A good friend and I were talking about this song a few weeks ago. He, by all means a popular musician, suggested the song to me as something I might want to arrange for my kids. The concept of doing so made me laugh (it would not present a challenge for even middle school kids to play it) and then it made me think. And we talked about Chumbawamba and their whole plan to create this song in a laboratory and make a lot of money off of it so that they could achieve other goals.
And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. The song contains the famous Trumpet Voluntary, which is written for middle school bands a hundred ways (I've arranged it for my middle school bands!) and contained in the venerable Standard of Excellence, vol. 1 (the "Red Book"). Trumpet Voluntary is also known as The Prince of Denmark's March, although written by an Englishman, and has been used for centuries for major events, even in the most recent major British royal wedding. I don't know who the Prince of Denmark was at the time, but he must have liked the trumpet, as it existed in 1700. And in 1998, I sang this song on every marching band bus ride home, not recognizing the melody that I had played out of the Standard of Excellence book.
Cultural conspiracy theorists believe that subliminal messages are found within lots of pop songs. I think they might be onto something, but it's not the Illuminati creating the messages, it's the band and choral directors of the world, peppering the minds of young people with musical mechanisms that they carry on into their popular music careers. Watch out.
(My brain hurts.)
"Tubthumping" - Chumbawamba
Intro: Chumbawamba was an anarchic punk band formed in Lancashire, England, who spent 30 years engaging in major public political protests. In the midst of their long career as a band, they struck pop gold with the song "Tubthumping". Inescapable in the late 1990s, the song hit number one in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, and New Zealand, number two in the UK and reached number six on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts. The song also topped the Billboard Adult and Alternative Charts and was nominated back home for a BRIT Award for Best British Single of 1998. While the song seems in some ways non-sensical, it conveys the struggle of working people in England, which often comes with the stigma of alcohol abuse. The band was asked to play the song in a number of major venues and on awards shows; in most of these performances, they used the opportunity to espouse leftist politics (both in the context of the UK and the US) and continued their political ways, despite their fame.
Analysis: Seeing that the song might as well have been created in a lab to stimulate maximum catchiness, at 2:57 (in the video recording linked below) the song samples the Prince of Denmark's March, which is also known as Trumpet Voluntary, written by Jerimiah Clarke c. 1700. The melodic sample is played on the trumpet (quite logically) and joins a bevy of other melodies that play concurrently until the end of the song.
Considerations for Teaching: "Tubthumping" is so incredibly prevalent in popular culture that surely students have heard it before. While the song is a far cry from the attention-garnering political and protest stunts the band is otherwise known for, the song does describe alcohol abuse ("He drinks a whisky drink / he drinks a vodka drink / he drinks a lager drink / he drinks a cider drink"). However, unlike many popular songs, the lyrics do not seem intended to encourage drinking among listeners but to describe the drinking habits of working class people in England.