I was listening to an old recording of Bill Hicks the other day (of course it was old, he died in 1994), a routine of his taken from his 1992 album “Relentless”.
It’s the bit where he talks about there never being any positive stories in the press about drugs, about the good times he’s had on drugs, and how modern day rock stars campaign against, instead of in favour of drugs.
He does the whole thing far better than me, so you may as well hear him for yourselves. In case you’re unfamiliar with his work, please don’t listen to this is you’re offended by swear words, or by comedy routines which are deliberately controversial and extol the virtues of some facets of the counter-culture:
Which kinda got me thinking. Firstly, about some experiences I’ve had when under the influence, which I’ll talk about here some day. (Let me be clear though: when I do, as with this post, I’m not writing it to show off or seem cool. I am neither condoning nor condemning their use, merely reporting what happened to me. But some of the things that happened to me back in the days when I did indulge are very, very funny indeed, if a little weird and possibly a little scary too, even if I do say so myself.)
And secondly, it got me thinking about songs which are about, or are influenced by (or both) illegal drugs of one sort or another.
Back then, in my clubbing days, as with most people (except for the poor girl I found myself sitting next to one night who had taken a shed-load of ketamine and was regretting it) my drug of choice was ecstacy, or E, and perhaps the most notorious of songs from recent years (and by recent, I mean 1992) was about that particular little pill.
Unsurprisingly, the song was initially banned by the BBC, but then, I think possibly concerned that the ban might be fuelling the sales of the record in the same as has happened a few years earlier with Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax”, the ban was lifted. Ironic, then, that it hit the Number One spot in the UK Charts during Radio One’s “Drug Awareness Week”; it certainly made a lot of people very aware of that one particular drug alrighty.
Here’s Shamen songwriter Colin Angus on how the idea for the song came to be: “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.”
And over to Richard West, aka Mr C, the group’s rapper: “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.”
No prizes for guessing which of the two wrote the lyrics, eh?
Mr C again: “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.”
I don’t think there was anyone over the age of 16 when that came out who didn’t think it was a song about drugs. I mean, it’s littered with references to other drugs too: “Has anybody got any Veras?” and “Got any salmon?” being rhyming slang cases in point.
I’ll let Mr C explain: “[When they performed the song 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.”
I don’t think I can beat that gag.