How I wrote ‘Good Enough’ by Dodgy’s Nigel Clark
The fun-loving indie trio’s lead singer and bassist recalls how Bob Marley inspired the conception of their biggest hit single
From the release of their debut album in 1993 through to the departure of frontman Nigel Clark in 1998, Dodgy injected both a social consciousness and a sense of invention into the British music scene. The trio of records, The Dodgy Album, Homegrown and Free Peace Sweet – helped by singles such as Staying Out For The Summer, In A Room and If You’re Thinking Of Me – gained them a loyal following and earned them a place as a festival mainstay for much of the decade.
In many ways, the band’s biggest hit stands apart from their typical output. Good Enough was a slice of infectious pop, one step removed from their usual indie style, which became a huge radio smash upon its release in 1996. Featuring on soundtracks, television adverts and even football chants, it’s one of those songs that has taken on a life of its own.
Here, Nigel Clark takes us back to its birth…
“It was 1995 and my wife and I were living in Primrose Hill and she was pregnant with our first son. We lived in a nice little flat and I was writing songs. Homegrown had become quite a successful album so the record company wanted the follow-up. I used to demo on a little Tascam four-track, the audio cassette ones, and I’d just got hold of an Akai S900, a very early sampler. I connected it up with my keyboard and managed to sample a drumbeat from a Lee Dorsey song. He was a singer in the 60s who was produced by Allen Toussaint and his backing band was The Meters. They were such a great band, especially the drummer [Zigaboo Modeliste].
“I found this loop and thought, ‘Okay let’s put that into the sampler and test it all out.’ I plugged my keyboard in and as I was looking for the sample I accidentally hit the cymbals and then I found the loop, but I really liked how it sounded together. It was all very accidental but that groove came first and I thought, ‘That’s really cool.’ We didn’t use the original drumbeat in the end because we sped the song up but it enabled me to create a demo. I just got a bass and played along and then had the bridge going.
“I didn’t have any lyrics at the time. It was the summer of ‘95 and my wife was pregnant with Marley my son. It was a really hot summer and I can kind of picture where I was because I had my studio set up in my lounge. I’d been listening to a lot of Bob Marley, hence my son’s name and why the video is really a patronage to Bob Marley. One of my favourite albums by Bob Marley is Kaya which has got some classic songs on and is a great sounding album, it’s really positive and I wanted it to be like that. I wanted it to be a little bit towards my son and becoming a father and a proper family. The Bob Marley influence was very strong and also George Harrison and Karen Carpenter – those were the songs that I was listening to that week. It was very positive and a very ‘up’ song.
“YEAH, WE CAN CHANGE IT BUT IT’S OWNED BY THE LISTENERS”
“At the time we were more of a three-piece indie rock band, even though we then got a keyboard player in. Matthew [Priest] on drums always liked Keith Moon and so there’d be a Who element and Andy [Miller] was very much into Jimmy Page and I was the punk in the band. I was the creative one in that I would go and write all the songs and come up with the ideas and I was a bit worried about playing them this one as I thought it might be a little bit too dancy or funky. I remember playing it on the tour bus. We did have a horn section actually, they were all into jazz and funk and they loved it and I think it might have swayed the band into going, ‘Yeah that’s really good,’ but it was quite different for Dodgy to do that song.
“Then we went to record it, so I’d got the demo on my little tape and we went to Wessex Sound Studios in Highbury, which is now a block of flats. I’d moved to Stoke Newington so lived just down the road and could walk to the studio. I’d be at home at night writing songs, then going into the studio the next day showing them to the band. We didn’t really know how to approach Good Enough, we did a demo version with a guy called Robin Evans and that was a lot faster. It was okay but I don’t think we really nailed it, so we went and recorded with Hugh Jones, who did the album Free Peace Sweet and it all came together. It was one of those songs where the arrangement was pretty simple but it just sounds really good when you put it on. I remember saying to Matthew when we were in the studio listening back to it, ‘I think this will last longer than we will.’ A lot of people don’t know that’s going to happen but I felt like I did know with that song – especially with the push that you get from the record company.
“To find out that it became the most played record on the radio ever in one week, that was pretty crazy. The Spice Girls were No 1 and we were No 4 but Good Enough was the most played record on all the radio stations up and down the country. I think it got something like 3,700 plays in one week, which was a record. I was pretty chuffed with that if I’m honest. You can stylize things all you like, but sometimes you’ve just got to go with it and I think the eclectic nature of Dodgy was cemented there where we could write an absolute pop hit – it was surprising, we thought we were a Who rock band.
“We ended our career in 1998; I walked away from the band due to the business side of things. When we got back together, we played a hometown gig in Bromsgrove near Redditch in about 2010 and I didn’t want to play it for some reason. All my friends from school came up to me and said, ‘Why didn’t you play your song?’ And I was like, ‘Oh shit,’ and felt really bad about it. Since then I’ve always played it. It belongs to the general public now. Yeah, we can change it but it’s owned by the listeners. Some of the other songs aren’t and we don’t have to play them, but that one you definitely have to. It’s what Dodgy are known for really.”
Interview: Duncan Haskell