|Day 203: Chumbawamba (Tubthumping)
November 23, 2022
From the November 28, 1997, NY Times.
Bartenders Around The Globe Quitting In Record Numbers
"We've Been Tubthumped To Death"
by Chelsea Blue
CHICAGO - An industry normally celebrating the Thanksgiving weekend boost in sales is being hit by a devastating number of resignations. Bartenders across the world are resigning at unprecedented rates, almost all of them citing one reason: the chaos and pressure of customers addicted to "Tubthumping," the recent smash hit by Chumbawamba.
"There's a fight every 30 seconds in my bar," said Kyle Hillsborough of Chicago. "Guys are egging it on. 'C'mon, hit me, cause I get knocked down but I get up again,' usually just to hit the other guy, mocking him with 'you're never gonna keep me down.'" Hillsborough, who until Friday night worked at the downtown Hard Rock Cafe, said that is merely the tip of the iceberg.
"It's not like the women are any better," chimed Rebecca Grey, who until Wednesday, was the closing bartender at Lacey's Bar and Grill in downtown Chicago. "They jump on the bar, hike up their skirts, and start singing 'Oh, Danny Boy, Danny Boy,' for hours on end.
In case you are one of the few that don't know Chumbawamba or their platinum-selling single, the band erupted out of nowhere with the catchy football (as in soccer) anthem "Tubthumping" earlier this Fall, a factor that many experts say has fed this seasonal crisis for the bar industry.
Charles Everett, Ph.D., is the Hendrix School of Popular Culture Chair at Chicago Eastern University: "'Tubthumping' is the kind of song that appeals to mass groups seeking common identity, often through sports. It was inevitable that it would gain so much popularity with college students when it came out in September. By the October 8 homecoming football game at Chicago Eastern, it was the de facto anthem for the University. Similarly, it is being embraced across colleges and universities all over the world. Students at Tufts University have even petitioned for the school to be renamed Tufthumper University."
The song is relatively simple lyric-wise, even if it plays with different musical genres quite effectively. The "I get knocked down/but I get back up again/you're never gonna keep me down" opens the song and is repeated almost ad nauseam. The closest thing to a verse is the other repeated section of the song, which is also adding to every barkeep's nightmare.
"Picture this," said Grey. "A group of young people come in and grab a table. 'Can I take your order?' you ask. Immediately everyone yells out in coordination, 'He drinks a whiskey drink, she drinks a vodka drink, she drinks a lager drink, he drinks a cider drink.' 'Well, o.k., that's probably not specific enough. What kind of whiskey drink?"
"Inevitably, you get to the cute little girl in her sorority sweater, saying, 'well, I actually don't like a lager drink, can I get a Sex on the Beach instead,' usually followed by her childish giggle.
"Thanksgiving weekend is one of the best periods in the bar and restaurant industry," said Calvin Riggs, Marketing Director for the American Bars & Restaurants Association. "You get all the college kids home and wanting to hang out with their old high school buddies. Now they can all drink legally and so Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights are high volume nights for the bars and clubs especially."
Erin Miller, waiting in line to get into the understaffed downtown Hard Rock Cafe, confirmed. "I have to admit I was amazed at how much my friend Claire, who is at Cal-Berkeley, also loves the song. We saw each other on the street and almost immediately sang in unison, 'We'll be singing/pissing the night away.'"
"Oy, the pissing," said Hillsborough. "All night long, singing it in the bathrooms, doing it in the alleys. Is it any wonder us bartenders have hit our breaking point?"
Another negative outcome of the Tubthumping in bars is the vandalizing of jukeboxes. In a couple of instances, it has been the bartenders themselves who have thrown an empty whiskey bottle at the jukebox. "It always starts with one guy, usually in a bomber jacket, getting up on a table and screaming 'sing me a song that reminds me of the better times,' said Eric Layman, who resigned the night he broke the jukebox at O'Dell's Bar in Evanston. "Nine times out of 10 his buddy then plays Savage Garden. How much better could times have been 5 months ago?"
Chumbawamba, a band who didn't even have a major album release before Tubthumper, the EMI release for which "Tubthumping" kicks off the record, could not be reached for comment from their homes in England. An EMI publicist simply responded with "hey what's not good for the bar industry is doing wonders for the music industry 'when we're winning.'" English pubs are apparently experiencing less staff resignation, although that is presumed to be the effect of all their bartenders being insanely fanatical themselves about the rugby and football crowds that populate their establishments.
Chumbawamba. "Tubthumping." Tubthumper. EMI, 1997. Link (if you really need it) here.
Day 202: REO Speedwagon "Take It On The Run"
Day 204: Pink Floyd "Is There Anybody Out There?"
Unfinished list here.