Audio Autopsy, 1994: Dodgy, "Staying Out for the Summer," "Good Enough"/A&M Records, UK
Formed in West London in 1990, these dynamic and melodic "indie" BritPoppers remain unknown in the States. Did their name repel US labels? A&M stateside?
“DODGY and the merry motley youths of the musical uprising.”-The Dodgy Album, 1993
The word, “dodgy,” at least in British slang, can be a synonym for “dangerous, bad or untrustworthy.” For example, “That guy looks a bit dodgy,” meaning he looks untrustworthy. As the Oxford Dictionary Online (US English) states (needlessly from an American perspective):
“The word ‘dodgy’ is used in BrE (British English), from which one could conclude that the American public at large does not use this word.”
If reference tomes dabbled at all in things as otherwise banal as recorded music, they might pronounce: “Dodgy’s recorded output on A&M Records was released only in the UK (and other EU countries, South Africa, Canada, and Japan), from which one could rightfully conclude that the American public at large has no idea who the hell they are.”
The Great (and Dreaded) Genre Debate
According to most critics and others allegedly “in the know,” Dodgy has always slotted into the “Britpop” or indie box. Like most genre labels over the rock era decades, genre labels of any stripe are vague, and at best, limiting. Artists routinely hate them, and who can blame them?
AllMusic biographer Stephen Thomas Erlewine even described the band as the “clowns of Brit-pop” that played “infectious, goofy punk-pop,” which “alternately sounded like the early Who and the Stone Roses.”
OK, fine. That’s why they’re called opinions. Meanwhile, Dodgy drummer, Mathew Priest, recently contributed his quid and a fiver on the matter for On: Yorkshire Magazine: “We were never a Brit-Pop band, and generally people don’t lump us in with it when they talk about it – which is nice in a way.
“But, it was a great time for British music, and we certainly rode that wave! It was just before the internet, there was lots of money in the music industry, and there was lots of great music around.”
Have You Ever Stopped Watching a Film When a New Song Hit You Hard?
I first heard Dodgy on the soundtrack to a movie I rented in the late ‘90s through Netflix. Can’t remember the movie (probably an indie or international film, as opposed to a US blockbuster-type), and it’s been tough to dig up the film online, but “Staying Out for the Summer” was used at one point on the soundtrack, and it immediately grabbed my ear.
After doing a bit of Googling, I discovered the band had just released Ace A’s + Killer B’s in 1998, a sort of loaded “Best Of/B-sides” compilation on which CDs had routinely provided the sonic space since the mid-‘80s. “Staying Out for the Summer” was on it.
I bought the CD online from a stateside seller, and after playing all of it several times, I pretty much settled on the first half-dozen or so songs were tuneful, energetic, and creeping dangerously close to power pop.
A Band Born Too Late?
I say “dangerously” because they looked like the happy-go-lucky bastard children of, say, Nirvana, or any other early ‘90s, flannel-shirted, wool-hatted grungemeisters born at the turn of that decade. They’ve got the requisite bleached hair, funky fedoras and porkpies, and quirky image to appeal to whatever British city that might’ve mirrored Seattle.
But, none of that fooled me. Sorry, blokes, but much of your music has the hooky melodies, bracing harmonies, exultant choruses, and teen angst lyrics that practically scream, “The Raspberries with dirty fingernails, tats’n’piercings!”
I believe I’ve even heard some hand-claps and “la-la’s” in a few choruses! And you broke into a few bars of The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” in the middle of “Staying Out for the Summer” during a gig? And, horns? What are you guys….The Grass Roots’ grandsons?
Dodgy is comprised of lead singer/bassist, Nigel Clark (he of the brown Marc Bolan corkscrews eventually chopped off to morph into a spiky bleached ‘do), drummer/vocalist, Mathew Priest (you’ll know him by his porkpie hat), and guitarist, Andy Miller.
While Ace A’s + Killer B’s began with the Clark composition, “Every Single Day,” it was the second track that I was really after, “Staying Out for the Summer (Summer 95),” which appeared on Dodgy’s second album, 1994’s Homegrown, and climbed to #19 on the UK singles chart in 1995.
Not the “official” video with the flying VW van (video of which can be seen by clicking here), but a video that followed that incorporates live shots of the band with the original studio track (see how many listens it takes before you’re humming the bass line!):
An actual live performance, here, at a massive Brit fest: Down side, harmonies are tough to hear, but on the plus, the horns (sax, trombone, trumpet) are visible and up front, you get to hear the Beach Boys breakdown in the middle, guitarist Miller gives the wah-wah peddle a workout not heard since Humble Pie rocked the Fillmore in ‘71, and you get to see the lads lather up a festival crowd of thousands (plus, there’s a brief interview with them at the end):
“Water Under the Bridge,” the band’s lead track from their 1993 debut, The Dodgy Album (produced by the Lightning Seeds’ Ian Broudie), showed up next on the Ace A’s comp (and can be seen and heard here), and is another strong song with a memorable chorus, but “Good Enough” follows, and it certainly is (from their 1996 second album, Free Peace Sweet).
Produced by Hugh Jones, the album reached #7 on the UK album chart; again, live footage is included, but accompanies the studio track). Listen for the very Herb Alpert-like trumpet, circa 1968:
“The Bob Marley influence was very strong, and also George Harrison and Karen Carpenter.”—Nigel Clark
In 2018, Nigel Clark gave some insight to Songwriting Magazine on how he composed “Good Enough”: “One of my favourite albums by Bob Marley is Kaya (Island Records, 1978), which has got some classic songs on it, 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 [whom he named Marley] 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.
“I was a bit worried about playing [my bandmates] 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!
“I think this will last longer than we will.”
“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 Mathew [Priest] 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 [UK]!
“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!”
“Good Enough” Unplugged…
Dodgy reunites in 2012 (after a few years apart) on a British morning “chat show,” and shares an unplugged “Good Enough,” with a brief interview:
…And, With Half-a-Thousand Kids!
The next year, at the Royal Albert Hall, Dodgy gathered 500 of their best (and shortest) friends, dressed them up in red, taught them the chorus, and did a thrilling run-through of “Good Enough” (Well done, kids……even the ones with facial hair!):
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