to him… someone might think I’m straight.” For the sleeve design we convinced our neighbor’s little girl Mia to wield an axe and journalist Steven Wells contributed an essay on pop music and homophobia.
Smiling angels on your milk-white shoulders Scared of heaven and accusing whispers Angels always get the worst advice But they can hire the sharpest lawyers… Someone’s always telling you how to behave Boys and girls come out to play See Cupid fire his poison arrows Mickey Mouse grew up a cow Your should hear the things they say about Minnie now… Someone’s always telling you how to behave Farewell to all the smiling angels I have a date with some little devil Girls will be boys and boys will be girls I found a bedful of heaven in this hell of a world… Someone’s always telling you how to behave
Cause and effect: like the scene in The Birds where the bloke lights up and we wait for the match to hit the petrol. Charging the police officer in Trafalgar Square when we were told we had no choice but to quietly accept the iniquitous Poll Tax. Seeing the flames race through LA in search of justice for Rodney King and black America. Knowing that there’s nothing fixed about our ordinary lives. As Bakunin said: “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.”
Depending on where and when you’ve seen Chumbawamba live, ‘Timebomb’ is an anthem for either women on their period, Mexican Zapatista rebels, German guerillas or Barnsley cabaret singers…
Stop now What’s that sound Everybody look what’s going down I am a timebomb A ticking ticking ticking timebomb Unattended on the railway station In the litter at the dancehall Sitting pretty near the fast-food counter In the backseat of a Vauxhall I am a timebomb Stop now What’s that sound Everybody look what’s going down I am a timebomb A ticking ticking ticking timebomb Hear the ticking of your heartbeat beating Hear the breaking of their promises Hear the smashing of your expectations Hear the shattering of half-rhymes I am a timebomb Stop now What’s that sound Everybody look what’s going down I am a timebomb A ticking ticking ticking timebomb And all the timebombs They’re all dancing to the same song In a world full of no-ones I am a someone I am a timebomb Stop now What’s that sound London Bridge is falling down
Morality Play in Three Acts
B-side of “Homophobia” single 1994
The British Conservative government defined a fair amount of what Chumbawamba did for these umpteen years, and during their rule there were some unintentionally hilarious moments. Just as they declared war on ‘sleaze’ – everything from marital infidelity to queer sex, promising a return to “family values” – a whole crop of MP’s were literally caught with their pants down. One was even found dead with a tangerine in his mouth and wearing 15-denier stockings. Prime Minister John Major, in their defence, still announced: “Condemn a little more, understand a little less.” The public took his words to heart and demanded that politicians be sacked from the government.
Act one, the smell of green leather, French polish, quite pristine Not a hair out of place, not a wrinkle, not a crease, the silverware all clean Exquisite chaussures grace marble floors, be upstanding, for men of yore But wait… who’s this, sticky under the collar in Elsinore? Enter silent comedy geek with dynamite down his pants Nervous, shuffling on his feet, leading a merry song and dance A back seat driver of good moral fibre, holding up the light He’s made his own bed, now he’s got to lie in it. Ha Ha! It serves him right. Act two, a new new England, watch the good seed grow But who is this Miss out-of-wedlock, with children of her own Enter Witchfinder General, of melancholy humor and irascible power All dressed in goody-goody two shoes, pulling the heads of flowers Let this be, said he, a lesson, your dirty linen is your own reflection Said I, somehow it just doesn’t wash, away with your petty inquisition in the vernacular, most unkind sir, fuck with me and you will see The flesh and blood and bone, the black eyes of thine enemy Dance, dance, Act three, I am the Lord of the Dance, said he John the Baptist, dripping wet, playing Sir Politick-Would-Be Backslapping, backsliding, back to basic instincts, backfiring By your own choice you’re on a hiding to nothing, I ask you which is more comforting? The thought that I am bad seed, gone to seed, turned sour by TV sex and violence Or even worse, am I unleashed by my own volition to do you ill “Condemn a little more, understand a little less,” Oh sad sir, thou jest Ha Ha! I am Prometheus, prepare thee to meet thy nemesis.
Enough Is Enough
Single 1993 with Credit To The Nation
Alarm bells were ringing. Derek Beacon, neo-Nazi member of the British National Party, got his ugly fascist backside elected in Tower Hamlets, London. Meanwhile, in Rostock, Germany, fascists firebombed a hostel for Turkish immigrants. They stood and watched it burn while those trapped inside it screamed from the windows. Economic depression, the fall of the old Communist countries, and growing poverty increased the recruiting-power of the fascist parties throughout Europe. Those with no sense of history talked about voting the fascists into submission; we joined with MC Fusion from Credit To The Nation to side instead with the anti-fascist activists calling for something more positive and effective: “Give the fascist man a gunshot!”
Recorded and hastily released during summer 1993, this was the culmination of several years working and touring with Credit To The Nation. The gunshot is sampled from a German sound effects record which props up the mixing desk at Woodlands Studio.
Open your eyes Time to wake up Enough is enough is enough is enough Give the fascist man a gunshot Trying and trying to get this damn thing done It can’t done Come shoot the fascist with a gun ‘Cos it’s stopping us from unity We cannot see reality Just vanity insanity fusion cannot stand it see No man fascist man will ever get me outta the land So understand Fusion plan to stop them with a bang We sang and sang to make the people all unite Not fight but fight because the leaders don’t think right You burnt us in the past you know it won’t happen again So black and white take a stand and all try to defend All of the people and the children who are living in the past Just blast and blast don’t make the fascist man last Open your eyes Time to wake up Enough is enough is enough is enough Give the fascist man a gunshot On and on and on you know the feeling’s so strong So long It’s wrong I’m telling you it’s wrong Destruction confusion and blaming it on the colour I wonder in horror ‘cos the people start to follow All the leaders and the rulers who are putting up the fence It’s dense immense and you say you’re talking sense Bull bull I want to say it full But people on the radio you know will make a pull So I try to tone it down to make the whole world know That the language of my violence will proceed in my show Flow flow to make the fascist man know That unity is here and unity will grow Open your eyes Time to wake up Enough is enough is enough is enough Give the fascist man a gunshot I want to wake up Enough is enough is enough is enough
On Being Pushed
From the album ‘Anarchy’ 1994
See this finger, see this thumb, see this fist and watch it come…
I never could stand to be pushed!
Hanging On The Old Barbed Wire
From the album ‘English Rebel Songs 1381-1914’, 1987
By 1987 Chumbawamba had a reputation for being a ranting political punk band with a sprinkling of sweet harmonies. Punk rock had become largely conservative and stuck in a time warp. There were 1001 fanzines laying down rules for what constituted a proper punk and what didn’t. Proper punks played LOUD music. For a lyric to be deemed political or even pertinent it had to be SCREAMED. For us, punk’s original attraction lay in its rejection of the old order; and now it wallowed in rules and regulations. The punk rock community had been dislocated from the past and present, existing in a void where new ideas or damn good old ones weren’t welcome. Bored and frustrated we decided to search out songs which showed that three-chord screaming didn’t have a monopoly on politics. The result was the acapella album, ‘English Rebel Songs’. ‘Hanging On The Old Barbed Wire’ was concocted by the soldiers in the trenches in the first world war. Designed to be sung whilst marching, it made obvious that those dying in the trenches weren’t making willing sacrifices for king and country: they were beginning to understand the class system and resented it. In a nutshell, those with money give the orders, those without money face the guns…
The songs on ‘Rebel Songs’ were discovered during prolonged searches in music libraries and bookshops. We spent a week in old friend Simon Lanzon’s shepherds hut in the Yorkshire Dales trying to arrange the songs, which we only had in sheet music form. Reaction to the completed album was basically what we wanted – bemusement, disgust, joy and bewilderment. ‘Old Barbed Wire’ for a change featured only the male voices.
If you want to find the General I know where he is He’s pinning another medal on his chest I saw him I saw him Pinning another medal on his chest If you want to find the Colonel I know where he is He’s sitting in comfort Stuffing his bloody gut I saw him I saw him sitting in comfort Stuffing his bloody gut If you want to find the Seargent I know where he is He’s drinking all the company rum I saw him I saw him Drinking all the company rum If you want to find the Private I know where he is He’s hanging on the old barbed wire I saw him I saw him Hanging on the old barbed wire
Ugh! Your Ugly Houses!
Single Recorded 1995
Leafing through our regular subscription copy of Hello! magazine we discovered that when Sting’s not camping out in a rainforest he’s taking tea at the upwards of £1.2m Lake House. The epitome of the English Country Mansion, it came complete with fifteen century wood panels depicting hunting scenes. Playing Lord of the Manor included having the wood panels altered so that he and his wife Trudi peeked out from among the startled fawns. Just as we were about to award him the Nouveau Riche Bad Taste Award Noel Gallagher pipped him at the post with ‘Supernova Heights’: a startlingly ugly townhouse with a Mod-style sunken ‘target’ bath and fully-equipped state-of-the-art recording studio which he’s never touched. The bubble-lettering stained glass window in the front door was designed by Noel himself; the full-wall fish tank was originally designed for baby sharks, but ‘they kept banging their noses on the glass’ and had to be replaced.
‘Ugly Houses’ was an intellectualised and in-depth look at how rich people tend to have bad taste – known as ‘The Gracelands Effect’. The central string section was arranged and conducted by Neil Ferguson after consulting George Martin’s autobiography. “Is there anything you don’t like?” Neil asked us as we straddled our cellos. “Well for a start,” chipped in Alice, “I don’t like your tie.” The main part of the song took half-an-hour to record at Wyndings Studio in Wales, the string section about seven weeks in the infamous Elvis Jungle Room at Gracelands.
Your ugly houses look so… ugh!
Look! No Strings!
From the album ‘Shhh’ 1992
Driving through America in 1990 watching the heat rise off the road and the religious signs along the way. ‘Hell’s Angels For Jesus’ along with Mrs Meta Battle all tried to convince us that the Lord was alive and well and living in a trailer. Drafting in Simon Commonknowledge as the voice of God, we demonstrated how anyone could piece together their own Deity with an empty washing-up liquid bottle and a piece of sticky back plastic.
Harry does an impersonation of Rolf Harris on this one, and Dunst plays Stylophone solo.
Look, no strings: just paper-glue and card Hark the angels sing: paste the Lord! High above the streets and houses Mrs. Meta Battle With one hand on the valium and one hand on the bottle Somewhere over Indiana, eight miles high, Meta Battle sees the good Lord wandering across the sky Have your fun whilst your alive You won’t get nothing when you die Have a good time all the time Because you won’t get nothing when you die Gobsmacked, William Shatnered, Meta does a double-take: Come on baby, do the camera shake! Half-expecting from the aisle a certain Mr Beadle Watching you, watching us, watching Mrs Meta Battle (Can you see what it is yet?) Meta Battle shot her Lord and watched him tumble down Now there’s people out with Polaroids all around town And who knows, that Jesus on the church near your house May well be the original – kiss it as you pass!
Big Mouth Strikes Again
From the album ‘Shhh’ 1992
‘Big Mouth Strikes Again’ is Chumbawamba’s homage to American comedian Lenny Bruce, who was persecuted and censored because he dared to tell the truth. In the 50’s and 60’s when most comics told mother-in-law jokes, Bruce talked about nuclear testing, racism, homophobia, back-alley abortions and the irrationality and cruelty of religion. Bruce delighted in challenging taboos and prejudices, trying to rap on stage with the same freedom that he had in his living room. Over a two year period he was arrested for obscenity 15 times, and ended up spending the last five years of his life fighting court cases for freedom of speech. He was attacked for his use of words but the real reason for the onslaught was that he targeted religious and political moralism. The Catholic church took particular offense, and Catholic cops from all across America turned up at his gigs and arrested him night after night. The cops threatened to take away the licenses of night club owners who hired him and Bruce was driven towards poverty. Refusing to tone down his act, Bruce refused to become a tame jester, and in 1961 a New York court sentenced him to four months in the workhouse because of “a lack of remorse.” Bruce replied with: “I’m not here for remorse but for justice. The issue is not obscenity but that I spit in the face of authority.” He was hounded right up to his death in 1966, and he never gave up pointing out that sending young boys off to war, or hating someone for their skin colour and sexuality is the real obscenity.
The lyric to “To Come…” is borrowed from Bruce’s own stage act. These were words for which Lenny Bruce was arrested and thrown in jail.
I caught you with your head down the toilet As you were gulping up dirty words And then later dressed in suit and tie Whilst playing to the laughing crowd You were gargling, spitting, fingers down your throat – making yourself so sick Vomiting the words that you sucked and slurped All over the cops at the back! Big mouth strikes again… MC Fusion: censored! “To” is a preposition “Come” is a verb “To come” is the verb intransitive; To come – to come. Did you come? Did you come good? Don’t come in me, don’t come in me… It takes technique to thrill me! Did you come? Did you come good? Big mouth strikes again… Stepford husbands, Stepford wives With longer scissors sharper knives So sugar sweet, they spend their time as censors working overtime This good-good culture – Welcome Christ, judges, Lone Ranger, padres, pastors, Popes, Priests, critics, comics, you, me! Big mouth strikes again!
From the album ‘Swingin’ With Raymond’ 1995
Danger is attractive, and falling in love is an adrenalin rush, not a promise of contentment. This Girl is the thrill of finding a like mind, another outsider in the sea of conformity. This girl never did as she was told; this girl is you and me.
From a time when we decided to bloody-mindedly write a series of jangly love songs, just because people didn’t expect us to. Paul plays harmonica.
This girl She didn’t turn out quite the way she was supposed to do This girl She got bored of all the things they brought her up to say She never meant them anyway This girl She got caught out on the multi-storey car park Throwing goodbye notes wrapped up in bricks When they put her in the car She said “Jesus made me do it” But all the priests in all the world Couldn’t save this girl This girl Content with all the bloody noses, scabby knees You get from fighting wars like these Running past the tidy houses Pulling faces This material world couldn’t tempt this girl Now she entertains the world and all it’s mates But she doesn’t fit in Everybody thinks this girl is great But she’s lacing all the party drinks with venom From a poison pen This girl She made a habit of habitually lying Does everybody’s head in She knows what happens when the next stop that you see It’s not the one that everyone expected it to be This girl Happy families round the supermarket check-out She loves to be the odd one out The party girl who stayed upstairs Playing musical chairs La-la, la-la-la She doesn’t care This girl Now she entertains the world and all it’s mates But she doesn’t fit in Everybody thinks this girl is great But she’s lacing all the party drinks with venom From a poison pen This Girl She didn’t turn out quite the way she was supposed to do
Smash Clause 29!
At the point where the media screamed ‘Gay Plague’ about the Aids virus and few understood that the virus didn’t distinguish on the grounds of sexual orientation, the Government capitalised on this fear and prejudice and introduced a legal onslaught of anti-Gay morality. Clause 29 was part of a government act which made it illegal to: “Promote homosexuality or publish any material for the promotion of homosexuality. Promote teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship. Give financial or any other assistance to any person for the purposes referred to above.” These measures were introduced under the guise of ‘child protection’ and a campaign quickly started to show that these laws had nothing to do with protecting children, and everything to do with persecuting people on the grounds of sexuality. Nothing less than ‘Queer bashing’ through the courts, Clause 29 provoked a mass movement for gay rights and sexual tolerance. Unfortunately, the clause became a law but because of the mass protests it provoked, the government have rarely acted upon it. We chose to sing about Oscar Wilde because he was sentenced to two years hard labour in 1895 for his affair with another man. Reading Gaol destroyed Wilde’s life. He was a brilliant, generous, free thinking socialist destroyed by bigotry. The mass movement to oppose Clause 29 helped prevent a return to the Victorian morality which killed Wilde.
Chumbawamba at full-throttle backed by the Armley Tabernacle Choir.
Oscar Wilde, Oscar Wilde, can you tell me where you’ve been? – I’ve been down to London Town to pay a visit to the Queen Oscar Wilde, Oscar Wilde, can you tell me what you saw? – I saw the Queen and all her courtiers cooking up new laws I saw the corridors of power with closets wall-to-wall And I saw the truth behind the Emperor’s new Clause! So you burn the books and close your eyes to every other possibility You got to keep your job for collaborating with the enemy You keep throwing stones though your house is made of glass You’ve helped to make McCarthyism popular at last (From a sermon delivered by the Reverend Abraham Meekly:) “Blessed are the moralists, the judges, the patriarchs. Blessed are the gutter-press, the Aids-joke comedians. Praise to the guilt-mongerers, the fear-builders, the sin-fetishists!” Glory, Glory Hallelujah – His truth is marching on. One in ten driven underground Divisions getting wider Hide your inclination behind a straight face and a bible Third Reich morality and if the cap doesn’t fit There’s a designer label for hypocrites Here comes the officer knocking on your door He’s got a Care Order in the pocket of his uniform Where’s Radclyffe Hall? Now is the time to tear up Clause 29! Here comes the preacher Checking your soul “Too late sir – I’d rather fall.” We’ll eat your bread and we’ll drink your wine And still tear up Clause 29! Here comes the judge Hammer in hand But we’ve all gone deaf to bigots’ commands Our justice will cross the thin blue line And tear up Clause 29! Here comes a brick heading your way A concrete opinion says all I want to say Save your own soul Mine will be fine Once we’ve shredded Clause 29!
From the album ‘Anarchy’ 1994
The abusive husband and the wife’s sweetly cooked revenge in Peter Greenaway’s film ‘The Cook The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover’ inspired ‘Georgina’. Hell hath no fury like a woman abused. Casey and Kerry do the introductions and the ghost of Phil Spector turns the reverb knob all the way up to gas mark 7.
Georgina’s cooking supper for her husband All her friends are coming round to see the show Because the thief she calls a husband won’t be hungry When he sees what’s on the end of his fork Georgina isn’t asking any more And her lover isn’t asking any more And the cook isn’t asking any more Since the thief met a bullet on the way to the floor Georgina’s got a timebomb in her stomach She knows that any minute now it’s going to blow With all the pain and the silence that she feeds on With all the hurt that the bruises can’t show Georgina isn’t asking any more And her lover isn’t asking any more And the cook isn’t asking any more Since the thief met a bullet on the way to the floor Georgina’s got an appetite for vengeance And she sings all the songs from “Oliver” But she won’t be wanting seconds any more As she tightens up her grip on her trigger finger… Georgina isn’t asking any more And her lover isn’t asking any more And the cook isn’t asking any more Since the thief met a bullet on the way to the floor
From the album ‘Swingin’ With Raymond’ 1995
Having taken a decision in the late eighties to concentrate on singing about the moments of struggle where people actually win, on ‘Raymond’ we wanted to return to how frustrated and bloody angry we were at trying to get by in an unequal society. Pity hate and bureaucrat didn’t quite rhyme.
Recorded in Whales in a studio near a pub with a tiny football pitch and a dog.
Just take a ticket It takes you nowhere They saw us coming It’s them and us here Just keep your voice down And light another I am a patient girl I wait, I wait, I wait It’s not your money Don’t call me stupid! Not big or clever Mean can mean awkward It’s Wigan Pier here I’m not for jumping See candid camera Sees next to nothing You keep me waiting… I keep on shouting! My letterbox knows bangers and bad news Good morning campers – Sees queues & queues & queues They spell my name wrong It’s not for art’s sake And every truth told Black mark on black mark You love to chew on This bread and butter You crunch your numbers And push your papers Pile-up on pile-up Malicious bad turns I’ll light another Slow fuses, slow burn You keep me waiting… I keep on shouting!
Song Of The Mother In Debt…
From Compilation album ‘Pox Upon The Poll Tax’ 1989
The Poll Tax was the Conservative government’s attempt to return to 1381. Forcing the poor to pay the same tax on their homes as the ultra rich, the Poll Tax was a mission statement that they were openly penalising the poor to appease the rich. It could only have gone down worse if they’d added a footnote on eating babies and saving money on pensions by walling-up grannies. Every town and every estate had anti-poll tax groups, people were publicly burning their tax summons letters and the courts were being clogged up with people who refused to pay. The Labour Party joined with the Conservatives in calling for people to pay up and shut up – the law was the law, after all. No-one paid any attention and the refusals continued. The government finally backed down after the Trafalgar Square riot, a mass protest in London where tens of thousands of people ended an angry demonstration by trashing the rich heart of the City. The people, basically, said “No”.
Parodying the style of Brecht and Weill, this was Chumbawamba’s German 30’s agit-prop band rattling along. The full title (“Song of the Mother in Debt; Song of the hardworking Community Registration Officer; Song of the Government Minister who enjoys his work; Song of the (now determined) Mother”) proved we were just being awkward. Commonknowledge fingered and pumped, and Harry even sang on this one.
Song of the Mother in debt: I’m always waiting I’m sick of waiting For the day my luck will change I’ve spent enough time In queues and breadlines In hope of better days These thieves and scroungers and lazy bastards If I move they’ll steal my place Steal like this State does And who’s to blame us When none of us can pay? Will heaven’s angels Pull out the rent books And ask me how I’ll pay? Behind their big desks Misspell my kids’ names And file my life away? Song of the hardworking Community Registration Officer: I knock on doors See curtains move Time wins wars each name is proof I could tell tales The tricks they use Cut no ice I take what’s due There are worse tasks Than door-to-door I take pride in taking more I watch my back Dark alleyways When doubt calls I bank my wage No easy choice: The devil’s boat or cruel sea? I took the boat When I knock knock at Peter’s gate Will he ask if I can pay? Song of the Government Minister who enjoys his work: Test the water feel the ground Send the tax collectors round Fill the coffers pound by pound A surer way to keep in line The rabble who spend half their time Wishing they could have what’s mine Stamping on the people’s hands This is where I’ll make my stand This is how I’ll rule this land I’ll push and push a little more I’ll push and goad and tease the poor A good excuse to fight my war The war between have-nots and haves My little game of smash & grab Turn the screw increase the tax Friend or foe: who goes there? Turns his coat and takes the rear Sings the Red Flag once a year Song of the (now determined) Mother: I’ve got this dream-home I’m queuing up for In freshly dug brown earth One thing I can swear Before I get there I’ll kill the taxman first
On The Day The Nazi Died
From the album ‘Showbusiness!’ 1995
When Nazi war criminal Rudolph Hess died in Spandau Prison, supposedly signifying the final defeat of fascism, a whole crop of neo-nazis came out of the woodworks to publicly mourn. The infestation continued at different times and in different places, which is why we’re still to this day singing this song. Whilst the racists who killed Stephen Lawrence in a London street walk out of court scot-free, people like Satpal Ram are being given massive jail sentences for defending themselves against racist attacks. Fascism isn’t a historical idea which ended with the Nuremburg Trials or the death of Hess – it’s a political reality which accounts for alarming numbers of racist attacks everywhere from Birmingham, Alabama to Birmingham, England.
Taken from the live ‘Showbusiness!’ album, recorded in Leeds at the Duchess of York. Significantly, local nazis threatened to attack the concert but were prevented from doing so by Leeds Anti-Fascist Action.
We’re taught that after the war the Nazis vanished without a trace But battalions of fascists still dream of a master race The history books, they tell of their defeat in ’45 – But they all came out of the woodwork on the day the Nazi died They say the prisoner of Spandau was a symbol of defeat; Whilst Hess remained in prison, then the fascists they were beat So the promise of an Aryan world would never materialise So why did they all come out of the woodwork on the day the Nazi died? The world is riddled with maggots; the maggots are getting fat They’re making a tasty meal of all the bosses and bureaucrats They’re taking over the boardrooms and they’re fat and full of pride And they all came out of the woodwork on the day the Nazi died So if you meet with these historians, I’ll tell you what to say Tell them that the Nazis never really went away They’re out there burning houses down and peddling racist lies And we’ll never rest again until every Nazi dies
Give The Anarchist A Cigarette
From the album ‘Anarchy’ 1994
Watching ‘Don’t Look Back’ (the rockumentary of Bob Dylan’s first English tour) around the time we began to write the ‘Anarchy’ album, we saw a man with a Christ complex. In the film, as the earth revolves around him in beautiful grainy black and white, we hear his manager Albert Grossman say : “Hey Bob, they’re calling you an anarchist.” Bob, enigmatic as ever, grunts: “Give the anarchist a cigarette.” Albert slavishly proffers his boss a cigarette. Another revolutionary act in the life of a rock ‘n roll rebel. On the street outside someone passed Guy Debord a cig… and the glowing ember burnt beauty into the streets.
“He’s going to choke on his harmonica, Albert…” swiped from a Paul Simon lyric – it’s a folk-rock thing, you wouldn’t understand. Kevin Rowland (Thankfully, not living in Yorkshire…) hovers ghostlike over the intro.
Albert! Bobby! For god’s sake burn it down! Nothing ever burns down by itself Every fire needs a little bit of help Give the anarchist a cigarette ‘Cos that’s as close as he’s ever going to get Bobby just hasn’t earned it yet. The times are changing but he just forgets He’s going to choke on his harmonica Albert Nothing ever burns down by itself Every fire needs a little bit of help Give the anarchist a cigarette A candy cig for the spoilt brat We’ll get Albert to write you a cheque And he’ll be burning up the air in his personal jet You know I hate every pop star that I ever met Nothing ever burns down by itself Every fire needs a little bit of help Burn baby burn Burn baby burn
Nothing Knocks Me Over
From the CD accompanying the book ‘i – Portraits of Anarchists’ 1996
From a collection of songs which goes with Casey Orr’s ‘Portraits of Anarchists’, ‘Nothing Knocks Me Over’ was written after meeting Vi Subversa, vocalist with the late-lamented Poison Girls. Now in her sixties and living in an anarchist commune in Spain, Vi is still taking risks and writing with the same bravery that set Poison Girls apart from their peers.
The lyrics to the songs on ‘Portraits’ were taken from words spoken and inspired by the portrait subjects themselves.
I jump the cliffs and ride the waves No-one comes to save me My arms are strong against the tide Nothing knocks me over Nothing knocks me over From the fire into the frying-pan I jump because I can I choose to gamble with my life Twice the risk Four times the prize Nothing knocks me over Nothing knocks me over
We Don’t Go To God’s House Anymore
Previously unreleased 1998
A continuing fascination with religion is a thread through Chumbawamba’s history, and ‘We Don’t Go To God’s House’ continues this fine tradition. The rationale and humanity of anarchist ideas seem far more appealing than the repression and elitism of organised religion; and besides, it’s neither Jesus nor the devil who has the best tunes – them atheists have it sewn up.
A tune derived from an Alabama 3 song (A3: Brixton’s finest gospel/blues/acid house combo) and written on the back of a beermat in a drunken stupor in an Irish bar in Minneapolis whilst swapping stories of religious upbringings. Which just about brings us right up to date…
Driving on the bypass to Damascus I saw a preacher trying to hitch a ride With a pair of broken wings And a suitcase full of sins He gathered up his dreams and jumped inside Pulling Malatesta from his suitcase He lifted up his voice and began to sing: “My songs of desperation lead to action… And this is where the serious fun begins.” We don’t go to God’s house anymore Saw the light and walked right out the door We don’t go to God’s house It’s more fun in the doghouse We don’t go to God’s house anymore Well driving on, I tasted sweet salvation As we sung away the pulpit and the past The preacherman and me We sang such harmonies The highway of my life went by so fast The preacher, he got off at the crossroads He said, ‘This is where I end, and you begin” He left behind the wings and the Malatesta And the memory of the songs we both did sing We don’t go to God’s house anymore Saw the light and walked right out the door We don’t go to God’s house It’s more fun in the doghouse We don’t go to God’s house anymore
Chumbawamba on this record are:
- All songs on Uneasy Listening were written, recorded and produced by Chumbawamba between 1986 and 1998 except for “We Don”t Go To God’s House Anymore”, written by Chumbawamba and Alabama 3
- All (except live songs) were recorded and mixed at Woodlands Studio, Castleford, home of fine high-fidelity recording equipment and next door to the lard factory
- All songs engineered by Neil Ferguson
- Sleeve design by Baader-Meinhof; Chumbawamba photographs by Casey Orr
- All songs published by EMI except track 20: Chrysalis Music/EMI, track 6: EMI/Island, tracks 3, 10, 11: Southern Songs
- © by Chumbawamba 1/2/8/10/11/13/16 © by One Little Indian 2/4/5/6/7/9/12/14/15/17/18
- Thanks to Spot, Adey, Danny Boy, Cleggy’s Builders, Neil, Andy Barnett, Kim, Kev, Dennis
Chumbawamba can be contacted at: P O Box TR666 • Armley • Leeds • LS12 3XJ
Web site – News, updates, comment, etc: http://www.chumba.com
Sleeve photograph of Bienaventura Durruti, anarchist soldier and revolutionary, who died fighting the fascists in Spain in 1936. An interviewer once asked Durruti what the point of winning would be when even victory would leave the revolutionaries with only a pile of rubble. Durruti replied:
“We have always lived in slums and holes in the wall. We will know how to accommodate ourselves for a time. For you must not forget, we can also build. It is we who built those palaces and cities here in Spain and America and everywhere. We, the workers, can build others to take their place. And better ones. We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world, here in our hearts. That world is growing this minute.”
Back sleeve photograph of Emma Goldman, anarchist orator and organiser. Emma Goldman was a free-thinker and a tireless and eloquent campaigner for human and sexual freedom during the early part of the 20th century. Anti-authoritarian, she fought small-minded peers as well as governments, capitalism and prejudice. When she said: “It’s not my revolution if I can’t dance to it,” she understood that personal freedom and a right to enjoyment have to go hand-in-hand with social change.