Wallace Wylie

English Blues – The Untold History of the Chunka-Chunka Song

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The Small Faces helped associate Chunka-Chunka with Englishness by penning ‘Lazy Sunday’ and ‘Happy Days Toy Town’, but these songs, along with ‘Blackberry Way’ by The Move, represented the final flourish for Chunka-Chunka. Its blues roots washed clean by McCartney and his Beach Boys fixation, by the 70s it was all but gone and the world would have to wait until the UK’s ill-fated flirtation with its glorious past before the Chunka-Chunka song reemerged as a recognisable song form. Both Blur and Oasis made use of Chunka-Chunka and its associations with the 60s and Englishness, penning ‘Sunday Sunday’ and ‘Digsy’s Dinner’ respectively. They were poor relations compared to their 60s ancestors, and once more it would take an American to breathe life into the corpse of Chunka-Chunka. After ‘Pictures Of Me’, ‘Baby Britain’ by Elliott Smith represents the last great flourish for Chunka-Chunka. Rescuing it from Britpop and little-Englander hell, Smith used the Chunk as a backdrop for one of his hellish portraits of alcoholism. Except it all sounded so jaunty and fun. Then, as before, it disappeared once more. This time probably for good.

To some, the Chunka-Chunka song is a horrid creature, a stilted sexless creation that reeks of nostalgia and misplaced national pride. In truth, however, the Chunka-Chunka no more belongs to England than any other country, and the US has as many claims to the Chunka-Chunka hall of fame as England. It’s hard to declare any particular song-form dead, but it’s also hard to see how the Chunka-Chunka could be seriously resurrected. If it should die, think only this; that there’s some corner of the pop world that is forever Chunka-Chunka.

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