Chumbawumba / A State Of Mind – Agit Prop / Mind Matter Records – 1985

Introduction To History And Where We Stand / Which Side Of The Fence *

Application To Everyday Life / Rock And Roll Factory Strike

Chumbawumba – Invasion / A.S.O.M. – Shits Pride

A.S.O.M. – A Bite Of The Apple Is Not Enough / Chumbawumba – Isolation

Meat Market / Grass So Green

Imagine / Take Action

The first 7″ single release carrying the Chumbawumba name very closely followed the same year by a split 7″ single with A State Of Mind plus the very first A State Of Mind 7″ single.

Closely aligned these two bands, one from Leeds, England one from San Francisco, U.S.A., shared common views and goals in the mid 1980’s. The booklets that come with these vinyl releases are full of information on what those views and goals would have been. Third world exploitation, multinational companies, vegetarianism, sexism and so forth.

After Crass had effectively folded in 1984 many 1000’s of people who wanted to avoid the well trodden path of what mainstream society expected of them, took Chumbawumba to thier hearts and travelled up and down the country to witness the wonderful theatrical gigs that the band performed. Many 1000’s of people also followed Conflict around of course after the demise of Crass. I prefered Chumbawumba as I felt that band had a better chance of getting alternative views over to a larger audience in the long run, which of course they did, and continue to do so today as far as I am aware. *Please note that the first side of the first Chumbawumba 7″ single “Introduction To History And Where We Stand / Which Side Of The Fence” is recorded from my turntable and transferred to mp3 correctly. The tracks suddenly go very quiet

The text below concerning A State Of Mind was specifically written for this site by Robbie A.S.O.M. Thank you very much Robbie for putting this history together and for sending the photos.

A State of Mind’s roots date back to the Philadelphia punk scene circa 1982. One of its founding members, Robbie (vocals), had left his previous band, the Sadistic Exploits, due to a disagreement on the band’s direction. Inspired by Crass, Poison Girls, and other anarchist bands, he teamed up with Allison Raine (vocalist, founder of Savage Pink fanzine) and well-known local punker Kevin (synthesizer/tape machine) to form A State of Mind (ASOM).

ASOM played their first gig three weeks after their first practice. They warmed up for Crucifix, an anarchist punk band from the San Francisco Bay Area, at the Philadelphia Better Youth Organization’s first (and only) gig which was promptly shut down by the police. Robbie joined Crucifix on the remaining portion of their east coast tour, and during long stretches of road between gigs, mapped out what they envisioned to be an anarchist revolution in the United States.

“She’s your personalized whore / this woman your wife / you fuck her and fuck her but still want more / you tell her you love her so you can achieve your dirty deal / not giving a fuck about the way she feels / forced actions of submission, bondage, rape / HELP! / with your macho fucking hard-on her feelings can not be felt / you talk about her as if she’s just a slab of meat / something you bought from the store/used up and forgotten next week”

ASOM moved to the Bay Area eight months later in 1983 and lived with Crucifix in an artist warehouse commonly referred as “New Method”. Within six months the band had grown to include Rip (guitar), Mark (bass), and Greg (drums). Later that year, after reading a Chumbawamba interview in Maximum Rock and Roll, ASOM contacted the band and initiated what was ultimately to be an international recording collaboration.

In 1984, the band broadened their efforts to work with others both locally and abroad. They collaborated with local musician/artist Carolyn aka Cyrnai (guitar) to produce the Liberte’ / ASOM Don’t Vote…Subvert! flexi-disc (Thought 1). The flexi was recorded on a small 4-track recording device by Rip at New Method, and with that, their label – Mind Matter Records – was born. Some ASOM members travelled to England to meet with Crass, Flux of Pink Indians, and Chumbawamba that year.

“Voting on any scale large or small / does it really mean freedom for us all / does it really make a difference / does it really mean your free /shouldn’t the decisions that the government makes be made by you and me / does it really mean you’ve had your say / it’s just another one of the games they play / it’s a mockery of what your life’s become / it’s just a masturbation of a presupposed freedom / the system has failed us so many times before /so what the fuck are you voting for?”

Vinyl production stepped up in 1985. Assorted members, working together again as Liberte’, collaborated with MKultra (working class writer; bass guitar) to produce a second flexi-disc entitled Racism in America (Thought 2). Cyrnai produced a solo-EP entitled Charred Blossoms (Thought 3), while ASOM released their What’s The Difference? Animal / Humyn Exploitation EP (Thought 4). Mind Matter Records produced a spin-off collaborative effort between ASOM’s Juliet (backing vocals) and her sister Kathryn that year – a cassette tape entitled Totem Falls (Thought 5).

“It ain’t just animals locked away in cages / And the profiteers don’t care for them or we / Yes we’re also bound if we don’t act now / It’s time we all fought to be set free / Animals exploited by murdering madmen / And it ain’t much different for you or me / Money’s to be made off the lives of the innocent / Despite who’s pain and agony / Monkeys and men are turned into machines / Vivisected loonies in a lobotomized life / Whether caged and bound or mind-fucked with lies / There is no difference this is all our strife.”

ASOM’s collaboration with Chumbawamba resulted in the We Are The World? EP (Agit-Thought 2) which was released in 1986. ASOM, with new member Verm (guitar), did an abbreviated West Coast tour with LA anarchist-punkers Iconoclast; and some members travelled to England to tour with Chumbawamba. Meanwhile, Mind Matter Records released vinyl for two Bay Area anarchist-punk bands: Christ On Parade’s Isn’t Life a Dream EP (Thought 6) and Think Tank’s What Now? EP (Thought 7).

“Burn the flags, tear them down / They’re part of the system which holds us bound / Break down the walls that separate us / Destroy the system which promotes distrust / Nation against nation, team against team / They divide up the people into those extremes / Commie or capitalist, which is your choice?/Either way you choose you haven’t got a fucking voice / So it’s time to fucking act /A united people in the attack / Working together freed from their grasp /Act now….act fast!”

The group played a few more gigs through the first half of 1987 with Greg S. (bass), Andrew (drums), and well-known Los Angles peace punk Lord Jim (acoustic guitar). Meanwhile, Mind Matter Records released Chumbawamba vocalist Danbert Nobacon’s 7” Bigger Than Jesus 45 (Thought 8 ) and Christ on Parade’s A Mind is a Terrible Thing LP (Thought 9). The band was evicted from New Method in the summer 1987 and band members decided to try new things.

The text below concerning Chumbawumba is courtesy of and the photographs of Chumbawumba performing at Wood Green Arts Centre squat in 1985 courtesy of Graham Burnett.  

“Now if only pop (I mean POP) and politics DID mix…” – Robin Gibson reviewing Chumbawamba’s “Never Mind The Ballots” LP, Sounds July 1987.

“Suspended above the courtyard of the Pompidou Centre in Paris is the Genitron, an electric sign-clock flashing the number of seconds left in the twentieth century. Inaugurated in January 1987 by Francois Mitterand, the Genitron is a time machine that conducts its relentless countdown over the heads of the international fauna of Les Halles, the hustlers, punks, dealers, con men, mystics, musicians, strong-men, fire-eaters, rappers, breakers, addicts, sidewalk artists and sidewalk dwellers who seem already to represent the spectres of the apocalypse.” – Elaine Showalter, from “Sexual Anarchy – Gender and Culture At The Fin de Siecle” (1990)

FIVE OR SIX YEARS before the countdown began and Chumbawamba is being born out of that beautiful mess of street performers. Chumbawamba is the trio in the corner busking Clash and Gene Vincent songs on acoustic guitars – fired by punk logic, punk as change, hanging about in Paris during that knife-edge decision-time when rebellion turns into either part of your growing up or part of your life. Politics or “attitude” to come into it sooner or later.

Back a bit further. Legal Aid and Optical Illusion are the drummer and singer in a Barnsley punk band. Legal’s granddad is taking a Polaroid. They’re called `The Threat’ and their music starts and ends this record; the photograph becomes it’s cover. Later they’ll change their names to Harry & Mave and meet up with the others in Leeds, and end up living in a huge squatted Victorian house making pop (I mean POP) records.

Alice Nutter, art school drop-out, is playing drums badly in a group called `Ow My Hair’s On Fire’. Lou Watts operating computers for Burnley Building Society, Dunstan singing Velvet Underground cover versions in a Billingham group `Men In A Suitcase’. Teams that meet in cafes… and in the background, a woman Prime Minister running her own War in the South Atlantic, kills, maims, parades and gloats for half of 1982. England is dreaming alright: and somebody has to shout about the nightmare even if they are to be damned into obscurity for their pains. Usher in the Never-Has-Beens!

LONG BEFORE Chumbawamba release any records of their own, they pull off a successful guerilla attack which results in their first appearance on vinyl. In response to Garry Bushell’s inane patronage of Oi Punk (before Gary wrote for The Sun, he practiced his homophobic brand of tabloid sensationalism in music weekly `Sounds’), Chumbawamba fabricate a completely bogus Oi band called `Skin Disease’, complete with press pack and four-track demo cassette. Some few weeks later and Bushell lists Skin Disease as “Burnley’s premier Oi band”, and letters appear in Sounds lumping Skin Disease in with “other Northern Oi bands”, as proof of that “good Oi music is not exclusively a London phenomenon.” All this despite the fact that the “band” never actually exist. Eventually Bushell invites the band to appear on an Oi compilation single. Playing the role of Northern oiks, Skin Disease travel to London to record a special-written song called “I’m Think”, a bog-standard punky thrash with the words “I’m Thick” repeated sixty-four times. It appears on the single “Back On The Streets”.

Meanwhile, back to the twentieth century countdown. The first Chumbawamba demo tape is recorded in Hulme, Manchester, a few days after the band’s first gig in January 1982. A snippet of it ends up on a Crass compilation album “Bullshit Detector 2”, alongside a song about nuclear war by Barnsley band Passion Killers. Passion Killers are what became of The Threat. (As in, “1, 2, 3, 4, Let’s Go!”). The two bands meet. Small-town punks in Leeds, with a desire to rise above the mundane, to avoid a lifetime career at the Building Society or down the pit at Barnsley Main, sidestepping the alternative of college education. But instead of just escaping those roots, it becomes more and more important as the eighties progress to take them along, to re-write the endings of the Hollywood teenage rites-of-passage movies, to balance the fine line between everyday boredom and rock n roll’s petulant ignorance of real life; and to have fun doing it. Growing up to a soundtrack of punky, alienated noise – religiously watching The Fall, Wire, ATV, Clash – turns everything after it into a choice between safety – with all it’s inbuilt insecurities and emotional cancers – and challenge. Change or go under. The bad ship Chumbawamba sets sail.

“Chumbawamba: the message is more important than the music.” – Full extent of first ever live review, New Musical Express.

AT THIS POINT CHUMBAWAMBA are fast becoming unmovable flag-burning pacifists, a reaction against Thatcher’s election campaign involving nuclear stockpiling and stepping over dead bodies in the Falklands. This is the decadent 60’s and 70’s hangover, the Pistols’ “No Future” etched across a Boy George mirror. In the early eighties the choice seems straightforward – Brit-pop as complete escapism (Lady Margaret’s “Me, me, me” culture) or the sub-culture of resistance that is burrowing it’s way from underground. Chumbawamba play gigs at peace camps, turning up at demonstrations and rallies like they’re going out of fashion. (Which they are). The band’s home is raided twice in under a year by ten burly drugs squad officers who ask, “You lot them Socialist Worker types, right?”. No wonder the likes of the Guildford Four got banged up for fifteen years with authorities like this on the case.

The entries on the Special Branch files get longer. Raids, obstruction, breaches of the peace, even “theft by housebreaking” – twenty-six hours in the custody of the Strathclyde police in December 1983 charged with “removal of dogs, mice and files” from a research bucket load; for single parents, local hospital closure campaigns, hunt saboteurs, the ALF, anti-Sizewell campaign, nurseries. Nine people, three cats and a dog living under one roof, fledging anarchist politics mixed with too-hefty doses of idealism and organic vegetables. The dog, Derek, appears on a couple of the early records and includes in his CV the greatest accolade bestowed upon a canine: that of biting members of the police force (forcing one to have hospital treatment).

TWO EVENTS WHICH RE-ROUTE the agit-pop politics of Chumbawamba, both from 1984. Firstly, the Brighton Bomb. Half the Cabinet covered in rubble, and suddenly political violence – of the type which defeated Hitler, freed Mandela, ended slavery, and overthrew the state communist dictatorships – blows a hole in the pacifist edge to the band’s polemic. Secondly, and more importantly, the beginning of the great Miners’ Strike. From early on, the Armley (Leeds) Miners Support group is twinned with Frickley put in South Elmsall – Armley Socialist Workers make the connections and Chumbawamba supply the van and the street collections on Saturday mornings. The band mix playing benefit gigs for the miners with traveling down to the picket lines at five and six o’clock in the morning. And during this bitter winter some of Chumbawamba join a theatre group who travel from village to village putting on a Christmas pantomime for miner’s kids, down to South Wales and around Yorkshire. Coming from places like Barnsley and Burnley in times when the coal mines were part of the very fabric of these towns, it doesn’t take much effort to know which side of the fence you ought to be standing on; the band makes and sells a fast-selling three-track cassette for the Miners’ Hardship Fund, and Sounds writes:

“The Chumbas, as they are affectionately known, are refreshing and genuine pop anarchists. And no, they won’t go away…” (December 1994)

“What we’re given is any old rubbish that won’t upset the apple cart. The only choice we seem to be left with it to play the part of the bad apple.” – from Chumbawamba’s first single sleeve notes

ON JUNE 1ST, 1985, Chumbawamba are recording their first single “Revolution”, whilst at the same time the Travellers Convoy is being attacked and wrecked in a beanfield adjacent to Stonehenge. Cracked heads, massive publicity, and the start of an era of political change: when the marginal’s begin to come out from the underground.

The Clash, hastily re-formed in new street-cred guide with Joe Strummer passing round the music business hat to pay for his cocaine habit, play rebel chic outside Leeds University. Danbert Nobacon arms himself with a hydraulic-action paint-gun and splatters band and audience before legging it. This is Chumbawamba discovering their real talent: refuting the idea that rock n roll is some huge back-slapping family business where everyone “pulls together”. Putting spanners in their own works, pigheadedly refusing to lie down and become another servile record business lap-dog.

THE HOUSE IS RAIDED AGAIN, this time with sledgehammers. They’re looking for “explosives and bomb-making equipment”. Everyone is hauled down to the station, questioned relentlessly, kept separately, diaries and books confiscated – huge plastic bagfuls of pamphlets, posters, even song lyrics… twenty-three hours in a Leeds cop shop. Meanwhile, the first single sells out.

“We haven’t got a master plan – we react to things as they come along. As Anarchists we live with the contradictions that socialism doesn’t allow.” – From an interview with Melody Maker, Dec 1986

Chumbawamba mocks up as an April Fool’s SDP/Liberal Alliance pop group, calls itself The Middle, and records three tracks for a spoof demo. The Libs love it. Mike Harskin at the Liberal Whips Office in the House of Commons writes to invite the band to play at MP David Owen’s birthday party at Stringfellow’s in London; Chumbawamba are busy playing their own gigs. The single “Smash Clause 28” attacks the government homophobia pushing through a law which, amongst other things, demands the teaching of hetro-only family values in schools. This single is received as “unwashed ghetto grumbling… rock n roll won’t even notice” by Sounds magazine. (Shortly after, few people notice the demise of Sounds.) “Smash Clause 28” is the first of several recorded attacks on homophobia by the band, and significantly it isn’t until 1994’s “Homophobia” that the issue becomes “acceptable” enough to make it into the pop industry’s frame of vision, along with active anti-fascism (as opposed to a general nod in the direction of anti-racism) and anti-sexism. This year’s thing, last year’s thing, next year’s thing.

IN THE SUMMER OF 1985 Live Aid gives Sir Bob Geldof an excuse to get pissed and shout “fucking give, you bastards!” on live TV. Everyone waits to see if they’ll exhume John Lennon’s body and sit it in front of a white piano. Showbiz razzamatazz and displays of public generosity before McCartney sings “Let It Be”. Let what be? Have a party, celebrate decadence, and send a few bob to Africa? The £80 million raised amounts to a little more than half Michael Jackson’s personal fortune, or about what the world spends on arms every two hours forty minutes. And not one of those has-beens up there on the global pulpit ever mentions why there’s a famine in the first place – no-one asks who rips off the African crops and gives only MacCoke culture in return. Band Aid: a sticking plaster on a gaping wound. Revive those flagging careers! And U2 get their first taste of stadium rock…

Chumbawamba’s response is an LP catchily titled “Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records; Starvation, Charity and Rock n Roll – Lies and Traditions”. Which says it all, really. On the home front, Chumbawamba get involved in mass pickets both locally, at the Silentnight factory in Barnoldswick, and nationally, outside Fortress Wapping in London, where Rupert Murdoch mixes upgrading production of The Sun and The Times with all-out attacks on unions. Bundles of newspapers sitting outside newspaper shops across Britain are repeatedly stolen and burn, and several nights in Wapping end in a celebratory and almost ritual battle between cops protecting newspaper lorries and thousands of pickets and supporters. The band plays benefits for both sets of strikers in addition to gigs for Gay Switchboard, Prisoner’s Support group, Leeds Bust Fund and even an Anti-Freemasons concert in Keswick which has to switch venues twice due to local Masonic council threats. Chumbawamba are described in the Keswick press as “the worst of the american satanic backwards message bands”. And a gig with arch-punks Conflict at Leeds University ends in a mini-riot, missiles and riot cops and running battles… and Chumbawamba earn a lifetime ban from the University.

Late 1986 and Chumbawamba link up with Dutch band The Ex for a gig-to-gig relationship which is to last several years. Anarchists, squatters, and die-hard musical experimentalists, The Ex introduce Chumbawamba to demonstrations, Amsterdam-style; in a protest against NATO warships being stationed in the harbour, thousand of people create a huge party on the shores with bands playing on warehouse roof-tops and people already in crash helmets and with scarves across their faces. The Dutch riot police repeatedly charge the crowd, there’s a scream, and it’s an English accent. Alice Nutter is caught in the panic and has a broken leg. She completes the tour sitting on stage on a stool with her leg in plaster.

“All good clean fun, and ultimately harmless” – Chumbawamba live review, Birmingham Mermaid 1987

THE “SCAB AID” SINGLE, released under the name “The Scum” in 1987, attacks The Sun newspaper’s hypocrisy and jingoism by parodying that paper’s charity single “Let It Be” – where a host of pop’s graying publicity-fetishists (McCartney, Boy George, etc) sing to raise money for people involved in a ferry disaster. The single, a spoken-word n’ piano piece narrated by long-standing Chumbawamba sidekick Simon Lanzon (later of Credit To The Nation) makes NME’s single of the week and sells out before anyone realizes it’s Chumbawamba. The Sun describes the record as “sick!”. And what more accolades could it get from a paper which described the drowning of hundreds of Argentine soldiers aboard ship in 1982 with the headline “Gotcha!”?

“NEVER MIND THE BALLOTS… Here’s The Rest of Your Life”. Another Thatcher election victory and another round of red-faced Labour politicians shifting further to the right. The Labour Party, sitting on the fence so long it can’t work out which side it’s supposed to be on. Scared to challenge the status quo, wooing big business, turning a blind eye to sexual politicsm to the dismantling of the Unions, to Ireland. For some of Chumbawamba, a few days in Belfast to see a little of what’s going on there. Saturday night chucking-out time, blacked-up squaddies creeping through peoples’ front gardens, in armored cars in daylight asking questions, taking detail at sub-machine gunpoint. And the British media’s propaganda warfare, relentless in it’s blanket-censoring thoroughness… you can sing “Free Nelson Mandela” until the cows come home, but sing a song about Bobby Sands and see what reaction you get.

1988 and trying to cross the border between Switzerland and France. Seven hours in the no-man’s-land between the two, the entire band strip-searched and questioned after being found to have some copies of “Class War”. Extra plain-clothes officers “looking for guns”, the band only managing to cross intro France when the Swiss refuse to have them back; and after signing papers agreeing to the destruction of the confiscated magazines.

BACK IN ENGLAND, and the Centre for Policy Studies has unveiled their brand new baby for the 1990’s – the Poll Tax. Contrary to previous form, this is an attack on the whole of the British working class in one fell swoop; having excelled at picking off sections of it, this time the state proposes to reinvent a sweeping poverty tax which last failed in 1381, the time of the infamous People’s Revolt. Chumbawamba reacts by releasing a collection of acapella songs dating from that revolt up to the present day: “English Rebel Songs” breaks the chain of guitar/drums pop and tells it’s history of trouble-makers, revolutionaries and rebels whilst around the land anti-Poll Tax groups begin to organise and educate.

“If I can’t dance to it… it’s not my revolution” – Emma Goldman

This post is dedicated with the greatest of respect to Iain Aitch who is enjoying his birthday today

  1. Robbie ASOM
    Robbie ASOM
    March 4, 2010 at 3:30 am

    I’m enjoying the blogversation but wanted to respond to DavidM’s comment about the woman in the pic on the front cover of the ASOM 45. For what it’s worth…she was in the band and posed for it.

  2. jock
    March 4, 2010 at 10:32 am

    i wouldnt compare women to meat, but especially with all these young girls from eastern europe being forced to work as prostitutes, they do get treated like a product to make money for gangsters with zero regard for their well being.
    i do think a lot of those old anarcho bands did become cliches, too many folk just wanted to be seen as the more radical, we did this etc etc, what have you done? just ego trips and a lot of ”i’m better than you cos of blah blah”, i think its known as one upmanship maybe?
    still goes on today, you only have to read some of the tripe on indymedia, never mind the system, fuck their heirarchys 🙂

  3. Nic
    March 4, 2010 at 11:59 am

    I’m not sure if the position you address (in relation to the ASOM sleeve) is ‘deranged’ or ‘posturing piffle’, Chris…

    Surely the issue which that position was trying to address is that a form of perception does indeed exist which views living creatures (animals) as objects for execution and consumption – that is, as intrinsically worthless as living entities and worth more only through their ability to be productive (through consumption). That same perception – in a similar manner – also extends to other flesh (that of humans), viewing it as an object for consumption, albeit in less literal senses (such as consumption by a life of slave labour or consumption by the reduction of a living creature down to an object as in much pornography). These dehumanising tactics move towards a logical apotheosis in the casual dismissal of the loss of human life after the chemical disaster in Seveso (where the head of the company stated “Babies are replaceable”) and the harvesting/recycling of human body parts in concentration camps.

    If I think about it, the first time I remember coming across the analogy was the line “Chicken thighs, human thighs, it’s all the same old game” in the popular beat number ‘Time Out’ by Crass…

    I’m also wary of the argument that people who oppose something are ultimately motivated by venal terms. When you talk of people making a “nice speaking circuit wage”, it says more about your perception of (and – perhaps – prejudice towards) an event rather than the reality of what it actually is…

    The same argument is usually applied by capitalists to anyone who doesn’t feel that their approach to life is making a better world for everyone, hence the (understandable, but tiresome) “Oh, those people are just jealous of our way of life and wealth which is why they oppose us” and “Of course, all these people are making a fortune on the Climate Change gravy train, which is why they complain about industrial pollution” comments…

    I’ll think we’ll have to agree to differ!
    (Totally with you on the excesses of Deep Ecology and Straight Edge!)

    PS Cobalt Hate issue 1 available for download here:

  4. Chris L
    Chris L
    March 4, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Nic, you should read about some of the rather strange ‘bedfellows’ Dworkin & Mackinnon appeared at events with (extreme right wing christian fundamentalists, neo-cons, anti-abortion campaigners…) not to mention some of the support they courted whilst legislating for the Dworkin-MacKinnon Antipornography Civil Rights Ordinance (which, ironically, was also used as the court defence of a number of rapists, citing that if women could ‘sue’ pornographers for the damage their product has wrought on their lives, conversely, rapists could hold them similarily accountable, claim their responsibility was compromised and use this as mitigation for their acts!)

    Robbie ASOM: Yes, i thought the woman in the collage would have been a band member or friend. That is one of the factors that kind of makes the juxtaposition all the more bizarre. I’d be interested to know if the woman in question genuinely thought she was perceived as a ‘piece of meat’ as she went about her business or if , on reflection, such a prosumption only really had resonance within the , i should imagine, rather insular anarcho-punk/feminist milieu within which she socialised?

    I’ve got a very good friend who was the ‘hardline anarcha-feminist’ singer in a certain American punk band who now admits she felt uncomfortable espousing half the stuff she came out with then but felt it was the ‘party line’ expected of her. Also, that she found much of that period very lonely and dispiriting. While the rest of her peers were out partying and getting off with boys, she felt she couldn’t and as a result retreated into herself and the ‘scene’, becoming more extreme in her views, and more alienated, resulting in a depression she still battles today.

    Similarily, another very good friend and the singer in one of the best known anarcho-punk bands still going today (ironically, with a degree in marketing which he keeps rather quiet about) once admitted that to ‘keep at the top of the league’ it’s almost like you have to up the ante with regard to the uncompromising extremity of your views as once they become ‘the norm’ they no longer maintain that band’s hegemony within the scene. In the early 80s about every punk band (apart from a handful of notable exceptions) denounced class war and even the concept of class being relevant; post-miners strike most had made a dramatic volte face, as much, in my opinion, due to the volte face of the likes of Crass, Chumbawamba as ue to any ideological shift. Ditto attitudes to and ‘direct action’ per se. Flux even denouncing ALF tactics at the time – something I would expect almost unimaginable within the punk scene today. As Jock says above, this is no more than a cred-quest, and became, i should imagine for some, almost an end in itself.

    And, needless to say, this cred-quest was more than expressed through the ttire of many bands and their followers. Anyone remember the fashion for wearing Wellington boots after one of Crass did on some tour? You couldn’t make that shit up! Just absurd.

    Anyway, I just hope folk keep enjoying the music cos there was some great stuff around at the time, but don’t get too into the ‘ideological’ side of it all too heavily. Cos basically it was pretty much a load of guff. But then again, coming out with ill-conceived foolishness is part of being young I suppose so what the fuck 🙂

  5. Chris L
    Chris L
    March 4, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    PS: nice to see some opinion and debate on here.
    Sometimes – and i’m as guilty as anyone – it can all get a bit “Yea, that’s a great tape. I remember seeing them at the Centro. My sister married their bassist” 😉

  6. Chris L
    Chris L
    March 4, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    PPS: Nic, getting a tad metaphysical re the Seveso apotheosis, no? Any concept can be extraplated to a ‘logical’ conclusion but that doesn’t mean that conclusion isn’t ultimately a load of fanny batter? It’s a photo of a woman standing outside a butcher’s shop in a short skirt. It’s only because we are conversant with a perception of the semiotics of this juxtaposition within the parameters of an anarcho-punk record cover/fanzine that we endow it with the meaning which arrives at the “harvesting/recycling of human body parts in concentration camps”.

    Most folk you showed that photo to would just see a kind of punky looking woman standing outside a butcher’s shop.

    Oh, and, for the record, i’m ALWAYS ‘motivated by venal terms’ 🙂

  7. Nic
    March 4, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    I think that’s where we’ll differ, Chris: I would consider the argument that people don’t view other people as objects for use to the point of destruction as cock pastry.

    Dworkin et al tend to take the old Marx/Maoist line where you can ignore uncomfortable truths if it suits you…rather like Class War 😉 However, they are not the only voice on the particular issue, and consequently couldn’t be in any way held up as a paradigm.

    By the same token, just because some people wore wellies and pretended to believe in things when – in reality – they didn’t doesn’t make an idea invalid: it just makes that person look foolish.
    I knew a person who developed a psychiatric illness because he saw a picture of Corinne Russell in an old copy of Titbits in the Waiting Room of the doctor’s surgery: just goes to prove what an alineating effect pornography can have, eh?

    I don’t buy this notion of a ‘credquest’ at all…Perhaps for a few people (and – again – this, I would suggest, is a result of the individual rather than the milieu), but not for many people who are quietly leading their lives by the ideas which they genuinely believe in. You’ve spent too much time in “that London”, Chris…

    About the only venal motivation for me is working to earn money: the rest is for love, my friend – do you hear? LOVE! Let it into your black heart!

  8. jock
    March 4, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    have to disagree on the ‘cred quest issue”, i met a lot of people who seemed to get off on bragging rights on what they’d done and what everyone else hadnt, people ended up in prison cos of people bragging about certain illegal activities (animal rights direct action being my experience of witnessing this).
    some good people got messed up in one way or the other cos of it.
    but people were a lot younger back then, more naive as well, we live, we learn, and we learn to love to live.
    btw what is cock pastry?
    but you are right, we all need to give and feel a bit more love to everyone and everything.
    without that where would we be?
    lots of love to all. 🙂

  9. Chris L
    Chris L
    March 4, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Nic: don’t you think the concept of a ‘cred-quest’ is , to varying degree, pivotal to most music based sub-cults? I should imagine within goth/emo subcults there’s a drive to who can be the most miserable and doomladen; within black metal, who can be the most extreme and within the skinhead white power who can be the most ‘nazi’?

    Anarcho-punk, by it’s very nature (alienating music, exclusive/extremist ideology, unflattering clothes etc) was the most credibility based of all the punk sub-cults at that time – although back then there weren’t many others – 77 type punks, UK82 type punks, Johnny Thunders junkie chic types, batcave types…
    Though now, clearly there are other factions – straight edge/hardline or whatever the fuck it’s called – being the obvious usurper of the crown.

    Conversely, i don’t think if anarcho-punk HAD that constantly permuting obsession with ‘cred’ it would have lasted over a quarter of a century as a incontestably ‘underground’ scene, for better or worse.

    PS: Bizarrely, Hunter’s Wellingtons inscrutably appeared to be quite ‘look du jour’ this fashion week. But Andy Palmer or Naomi Campbell, they still look shit 🙂

  10. DavidM
    March 4, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    First of all I’d like to thank Robbie for clearing the matter up regarding the woman in the pic.
    While Nic has put forward a case (and in a far more coherent and intelligent manner than I could ever hope to do), I’d still like to comment on a number of Chris’ points.
    Yes, most people are indeed balanced individuals. However, those who consume pornography, see, when perusing these images, be that in a magazine or while watching a movie, not a thinking feeling person, but “a piece of ass” whose sole purpose is to gratify their sexual needs and uges. They become less than human… objects of titilation… commodities in the eye of the beholder. Advertising too should share some of the blame with women’s bodies used to sell all manner of products. So yes, the analogy in which women are compared to butchered meat is a good one.
    Regarding the anarcho-punk community? It is grossly unfair to blacken an entire movement based on the experiences of some. Yes, I am sure that there have indeed been many whose commitment to the politics was nothing more than a sham, and who at the end of the day didn’t give a shit. However, there were, and are, many that do. I’ve been an active participant in this community for 30 years, and in that time, the vast majority of those I’ve met and/or worked with, have been good and dedicated people. They got their shit together and got involved not coz it was cool to do so or coz they felt that they had to through peer pressure, but because they believed that what they were doing was right and just.
    Should say that there is still a strong and active scene today, one which has spead out across the world.

  11. Chris L
    Chris L
    March 4, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    most people ‘consume pornography’ (to varying degree admittedly) though, don’t they? quid pro quo, most people – to varying degrees – compare women to butchered meat. I really don’t go along with that at all. And i don’t think you’ll find many others out with the ‘anarcho punk’ scene (even radical feminists) who espouse that analogy either. Interesting to note Nic’s observation that this whole metaphor may have its origins with Crass themselves. Also, notable that it’s a few men who are debating these arguments here, as is invariably the case.

    Furthermore, i must say i don’t see anything wrong in people having ‘objects of titillation’ and i think anyone who is saying they don’t ‘objectify’ those they find attractive is lying. I can’t be bothered to get all Desmond Morris about it but i’d say it’s a fairly inate facet of human nature surely? I do know a fair number of people who work in the porn industry, and though i’m not some naive clown who believes it to be some non-exploitative idyl and it’s for certainly ‘not for everyone’ I don’t actually KNOW any people who have been damaged by it….

    Where-as, I DO know three or four people who have ended up being very mentally damaged by ‘worrying too much’ over animal rights issues. One unfortunate, a friend of a friend, ending up committing suicide after receiving a prison sentence for animal rights related vandalism.

    Funnily enough, although I pretty much ceased my involvement with it around 1984/85, from my communications with individuals and travels with bands the one thing that DID strike me is just how different the ‘anarcho punk’ scene was – and i imagine still is – in Britain to that elsewhere in the world where it genuinely appears to be a movement for social change. Friends of mine who have been involved with the anarchist movement and other anti-authoritarian causes since the sixties say exactly the same thing about their ‘scenes’.

    Perhaps there’s just some sort of ‘mal anglais’ which emasculates any movements for ‘alternative lifestyles’ or radical social change which those over the waters are impervious to. Is it because most if not all other countries have undergone dramatic social upheavals in relatively recent times (or like France have a constitution that was forged on revolution)…or perhaps it’s just because in Britian ‘radical politics’ is largely a middle-class luxury, persued from a position of relative socio-economic security and like little armies of James Deans those who want to show they are rebelling the most vocally really haven’t got a great deal to rebel against? It’s an enigma i’ve always found as puzzling as i find it depressing.

  12. gerard
    March 4, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    I think you’ve hit a point there Chris – funnily enough I was just writing an intro to a book about an hour ago where I said my experience at Amnesty International British Section was really dispiriting (read bourgeois) until I met foreign Amnesty people, where I first saw the spirit that made me want to work there.

  13. AL Puppy
    AL Puppy
    March 5, 2010 at 12:42 am

    There is a lot of history tied up in this. For example the French Revolution of 1789 did inspire many British radicals, but as the Revolution turned into the Terror and then the wars against Napoleon there was a very strong conservative/patriotic reaction which suppressed the radicals.

    Since Britain was also going through an industrial revolution at the same time, the conservative/ patriotic (anti-French, anti-Napoleon) reaction was also directed against the newly emerging industrial/ urban working class (Waterloo 1815, Peterloo 1819). This had the effect (noted by Engles in 1844) of directing the British working class movement towards reform rather than revolution.

    There could be a bit of older history in the mix as well – that the Brits had their revolution in the 1640s when they chopped their king’s head off. But the revolution was also a bloody civil war which did not end in the UK until the defeat of Bonnie prince Charlie at Culloden in 1746… and which has carried on in Ireland right up to the present.

    Maybe there is an equation: class war = civil war, which gives reform the edge over revolution?

    Also from the 18th to the mid 20th century there was the British Empire which pumped immense wealth back into the UK and soaked up millions of emmigrants (voluntary or enforced) who might otherwise have caused trouble at home.

  14. jock
    March 5, 2010 at 10:54 am

    ive got great admiration for the spirit of the french working classes, i remember reading i think it was martin wrights book. in 68 when the french folk were out on the street fighting for social change, and also a lot of other places around the globe were at it too, what was happening in britain, fuck all, apart from the dockers who came out on strike in support of enoch powell.
    sad state of affairs indeed, and brits call the french ‘surrender monkeys!
    just biggoted bollocks.

  15. Nic
    March 5, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    I think I agree with DavidM when he says that the actions of some (certainly a sizeable proportion of the people involved, but not all) shouldn’t dictate whether an idea has value or not. To me, ‘Anarcho Punk’ has existed for over a quarter of a century because the ideas appeal to people’s personal idealism and their hopes for what life could be – and are inclusive rather than exclusive. It’s possibly a more idealist than cynical perspective, but it’s not necessarily naïve either.

    The search for ‘cred’ certainly plays a part for some (but not all): perhaps that is one of the issues of attempting to engage with radical politics through a mind informed by an upbringing within a capitalist culture? Or perhaps it is an inevitable consequence of youth: when Jock talks of people ending up in jail for having loose tongues, I would be more inclined to assign it to naivety and youth rather than any inherent quality of the scene in which it occurs.

    Having said all of that, ‘Anarchism’ doesn’t really mean a great deal to me on a personal level. The ‘Class war’ angle seems to be obsessed with wielding the whip of power, creating simplistic scapegoats, glorifying violence and the mob mentality, while the ‘Lifestylists’ are reminiscent of Christians…

    Thinking of ‘Fashion Week’ tomfoolery, Chris: there’s a concerted ‘Country Squire in Tweeds’ look on the part of some of the youth up here – probably inspired by the ‘Country Casuals’ vibe.

    Jock: ‘Cock pastry’ seemed like an appropriate equivalent of ‘fanny batter’ (Chris’ favourite term).

  16. Nic
    March 5, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Surely anyone – whether male or female – has a right to debate a topic like Pornography because it affects everyone? I’m not sure if you need ‘a posteriori’ empirical experience in order to be able to have an opinion or that experience will result in the most coherent understanding of a situation. However, I also believe that it’s important to listen to an individual’s experience of a situation because it extends knowledge.

    It seems like something of an assumption to suggest that everyone needs to objectify an individual in order to find them attractive. You certainly ‘can’, but not necessarily ‘need to’. If it is indeed an ‘inherent’ quality in human beings, I suppose that one has to ask whether it is a useful and beneficial quality and whether it is something that perhaps should be re-structured for a more beneficial outcome? After all, isn’t it an element in human nature to think “That person has something I want: I will take it from them, by killing them if necessary”?

    Differing perceptions on the same element have different results. The view that “I don’t see anything wrong in people having ‘objects of titillation’” doesn’t necessarily ring true for others. I know a couple of people who feel they have been damaged by working as prostitutes (both as ‘Escorts’ and at street level), just as I have met people whose involvement in extremist politics has resulted in a strong sense of alienation and attendant problems. The same applies to prison. it’s a sobering thought to think of your friend-of-a-friend who took his life after receiving a prison sentence. Having had experience myself, it just goes to show how differently people can respond to an event or situation: some people really struggle with a prison term, and others don’t. Either way – a sad outcome…

  17. jock
    March 5, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    ”Jock: ‘Cock pastry’ seemed like an appropriate equivalent of ‘fanny batter’ (Chris’ favourite term).”

    does seem to like his fanny batter does chris, do you use it to deep fry pizza or mars bars like they do up the road 😉 chris?

  18. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    April 10, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Thanks very much to Robbie from A State Of Mind for writing out some history about the band which is now uploaded unto the post and for sending the photographs.

  19. jock
    April 10, 2010 at 10:01 am

    back to chumbawumba – well danbert nobacon, i always liked the cassette he released of him with just guitar and vocals, songs about killing flys and my favourite, tho i cant remember its title, a song about going to the toilet but not on television, dont suppose you have this in your collection penguin? if so will it be uploaded in the future?
    spurs to qualifly for europe?

  20. jock
    April 12, 2010 at 10:26 am

    cassette only release by mr danbert nobacon was called ‘ the unfairy tale ‘ and apparently may be downloaded at found it on anarcho punk net.
    and i really hope spurs get that 4th place rather than that man city lot 🙂

  21. Graham Burnett
    Graham Burnett
    April 14, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    The Unfairy Tale was released on both vinyl (the first vinyl release on Chumba’s Sky & Trees Records) and also on cassette. The 2 versions are very different. The ‘B’ side of the cassette is called ‘The War Inside Our Heads’, 30 minutes of songs about ‘personal politics’ (always a fave theme of Mr Nobacons) that I don’t think have ever been made available elsewhere.

  22. DavidM
    April 14, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    … and pick up a copy of Danbert’s second full length The Library Book Of The World released three years ago, with a new album coming this summer. For more information about these, his foray in to the literary world, and more, visit Danbert’s page here:

  23. bat29
    September 22, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    As stated, before A State Of Mind some members were in the Philly punk band Sadistic Exploits. For anyone interested I just posted some music by Sadistic Exploits on my blog.

  24. Just Insane
    Just Insane
    July 10, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    No chance of uploading Scab Aid’s single “Let it be…” today? I mean, some celebration of the last day of The News of the World would be warmly received by just about anyone, I reckon.

  25. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    July 10, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Great idea alas all my singles and just about all of my other vinyl is in storage right now…All coming out within the next six to eight weeks hopefully…

  26. mattieu
    August 15, 2011 at 1:27 am

    Enjoyed hearing these songs alot…the only material of theirs I’d heard before are ‘Never mind the ballots’ & ‘Pictures of starving children sell records’ which were available in Aust for a very short time, on vinyl of course, during the late ’80s

  27. back2front
    July 7, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    July 2012 – Chumbas call it a day…

  28. Ian
    July 8, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    I would like to thank the Chumbas for putting me and my friends up in Leeds after a gig they played with Conflict. I seem to remeber Alice having a cast on her leg when she broke it in Amsterdam, on a demo. Not sure the article is corret as I thought it was about the Pope.
    There was some fighting with the police after the gig,
    Derek the dog did, however, bite me.

  29. Graham Burnett
    Graham Burnett
    July 14, 2012 at 11:33 am

    I remember Derek the Dog, me and Rick Prevost took him for a long walk when we were staying at Carr Crofts House (Chumba mansions) back in the day, he was quite a handful, kept slipping his lead and chasing after other dogs and cats IIRC…. Boffo told us he was a rescued dog and had been badly treated by a previous owner, when they first got him he used to hide under the steps up to the front door and wouldn’t come out for weeks until they could convince him they weren’t going to beat him. They also tried to feed Derek on a diet of vegan dog food but he used to go mad and scoff down bits of old Kentucky Fried chicken that he’d find in the street, so they decided that trying to keep him vegan was cruel.

  30. Graham Burnett
    Graham Burnett
    July 14, 2012 at 11:39 am

    I read an article about breasts on The Guardian website a couple of days ago, apparently ‘Chumbawambas’ is now a ‘slang’ term for breasts, somewhat ironical in the light of the above discussion on ‘human exploitation/sexual objectification…’

    ‘Cor she’s got a tasty pair of chumbas…’

  31. Graham Burnett
    Graham Burnett
    July 14, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Chris L Says:
    March 3rd, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    “Just had an email back from Andy who got Luc Tran from the Unit to clarify this. As suspected neither are correct.”

    I wonder if there is a Japanese equivalent of the ‘Engrish Funny’ web site where Japanese people can chortle at badly translated symbols on the covers and stage backdrops of old 80s anarchopunk bands….

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