Catchphrases · Home life · Lyrics · Music

Got any salmon?

Just over 30 years ago, in the autumn of 1992, the #1 single in the UK was “Ebeneezer Goode” by The Shamen. The chorus, as you may recall, includes words that sound like “Eezer Goode, Eezer Goode, ‘e’s Ebeneezer Goode”. Or, if you prefer, “E’s are good, E’s are good, ‘e’s Ebeneezer Goode”. The E in question (and I don’t want to sound like I’m explaining things to a High Court Judge here) refers to the drug Ecstasy.

I remember at the time an old school friend being outraged that this song was being played on the radio, and especially on “Top of the Pops” despite its clear drug references. He wasn’t anti-drugs (far from it) but he hated dance music, and still felt a burning sense of injustice about something that had happened over 13 years earlier, in the summer of 1979. Gang of Four had refused to change a specific word in the lyrics of “At Home He’s a Tourist” in a planned appearance on the same show. The band didn’t appear and the single stalled at #58 in the charts. I was a big fan of Gang of Four but I don’t believe that the song would have become a huge hit even if they had performed it on “Top of the Pops”. The word that they refused to change, according to the music press at the time, was “rubbers”. The BBC asked them to change the line “the rubbers you hide in your top left pocket” to “the packet you hide in your top left pocket”.

No such problem for The Shamen. As this Guardian article from 2012 tells us, the references to E are not limited to the chorus, as shown by this example from one of the verses: “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.” The page includes a link to the official video for the song, in case you want to check it out.

Back in 1992 I wasn’t fussed about the song. I was neither a fan nor outraged by its success. In recent years though, thanks to repeats of “Top of the Pops” and surprisingly frequent airplay on Radio 2, I have come to enjoy it, and to be amused by it. My children are familiar with it and were largely unaware of the drug references until I explained them recently when the song was featured on an episode of “Pick of the Pops”. I am particularly amused by the following lines: “Has anyone here got any Vera’s? Looovely” and “Got any salmon? Sorted”.

For many months now I have repeated the second of these lines whenever we have salmon (smoked or otherwise) and always join in when the song is played on the radio, and indeed several times before we get to the chorus. My son claims to be annoyed by this, but I think he enjoys it really.

30 years after first hearing the song I finally looked up what the references to Vera’s and salmon might mean. Both words are cockney rhyming slang for things that you would use to roll your own cigarettes. Vera’s are “Vera Lynns”, skins (rolling paper, such as Rizlas), and salmon is “salmon and trout”, snout (tobacco). As a lifelong non-smoker I have never bought or used any of this cigarette-making paraphernalia but at least I know what the lines mean now. And I am rather partial to seafood. Got any salmon? Sorted.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s