How we made Ebeneezer Goode by The Shamen

Posted on 6 March 2012
By The Shamen
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Recorded in 1992 and hitting the top spot in the UK charts, The Shamen describe the method behind the madness of their club classic Ebeneezer Goode.

Speaking 20 years after the tune hit the airwaves, Colin Angus, synthesisers and guitars, said the song was supposed to be a cautionary response to the burgeoning rave culture of the time.

He said: “By the spring of 1988 we were living in north London squats, going to clubs like Spectrum, the Trip, Base and outdoor events like Sunrise. This was the heyday of so-called acid house.

“I remember beaming strangers proffering soft drinks and spliffs dipped in amyl nitrate, snarling Pitbulls intimidating saucer-eyed ravers, visionary conversations buzzing in every alcove, hapless promoters being handcuffed and frogmarched off.

“We’d started using synthesizers and computerised rhythms, and felt we had a synergy of rock, rap and dance. I met Richard [West, DJ Mr C] while sitting cross-legged on the floor of a warehouse. One night, at the Forum, I heard this underworld dandy speaking a pirate-like patois. I found myself thinking, “Who is he? His first name must begin with an E … Ebeneezer Goode? Now there’s a name to conjure with.”

“We had a hoot in the studio. The Mockney-Dickensian flavour came quite naturally from the moniker, and we blended attributes from real-life scenesters we admired.

“I remember having a right laugh at the thought of this creature lumbering through the gates of the pop world, causing amusement and consternation – and so it came to pass. Mixmag magazine screamed for the single to be banned, although the Beeb seemed quite up for it.

“Ebeneezer was intended to be celebratory and cautionary, like holding up a distorting mirror to rave culture. The song went ballistic: Uncle Ebeneezer is still looking after me to this day.”

Richard West, aka Mr C, said: “I started off as a street rapper; my handle was Mr C, because I supported Chelsea. I first heard about the Shamen in 1988, and in 1991 they asked me to join the band.

“Colin was a genius songwriter: he’d give me a theme and I’d write the rap lyrics, the drums and the rhythm. He’d do the chords and the synths and the songwriting, and that’s how Ebeneezer came along.”

“He told me I was doing the vocals because this character was a cheeky Cockney chappie, and suddenly we had this monster record. I played it to some mates and they were in bits. I thought: ‘This is a No 1.'”

“It was so cleverly written that a lot of people still don’t get it. One way, it’s about this guy called Ebeneezer Goode; another way, it’s about ecstasy: “E goes by the name of Ebeneezer Goode. E’s friends call him Eezer, and E is the main geezer and E vibes up the place like no other man could. E’s refined, E’s sublime, E makes you feel fine.” I mean, come on. But even fans think the only E is in the chorus.”

“There was something for everybody. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, it had that old-fashioned Charles Dickens thing that older people could relate to. With the video and the jokiness, kids could like it.

“If we hadn’t become the first band in British pop history to delete a single while it was at No 1 [for four weeks, in September 1992], because it was messing up our release schedule, it may well have sat there for months.”

“When we went on Top of the Pops, I changed the line “Got any salmon?” to “Got any underlay?” and people said, “That’s not in the song! Drug reference!” I was asked about it on Radio 1 by [DJ] Mark Goodier, and said that “salmon” was rhyming slang for salmon and trout – snout, cigarettes – a legal drug that has killed thousands, so I’d changed it. He said: “So what’s ‘underlay’?” I said it was a gratuitous rug reference.”