Friday, June 04, 2010

Boff Whalley's Footnote*

Someone recently lent me Footnote* by Chumbawamba guitarist Boff Whalley.

Footnote* cover

It's an excellent read – very funny, insightful and informative. Anyone interested in the history of punk in the UK (particularly in the North) should read this. Or anyone interested in Northern working class culture in the 70's and 80's. It's full of footnotes (even some nested footnotes!) plus self-referential musings on the nature of memory, truth and honesty in storytelling.

Most interesting to me was the revelation of just how communal the whole Chumbawamba project was – the whole band lived together, sharing money, food, etc. for many years in a big old squatted house in Leeds. I never quite got how they ended up (briefly) signed to EMI and selling millions of records, but it all makes sense now. There's also a very amusing tale of their incarnation as a fake skinhead band called "Skin Disease". In fact the book is packed with amusing tales... rather than being a bunch of po-faced anarchists, Chumbawamba are revealed to be a lovable, irrepressible bunch of pranksters intent of mocking the powers that be in increasingly imaginative and ambitious ways.

My first experience of Chumbawamba was hearing a (terrifying, at the time) cassette lent to me by my friend Chris Miller in about 1986 (all I can remember is Alice Nutter screaming "get your morals off my body!"). Then there was English Rebel Songs, a few mighty gigs where I got to see them around the time of Slap! and Shhh (including hitching up to Manchester with Nick Dent on my 20th birthday – exactly half of my life ago this week...) and, in more recent years, being amazed to hear Alice N debating David Blunkett(!) on Radio 4's morning news programme about whether gangsta rap causes youth violence. I gather Alice and Danbert have left (she's writing TV programmes and he lives in Washington State with his family) and the band have gone into another folk period. Much respect to Boff, Lou et al. for keeping it going.


Post a Comment

<< Home