This morning music fans around the world woke up to the tragic story that singer/frontman Keith Flint from The Prodigy was found dead at the age of 49.
It really sucks that it usually takes the loss of a member of a band for the masses to go back and re-listen and re-discover the works of the artists, but it’s probably human nature I suppose. I cannot claim that I was the biggest fan of The Prodigy, as this was the only album of theirs I owned, but there is no denying how MASSIVE The Fat Of The Land was.
The summer of 1997 was the summer before my friends and I were heading into High School. We often spent many days doing stupid teenage boy things, like ride our bikes to McDonalds to eat loads of fast food and take the ketchup packets to put in the road to watch cars run them over. If we weren’t engaging in some sort of tomato-based hi jinx, we were probably watching MTV to escape the summer sun. Yes, this was when they still played music videos at some point during the day.
In between catching glimpses of Mariah Carey in her video for “Honey“, or having Savage Garden “Truly, Madly, Deeply” bore us with that awful song, there would be a chance you’d see this weird, kinda scary, music video.
Starkly shot in black-and-white, “Firestarter” burned its way through the collective minds of anyone who witnessed it. The video had everything you wanted: a song that was the most ear wormiest of earworms, easy to remember lyrics, and an intimating dude who looked like the devil wearing a shirt depicting the American flag.
I had a summer job pumping gas that year and before the school year started, I was able to purchase the two biggest albums of that summer, Puff Daddy’s No Way Out, and The Prodigy’s The Fat Of The Land.
Call it perfect timing, but it felt like EVERYONE had this CD spinning in their discmans on the bus. Add to it that, it was when the internet was still in its infancy. Information was not easy to find, and things like YouTube were not around, making it extremely difficult to find or watch anything else by them on demand. Despite this, The Prodigy, held our collective attention.
Just about everything about the group was just. so. cool. The music videos were must-watch viewing and absolutely memorable even after these years. The video for “Smack My Bitch Up” [NSFW] ends with a plot twist of the most M. Night Shyamalan-ian proportions.
The Fat Of The Land became a gateway into the world of techno. Thanks to The Prodigy, it became natural to discover acts such as The Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk. A new world of dance music was gifted to us, at least to the ones who were worlds away from any dance/rave scene.
But what made this album stand the test of time and what makes it a required listen is that The Fat Of The Land seemed to defy genre. Sure, it’s a dance album by definition, but it was something that a metalhead, or nerd, or rap fan roaming the halls in my High School could listen to and it just worked. It appealed to everyone. The energy contained in this album raised a bar that not many acts have met since.
See, there is a magic when things are done just right. This was also at the time when professional wrestling was hitting its stride and becoming more culturally relevant. It was an era where the lovable outsiders were given a shot and somehow the inexplicable rise of wrestler Al Snow in ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) was something I’ll never forget.
Snow used the song “Breathe” as his intro song, and between that and his gimmick of being a schizophrenic, it clicked with the fan base. Snow’s charisma coupled with “Breathe” and the shoddy camera work made for an unbeatable, unparalleled combination. I’m not going to go into any more detail here, but Snow’s entrance at ECW’s House Party 1998 is worth watching. It’s one for the ages.
I can go on and on, and I know others are doing the same thing, too. But there was something unique and great about this album at that time. Thinking back, it’s shocking that I didn’t pursue more from The Prodigy seeing that everything about The Fat Of The Land all seemed to work for me. I am incredibly fortunate to have been alive and a part of it as it happened and I am completely heartbroken for the family and friends who knew Keith Flint personally. From what I’ve been reading, he sounded like a real great guy.
May he finally rest in peace.