I can’t let the week end without mentioning how sad I was to hear of The Prodigy’s Keith Flint’s passing, and particularly the manner of how he left us.
This is by no means an original observation, but he embodied what counter culture is all about: the Firestarter video was a real “What the hell is that??” moment for many, his extreme looks and persona made parents suddenly fearful in a way that probably hadn’t happened since the Sex Pistols lurched into view some twenty years earlier.
Incidentally, there’s a song-writing credit on Firestarter for Kim Deal, former Pixie and by then established Breeder, as the looped guitar riff is a sample of The Breeders track S.O.S. Factoid.
I remember when visiting our parents one Christmas in the mid-1990s, my brother and I were sitting up (drinking, of course, we’re such boozy lads) one night, watching a music channel and Firestarter came on. My brother declared that this was the new punk rock, and I think he totally had a point. (He was saying that so he could remind me that he used to go drinking with Pop Will Eat Itself, who helped The Prodigy out on a couple of tracks on Music for the Jilted Generation, and got a name check on the liner notes of The Fat of the Land. I don’t begrudge him this, since it pales into insignificance with my ‘got on the guest list for a Milltown Brothers gig‘ story.)
Nothing sounded like or looked like them before or since.
Much as I love Firestarter, I prefer the follow-up single, Breathe, also a #1 in the UK. I was in Nottingham’s Rock City one night in the mid-90s and the DJ played both, one after the other. Needless to say, the dancefloor went bonkers in a way normally reserved for when I’m DJ’ing (sense the ironic tone there, please).
Plus, I’ve always thought the video to be much more – appropriately – unnerving:
The Prodigy first came to my attention back when I was DJ’ing at college, with their “Don’t Talk to Strangers” government safety ad-sampling “Charley”. Although I liked it, I was fairly dismissive of it at the time, viewing it as a bit of a novelty record. It was around the time of Smart E’s Sesame’s Treet, so you’ll excuse my misplaced cynicism.
My then-girlfriend bought Songs for the Jilted Generation, and whilst I remained, for the time being, firmly in the “dance music has no guitars, therefore it is rubbish” camp, some of the songs definitely caught my ear, not least this, aptly titled, absolute belter:
I only ever managed to catch them live once, at Cardiff’s CIA (as it was called then), when they were touring to promote their Greatest Hits album, Their Law. They totally blew me away, one of the most incredible live acts I’ve ever seen.
Looking back, The Prodigy were probably my gateway drug band, the ones who enabled me to make that leap from blinkered guitar obsessive to pill munching hedonistic party legend (again, sense the tone). So for that, cheers.
Keith will be sorely missed, I think, more so than many others who have passed over the past few years. Moreover, from the many tweets sent when his death was announced, a genuinely nice bloke too.
A true showman, one in a million, rarely copied (because, what would be the point?), never bettered.