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Tuesday, February 10, 1998 Published at 19:01 GMT


Agitpop is back at the Brits
image: [ Chumbawamba say New Labour has sold out ]
Chumbawamba say New Labour has sold out

A catchy tune brought Chumbawamba to the attention of millions. But their guitarist's decision to drench the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott at the Brit Awards will not have damaged the band's grass-roots street credibility.

Pat Kane, the singer with pop band Hue and Cry believes Chumbawamba didn't go far enough... (2' 51")
Leeds-based Chumbawamba were formed in 1984 and positively revel in their anarchist status.

Quite what Mr Prescott's soaking will do to bring about social change is uncertain.

It is unlikely to result in an invitation to a Downing Street drinks party. Not that Chumbawamba would accept. The British prime minister has set a trend of entertaining Britpop stars, but the group, as their latest hit Amnesia details, feel betrayed by New Labour.

Politicians who have hitherto been eager to ally themselves with the Cool Britannia renaissance in British popular culture may also think twice.

[ image: Prescott: incident was
Prescott: incident was "deplorable and a publicity stunt"
Mr Prescott condemned as "deplorable" the incident in which band member Danbert Nobacon leapt on the table he was sharing with his wife Pauline at the ceremony.

Band with a mission

Nobacon's father Roy Hunter, who revealed his son's original name was Nigel, defended the incident.

He said: "Chumbawamba want to open up debate.

"They're in the position, with recently having a big hit, that they can do that and they see it as part of their job."

However, Mr Hunter, from Burnley, was unable to say what debate the band wanted to ignite. "I have no idea until I speak to him."

Chumbawamba have frequently accused "New" Labour of selling out.

Message 'diluted'

But the band are beginning to face the same accusations from fellow anarchists who feel their message is less potent now they are reaping the rewards of being pop stars.

There is even a Boycott Chumbawamba webpage.

The eight members of the band, made up of squatters and punk rockers, originally lived together in a commune.

They now live separately and have signed up to a major label, EMI, but maintain their principles remain the same.

Singer Alice Nutter, said after the band hit the charts: "We're still anarchists. We still carry the idea we had 12 years ago that no one should have to go to work 40 hours-a-week and do a crap job."

Their hit - Tubthumping - with its chorus "I get knocked down, but I get up again" was the breakthrough single last summer that propelled the group to pop stardom.

Joy of getting drunk

Celebrating the joys of drinking, it initially plunged the band into controversy because it extols the virtues of whisky, lager, cider and vodka.

It was condemned by Alcohol Concern as irresponsible.

But it became a big hit in America and has achieved anthem status, being played in baseball and football stadia to motivate teams and the crowds.

The band has also been involved in high-profile stunts, including their own fly-posting campaign featuring Ecstasy victim Leah Betts and the slogan "Distorted" - a wordplay on the government drug information campaign "Sorted".

They produced their own anti-Band Aid album, lambasting the music industry for profiting from starvation. They called it Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records.

Their Anarchy album was also banned because the cover, featuring a baby being born, was branded pornographic.

Last month their records were banned from Virgin stores in the US after the band told fans to steal them because big shops "can afford the loss".


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