Pass it along
January 31, 2002 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Pass it along : GM buys Chumbawamba song for $70,000. Chumbawamba takes money and gives it to corporate watchdogs that use the money to fund anti-GM ads. All of which makes up for how annoying "Tubthumping" got after awhile.
posted by zedzebedia (31 comments total)
By "after awhile", did you mean to say "immediately"? :)

You know, I'd heard the band was clever and had an activist streak, but the music seemed so frat-party & fist-pumping that I never gave it a chance. Maybe I'll give it another listen.
posted by Karl at 7:52 AM on January 31, 2002

I liked that song.
posted by corpse at 7:54 AM on January 31, 2002

While Chumbawamba gets well more than $70,000 worth of free publicity for a band that vanished off of the face of the earth, the watchdog group gets to run a couple prime time ads that no one will see. The best community service that band could do is to sit on their arses and not release another record. [this is about PR]
posted by machaus at 7:57 AM on January 31, 2002

workin for the man so you stick it back to him.
posted by panopticon at 8:01 AM on January 31, 2002 [1 favorite]

This has nothing to do with PR.
posted by sudama at 8:02 AM on January 31, 2002


You know, I'd heard the band was clever and had an activist streak, but the music seemed so frat-party & fist-pumping that I never gave it a chance.

They're a funny bunch - being a right-on hunt saboteur in my youth, I always *wanted* to like them. They did some stuff that sounded pretty good, a hell of a lot of stuff that is just as you describe, and a few things that were frankly horrible (such as an entire CD of 17th century English folk-rebel songs).

They've got a bit of a tendency to take things too far though, such as their jolly trumpet-led song "Harry Roberts", about a famous English cop-killer. They got some serious tabloid mouth-frothing for the cover of their LP "Anarchy" too, which featured a recently utilised portal-of-life. I can't find a picture, but that's probably for the best...

If you can find any of their really early stuff, then check that out - more punk than frat-party really, and *extremely* political.
posted by bifter at 8:08 AM on January 31, 2002

Here's your 'Anarchy' - recently utilised portal-of-life indeed!
posted by timmy at 8:17 AM on January 31, 2002

Reminds me of girl I knew--she was a stripper who considered herself a feminist and justified her occupation to herself by giving a large portion of her earnings to women's shelters and radical women's organizations. Those of us who knew her always wondered if that was enough to really remain "untainted" by that kind of money, which she claimed she was.
posted by mariko at 8:18 AM on January 31, 2002

"You know, I'd heard the band was clever and had an activist streak, but the music seemed so frat-party & fist-pumping that I never gave it a chance. "

the reason for that sound was a trojan horse. get a thousand people to buy the album for one song, and that's a thousand people who never, ever, would of heard the other songs on the album. you know, the important songs. :D

IIRC, their first album came out around the time of Live Aid, and was called "Pictures of Starving Children Sell Albums".
posted by jcterminal at 8:39 AM on January 31, 2002

Hey, I work for The Man and I give some of my money to activist groups! Can I get a free mention on Salon, too?

(Fight The Power!)
posted by briank at 8:41 AM on January 31, 2002

Well, I found out fast in my summertime hobby of buying CDs, vinyl and books at yard sales to resell to used bookstores and record & CD stores, that Chumbawumba's CD was right up there with Sheryl Crow, the Cranberries and Greg Kihn as a must to avoid....Even the New Vaudeville Band's Winchester Cathedral was a better pick.

Grrr...::thinking of money wasted::
posted by y2karl at 8:48 AM on January 31, 2002

Yet another reason to not watch TV. As if the Dodge commercials with Aerosmith weren't enough to piss me off, this is over the top. I hate that song.

The XMAS run of commercials by Dodger were heinous too.
posted by a3matrix at 8:52 AM on January 31, 2002

The best thing Chumbawumba ever did was provoke the deputy PM to violence before it became fashionable to do so.
posted by vbfg at 9:08 AM on January 31, 2002

y2Karl: I agree with your list of CD musts to avoid, but actually, "Winchester Cathedral" is okay. The New Vaudeville Band was the studio concoction of Geoff Stephens, who not only wrote the catchy New Vaudeville hit, but produced all of Donovan's allbums, and wrote the big disco hit "Doctor's Orders." Stephens was a respectable pop hack, who didn't insult his audience with preachy politics or purer-than-thou posing, unlike some folks we know.
posted by Faze at 9:10 AM on January 31, 2002

Faze, I sold the New Vaudeville Band's Winchester Cathedral, along with the Bay City Rollers and Herman's Hermits Greatest Hits, Vol. 2. I wasn't exactly buying for what I liked--otherwise produced all of Donovan's albums would be a black mark indeed. Winchester Cathedral is worse to have bouncing around in your cranium than Tubthumping, in my opinion, by the way.
posted by y2karl at 9:26 AM on January 31, 2002

[this is about PR]

This has nothing to do with PR.

Does anyone care to back any of these statements up with a shred of proof/good reasoning?
posted by BlueTrain at 9:30 AM on January 31, 2002

Well for what it's worth, I agree with BlueTrain (although I'm a bit more relaxed about it ;-)) As far as I can see they're completely "for real", and just lucked out with the mainstream success of Tubthumping. Although instances of people putting their money where their mouth is are rare - I think this is one of them.
posted by bifter at 9:52 AM on January 31, 2002

So you don't think that that gnat on the ass of GM that is $70,000 worth of advertising will be outweighed by the PR that Chumbawamba will get out of this? Maybe it isn't about PR, but if so, Chumbawamba has a lot to learn about the efficacy of their behavior. Preaching comes second to doing in my mind, especially when your enemy wasn't your enemy before they offered you some money.
posted by machaus at 9:58 AM on January 31, 2002

i think that from chumbawumba's perspective GM are everybodys' enemy. i can probably guarantee that chumbawumba have known about gm's activities since they became politically active (which was probably about the same time they learned to speak).
they have standards though:

'Some corporations, however, are apparently too risky for the band. 'When Nike offered us just short of a million dollars to use "Tubthumping" as the music for their World Cup ad in '98, we had to say no,' Nutter said. '

Alice Nutter - hate the music, love the name.
More power to your elbow.
Beats jamaroquai harping on about 'emergency on planet earth' whilst driving a supercar at illegal speeds on public roads.
posted by asok at 10:34 AM on January 31, 2002

chumbawumba is made up of some members of crass.
some history:
crass was a really really important political hardcore/punk band in the 80's. they single-handedly (on that continent) dragged punk away from emi and the sex pistols, etc. crass released monumental records. then some of the members went on to start chumbawumba who were an important political hardcore band. they were all bonified members of the radical political and music scene. then they decided that they could change the world by reaching a larger, universal audience with a really stupid, unlistenable song. (which they did) unfortunately, it didn't work. the mainstream people thought they were a 1-hit wonder, and no political person worth their salt would have even thought of listening to them (unless they had heard them before - and even so... it was depressing...)

i think they made a bad decision to release a 'really dumb song' instead of doing something palatable, kind of like rage against the machine does.

so there you have my perspective
where's bitteroldpunk when you need him
posted by goneill at 11:20 AM on January 31, 2002

The issue of whether its beneficial PR for Chumbawamba is one thing (I rather suspect it will be for their particular record-buying public, and FWIW I'm in the bizarre niche-business of evaluating public-relations activities). Whether it was *intended* to be successful is something else again. Now I don't know them personally, but I know a little about them and frankly if pure hardcash motives were behind it then it'd be one of the biggest sellouts in music history. Chumbawamba were among the few UK punk bands of the eighties that, like Minor Threat and others on the US hardcore scene indicated "pay no more than £xx.xx" on all of their earlier album covers. I think they still record on an independent (can't swear to it though...), so really sincerely doubt that an "evil" big record label publicist is behind it.

Tubthumping is an unholy crock of shit, no real question about it (apologies to everyone that likes it). It would be flat-out wrong to suggest that they abandoned their dour punk roots to record jolly drinking anthems however. They have *always* recorded records like Tubthumping - the main reason in fact that they've brought a pretty politicised fanbase over into the mainstream. Even Harry Roberts is a jolly sing-a-longa romp in a similar vein.

Btw goneill - are you sure that they had their roots in Crass? I hadn't heard this before and have seen both Crass/Conflict and Chumbawamba play a few times in the (admittedly) late eighties. Crass was also a squat/collective at which the *band* Crass lived. I wonder if it's the case that a few of Chumbawamba lived there too...
posted by bifter at 11:38 AM on January 31, 2002

Does anyone care to back any of these statements up with a shred of proof/good reasoning?

Chumbawumba has a very rich history of activism. Tubthumper was a VERY small blip on the radar, as they had been releasing albums for a decade prior. Everytime they get paid they give most of it away.
posted by glenwood at 11:57 AM on January 31, 2002

Here's a loosely related column from Jonah Goldberg in which he justifies taking speaking fees from leftist organizations on the premise that it makes them poorer. Not that he's invited to speak to many leftist groups, at least not that I know of.

His justification, like Chumbawumba's, depends on whether or not his/their association with an enemy organization makes enough $$ for that organization to offset any oppositional effort on his/their part.
posted by Ty Webb at 12:22 PM on January 31, 2002

hmmm. bifter, i don't want to say regarding the crass/chumbawumba thing, i thought that it was rather common knowledge though... (well, not common, but you know what i mean...) haven't loads of people played in crass? perhaps i am wrong. perhaps they were roadies... perhaps they cooked soup.

when crass broke up i was still in elementry school.

i just did a bit of a search, and i can find nothing to substantiate my aforementioned connection.
i do think that 'tubthumping' was dramatically worse than 'pictures of starving children'
posted by goneill at 12:33 PM on January 31, 2002

goneill: not a biggie - I was just curious as I hadn't heard about that before! :-) You're spot on about "Pictures of Starving Children..." too - excellent record, extremely... well... *angry*.

mmm... soup

Surprisingly, I've posted about Crass here before (albeit in a seriously oblique way...)
posted by bifter at 12:55 PM on January 31, 2002

I don't know if it is possible to listen to "Pass It Along" by Chumbawamba and not love it. The beats remix is even better. But I find this is a problem that plagues me, that I may be the only person left here in the states who counts as a rabid fan of Chumbawamba. And the Crash Test Dummies. And Geggy Tah.

coming to the conclusion his tastes are abandoned by the mainstream, Freshy places two pencils in his nose, and thwacks his face onto a table
posted by Homeskillet Freshy Fresh at 1:23 PM on January 31, 2002

Homeskillet Freshy Fresh: I know nothing about Geggy Tah, except that they have a song called "Gina" which is the name of my S.O. I downloaded this song and it never ceases to make her smile.

My question for you: Is "Gina" similar to the rest of their music or is it their "Tubthumping?"
posted by ColdChef at 2:45 PM on January 31, 2002

I'm completely behind Chumbawamba on this because I own many of their albums and have total faith in their genuine intentions. Moby, on the other hand, who has done the same thing, is harder to trust. Lately he's done too much prancing in Versace (he's a big friend of Donatella, apparently) and nearly enough vegan Christian anarchism.
posted by skylar at 4:28 PM on January 31, 2002

I do know that Crass' lead singer went on to form a dodgy band called Schwartzennegar ... one album had a song ranting about The Masons ...

Its been awhile, but I do think that at some point, there was some merbership overlap between Crass and Chumbawumba, although I'm not sure if any of that overlap survives to the current Chumbawumba lineup.

And what in the hell ever happened to Zounds? or Honey Bane?

I saw Dirt play in '95, damn good show ...

(runs out of non sequitors)
posted by hipstertrash at 10:17 PM on January 31, 2002

Geggy Tah did that song in forget what company's car ads that goes like this:

All I want to do is to thank you
Even though I don't know who you are
You let me change lanes
When I was driving in my car

Mercedes Benz C-class. The ads started last summer. That was a great song, Cray :)
posted by somethingotherthan at 5:55 PM on February 3, 2002

Chumbawamba answers the question about them and Crass on their official FAQ.
posted by kindall at 6:57 PM on February 3, 2002

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