- It’s one of the most ubiquitous choruses of the nineties, a boozy chant of a song that, to this day, is instantly recognisable. Chumbawamba’s ‘Tubthumping’ is one of those freakish one-off singles — the sound of a band consolidating all their best ideas around one song so anthemic and infectious that it turned out to be undeniable, never to be repeated and doomed to “one hit wonder” status.
Both now and then, it’s often seen as a novelty single — and in many ways, that’s understandable. It’s a rowdy anthem, ubiquitous in pop culture and pub alike, pummelled by repetition to the point of cliché. On either side of its three week run at the top of the Australian charts were ‘Barbie Girl’ and ‘Dr. Jones’, two similarly ubiquitous hits. With all due respect to Aqua, 1997 was a pretty frivolous time for pop music.
But under the surface is one of the strangest and most fascinating stories in pop music — a working class anthem purpose-built for chart domination by a collective of British anarchists who, fifteen years into their career, decided to try and play the system — and ultimately won.