Consider the deluge of guitar bands with smash singles from the 1990s, from Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” to “You Get What You Give” by the New Radicals (not to mention the pop and hip-hop contributions of Lou Bega, House of Pain, and Haddaway) and you’ll get a portrait of a time when popular music was outright saturated with here-today-gone-tomorrow stars.
One group that has been lumped into this category — this “one hit wonder” label I genuinely despise — but which has nevertheless always interested me, is Chumbawamba.
You may remember “Tubthumping,” or more colloquially the “I get knocked down” song. It’s a raucous and fun enough tune, and inarguably the most successful in the band’s catalog, but it only gives you the slightest insight into the band’s oeuvre and, by extension, their anarchism. In the wake of its success, with vocalist Alice Nutter encouraging fans to shoplift Tubthumper (the album on which “Tubthumping” appears) and using their appearance on the Late Show to demand police “free Mumia Abu-Jamal”, the collective used their platform to push forward causes they believed in — not to mention gleefully incite chaos in the music industry.
“I’m Not Sorry I Was Having Fun” is a veritable summation of Chumbawamba’s years following their mainstream breakthrough. It evokes images of Woodstock burning to the ground, pop music mediocrity, and the “old time religion” of never crossing picket lines. Appearing on the collective’s first album post-Tubthumper, titled WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), the song is a declaration that Chumbawamba is what it is, and that no force could conspire to change that.
The WYSIWYG album as a whole is a direct response to Chumbawamba’s experience as an unknown band from Leeds suddenly being world famous in the United States, a place teeming with excess and distraction. At the end of “I’m Not Sorry”, we hear a clip of someone asking:
“Now since this, uh, single was a great hit all over the world you must have earned a lot of money and we were wondering how being an anarchist and, um, being a rich man get along together?”
Chumbawamba could have played the game and tried spinning their “Tubthumping” success into riches and notoriety. Instead, they chose to stick to their values and have fun causing chaos — fun, for which, if you haven’t guessed, they are emphatically not sorry.
(Song recommendation by D.R. Baker)