Chumbawamba – Shhh (1992)

we’ve long since been tagged as pop’s ungrateful spoilt brats, cowering in the wings and sniping endlessly at pop culture and its playschool politics. mama cass carrion crow squadron at 3 o’clock it can get a bit obsessive, admittedly. i mean, there’s more to life than slagging off u2 and live aid. so swapping the anti-rock & roll venom for a cocktail of blasphemy, obscenity and stolen chorus lines, our fifth lp, originally called “jesus h. christ”, was all done and dusted when uh-oh! the objections started to arrive. publishers representing millionaire rock scum, in paroxysms and piques, demanding that we remove from our record any sample or version of their darlings’ golden greats money money money saying they “didn’t like the tone of the songs”. some requested 75% of royalties for about 10 seconds worth of music. abba, kylie, bolan, beatles and so on. not having a huge multi-corporation record company to foot the bill, we gave it up as a bad job. “shhh” is the precocious bastard offspring which “christ” bore. hear nothing, see nothing, feel nothing, say nothing. just when you figured it out someone lets you down. us, usually and unashamedly who’ll make all the wrong decisions when the judge is up for trial? no-one has the cure for all our daily hurts – least of all this rock & roll, it’s wannabee christs all dead and dying. truth, get stomach and wings! mama cass carrion crow! dream a little dream of cass elliot, sweetest voice strangled on a mouthful of sandwich pecking at the tongue of a still-warm body. shut your mouth; or laugh out loud! “er, what does it all mean?” for a few brief words and a few short lines i was taken to the coliseum, fed to the lions – and lions aren’t the type you can really love enough, but you can turn ’em into rugs! “ow mate, can you spare some change?” too much… are you down on your fashion, or down on your luck? sometimes questions never get dropped: hey mick, are you dancing? “i never stopped!” l.a.u.g.h.i.n.g. – laughing.

by the time students across the western world were wetting themselves to monty python’s flying circus, lenny bruce was long since dead and buried. first in the courts, and finally in the toilet, elvis-style. so i was fortunate in having a hero that no-one around here had heard of. sometime in the late seventies, ian martindale, “the video, joe! don’t tell them about the video, joe!” who later went on to own a pit bull terrier named after jah shaka, gave me a book of bruce’s comedy routines and i fell in love with it. i read and re-read the book, laughed out loud on buses, and wished i could die in the toilet just like lenny. i practised using words like “motherfucker” and “bullshit”. it was no use. this was leeds, england, and i was already a cynical punk casualty without half of bruce’s style, wit or amazing ability to say the wrong things at the right time. rock n roll – it’s easier lenny bruce was repeatedly arrested for “obscenity”, a word whose meaning he consistently and continually challenged. so in homage to the man i got arrested for having a piss in a public place. 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 crowds, you were gargling, spitting, fingers down your throat – making yourself so sick. vomiting the words that you’d 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? these are words for which bruce was arrested big mouth strikes again… stepford husbands, stepford wives; with longer scissors, snip snip snip 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…

basically the message is: steal it! culture, music, art, the odd book and slab of cheese… the new will be built from the ruins of the old. buenaventura durruti, give me a d minor! same seven notes and some slag poet’s quotes: stick them together with glue; you can mix a fine cocktail from memories, and pretend what you’re drinking is new. but there’s nothing that’s new under heaven – there’s nothing that hasn’t been done. pour me another double cliché; you can’t write a song that’s never been sung. take it away… and don’t bring it back everyone’s stealing from someone. burglars get burgled as well. there’s nothing that’s new under heaven; there’s nothing unique over hell. there’s nothing that’s new under heaven – there’s nothing that hasn’t been done. pour me another double cliché; you can’t write a song that’s never been sung.

i can’t remember how we stumbled across “the hit man and her”. a two-hour television programme, shown between two and four in the morning, based around the idea of sitting at home watching other people get drunk behave! and enjoying themselves, in a nightclub somewhere in the north of england; we were hooked. it’s one of those programmes that you just can’t stop watching. hosted by pete (of stock, aitken and…) waterman, talentless millionaire, no personality, awful grey suit; and michaela strachan, talentless bimbo, no personality, mini-skirts and giggles. behave! the whole thing is a vehicle for waterman (the “hit man”) to play his label’s new releases. and his catchphrase is: “behave!” sa&w typify pops’ ability to avoid talking about sex whilst filling the charts with endless oohs, aahs, and carry on-style euphemisms. ooh er missus, pump it up, let’s spend the night together so i can sex you up… behave! it’s the same unreal glossed-over crap you see in penthouse. sex without the… well, without the sex. macho bragging or little-girl whimpering, staple pop under brown wrapper. tee-hee. behave. five fingers holding four wise angels; little heads float by on clouds of goodness. they’re playing voodoo with their kylie dolls – sing it right or don’t sing it all.

fascinated by the hills of hebden and halifax, it was inevitable that i’d stumble across the legacy of the calder valley coiners: a huge network of coin forgers and counterfeiters who, some 200 years ago, cost the government dear and shared out their profits among the poor of the region. this was too good to be true: a thousand robin hoods virtually on my own doorstep. i’d seen an advertisement for a fell race up n down x country called “the coiner’s seven” – a seven mile slog around the coiners’ eighteenth century haunts – and began looking for any writings on the coiners. precious little is left: the history of these coin clippers is writ small, usually by wet liberal historians who fail to understand the radical nature of coining. what little there is led me to heptonstall church graveyard where “king” david hartley, one of the leading coiners is buried. finding his rainswept tombstone, one desperately stormy sunday afternoon, was as exciting as the childhood annual visit to blackpool pleasure beach. it was up in the tiny village of heptonstall, too (i later read) that a local woman called mary newall had killed an informer by putting hot coals down his trousers a flame for your pants, a poker for your eyes in a local inn. great stuff. as coincidence had it, the summer of 1991 saw a spate of forged tenners and fivers hitting the streets of england, with shopkeepers and bankers across the country discovering they’d been conned by counterfeit notes. respect due to mickey thomas, wrexham footballer ha! well madam how’d you like it, maybe plenty off the back? i heard the coiners took the snippers to the union, jack, with a snipper and a clipper and a bloody close shave making fivers, tenners, twenties, change. what’s your size? what’s the hours? tufnelspeak no, you don’t need the hassle – take the new short cut to the old clippy castle with the ramblers and the scramblers and the loiners and the tykes and the punks and the hippies living over by the pike. skyline-dominatingstoodley pike, built to commemorate the end of the napoleonic wars, now a phallic haven for twolegs and fourlegs pick a coin, any coin, and with a snip snip snip you turn a portuguese guinea to a threepenny bit; and every last watermark just curled up and died, haircut sir? and now the king and the queen got a bit on the side. don’t be bloody silly – keep away from bloody billy notorious government informer – cause he’s shopping all the chopping going down along the valley, and supergrassing catches like a plague, to be sure: but it’s nothing that a bullet in the belly couldn’t cure. please to put a penny in the old man’s hat, then roll ’em over! roll ’em over! lay ’em out flat! just deliver us kicking from our pokes and sacks to the hills of hebden, hell and halifax. and the next bugger blabs is the next bugger dies, got a flame for your pants and a poker for your eyes… where every hot guinea is another hot dinner, with the weavers and the spinners and the reverends aye, even the reverends were involved! and the sinners.

whilst “kicking back” (a term we picked up from chris and janis) in the states a few summers ago, we had the privilege of visiting one of the most inspiring shops I have ever come across. this was prior to the alice nutter/roger ahlforth bout (one round, one punch, and he’s down!) and so it was with roger as holy guide that we trooped off like a big happy partridge family to this christian music superstore and bookshop rolled into one. “jesus loves you” cowbells! i was in heaven. surrounded by icons and crosses and flagellation devices we filled our pockets with the joys of the lord. on the counter of the book store we came across a small pile of badly developed photographs come on baby, do the camera shake accompanied by the following explanation: “picture was taken by meta battle while flying from indiana to florida. the lord impressed her to take a picture of a cloud formation and, developed, this was the result. upon seeing the picture, a deacon from her church gave a prophecy of the soon return of jesus. at the end of it were the sic words to this effect: you think that you have lots of time, but you only have a moment to get ready to meet jesus! copies of this picture were sent to a friend, miss may miller, who was visiting in oakland. a negative was made so that more copies could be given out to be used for god’s glory. people out with polaroids all around town rev hal herman, a former professional photographer of hollywood, gave his opinion that it was authentic and not contrived in any way. jesus is coming soon! (matthew 24:30)” well i believe it. amen! (ahem). look, no strings: just paper-glue and card. hark the angels sing: paste the lord! high above the streets and houses paint the whole world with a rainbow 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, twilight zone doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo monster-on-the-wing-episode meta does a double take: come on baby, do the camera shake! half expecting from the aisle a certain mr hated jeremy beadle watching you, watching us, watching mrs meta battle (can you see what it is yet?) accompanied on the stylophone meta battle shot her lord load and watched him tumble down; and 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!

oi jesus, what you looking at? guilt, shame and fear… twelve years old and i’m being told that masturbation is unclean. jesus is watching. all the time. both the youth club leader and later the boss at the church who drilled this into me got sent down for molesting children. presumably jesus was watching them. so when boy george and his drug rehab mates pop up chanting the hare krisna mantra on top of the pops, everybody’s on to-oh-op of the pops telling me that “jesus loves you”, i get the urge to nut him where his third eye should be. rich pop stars have always had this thing for religious mysticism – egos looking for justification, spoilt brats wanting surrogate mothers to wrap them in cotton wool. i wouldn’t care if they didn’t try to convert the rest of us into their funky freak show. fine, if lennon wants to float off to india to sit cross-legged in front of some smirking joker in a loin cloth, chapman put a stop to that! but frankly most of us haven’t the time or inclination to spend what little money we have on buying flashy cars for sexually repressed gurus. i thought that sort of rubbish went out in the sixties. walking down lands lane in leeds can be a nightmare – not only do you have to dodge the revolutionary communist party’s maniacal paper sellers, you have to run the gauntlet of bald-headed, woolly hatted, clip-board wielding krisnas wearing their false smiles and trying to screw money out of you on the pretext of some “poor children”. liars! the money-grabbing mansonite “friends of the family” call this technique “transcendental trickery”. true! it means lying through their teeth in the name of the lord to get cash. heroin, jesus – same drug in a different syringe. mainline some escapism. “i can handle it…” i’m having a wonderful time drunk on communion wine; one sin over the seven, sick all over the stairway to heaven. bullshit, bullshit, priests without a pulpit, shake shake shake your blessed bells. ding dong! heaven calling! buzz buzz buzz… haircut sir! you put your whole self in, your whole self out – in out in out, shake it all about with a pop song, pop song, smothering love bombs, you’re great i’m great everybody’s great! happiness is just a chant away. georgie got a needle and georgie got a hit. georgie got religion and a saviour on a stick. a thousand georgies all posing in a field mimickingfrench situationist madman who joined a convention of people all claiming to be jesus. he interrupted the mass meeting by descending from a light aeroplane dressed as christ. touché! – which are false and which are real? you put your whole self in, your whole self out, in out in out, what’s it all about? pop song, pop song, smothering love bombs, you’re great i’m great everybody’s great! (chants the harry roberts mantra:) harry roberts, harry roberts, roberts roberts, harry harry. a popular football terrace chant of the seventies was the non-sectarian “harry roberts is our friend.” harry was incarcerated for shooting a cop… everybody got a good deal, everybody got a guru, everybody got a love bomb, everybody got a hit song.

an extract from the ransom note, written in cut-and-paste newspaper style (ref: jamie reid). a phonebox rendezvous, don’t whisper a word. half a million by monday – or roger waters gets it! (as spoken by roger waters’ mother:) “my little baby! they cut off his ear!” hooray! half a million by tuesday, then – don’t whisper a word…

i grew up on the never-never; everything was bought on a tick and had to be paid for every friday night weavin’ and a-bobbin’ when the tallyman called. my dad got paid thursday and by monday my parents were hard up again. my mum always made sure she paid the bills; there was supposed to be virtue in being “poor but honest”, but all it gave us was less than everybody else had. thirty years of married life to the holiest joe, ex-footballer and possibly, an armchair without ever taking a penny that didn’t belong to her. she was sixty when my dad died, and after she’d paid for the funeral she’d a grand total of £200 in the bank; and she still thought that honesty was the best policy. years after i’d left home i met a group of women from a council estate who’d chucked that idea out the window and had taken to shoplifting, managing to get videos and decent clothes for their kids as a result. they’d hire a van and set off for a city and descend en masse. you could order anything from three pairs of kids’ knickers to a nikon camera and they’d let you have it at a third of the price. if the girl’s got to have it, then the girl’s got to have it nobody buys from catalogues on that estate. shoplifters of the world unite! two little ducks sank with a knock knock knock; she got twenty on tick and she smoked the bloody lot. the fridge was bare, the dog was bones: weavin’ and a-bobbin’ when the tallyman calls. mary, mary, she went up the wall and she kissed bye bye to the holiest joe: played the wild rover and climbed on board, says, “it’s all that the lady of the manor can afford.” you sometimes plunder, and you sometimes plunder… meet ms morrissey, fingers light, she lifted up his hat a hatful of hollow rhetoric. all aboard for maudlin street! and he wept all night. she’s the woman with the granny bag dressed to the nines – the pleasure and the privilege mine all mine! candid camera watching you, watching us, again. on every bloody wall – all the cameras under heaven couldn’t catch ’em all. fill those pockets and lift that grail; lead me into temptation, girls. (interlude): everything i do, i do it for you. everything i do is driven by you. driven by you? you don’t have a clue… i make your songs better and you always try to sue! money, money, money – it’s gone to your head. i sample too much and you say “the music’s dead”. dead? huh! you’re the one that’s dead – lots of money spent on someone with a hollow head. new kids, minogue, all those sort of rogues, making lots of money for those scheming little toads. then you come to us and say we made the music worse; look at the beatles and stones – who made their music first? all the threes and all the queen bees singing “does the driver want a wee wee?” wicked ladies, malicious intent: “but your honour, i was only trying to pick it up for lent.” roll up for the magical miss tour, step right this way! does the driver want a wee wee? ’cause we want a wee wee too! why waste change? why change the habit? if the girl’s got to have it then the girl’s got to have it. easiest pickings, wall to wall, in england’s piped ceramic malls. by the dickens! and the devil’s daughter – bingo! full house! everyone’s a winner! the lady works in mysterious ways: all because the lady loves christmas every day… you sometimes plunder, and you sometimes plunder. and here’s the moral of this story you can make a living sometimes plundering.

we were driving down to london the other day listening to magic 828 (ray stroud playing “what have i got in my hand?”) when on came “the streak” by ray stevens. vivid memories of sprinting naked bodies came flooding back – that guy who leapt over the stumps at lords, or blaine ward, who, whilst out camping in our back garden, agreed to streak down whitehouse road in return for an orange. then there was of course bert bacon comma, though, in the middle of the night, down to the post office to post a letter, stark naked, for a bet. so, this dutchman when he got all his clothes nicked during a heavy session at the launderette around the time of the lean years of the nazi occupation of holland, took the only possible option: a brave walk home in the rain, wearing only a hat, shoes, and carrying an umbrella. suffice to say he was spotted and photographed and the rest, as they say, is history: “a daring dutchman strolls naked through the streets of amsterdam to protest against strict german clothes rationing.” i’m not so brave and i’m not too crazy, and i’d rather be a coward than pushing up daisies. never rocked the boat. never tipped the scales. never got off the fence. never had that much to say… so when i get a leather glove across my face, i say “yes sir, no sir, whatever you say sir.” and when the nazis stop me, shouting “get out your pass book!” i say “yes sir, yes sir” – i don’t trust to luck. blimey! who’d adam and eve it? they’re rationing clothes; and where they find a molehill a mountain grows. so please, no pictures! ’cause the snap they took – they’ll take it as a sign, jesus h. christ! shhh just my luck! i’d stay at home and sit it out, but in a dirty world you need a launderette. gene kelly, played by paul simenon, whistling “singing in the rain”… two short minutes, i look the other way – some bastard robbed me blind! you can’t trust anyone nowadays.

who’s on this recording? alice nutter vocals, habit, rabbit bert bacon vocals, elastic band, foam lou vocals, keyboards, granny bag mave bass guitar, vocals, trumpet harry drums, percussion, octopus’ garden boff guitar, vocals, refrigerator dunst vocals, percussion, hammering with: commonknowledge keyboards, accordion, voice mc fusion vocals neil ferguson guitars, keyboards, engineering geoff slaphead fiddle howard storey vocals, a good time thanks: brian and sam typesetting geoff clout live sound cobie hard work, no money, memories mick sexgod guitar southern hard sell jimmy mullen’s claret & blue army the mighty turf moor roar written, performed and produced by chumbawamba march 1992
southern records po box 59 london n22 1ar england fax: 44 81 889 6166
published by southern songs

Chumbawamba – Slap! (1990)


you sometimes wonder and you sometimes wonder
ten thousand deutschmarks to hand me over
o you sometimes wonder and you sometimes wonder
you can make a living “sometimes wondering”

don’t think these bones can be sold when I’m long gone
don’t think that I should want to sell my soul for the Sundays
don’t wait for me to say I’m sorry – I won’t
who wants to be a green MP? – I don’t

“The empire continued without Elvis. The legend seemed to have a life of it’s own, constantly perpetuating its own intensity. If anything, life was easier for the Colonel (Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager) with Elvis safely in the grave. There were no freak-outs, no orgies, no paternity suits or overdosed teenagers who had to be hushed up. The Colonel was in the business of licensing icons and shrines. He was virtually in the religious-artifact business, and it suited him fine.”

From “Elvis and The Colonel”, Dirk Vellenga and Mick Farren

don’t think I walked into banks to stand in the queue
don’t think I pressed up to the plexiglass just to talk to you
don’t wait for me to say I’m sorry – I won’t
who wants to be a green MP? – I don’t

“I sometimes wonder how she would act now and what she would think had she survived that time. She, who was made into a myth, a martyr, by many young left-wingers who never knew her, would have been able to shatter the myths of the Red Army Faction and put an end to the inhuman and hopeless attempt to bomb a new society into existence. Perhaps she would now be a Green MP, perhaps she would be an established journalist and writer. It was not to be.”

Astrid Proll on Ulrike Meinhof, The Independent on Sunday Magazine,
19 August 1989


heads bowed, eyes down, here comes the enemy
to hail the people’s victory – which people? what victory?
it’s the People’s Army that murdered the people
they’ve come to glue the shattered, battered statues
in the square

heads bowed, eyes down, here comes the enemy
with a haircut and a trigger-finger, that could be me
tanks tearing a hole in the silence
I’ve got armour-piercing rockets in my pockets: watch out!

you must’ve seen it: the boy in the white shirt
you want a fight? yeh, you and whose army?
the people is bigger than the People’s Army
my dad is bigger than your dad – and one day, one day…

raw and angry in front of the enemy
so it’s turn back or kill: boy versus tank
you want a fight? yeah, you and whose army?
here soldier, have a watermelon – this’ll cool you down!

“It’s just a few short weeks since the massacre at Tiananmen Square convulsed a nation and spread itself awkwardly across the televisions and newspapers of the world. And yet the people of Bejing are already going about their business as if unaware that the eyes of the globe’s media are upon them. All seems as normal as it possibly could be under the circumstances. It is the annual watermelon harvest, and everywhere there are people carrying armfuls of the juicy ripe fruit to and from the market. Trucks are loaded, bicycles awkwardly balance baskets atop mudguards, buses are crammed with shoppers; each carrying whatever they can manage of this season’s harvest.
“But there are signs of the recent upheaval, and whispered tales of the continued resistance of the people to the military. It’s hot in Bejing, very hot, and red-faced soldiers in full uniform patrol the roads leading into the central area of the city, cordoning off Tiananmen Square whilst it is refurbished by the military police. They glance uneasily at every passing shopper, every vehicle. For it is known that over the past few days there have been slodiers killed by people in the streets of Bejing. Indeed, only yesterday there was the story of how two soldiers, sweating in the intense heat, gladly ate watermelons offered them by local women; watermelons injected with a lethal poison.”

Taken from eye-witness account, Bejing, June 1989


big tall courthouse, a clock upon the wall
a hammer on the table and a copper on the door
a judge in front and a jury at the side
and a bible on the stand to say I won’t tell lies

well it’s one o’clock, two o’clock, any old o’clock
between the rock & roll devil and the fear of god
big brotherly love runs shallow as skin
in the deep south of America

“can the lady take the stand now? blah, blah, blah –
and how come a black woman drives her own car?
and what gives you the constitutional right
to drive a car through a junction on a red stop light?”

well it’s one o’clock, two o’clock, any old o’clock
between the rock & roll devil and the fear of god
big brotherly love runs shallow as skin
in the deep south of Yorkshire

well of course I drove the car through the red stop light –
but well, I thought that law was just for whites
I say, “I saw the white folks drive through on green
so when the red light flashed, I thought: this must be for me!”

well it’s one o’clock, two o’clock, any old o’clock
just a fear of the people with a fear of god
Lancashire white girl tries to sing the blues:
well, I woke up this morning like I usually do.

“Zora Neale Hurston; Novelist, folklorist, anthropologist and adventurer; grew up in Florida, spending much of her time seeking a literary form that could express her experience in the rural black south. Despite being the most published black woman writer in the U.S.A., she still had to send manuscript to a publisher unsolicited. “I shall wrassle me up a future or die trying”, she said. Hurston once claimed she was arrested for crossing against a red light, but escaped punishment by exclaiming that: “I had seen the white folks pass on green and therefore assumed the red light was for me.”

from a postcard published by Helaine Victoria Press, 1982


got my photograph taken with Elvis
circled round the earth in a rocket ship
found the world cup in a garden
I must’ve saved a million drowning babies

you can imagine what a come down:
drug-busts and house fires
I didn’t orbit the earth to be bossed around
by someone wearing flares!

“Police were forced to call off a high-speed chase after a series of mishaps ruined their attempt to catch a car thief. The drama began when they received a 999 call that a Sunbeam Rapier had been stolen from Gloucester cuty centre. A number of officers set out in pursuit, but were forced to call it a day after:
A pedestrian had his foot crushed by a police car.
Another police car accidentally wrecked the vehicle they were chasing.
Two officers were mauled by their own dog before the suspect finally escaped on foot.
The first mishap happened as a police car raced after the Sunbeam on the road to Cheltenham. A bystander stepped out to cross the road and his foot was run over. The driver was forced to pull out of the chase to aid the hobbling casualty.
Three miles away, their colleagues were having no better luck. As they closed in on the car, a patrol vehicle accidentally smashed into it – causing severe damage.
Two PCs released their alsation after the culprit, but the dog did a quick U-turn in a field and tore after the stunned officers. Both were badly bitten about the legs and needed hospital treatment. At that stage the chase was called off.”

“Chase PC’s Flee Attack By Own Dog”, from Yorkshire Evening Post 1989


o xmas tree, o xmas tree
how bent your branches seem to be
1921 and all’s well
another fifteen years and we’ll be laughing in hell

one bullet straight through the heart
Rubens caught a ricochet, Durer’s lady cried today
cracked old masters up against the wall
blue-faced Wendy Woolworth: she’s seen it all

housepainter, housepainter
hanging your swastika wallpaper
rows of pretty cabbageheads to gobble up your words
laughing along to your blah, blah, blah

“After the Kepp Putsch of 1920 (an attempt by the radical right to violently overthrow the new Weimar Republic) clashes occurred between the army and workers in Dresden. A bullet went through the window of the Zwinger Gallery and damaged a Rubens painting. Incensed by the incident, Kokoschka – then art professor at the Dresden Academy – financed an appeal which appeared in local newspapers and as wallposters, urging the two sides to settle their scores well away from cultural treasures. Kokoschka’s elevation of art above political struggle outraged Grosz and Heartfield (political art activists) who replied with a furious polemic ‘Der Kunstlump’ (The Artist As Scab) ridiculing the idea that art could be considered more important than lives of workers. They welcomed the fact that bullets had penetrated galleries, palaces and a Rubens, rather than the homes of the poor.”

from “Photomontage: A Political Weapon” by David Evans & Sylvia Gohl


and if you survive me, tell them this:

almost as if I were planning ahead
I drank, I ate, I made love
I learnt to snatch whatever I could
I never asked for pity and I never gave up

twenty months I kept accounts
and in the end they’ll balance out
sometimes I vomit happy memories
sometimes I laugh out loud just to crack my face

and if I meet Hitler in the other place
I’ll spit this precious soup in his face
and all my accounts will be settled, you see
because Hitler never ever got the better of me

I never gave up
I never gave up
I crawled in the mud
but I never gave up

But it was not easy to repress, elude, or ignore Rappoport.
“What are you sleeping for? Here I am about to make my will and you’re sleeping? Perhaps my bomb is already on it’s way, and I don’t want to miss the chance. If I were free, I’d like to write a book with my philosophy in it. But for now, all I can do is tell it to you two wretches. If you can use it, fine. If not, and you get out of here alive and I don’t, which would be rather strange, you can spread it about and maybe it will be of use to somebody. Who knows? Not that it matters much to me, though. I don’t have the makings of a philanthropist.
“Well here it is. While I could I drank, I ate, I made love. I left flat gray Poland for that Italy of yours; I studied, learned, travelled and looked at things. I kept my eyes wide open; I didn’t waste a crumb. I’ve been diligent; I don’t think I could have done more or better. Things went well for me; I accumulated a large quantity of good things, and all that good has not disappeared. It’s inside me, safe and sound. I don’t let it fade; I’ve held on to it. Nobody can take it from me.
Then I wound up here. I’ve been in this place for twenty months, and for twenty months I’ve been keeping accounts. They balance – in fact I still have substantial credit. To tip the balance, it would take many more months of Camp, or many days of torture. Actually,” (he caressed his stomach affectionately) “with a little initiative, even here you can find something good every so often. So in the sad event that one of you should survive me, you will be able to say that Leon Rappaport got what was due to him, left behind neither debts nor credits, and did not weep or ask for pity. If I meet Hitler in the other world, I’ll spit in his face and I’ll have every right to…”
A bomb fell nearby, followed by a roar like a landslide. One of the warehouses must have collapsed. Rappoport had to raise his voice almost to a shout: “because he didn’t get the better of me.”

from “Rappoport’s Testament”, an account of time spent in Auschwitz, from “Moments Of Reprieve” by Primo Levi


Fleet Street fell in love
but the girl proved hard to get
took a seat at the old boy’s club
but wouldn’t share the bed

cuppas for the troops
bubbly-gum and wire
trojan horses, Black & Tans:
they’re running for their lives!

royals came to call
Mr. Paisley – save her soul
heaven: here’s the naughty girl
who wouldn’t say her prayers

bloody Monday morning
the rat who did the talking
here’s Ginger to the rescue –
take that! and that!

“Miss Bernadette Devlin, arms flailing and fists flying, launched herself across the House of Commons today in an attack on the Home Secretary, Mr. Maudling, as that normally unflappable minister was answering questions on events in Northern Ireland at the weekend.
“Mr. Maudling’s glasses were sent flying as the diminutive, mini-skirted MP for Mid-Ulster threw herself at the government front bench. The Home Secretary had already been called a liar several times by Miss Devlin, but words, for once, appeared to fail her as she was about to embark on another verbal attack.
“That murdering hypocrite” was all that could be heard above the uproar as she took off from her seat on the Opposition back benches.”

“Miss Devlin Strikes Mr. Maudling In Commons” from The Times, Tuesday February 1 1972. Two days after Bloody Sunday in Derry where 13 unarmed civil rights demonstrators were shot dead by the British Army.


working in a forge, black lungs, burnt skin
callouses, arched back, hammering, hammering
Stalin watching over us: pigeonshithead
we’d spit on the floor at this redbastard god

that’s how grateful we are

bronze statue, pink marble – built to last
we brought him to his knees in a single night
and the boots that remained I attacked, I attacked
hammering, hammering: the past is past

that’s how grateful we are

and the noise rang out: metal on metal
pigeons flit, dust settled
out from the shadows we took to the streets
David chopping at the giant’s feet

that’s how grateful we are

you still want to come? too late, too late
we’re cut and we’re fallen like harvested wheat
but we lived on our feet, at least, at last
and we will live on our feet, at least, at last

that’s how grateful we are

“Violence of a different kind had broken out elsewhere. One of the most spectacular of these early events occurred in the City Park in Dozsa Gyorgy Street. Here stood the city’s massive bronze statue of Stalin on great blocks of pink marble. Fifty to sixty feet high and built to last. Stalin’s statue resisted the efforts of the demonstrators who had fixed ropes around the neck and were trying to pull off the head. Eventually metal-cutting equipment arrived and there was a second attempt to fell Stalin, this time by cutting away at the bronze below the knees and pulling the hawsers attached to the trucks. This proved successful. The statue fell down and was cut up into fragments light enough for the crowds to claim as mementoes. All that remained of Stalin’s ugly figure was a pair of six-feet high bronze boots and the inscription:

A Nagy Sztaliniak a halas Magyar Nep
(To the great Stalin from the grateful Hungarian people)

It had been the work of one Kistaludi-Strobl, an artist who had finally achieved passing notice that evening once his work had been destroyed to the accompaniment of enthusiastic cheering.”

from “Cry Hungary: Uprising 1956” by Reg Gadney

Written and Produced by Chumbawamba
Recorded in January/February 1990
Engineered by Neil Ferguson
Woodlands Studio, Castleford, England

Chumbawamba on this record are:

Lou- Vocals, guitar
Dunst- Vocals, percussion, soprano saxophone
Harry- Drums, percussion
Alice Nutter- Vocals
Danbert Nobacon- Vocals
Boff- Guitar, vocals, clarinet
Cobie- Live sound
Mavis Dillan- Bass, trumpets, vocals
Simon Commonknowledge- Keyboards, accordion, piano


Alan Wilkinson- Alto and baritone saxaphones
Neil Ferguson- Keyboards
Dill- Whine
Derek- Woof
Mia- Vocals
Tania- Mouth organ, Vocals
Elvis Presley- Quaalude, Placidyl

Also appearing on this record are: Carl Douglas, Mark E Smith, Dagmar Krause, Elvis Presley, Philip Glass, Adam Ant, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, George Gershwin, Penny Rimbaud, Jake Burns, Rob ‘n’ Raz, Lenny Bruce, Muzsikas Ensemble, Mark Perry, Gang Of Four, Poly Styrene.

PO Box TR 666
LS12 3XJ

Chumbawamba – English Rebel Songs 1381-1914 (1988)

History is boring. Loads of half-truths strung together by academics. Everything you learnt at school, all the Kings, Queens, Laws, Wars and Battles, you forgot straight away. Which means that real history – the lives of ordinary people, their struggles and their victories, not the glorified lives of the rich – is lost under the mountains of knighthoods and life peerages.
The real history of England is full of riots, revolutions, rebellions and insurrections. It’s a history of perpetual class war, waged by the poor, against the state, the clergy and the landlords. And unlike the history we learn in school, the history of rebellion is something we can learn from. And it’s a sight more interesting.
Throughout England’s history, whilst peasants and workers were marching, striking and fighting, there have been radical ballads and songs. Written to publicise and to inspire. Written so that some particular piece of history can be passed on from generation to generation. The Folk music of struggle, written by and for the common “folk”.

THE CUTTY WREN was written at the time of the Peasant’s Revolt in 1381 It tells the story of the capture of the wren – a symbol for the King – and it’s division amongst the poor people. An ancient custom in those times declared that for one day in each year the commoners would have the freedom of the kingdom, and it was on this day that the wren was hunted. The people obviously wanted more than this token relief from daily poverty and starvation: when the King tried to introduce a Poll Tax, further crippling the peasants, they ganged together and began to murder first the tax collectors and then the Lords and Bishops. The peasants had had enough.
Opposition to the tax created a spontaneous revolutionary army. Under the leadership of Wat Tyler, a commoner from Colchester, the people marched through Kent and into London. Palaces were ransacked. Archbishops were dispatched to meet their maker. For nine days the peasants had, in effect, control of England. The King proclaimed that servants, peasants, commoner – all were now free people.
The jubilation didn’t last long. At a prearranged meeting between Tyler and the King’s courtiers, and out of sight of the peasant army, Wat Tyler was murdered. The huge people’s army, too dependent upon his leadership, was divided and routed by the King’s soldiers.
The re-introduction of the Poll Tax in Britain, over six hundred years later, suitably demonstrated the historical link of outright defiance and resistance across the centuries. The Poll Tax, both then and now, was scrapped.

“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, do we not revenge?”
(Shakespeare, from ‘The Merchant of Venice’, 1594)

THE DIGGERS SONG was written in 1649 by Gerrard Winstanley, leader of the Diggers. The Diggers, unable and unwilling to pay exorbitant rents to rich landlords, took over wasteland and began to build their own community. Time after time they were attacked by local soldiers under orders from the priests and lords. Their growing crops were pulled up and discarded. The Diggers, staunch pacifists, were repeatedly beaten up; but offered no physical resistance. Moving from place to place, and encouraging others to follow their example, they struggled on for two years preaching a vision of common ownership of the land and shared labour.
What happened to the Diggers should have taught us two things. Firstly, by nature of their example, that common and equal work – without lords or masters – can be a practical alternative to the robbery and inequality of capitalism. Secondly, that a willingness to accept the violence and destruction of the state without fighting back is, in the end, self-destructive. St George’s Hill, the most famous of the Diggers’ plots of squatted land, is now a highly select residential area full of well-to-do stockbrokers.

“Be encouraged, all ye friends of freedom, and writers in it’s defense! The times are auspicious. Your labours have not been in vain. Tremble all ye oppressors of the world. Take warning, all ye supporters of slavish governments and slavish hierarchies! Restore to mankind their rights: and consent to the correction of abusers. before they and you are destroyed together.”
(Richard Price, 1789)

THE COLLIERS’ MARCH was inspired by the events of October 1782, when a march of workers into Birmingham demanded regulation of food prices. So strong and threatening was the march that Officers of the Town promised to curb the prices of malt, flour, butter and cheese; knowing that any refusal would lead to food-riots, arson and looting. Around this time such marches and riots were commonplace. Recent comments by MP’s, cops and media, asserting that riots and attacks on police are unprecedented, show how little we are taught of the history of mass violent action against the state. It always has been, and always will be, a feature of any imbalanced and unequal society.
The “black gentry” in the song were the Colliers from the Black Country (around the English Midlands) whose march from Dudley into Birmingham was the subject of several songs and ballads. This song was written by John Freeth sometime around 1782.

“To all real lovers of Liberty. Be assured that Liberty and Freedom will at last prevail. Tremble O thou the oppressor of the People that reigneth upon the throne, and ye Ministers of State weep, for ye shall fall. Weep ye who grind the face of the poor. oppress the People and starve the industrious Mechanic. Lord Buekingham who died the other day had thirty thousand pounds yearly for setting his arse in the House of-Lords and doing nothing. Liberty calls aloud, ye who will hear her voice..!”
(From a confiscated broadsheet, 1793)

GENERAL LUDD’S TRIUMPH celebrates the Luddite rebellion of 1812. Cock-eyed history has meant that now we use the term “luddite” to mean someone who hates progress. In fact the original Luddites were opposed to a progress which put them out of work, left them starving, and condemned their families to misery and hunger. Luddism was a fight against unemployment; and a fight against greedy bosses discarding workers in order to accumulate vast wealth, in much the same manner as modern media magnate Rupert Murdoch.
When new machinery was introduced into the cloth-finishing mills of northern England, making manual finishing redundant, working men decided to act together to prevent the loss of their livelihoods. Using the name Ned Ludd a name signed on all proclamations, warnings and death-threats (!) issued by the Luddites – they began smashing the new machines. Bosses who installed the new machines were attacked after dark; machinery being transported to the mills was ambushed and wrecked. Great battles were fought between huge bands of Luddites and local regiments, posted to guard mills from attack.
The Luddites originated in Nottingham and spread throughout Lancashire and Yorkshire; it was never discovered if General Ludd, their mythical leader, was based on any real person. Eventually groups of Luddites were arrested and tried, some being hanged at York Castle, but it was for about three years that mill bosses were under constant threat of Luddite action. During this time the Luddites had the widespread support of their communities.

“I ham going to inform you that there is Six Thousand men coming to you in Apral and then We will go and Blow Parlement house up and blow up all afour hus labring peple Can’t Stand it No longer dam all such Roges as England governes. We Will soon bring about the greate Revelution then all these greate mens heads gose off.”
(From a piece of paper posted up at Chesterfield Market, 1812)

The early 1800’s saw uprisings by many sections of the poor classes – naval mutinies, revolts by agricultural workers, etc – and inevitably the rise of Trade Unionism and the Chartists.

CHARTIST ANTHEM dates from the 1840’s. A People’s Charter was drawn up In 1837 demanding more of a say for the masses of workers now slaving in factories and living in hovels. This Charter, which developed into Chartism, demanded amongst other things: votes for all adult males, annual parliament, and secret ballots. The movement grew and spread, and split into different sections – “Moral Force” Chartism, which wanted lawful change through education, and “Physical Force” Chartism which demanded armed insurrection.
Chartists in Birmingham rioted so much and so often that the city was placed under martial law. The then Home Secretary called on the middle classes to form volunteer corps, offering them arms and training – an open invitation to class war. Everywhere in England there were fights and battles between poor people and the military; work-houses, built to squeeze further cheap labour from those who couldn’t get work, were attacked and ransacked.
Chartists at the same time placed huge emphasis on petitions to the government; up to six million signatures on the third national petition. Parliament was unmoved. Whilst open rebellion and community action has the power to make demands, collected signatures can only make requests – and eventually the movement faded away after 1848, it’s calls for reform rejected out of hand by Parliament.

“Though infinite space grow dark, the soul of man Shall soar triumphantly. Within this cavern Are thousands, sworn to rise from out the mire, Whereto you damn them; they will rise, will rise Though war may hew their pathway, though their march Be in blood to the armpits! The slaves force-freed will make it A burning wreck; themselves amidst the flames, Maniacs, wild dancing..!”
(From ‘Mutilation’, Ebenezer Jones, 1843)

SONG ON THE TIMES was written sometime between 1845 and 1850, just after the repeal of the Corn Laws – a repeal which promised to bring cheaper bread, higher wages and more work. In fact it brought increased food prices, lower wages, and factories on short time. Between these years, too, famine struck and devastated Ireland, starving thousands and prompting a further exodus of Irish people to England.

“Utilitarian economists; skeletons of schoohmasters; Commissioners of Fact, genteel and used-up infidels, gabblers of many different dog-eared creeds; the Poor you will always have with you. Cultivate in them, while there is yet still time, the utmost graces of the fancies and affections, to adorn their lives so much in need of adornment; or, in the day of your triumph, when romance is utterly driven out of their souls, and they and a Bare Existence stand face to face, Reality will take a wolfish turn, and make an end of you.”
(Charles Dickens, from ‘Hard Times’, 1854)

SMASHING OF THE VAN was written to tell the story of the Manchester Martyrs, three Irish men living in England who were hanged for their rescue of two Irish rebel leaders in 1867. The van, carrying Kelly and Deasey from their trial to Manchester gaol, was ambushed near a bridge by armed Irishmen Soldiers guarding the van were pushed aside as the locks on the fortified doors were shot off with a gun.
A soldier inside the van with Kelly and Deasey was accidentally shot as the door was blown open at gunpoint; and the three men captured afterwards, although little sure evidence was offered, were sentenced to hang. The two Irishmen rescued from the van were never caught. Every year in Manchester the three martyrs are commemorated by a march through the city headed by Republican pipe bands; a tiny Loyalist counter-demonstration usually turns up to wave orange flags and hide behind the rows of police.

THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN dates from the mid-1870’s. The idea of turning the world upside-down it’s centuries old, it’s origins rooted in customs and feasts. A dream of a new world where equality replaces division, where shared wealth replaces starvation, and where Lady Thatcher meets the Royal Family every week down at the dole office.

“I know the heroic struggles the English working class have gone through since the middle of the last century – struggles no less glorious because they are shrouded in obscurity and buried by the middle class historian. To revenge the misdeeds of the ruling class, there existed in the Middle Ages, in Germany, a secret tribunal called the ‘Vehmgericht’. If a red cross was seen marked on a house, people knew that it’s owner was doomed by the ‘Vehm’. All the houses of Europe are marked with the mysterious red cross. History is the judge – it’s executioner, the proletarian.”
(Karl Marx, 1856)

POVERTY KNOCK is a factory worker’s’ song, written to be sung over the rhythm of the flying ‘shuttles and clankin1g’s of mill machinery. Conditions in the cloth mill’s of the 1890’s, when this song was written, were hot, noisy and dangerous. Injury and even death from the awkward and unsafe weaving machine’s was commonplace. And yet the continual knocking of the shuttle was at least a surety that you’d be able to eat – “guttle” – in a time when unemployment ‘still meant virtual starvation and misery.
Far from bringing safer, more leisurely work, the advances in automation meant only that the bosses could ‘screw more production out of fewer people for less money. From the Luddites to the cotton-machinists to the printworkers of modern times, the master/boss relationship is unchanged. Threat of unemployment keeps wages low, keeps workers in fear of a willing workforce waiting to step into any available job, and keeps the boss’s profits high. For how long will these songs be sung? When will we sing only of pleasure leisure and victory?

“Nothing should be made by man’s labour which is not worth making; or which must be made by labour degrading to the makers.”
(William Morris, 1844)

IDRIS STRIKE SONG was written in 1911, and sung as a music hall appeal to both general public and scabs who were breaking the Idris strike. In 1910 the women at the Idris soft drinks factory, organised by the Federation of Women Workers, resisted two attempted wage cut’s. So the following year, the management tried instead to make the workers pay for the improved sanitary conditions which the union had forced the bosses to install. When the Federation resisted, it’s leader – Mrs Lowin, a widow with two children – was sacked outright.
A strike followed. The management drafted in local unemployed men and boys who obviously weren’t part of the FWW; the strike was broken despite the strength of solidarity amongst the women, broken by the rank’s of unemployed workers desperate for job’s. A jobless workforce then – as now – was the biggest single reason for the collapse of strikes and disputes. Despite the defeat, the will and resistance of the women echoed the strength of women’s struggle for equality in the early part of the twentieth century.

“When Sir Edward Grey rose to acknowledge a vote of thanks, Annie (Kenney) stood on a chair to ask again, ‘Will the Liberal Government give women the vote?’… Christabel (Pankhurst) strove to prevent her removal, but Liberal stewards and policemen in plain clothes soon dragged both from the hall. Determined to secure imprisonment, Christabel fought against ejection. She cried to her captors: ‘I shall assault you!’, and retorted, when they pinioned her, ‘I shall spit at you!’. Christabel was charged the next day with spitting in the face of a police superintendent and an inspector. One question to the police witnesses was the only explanation she gave to the court: ‘Were not my arms held at the time?'”
(Sylvia Pankhurst, from ‘The Suffragette Movement’, 1909)

HANGING ON THE OLD BARBED WIRE was written by soldiers in the trenches in the first world war. Designed to be sung whilst marching, the song is one of many showing the dissent and disgust at the way war perpetuates the inequalities of rich and poor – those with the money give the orders, those without money face the guns.

“This is the position in a sentence: The nations, the peoples, are not at war, and they have no cause for war. Little minorities of bosses and formalists are ordering vast masses of enslaved soldiers of destruction, and hosts of civil onlookers to penury and distraction.”
(Editorial, Daily Herald 1914)

The words are sung, with a couple of exceptions. exactly how we found them written. To start chopping and changing them all to fit in with modern language and ideas would have destroyed the reason why we wanted to do them like this (Which isn’t to say that folk music isn’t to be changed, edited and modernised.) Consequently the language and meaning seem a bit peculiar at times.

Recorded Woodlands Studio, April 1988
Engineered by Neil Ferguson
Songs arranged and sung by Chumbawamba

With thanks to Armlcy Mills Industrial Museum

Ideas, songs and inspiration from:
“A Radical Reader” Edited by C. Hampton
“The English Rebels” Charles Poulsen
“The Poor Folk’s Guide To The Revolt Of 1831” J L Carr
“Anarchy – A Graphic Guide” Clifford Harper
“The Risings Of The Luddites” F Peel
“Stand Together” Hackney & Islington Music Workshop
“100 Songs Of Toil” Karl Dallas
“A Touch On The Times” Roy Palmer
“A Ballad History Of England” Roy Palmer

Chumbawamba on this recording are:
Simon Commonknowledge
Mavis Dillon
Cobie Laan
Danbert Nobacon

Alice Nutter was otherwise engaged
Dunst was reading football fanzines

Agit-Prop & Chumbawamba
Box 4, 52 Call Lane, Leeds, LS1 6DT, England

Agit-Prop Records

Distributed by Southern Studios
P 0 Box 59, London N22 1AR, England
Fax 081 889 6166

Chumbawamba – Never Mind The Ballots (1987)

This recording was written and produced amidst a background of parties and media scrambling their way towards a General Election. It was inspired by disgust at the hypocrisy, lies and sudden fake concern which riddles the election circus.

We are not saying “Don’t vote”. We are asking you to question whether the election process is anything more than a substitute for real change. A substitute for real choice. We are asking you to look closely at “democracy”: a self-perpetuating system of party tricks designed to keep us in our place.

The British democratic process is more powerful than any single party. It serves the same purpose as does the brutal repression in South Africa, the totalitarian dictatorship of the USSR, or the media-cabaret sham of the USA. That purpose is to uphold the wealth and power of the few, and the poverty and powerlessness of the many. Go to the polls: choose your brand of oppression. Whether we vote or not, or who we vote for, is largely unimportant. Either way, it will have little effect on the state’s profit turnover. What is important is if we allow ourselves to see the elections as anything other than a meaningless diversion; if we place hopes and fears on who holds power, instead of putting time and energy into creating alternatives – both for ourselves and our communities.

Great British Democracy offers us a pencil and the five seconds it takes to put our cross next to the name of someone we’ve never met and are never likely to meet, let alone be able to communicate with. This rare treat is served up to us once every 1825 days, give or take a month or two. Here is our lifetime’s supply of democracy XXXXXXXXXXXX. What is ultimately more important than the vote is what we do with the rest of our lives. Making choices and taking decisions for ourselves, on our own terms. Never mind the ballots… here comes the real change.


“You want jobs? I’ve got jobs!
Hospitals? Top of my list!
Tax cuts and platform shoes
For every small businessman!
…Just give me your vote”

“Schools, prisons? Of course we’ll build ’em!
Condoms for the American G.I.’s!
Nuclear reactors will breed like rabbits!
Police oppression? You can have it, sir!
…Just give me your vote”

Put your cross in the box!

“You want houses? See me afterwards!
Want my autograph? See my bodyguard
Pre-election budget handouts!
You want a war? No problem
…Just give me your vote


Come on baby, let’s do the revolution
£6 for the record, £7 for the T-shirt
A picture of the band
And a ticket for the Promised Land

Watching all the bouncers
Systematically beating up the dancers
To the rhythm of a pocket of change
Here’s the group with all the answers
Vote for the Party and
Keep your mouth shut!

Same chains of command
All the power taken out of our hands
Politics pays the piper
In this Company-Land

Come on baby, let’s do the revolution
They say we’ll all be equal
When they take control
Vote for the Party and
Wallow in our rock and roll

Roadie! My guitar!


Said the party to the ad-man
“We’ll conjure up a gimmick –
The way to lead an ass
Is with a carrot and a stick
Dig down for minorities
Promise them concessions
Ride in on their backs
And then teach them all a lessen:

  1. Unemployment means depression
  2. You’re just victims of the recession
  3. (We can count on their support
    If we channel their emotions).”

Populate the wasteland
Between leisure and the grace
Work and pray and place your vote
And some day you’ll be saved

All those myths come tailor-made
To suit the Company Director
Myths that praise the dignity
Of cheap, disposable labour
Two different routes
To an industrial heaven
Work for Boss and parliament
And all will be forgiven
It’s the fear of being sacked
That lets the Boss step up the face
Because the minute you step out of line
There’s someone took your place

Said the MP to the media:
“Can’t we juggle this around?
Sprinkle sugar on the dogshit
And we’ll keep the figures down
Never let the left hand
See what’s in the right
No-one’s any wiser
And the problem’s out of sight…”

Job Clubs, Restart, YTS, CP’s, EAS:
Take your democratic choice
Take a scheme or starve
Company profits doubled
Wages chopped in half

Offer your life to the one true Church:
In the name of the Conservative Party
The Labour Party
And the Liberal Alliance
The promised land where banks outnumber churches
And your cars shall be martyrs to the cause!

Capitalism in crisis…
But on the third day it shall rise again.


“Though they broke my legs,
They gave me a crutch to walk-
Laws to guide me
And a crutch to walk”


A visionary pause in the cycle
When she refused to buy or sell
When the daughters of perfect wives
Said there must be no more sacrifice…
Needed more than symbolic change
More than silent wasting away
In factories and sterile marriages
(He was God. She was powerless)

With a brick for every year of life
She set out for the house of lies
The Old Boys Club under siege
His Lordship cowered under his seat
Called for brandy and reinforcements
Blasted away at every movement.

Close to breaking down the door
Past thick blue line and stupid laws
Black Friday left her bruised and stubborn
One brick from winning the struggle!
Rapunzel hacked at the ivory tower
Asquith quickly rose to the hour…
Appealed to patriotism, oily smiles
Gave nothing, called it compromise.

Gauging the situation perfectly
Said, “Ladies! Ladies! Listen to me!
1914, we’re on the brink of war
Pick up a flag, drop your cause
Your targets are counter-revolutionary
Take my hand in democracy
Here’s a piece of paper
You’re officially free
Here’s a list of instructions
For you to obey;
(And here’s sharp knife
To cur your own throat
Small sacrifice in return for a vote…)”

Whispered word in Pankhurst’s ear.
Visions of the first woman peer
Led women down the garden path
And into the arms of the enemy
Jail and force-feeding, wasted martyrdom
Sold her songs for the National Anthem
Slotted the smile back neatly into place
Served refreshments
At the end of the race
All demands reduced to a joke
X marks the plague: abandon hope

Butlers still pouring brandy for the rich
“Escuse me,
Could you pass me the privilege?”
A woman’s voice, the state’s ideal
Same vested interests, same dirty deals
Currie & Williams immersed in the times:
Examples to keep the rest in line
Currie & Williams, two of a kind:
Examples to keep the rest in line.


Mr Heseltine you drove into our town
The northern rain always drizzling down
Shoppers at the window stopped so look
As you signed another copy of your book

You have all the power
And you have all the wealth
We’ve got nothing… but ourselves

So we’ll do away with leaders & bosses & police
Reclaim our actions, rediscover our voices
Salvage our integrity, reassert our dignity-
Power in the heart of the community!

Mr Heseltine listen to me:
We don’t want power
and we don’t want money
We’re fighting for the right to decide
How the power and the wealth
Be equally divided…
Old people in Seacroft
Need money for bills
Single mums with kids
Want decent meals
And we all want new coats,
When all’s said and done
They’re all worn out
From being walked upon

There comes a time when we organise
When we take control of our daily lives
When we don’t obey orders from authority
When we disbelieve me myths of Democracy.

Mr Heseltine drove away
Two more appointments in the north today
Helpless and powerless
We join the queue for the metro bus
And Mr Heseltine I’ve up my mind
I’ll never give support to you and your kind


“Full employment!
Slave labour and schemes!”
“An unemployed workforce
The capitalist’s dream!”
“But let’s keep Britain working
Either way we must keep Britain working

“Conventional weapons
To kill people nicely!”
“Nuclear weapons
To keep the peace!”
“But weapons definitely
Either way we must defend ourselves”

With one big boss!”
“No, privatisation
With lots of little bosses!”
“But someone in control of course
Either way there must be someone giving orders”

A toast to democracy
The poison guard of this society
Sides in the voting game
Disappear into the same machine…

A toast!
To US bosses and nuclear weapons
To stopping pickets pulling down fences
To Britith troops in Northern Ireland
To the wonderful victory in the Falklands
To the plastic bullet and the riot police
To the UDM and the TUC
To isolating gays and to law and order
To richer bosses and poorer workers
To longer hours and less pay
To the courts (for those who get in the way)
To the beating of people who step out of line
To the use of troops to break a strike
To the expulsion of extremists
To political witch hunts
To repatriation and to benefit cuts
To peaceful settlements
And no strike agreements
To authority, to power, to governments

To the annual rise in the MPs wage
To vested interests, to privilege
To the party who wins the next election
By definition a victory to capitalism!

The End


Why settle for what we’re shown
When there it so much more?
Sometimes the Book of Law
Is only half the story

Means and ends:
Deciding where to draw the line
Loss of work in Sellafield homes
Or the threat of cancers yet to come?

The choice is obvious:
There is no choice
Only the option of looking outside
This narrow definition of
“What you see is all there will ever be”

There comes a time -that time is now-
When every second, every day
When every action, every thought
Will tell the world how you cast your vote

They break our legs
And we say “Thank you” when they offer us crutches

Tired of mild reform
Sick of hand-me-downs
We topple all the theories to the ground:
All real change
Must come from below
Our bosses must live in fear
Of the factory floor
And when they smile
And they ask for my support,
I’ll give them these words
And a bloody nose:
You don’t help your enemy
When you’re at war

There are moments in all of our lives
Tiny sparks still deep inside
When a new-born baby cries
When you’re watching clouds in a summer sky
The first time you walked out on strike
Love and sex and holding tight
Things that can’t be bought
By promises and votes

I hate the things I love being criminalised
I hate the straight-jacket schools I grew up in
I hate MPs, judges and magistrates
I hate being taught to base my life on TV stars
I hate being kept waiting by bureaucrats
I hate wars, and all the people who love them
I hate the idea of living on other people’s backs
I hate being filed, registered and classified
I hate being watched and monitored
I hate police
I hate the way you talk down to me
I hate being told what to do
I hate you when you don’t listen
I hate the way you distort my sexuality with pornography
I hate the pain we inflict on each other,
On animals, and on the earth,
And I hate how love songs have become clichés
through endless, shallow repetition

Each angry word
Every cynical put-down
Every song in carefully born
From a hope of something better to come

All jumbled-up
Love and hate and love
Each prompted by the other:
For the cause of peace we have to go to war

Refusing to sleep
Whilst there’s a world to win
Yet happy to dream
Dreams make the plans to change this world

Not just some future heaven
But today and every day
In our place of work
In the queue for the metrobus

Here’s the rest of our lives!

…A tiny spark still deep inside

We can and will run the factories and mills
We can and will educate ourselves
We can and will work the fields
We can and will police ourselves

We can and will create and build

Here’s the rest of our lives!

Written, produced and presented by Chumbawamba

Chumbawamba on this recording are:

Lou: Vocals, guitar
Harry: Drums, percussion, vocals
Mavis Dillon: Bass guitar, trumpet, vocals
Alice Nutter: Vocals
Danbert Nobacon: Vocals
Boff: Guitar, vocals
Dunst: Vocals
Simon: Keyboards, voice
Neil: Engineer, keyboards
Patrick: Engineer

Recorded at Woodlands
April/May 1987

Chumbawamba – Pictures Of Starving Children Sell Records (1986)



Whilst we parade pictures of undernourished black children, we set the limits on our understanding of starvation. We hold the picture up high for all to see. We say, “this is reality”. In our minds Africa and the rest of the Third World becomes as big as this picture… and invariably the words beneath the picture say only “Give Generously” or “They Need Your Help.” Never “This is what we are doing, with our insatiable taste for luxuries”. Never “This is what we have done with our tradition of slavery, genocide and exploitation.” Worst of all, that picture, and the myths which surround it, never prompt us to ask why…
We exchange this picture, this symbol of helplessness, for our own helplessness. Someone passes a plate around and we put in our loose change. At the same time as feeling compassionate, we feel guilty – and yet we never dare to admit that the picture also symbolises our ignorance, our decadence. We feel shocked, and want rid of the picture; a few pennies buys us the quickest escape route, as we carry on eating ourselves to death from the same plate.
The picture of the starving child is real, but only if we detach it from the lies which usually surround it. It is real when we discover that it is the organised viciousness of the capitalist system, and our part within it, which causes famine. Getting rid of the picture means replacing guilt with action and solidarity. It means overthrowing the entire economic political order. Until then, starving children will continue to sell the notion of a caring, sharing West.

“It is a common myth within capitalist thought that the individual through drive and hard work can become a capitalist. In the USA, it is usual to refer to an individual like John D Rockefeller as someone who rose ‘from rags to riches’. To complete the moral of the Rockefeller success story, it would be necessary to fill in the details on all the millions of people who had to be exploited to become a multi-millionaire. The acquisition of wealth is not due to hard work alone, or the Africans working as slaves in America and the West Indies would have been the wealthiest group in the world.”
Walter Rodney


“I’m the Boss of the company
And I’ve got hunger working for me
Listen and you’ll begin to understand-
I built my profits on stolen land
It’s the economics of supply and demand;
And I make the demands around here.”


“A large number of opportunities for unknown bands are to be found on regional magazine programmes produced by the ITV companies. The emphasis in these programmes is not so much on music as on news, so a band that can provide the producer with a good news item relating to themselves has a far greater chance of getting on the show. Publicity stunts involving fund-raising activities for charity can often work wonders.”
from “International Musician”

Product sells, people die
Same manipulation wrapped in lies
Give a little money and play your rock n roll
The biggest prizes to the biggest tools

“Live Aid made compassion a hit”
Bob Geldof

In keeping with the fashion for charity, not change
Here’s out contribution: we’ve called it Slag Aid
For every pop star that we slag off today
A million pounds will be given away!

Paul McCartney – Come On Down!
With crocodile tears to irrigate this ground
Make of Ethiopia a fertile paradise
Where everyone sings Beatles songs & buys shares in EMI

Freddie Mercury – This is your life!
Thank the Lord that you were born white
And thank apartheid for this wonderful oportunity
To peddle your hypocrisy in Sun City

David Bowie – The Price Is Right!
A suitful of compassion and a gobful of shite
Still the voices of those who doubt
Coca-Cola for the peasants to end this drought

Jagger and Richards – Game For A Laugh!
Dancing us down the garden path
To a place where money grows on trees
Where cocaine habits are financed by hunger & disease

(Ask the puppet-masters who pull the strings
“Who makes the money when the puppets sing?”
Ask the corporations “Where does the money go?”
Ask the empty bellied children “What are we singing for?”)

And Cliff Richard – 3,2,1!
The God who remains when the religion’s gone
Cliff, we’ve got a special surprise for you today
So come closer, step this way

Cliff you’re such an example of moral worth
Such a purist saint come to bless our earth
That on behalf of our viewers watching today
And on behalf of the millions with empty bellies
We’re donating something special that we’re all going to like:
Cliff Richard, we’re going to nail you up too cross tonight!!

…Ladies and Gentlemen, just imagine it – Someone comes along, takes everything you own, your space, your house; separates you from your family: and then hits you in the face if you say anything different. Well, that’s what we’ve been doing to the Third World for the past 400 years. That’s YOU and ME. You and the viewers at home, me in the studio, the pop stars, everyone. That’s how we make the Third World, today and every day. If you want any correspondence with the programme, just send your answers – LETTER BOMBS ONLY! – to:
BP House
Victoria Street
London SW1

Thank you and goodnight!
Feed theWorld: Starve the Rich – Goodnight!

“Live Aid, Band Aid and Sport Aid raised £80 million worldwide: half of Michael Jackson’s personal amassed fortune of 200 million dollars. Or about the same as the world spends on arms every 2 hours 40 minutes.”

I know there must be more
Than giving just a little bit more
When half of this world is so helplessly poor
Starved of a real solution –
Only charity and tradition
And the cycle of hungry children
Will keep on going round…

“The Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell continues to supply the South African regime with oil. South Africa has no oil supplies of its own. Thousands of police vehicles, aeroplanes, tanks and water cannon are 100 per cent reliant on imported oil. Oil is also necessary to produce the tear gas, nerve gas and napalm used on South African workers.
On the night of May 11-12 1986, four days before their annual shareholders meeting, Shell filling stations across Holland were attacked. Two groups ‘Nightshade’ and ‘Ever More Night Shade’ were involved (in Dutch the word for shade also means damage).
Ever More Nightshade burnt down a filling station near Wezep to take “some of the power back…to show Shell a fraction of the violence with which they daily confront the population of South Africa.”
Nightshade cut through petrol hoses, destroyed pumps, glued up automatic pay machines, put sand and sugar in petrol reservoirs and painted anti-apartheid slogans. Nightshade left a warning: “If these actions achieve nothing we will not hesitate to take more, further-reaching steps against Shell.”
from Counter Information

…will keep on going round
Until we burn the House of Commons to the ground

“When the missionaries first came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said “Let us pray”; we closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”
Desmond Tutu


Flickering Pictures Hypnotise

“I’m the Boss of the BBC
I’m the monkey at the top of the media tree…”

“Your version of the riots in Cape Town
Comes second-hand from me
Chewing and spewing this revolution
For popular TV
All your opinions are carefully chosen
By what we’ll let you see
Televised crap dressed up as fact –
your soap reality
We only want a chance to show the Editor’s side
Of struggle in the news
Closer & closer to the state’s eye view
And further from the truth
Push a microphone to the mouth of this youth
Bewildered and confused
Misreported, distorted, misquoted
A ready-made victim to be used
And we’ll quote you on things that you never said
Put this pencil to your head
And kill your revolution dead…”

TV tells us what to be and what to say and what to do
How to act and how to lie but never question why?

Fighting to stop this mass-deception
Fighting to scrap the pass-laws
Fighting to end misuse of land
Fighting to close down diamond mines
Fighting to feed their hungry mouths
Fighting to change the world
…here, we sit on the fence
Built by distance and enforced by lies,
Is a full stomach all it takes
To keep us pacified?

“When I was fifteen years old I was brought to the courthouse, put up on the auction block to be sold. Old Judge Miller was there. I knew him well because he was one of the wealthiest slave owners in the county and tho meanest one. He was so cruel all the slaves and many owners hated him because of it. He saw me on the block for sale and he knew I was a good worker so when he bid for me I spoke right out on the auction block and told him: ‘Judge Miller! Don’t you bid for me, ’cause if you do, I would not live on your plantation. I will take a knife and cut my own throat from ear to ear before I would be owned by you.”
Delicia Patterson, ex-slave

…She lived to tell the tale.


“The chief cash crop is coffee, grown on the plateaux in the southwest, providing around 60 per cent of the country’s total export earnings. Output in the 1984/85 harvest is expected to be some 20 per cent down on the previous season at 160,000 tonnes. Additionally, transport difficulties arising from the diversion of vehicles for drought relief are hindering exports.”
Report by Barclay’s Bank Oct 1985, on prospects for investment in Ethiopia.

“I’m the wife of the Boss of the company
And I always make my husband answer to me
With what he says about the blacks, I totally agree
The main problem is, they’re not civilised, you see
Look at the way they squabble between themselves
Rioting at funerals – they’ll surely go to hell
If you gave them nice houses, they’d only burn them down
(You don’t get that in a white man’s town).
And boycotting products won’t do them any good
You see they need the trade to help buy food
And when I visit my niece on her beautiful homestead
The blacks who work for her seem really quite content
So I’ll agree with my husband ‘Let things stay as they are’
That’s always been his motto, and we’ve gone far.


How to Succeed In Business

“Sales operations in the United States and management of the fourteen Unilever plants are directed from Lever House on New York’s fashionable Park Avenue. You look at this tall, striking, glass-and-steel structure and you wonder how many hours of unpaid black labour and how many thousands of tons of underpriced palm oil and peanuts and cocoa it cost to build it.”
W Altheus Hunton

When you don’t want to feed the world
When you just want to feed your bank balance
Wash your guilt away
Soap to clean those dirty hands
And a slap for the people who work the land
Man-made hunger
Soap in our eyes
John West is the Best!
Old soap opera
No soap-reality
Legal slave trade
Domestos kills all known truths dead
Soap to wash the darkest stain
Profit covers up the pain
Of a slow, deliberate genocide
And all the dirt you want to hide
Take the black and wash it whiter
Brooke-Bond Oxo
Blue Band, Bird’s Eye
Lifebuoy, Sunsilk
Persil washes Whiter!
We make whitewash
We sell whitewash
Consume whitewash
Consumed by whitewash

Unilever, the biggest food and drinks company in the world, started life making soap. White man in Africa growing soap on Unilever’s plantations. Growing soap. Palms, palm kernels and groundnuts crushed along with the African people to make the oil, to make the soap-sanitized genocide which cleans as it whitewashes.
Crushed palm kernel by-products include animal feed-cake for factory farms, and glycerine; as in nitroglycerine – as in explosive weapons.
In England, at Unilever’s Colworth Research Laboratories in Bedford, white man in white coat stands over a white rabbit… soap gets in rabbits’ eyes.
In 1985 some people took direct action against Unilever at Colworth, uncovering some more of their dirty work and dismantling some of their instruments of torture. In 1986, twenty-five of those people were put in prison by Unilever with sentences totaling forty-five years.
Meanwhile, we’re supposed to wash our hands of the soap reality on which Unilever’s world stands: that is, the starvation, the vivisection, and the prison sentences.
No matter how many bars of soap they put in front of us, they’ll never hide the smell of profit = pain. No matter how many prison bars they put in front of us, there’ll always be people hitting back. And where better to start dismantling the whitewash than with our own hands?

Somewhere in this cycle there’s me and you
What are we prepared to do?


“‘Look here’s a village. I want you to see an African school. In 1900 there wasn’t a school in Uganda. Now more than a million African children go to school. Let’s stop and go up quietly and peep in at the window.’
As they got near the school they heard the busy noise of the classroom. They looked in and watched for a few minutes.
‘lt’s just the same as school at home,’ John whispered.”
from the Ladybird Book of Travel Adventure

Children in school forced to the desk
Finger the atlas, study the text
Laws and opinion presented as fact
Taught to accept, and never to ask

(Those smiling workers in Ladybird books
They’re not picking coffee at all
They’re busy with bricks and mortar
Building the company wall).

Flickering pictures hypnotise
We spend our lives watching others’ lives
Too much watching to realise
That this is a smokescreen,
And this is why people die

(Those smiling news presenters
They’re not reading cue-cards at all
They’re busy with brush and bucket
Whitewashing the company wall).

Set yourself up and play it again
Force the tears and entertain
Sing about a world of make-believe
Force this charity and leave

(Rich people who claim to know
What’s wrong with this world
Can’t know anything at all
They’re busy giving the orders
For us to build their second homes
And we who take the orders
And refuse to question it all
We’re busy with spade and bible
Burying the poor).

Most charity organisations use propaganda which best suits their generous, funding public. They are understandably scared of antagonising people by telling unpleasant truths – “What’s the point of having morally clean but financially empty hands?” Thus, most charities intentionally create three ideas about our role in Third World starvation: a) people in the rich countries are not responsible for poverty in the Third World, b) the developed countries are caring and generous towards the Third World, and c) poor people in the Third World are passive, doing nothing but waiting for us to help them. And so we carry on throwing bundles of money at the desert, creating ever more sand-storms. That way we won’t see what’s really going on.

Mass-manufactured and given away;
Blinkers to get you through your day
So you’ll never ever know to what extent you’re involved
Easily fooled, all your problems solved
You’ll say starvation has nothing to do with you
You saw it in print, so it must be true
And the documentary explained it all:
It’s a simple matter of birth control!
If you send a little money you can sleep tonight
Or starve in sympathy on a Limmits Diet
And you know that charity cures malnutrition
And hunger put the sparkle back in television


In tiny Nicaragua, a real challenge to poverty is being made. Since the overthrow of the Somoza government in 1979, health services, education, shelter and basic women’s and workers’ rights have reached the majority of people for the first time. The gains made by the Nicaraguan people are now threatened by the massive US campaign to destabilise and overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The US is campaigning to isolate Nicaragua by enforcing an economic blockade and by actively and financially supporting the ‘Contra’ guerrillas.
(Since this was written, a lot has changed in Nicaragua. For details on recent events and on the continuing solidarity with the Sandinistas, get in touch with the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign, 23 Bevenden St, London N1 6BH)

Words to describe Nicaragua of old:
Cash crops and hunger and US control
Coffee and sugar on company land
Made to supply what the boss would demand

Then one July morning in ’79
Nicaragua decided to leave it behind…

And the people are learning to take back their lives
As the country will change, Sandinista survives

Women are winning what they’ve never known
The power to organise outside the home
Starting to find what is equal and fair
Ensuring that this revolution is shared

Regaining lost chances, demanding much more
Running the factories, fighting the war

And the people are learning to take back their lives
As the country will change Sandinista survives

Nobody claims that it’s over and done
There’s too much depends on enlistment and guns
And raising their children and filling their plates
And chasing the Contras to Washington State

The Yankee conspiracy thrown to the ground
That’s where the spirit of change can be found

And the people are learning to take back their lives
As the country will change Sandinista survives

“Following the victory of President Allende’s socialist government in Chile in 1970, a number of record companies left, while others were nationalised. EMI, however, avoided nationalisation and instead chose to operate as a capitalist company committed to releasing anti-capitalist music. But when in 1973 Allende’s government was replaced by a military dictatorship, EMI stopped releasing radical folk artists from which it had been making its profits. Instead it vetted its catalogue to ensure ‘ideological purity’ and dropped many of its traditional folk musicians. Under both regimes, EMI appeared to act as the dutiful servant of its political masters, without compromising its commitment to profit-making. The same applies in South Africa.”
John Street


Abolishing Slavery (and Reinventing it)

“The connections between slavery and capitalism in the growth of England is adequately documented by Eric Williams in his book ‘Capitalism and Slavery’. Williams gives a clear picture of the numerous benefits which England derived from trading and exploiting slaves, and he identified by name several of the personalities and capitalist firms who were the beneficiaries. Outstanding examples are provided in the persons of David and Alexander Barclay, who were engaging in slave trading in 1756 and who later used the loot to set up Barclay’s Bank. There was a similar progression in the case of Lloyds – from being a small coffee house to being one of the world’s largest banking and insurance houses, after dipping into profits from slave trade and slavery.”
Walter Rodney

Times Change – Bosses Don’t

Things were rather different in Great Grandfather’s day
He just put a chain around their ankles & made them work for no pay
He took everything they owned and yet still demanded more
He did a bloody good job in taming the poor

Now I’m rather more subtle, I say “I’ll tell you what I’ll do –
I’ll do everything I can to try and help you
And you’ll be helping me,” I say, “I’ll see that you’re alright
You can have a place of your own, you can even pretend to be white.
And you won’t have to worry, I’ll have a quiet word with your mates
Oh they’ll be alright, they’ll have enough on their plates
I’ll put a bit in their mouths; you just pull hard on the reins
They’ll do anything for you and they won’t complain…

You’ll be so much better off,” I say, “You can share my paradise
Just sign my piece of paper and I’ll organise your life.”
And it never fails, it does the trick, it works every time
So me and my dear wife and the family’s doing fine

Great Grandad got his Dukedom when slavery was abolished
Dear old dad became a Viscount when the Empire was finished
But times have changed (and for the better) with freedom of choice –
We’re a thousand times richer, QED His Master’s Voice.

What could be worse than to live under the fist of this white man, and pay him to oppress you? The answer is to live under the fist of a black man who is living under the fist of the white man; and such was, and still is, the story of African women.

“Woman has been the great unpaid labourer of the world.”
Susan B Anthony, 1840s

A dog stares into a gramophone trumpet, waits for its call to action
Mute and obedient; standing to attention
Look a little closer: the dog is a woman
She’s working under a system that she can’t understand
Trapped inside a world of labour and heat
So that she and her children will be able to eat
The trumpet is patriarchy, it’s old and fixed
Where poor men are lured by the desire to be rich
Where the limited power is still given to men
Where development aid is so wastefully spent
Where western education enforces this crap
Where women work in the open – yet live in a trap
There’s one solution, and this is it:
The dog leaps on the gramophone and has a shit.

“Me? I couldn’t do that. I’d never be one for role reversal. I just don’t enjoy the things that Paula does, like changing nappies. I did try it. Once. Then I looked at it and said, ‘No way!’. And so there was Paula, standing over me, wagging her finger and telling me I’m the father, share the load, but I just said, ‘Forget it. The End!’.”
Bob Geldof, Knight of the British Empire


The rich world persuades the Third World, using advertising pressure, that their traditional foods are inferior. Established nutrition is swapped for quick commercial gain.

“Doctors working in rural Mexican villages report that a family may often sell its few eggs and chickens to buy Coke for the father while the children waste away for lack of protein.”
Geoffrey Yates


“FoodAid is our most powerful weapon.”
Reagan Administration, 1982

And the company director spins the globe
Looks into on atlas of the world
A supermarket lifestyle for us all
A thousand nations under company control

Coca-Cola got machines in every land
No-one got the teeth to bite the hand
Stole their labour, their culture and their lives
To create a Coca-Cola paradise
Swallowing their soft drinks and their lives
Let’s take the blindfold from our eyes

From 1945 onwards, Britain’s role as the policeman/dictator of the colonialist world was handed over to the USA. The US was that arm of the capitalist system which had massacred the North American Indians, had benefitted most from the enslavement of Africans, and which exploited and threatened the Caribbean and Latin American nations. Britain became second-in-command.

“Throughout our history, Americans have always believed that freedom is the birthright of all peoples, and that we could not be true to our principles unless we stood for freedom and democracy not only for ourselves, but for others.”
From a History Book

Capitalism and Imperialism are dirty words. So our leaders and their advertising agencies fished around and stole a couple of words from here and there. Words like ‘Freedom’ and ‘Truth’… and thereon used them to describe every aspect of their unfree, dishonest government. The principles which the American state stands for have nothing to do with “freedom and democracy for others” – the US system and its European lap-dogs stand for the murder, oppression and exploitation of both its own citizens and people elsewhere.
Don’t forget it.


The first world’s got greedy, we’re consuming it all
The Third World’s got hunger and military control
This unequal balance is a master plan
One gets rich from the other’s land

They’ve got it all worked out – and we give our consent

They’ve got it all worked out for Central America
They’ve got it all worked out for Africa (etc etc)
And in our naivety we believe myths and overconsume
And give them our consent
Dying in the shadow of the USA
“Let them eat bullshit, make the land pay”
Make a fast deal with the local elite
Then substitute cash-crops where once grew wheat
Build a cycle of dependence on a starvation-diet

With food as a weapon, workers stay quiet
And multinational nomes have blood on their brands
From taking an interest in misused lands
Del Monte, Tate & Lyle, Ralston Purina
Coca-Cola, RTZ, and Unilever
All packaging lifestyles for the glamorous west
Expand the company; exploit the rest

We are not isolated by distance
But by greed and our racist history
Just a wall’s-width away
Still impossible to reach across
This space in front of me

lt’s we who write this history
We who guard the money-tree
We support the companies
We stole the colonies

And when the system starts to crack
We’ll have to be ready to give it all back

“As agribusiness and multinational economics began to expand rapidly during this century, it became obvious that here was a means by which the rulers of the western industrialised states could satisfy many of the demands of the western workers. Africa, Asia and South America became the harvesters of an improved lifestyle for the First World’s Working Classes – and without the bosses having to dip into their own pockets.
Working class solidarity was bought out by the consumerist creed: “I’m alright Jack”. The no-strike agreement was signed by Boss and Union Bureaucrat sipping the same coffee and smoking the same cigarettes…”
Derek Dogg

See the space which lies between the rich and the poor
How the space increases as we keep on taking more
Keeping that space between us all
Is how the west can keep control…
With a mission and a chequebook promising aid
Posing for the camera the United Nations man came
He talked of control and the terrible drought
And the way that the west would bail them out
Then he stopped smiling and talked conditions
Of mutual aid; of American wishes
Sending in aid with sewn-on strings
lf they won’t buy arms – then it’s pulled back in
Feeding the world American style
Col Sanders has an empire behind his smile
Back up the investments with a military regime
Then cleverly say: “It’s to keep the world free!”
But the multinational myths are beginning to fall
The poor don’t want aid, they want control

And if we really want to see the Third World eat
We’ve got to see through the wrapping on the high street
Past barriers of culture that dictate our lives
We’re busy consuming as the other half dies
And the answer’s not a question of charity –
Not whilst profit’s still the top priority –
So let the glossy shop-fronts know what to expect
And you Bosses of Companies…
…and the cycle of hungry children
Will keep on going round
Until we burn the multinationals to the ground


“THE PROBLEM: 100 years after Africa was divided up by the European colonial powers, the continent is in a state of permanent crisis. 150 million people are facing massive and critical shortages of food medical supplies and health care, and water. These are the stark realities of the situation: Africa has the lowest incomes, slowest growth, least political stability, most severe environmental problems and lowest levels of literacy and life expectancy in the world. Added to this tragic formula is the drought which now affects one-third of the African people… Help is needed right now. We can help the African people to once again help themselves.


  1. Buy the single, album, video, and related merchandise… if you buy a sweatshirt or t-shirt wear it. Whatever the medium, the message remains the same: people need help.
  2. Make a donation
  3. Organize an event… host a party…


Above is an extract from the “We Are The World” charity campaign. It tells us about the problems facing Africa, and about how we can solve the problems. We believe that the assumptions it makes – about both problems and solutions – are wrong. That they are myths which have been created by the Corporations and Governments who make profit out of starvation. Rock musicians, blinded by guilt and the sparkle of their diamonds, have become ventriloquist dummies bouncing woodenly on the knees of multinational companies. Sports personalities and film & TV stars, too, have been quick to jump on the band-wagon. We don’t doubt their sincerity. We doubt their ability to question the myths about starvation and charity. And we the consumers swallow it all, convinced by an endless interchange of images: the emaciated, wide-eyed child in Africa and the plump generous popstar at Wembley.

The “colonisation” of Africa – and the rest of the Third World – was in reality a superpower carve-up, a dash to acquire as much land as possible. Multinationals took over land which grew food for the local population and began instead to harvest cash crops for the Western countries. Locals became slaves, forced to grow sugar, coffee, tobacco, tea. Crops that couldn’t feed themselves and their families. And we in our homes, sedated by consumer-culture, lapped up our improved lifestyle and tucked into our TV dinners. Now more than ever before, the hungry nations of this world export the wheat they need so badly, in order for us to fatten up cows so we can eat meat. Ethiopia grows tobacco for the West whilst its own people die of starvation. Alongside this image of waste, picture 60s drug casualties Dylan and Richards, doing their bit by sending back a tiny amount of what we’ve stolen…

Charity is like parking an ambulance at the foot of a notoriously dangerous cliff instead of erecting a fence at the top. Worse, the kind of glossy consumerism which has accompanied recent Aid events enforces and strengthens the very culture which keeps the Third World poor.

The companies who have sponsored such events – Pepsi-Cola, Thorn EMI, etc – are all directly involved in oppressing and suppressing the poor countries. They use cheap labour there and pay starvation wages. They use that labour to make luxury goods whilst children in those areas die of hunger. These companies sponsor Aid because they know it can never force change. Every time we offer charity we strengthen the Third World’s dependence upon us – look at the way the “We Are The World” statement stresses the need for us to “help”, we steal the wheatfield and then sent them a loaf of bread.
The best form of help is to give those countries and people space. Get the companies out, give them space to grow what they want and what they need. Give them space to make their own decisions. And stop pretending that flaunting our capitalist Rock & Roll and selling sweatshirts can change things.

Poverty and hunger are not ‘inevitable fads of life’. They are the result of an unjust system. That system needs to be changed; and we can start to overthrow it by changing our part within it. Inevitably, the people who are responsible for this genocide in Africa, South America, Asia etc are also running the countries we live in. If we really want to help the poor, we must begin to actively oppose the way our governments and companies operate. Supporting strikes, taking action, boycotting products: taking a stand. The massed stars of pop music, for all their sincerity and wealth, cannot feed the world. Together, we can.

Chumbawamba on this recording are:

Harry – Drums, Vocals, Bad guitar solo on ‘Slag Aid’
Alice Nutter – Vocals, Spoons, Kitchen Sink Melodrama
Boff – Guitar, Vocals, Clarinet, Fireblanket
Mavis Dillon – Bass Guitar, Trumpet, French horn, Vocals
Lou – Vocals, Guitar
Danbert Nobacon – Vocals, Half a jar of vegetable oil
Dunst – Whirrypipe, Turntables, Roto 613
Simon – Keyboards, Accordion, Voice
Neil Ferguson – Engineer
Derek Dogg – Bark, Muzzle and Chain

Recorded at Woodlands, Castleford
August 1986
Written and produced by Chumbawamba

Some interesting books about starvation & charity
Eat and Let Eat – a pamphlet by George Eisman
Food: Need, Greed and Myopia – Geoffrey Yates (Earthright Publications)
Poverty & Power – Rachel Heatley (Zed Press)
The Famine Business – Colin Tudge (Penguin)

and in more depth:
How The Other Half Dies – Susan George (Penguin)
How Europe Underdeveloped Africa – Walter Rodney (Bogle L’Ouverture)
World Hunger: Ten Myths – Lappe & Collins (Food First Publications)

Fighting for causes in other countries is often an excuse to avoid fighting the injustices in our own backyard. This recording dissociates itself from that idea.

Chumbawamba – Revolution (1985)


If our music makes you happy, but
content, it has failed. If our music
entertains, but doesn’t inspire, it has
failed. The music’s not a threat. Action
that music inspires can be a threat.



“After all, we need each other. Radical disarmers musn’t let themselves get so divorced from “ordinary people” that they lose support and backing, and, by the same token, those involved in more traditional political struggles need the strength, energy and commitment of people working more “outside” the system. We need each other. Each time they tread on another isolated group, we all suffer another defeat. Each time we help each other to protect the little space that is ours, we win a victory and assert the strength that will one day topple the institution that would stamp us out.” (Rich Cross, Peace News 1985)

Surrounded by walls and fences. Forever trapped in corners, neatly boxed, labelled, and ignored. Is this really a movement for change? Or are we just treading water? Our boundaries are self-prescribed: “Our revolution is better than your revolution.” Keeping the curtain closed… instead of letting the world in. Stop pussyfooting around? This world is ours: let’s reclaim it, together!

“The thing that thrilled me was that four of the Greenham women who has been on the ‘Mines Not Missles’ march actually appeared on our picket lines, and it was really nice, because they were coming and saying “Look – we are supporting you. We supported you on the march, we’re supporting you on your picket lines, you come to Greenham and support us,” and they went up with us onto the picket line. I think that in a way they have a calming effect on us, because them ??? wives have been in a long struggle. We are tired, frustrated, and they come along, and they support and calm us; which is nice. We just work together.” (Betty of Wooley, 1984)


A dog stares into a gramophone trumpet, waits for his call to action; mute and obedient, standing to attention. Look a little closer: the dog is a man, working on the factory floor as hard as he can… the trumpet is a loudspeaker fixed into the roof – the man can hear His Master’s Voice and it always tells the truth. The man obeys his Master, and carries out his work, and of course he is rewarded with bonuses and perks. You see, they have an understanding, and this is it: the man stands under Master whilst his Master has a shit.

Natural Response

The famous Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov discovered that it was possible to train animals to make an unconditioned response to new stimuli. He showed that if food were given to a dog each time a bell sounded, after several trials the dog would salivate at the sound of the bell, before the food was given. Once this conditioned response is learned, it is not easily lost. People, too, react to conditioned stimuli in the same way.

Pavlov was a vivisector. His experiments show above all that futile scientific curiosity proves little that we don’t already know: that people can be taught to act without thinking and that, like robots, we too can be programmed and controlled. Like the vivisectors.


Thirty years of the same old shit: of music, of money, of hit after hit – smiles, lies, sales, walls; that’s thirty years of Rock & Roll. They changed it’s name once or twice, dressed it up different, upped the price. Get rebellious! With a company deal (business thrives where honesty fails). Contracts? Con tricks! Sing revolution, wait ’til it starts – one eye on the bank account, one on the charts – Government-sponsored rebellion: BUY IT! A bit more product to keep us quiet… shhh

“They’ve got a Wall in China – it’s a thousand miles long. To keep out the foreigners, they made it strong. And I’ve got a wall around me that you can’t even see.” (Paul Simon)

Product Sells, people die; same revolution, wrapped in lies. In these sexist, drugged-up Rock & Roles – the biggest prizes to the biggest fools. Ask the Puppet-Masters who pull the strings: “Who makes the money when the puppets sing?” Ask the Corporations: “Where does the money go?” Ask the empty-bellied children: “What are we singing for?” Until we pull down the walls, it’ll stay the same; until we find something new – make it change! I know there must be more, so what are we singing for? These puppets, underneath the skin, have the same problems as you and me – they want to be loved, don’t know where to begin. Just a walls-width away, but impossible to get close… offstage, with nothing to hide behind, the puppets are running away. And meanwhile, we’re running away from ourselves.



HMV, in their moral righteousness, refuse to sell records which contain four-letter words as they are regarded as obscene and in bad taste. Yet Thorn-EMI, their parent company, manufacture and export weapons or war and instruments of torture worldwide.
Does that cause a public outcry? Does it fuck.


One day, a fifty-year old student of enlightenment said to Shinkan, “I have studied the Tendai school of thought since I was a little boy, but one thing in it I cannot understand, Tendai claims that even the grass and trees will become enlightened. To me this seems very strange.”
“Of what use is it to discuss how grass and trees can become enlightened?” asked Shinkan. “The question is how you yourself can become so. Did you ever consider that?”
“I never thought of it in that way,” marvelled the old man.
“Then go home and think it over,” finished Shinkan.

You stay in your box and I’ll stay in mine… We spent so much time stumbling around in the dark that we are becoming accustomed to it, and no longer worry about looking for the light. In moments of mutuality and honesty, we step out of our boxes and meet, blinded by light, scared. Look inwards! For too long we’ve been smashing others’ windows before repairing our own. We are such liars! We deceive ourselves and others, we know the truth but refuse to recognise it… THE REVOLUTION IS HAPPENING NOW, day to day. It is at the same time angry, positive, and gentle. Our thoughts are a product of this revolution; and it is for sharing… if the world is too dark, let’s change it TOGETHER!


Packaged and marketed, we become the product… the music industry is capitalism in practice: the manipulation and selling of people as commodities, the an audience of consumers. Everything within it is dictated by big business – from the passive diluted radio crap to our taste for that product. We like what we get, and get what we’re given; and what we’re given is any old rubbish that won’t upset the apple cart. The only choice we seem to be left with is to play the part of the bad apple, the exception to the shiny, polished rock ‘n’ rules.
The irony is that in order to reach a position where we can effectively spread ideas within that commercial market-place, we have to make compromises, accept paradoxes. It’s no use existing entirely apart from it all – we have to get stuck in there and try communicating with people who, like us, are taught to pander to capitalism’s youthangle rock ‘n’ roll.

“Like a lot of bands these days, we’re talking revolution.” (Anon, 1983)

Same here… the revolution will be built on the spread of ideas and information, on reaching people, rather than on our habit of creating ghettoes within which to stagnate.

There are a thousand million useless workers inside the pop & rock fashion factory, and a big glossy sign outside to avert your eyes from the wholesale destruction of our planet by decadence and greed. It’s no use us standing outside shouting. We have to start kicking down he doors!

1……….HMV Side, introduction to History and where we stand. Which side of the

2……….Fence Side, and it’s application to everyday life. The R’n’R Factory Strike.

Recorded at Woodlands Studio
Engineered by Neil
All songs written and produced by Chumbawamba

Chumbawamba on this record are:

Alice Nutter…….vocals
Man Afraid…guitar,drums
Danbert Nobacon….vocals

Box 4, 52 Call Lane, Leeds 1, UK


There’s always been a pattern of struggle and defeat, never that cycle incomplete. Never enough to tip the scales – too many people rotting in jails, or bloodied on the battlefields. The history books from every age have the same words written on every page; always starting with “Revolution” and ending with “Capitulation”. Always silenced by the truncheon or bought out with concessions. Always repetition.

“I’m the Boss of the factory. I’m in charge of the United Kingdom Company. Shop floor workers run and fetch as I sit around and smugly watch – and the process makes me stinking rich.” We’re all links in the factory chain, and the chain grows longer day by day; And whilst we’re apart, the process won’t stop… but we’re kept apart by philosophies, and moral stances, and policies; we’ll be stuck in our own little ghettoes forever until we start to work TOGETHER. Together in the open or together in our little heaven? Fighting for total change, or working concessions? Do we take what is ours, or ask that it be given? Are we stealing it together, or asking for permission?

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 inbetween – Don’t sit back, it’s time to act! This life is ours! Let’s snatch it back!

The time has come to make a choice:

an agit-prop rekawrd
distributed by Red Rhino – The Cartel

Adapatation (not the movie)

Alrighty then… Since the Backstreet Boys kicked off their reunion tour, and the whole country slipped further into madness, I’ve taken it upon myself to begin adapting my dozen-or-more already-written scripts to my still-as-of-yet-unmade audio play series, The Adventures of Skybird and Air-boy, into book format.

This may seem like an easy task, after all, the stories themselves are already written, complete with plenty of dialogue. The difficulty, however, comes not in the form of filling all of the gaps and subtleties with paragraphs of rambling text and descriptors. As you can probably tell by the immense wordiness of this blog entry so far, I have no problem filling space with text. In fact, I describe my own writing style as “writing to fill pages.”

The difficult part in adapting this particular audio play series to a book comes with all of the audio-specific gags, and the meta-layers I had inserted into the series itself. The play is not truly about the main characters, Skybird and Air-boy. The play is about a radio show, and is presented as “found” audio recordings of this classic, poorly-made radio show that was “lost to time.” Through various “breaks” from character, commercials, and news segments, the real story of the audio play and the actual characters (the actors playing the titular characters) are understood.

Now, how do we convert and adapt this to book format?

I started by turning the “lost radio show” to “lost newspaper serialized story” and the ad breaks and news segments into newspaper ads and newspaper articles. Eventually I’ll get some of those into graphical image form, once I’m feeling solid about the story part itself. Now what to do about the actors playing the characters and the meta layers?

This aspect has now been turned into what I refer to as “breaking the fifth wall.” In my simplest explanation, the characters in the story are generally aware that they are being both written by an author and narrated by an equally sentient narrator, who, in turn, is also self-aware that he is being written by the ever-present “author” who is, also, a character, or caricature of myself.

And now, for a quick sample of the task I have given myself. In the original script, an episode starts as follows:

CHARLES and JUDY, a young couple in love, are on a date up at the old observatory watching the stars!
Well Charles, here we are up at the old observatory watching the stars.
What an incredibly awkward thing to say…
I know, I apologize. It was written that way.
Never mind that. Just eat your potato salad.

Now, here is the result of my adaptation process, going line by line, turning this into an actual story:

Our story opens on a young couple in love, on a date at the old observatory. Charles, a dashing young man who has an afterschool job at a local ice cream shoppe, has taken his childhood sweetheart, Judy, to watch the stars. He couldn’t think of anything more romantic, not for lack of trying, yet simply because the author of this story seems to find things like this to be romantic. I suppose there are things far less romantic than an evening trip up to an old observatory to watch the stars. After all, sometimes the simplest of gestures are the best.

Judy, lying on a blanket spread over the lawn and staring up at the night sky, turned to her boyfriend and said, “Well, Charles, here we are up the old observatory, watching the stars.”

Charles paused for a moment, unsure of how to respond to such a blatantly obvious statement. His brow furrowed, and a concerned look spread over his youthful face, his chiseled jaw tightening a bit. “What an incredibly awkward thing to say.”

Judy sighed. Had she ruined this perfect moment? She would never forgive herself if her character’s dialogue became the one final straw that led to the end of their relationship. They had been in love for years, months even, and Charles was the one true thing in her life, everything else in her backstory being poorly written and under-developed. She decided to blame the author instead of taking responsibility for her own actions. “I know,” she said softly. “I apologize. It was written that way.”

“Pardon?” asked Charles. Never one to be self-aware, breaking the fourth wall wasn’t exactly in his character, the way it was for Judy. He admired that much about her, even though he didn’t fully understand it. It gave her a depth and charm that he found intriguing, and the sense of spontaneity excited him.

“Never mind that,” dismissed Judy. “Just eat your potato salad.”

I have already completed the first and shorter episode I had written as a “pilot episode” and you can read that HERE, if you so desire. There will be more to come as I finish more of the work!

Catching Up

Well, I suppose I do not even need to explain why I haven’t posted anything since February. Contrarywise, perhaps maybe I do. After all, I have been doing fuck-all nothing for the past couple months.

That’s not entirely true. I’ve been Tweeting, watching various TV shows and movies, playing Animal Crossing (but not the new one), creating music, writing (just not here), and doing various other little things to keep me distracted from this blog.

Every day, I think “Boy howdy, do I ever need to post more on that blog again.” or “Maybe I should write another weird poem.” but then I fall asleep on the sofa or watch a documentary on the Neolithic era. I suppose it’s better than doing truly nothing.

However, I felt it necessary to start posting again, and, in the words of Rage Against The Machine, what better place than here? What better time than now?

Yes, I know that’s not what they were singing about… or was it? For all we know, there could be an inherently pro-blogging message to all that socio-political mumbo jumbo they seemed so fond of.

Anyways, I have a few plans on some upcoming posts I intend to post within the next few days, as well as picking back up the whole poetry angle.

After all… What else is there to do?