Keith Flint – Lit the Fire and Started the DanceMarch 5, 2019
Thanks For the Memories
Article – Tony Considine
I couldn’t tell you for certain when I first heard The Prodigy. Tracks such as What Evil Lurks, Android and Everybody in the Place would certainly have made an appearance on mixtapes circulating around Dublin in early 1991 as the dance scene gradually grabbed more of a foothold.
For someone who’d got hooked on the late 80s wave of house music coming across from the UK (fuck genres, it’s all house music to me) the tunes were a welcome addition, throwing a bit more of a party element to the bleep and bass sounds I’d been listening to from the likes of LFO and Nexus 21.
But if I can’t remember exactly when I first heard the music, it was a different story the first time I actually set eyes on the band.
The Prodigy’s ‘Charly’ first appearance on Top Of The Tops at 3.52
When second single, Charly stormed the charts in August 1991, the top 40 was already pock-marked by ‘rave-lite’ songs as the sound of the underground was watered down for pop consumption. Indeed, the song before Charly’s first play on Top of the Pops was a performance of the cheesy Insanity by Oceanic complete with professional dancers busting their best imitations of the shapes being thrown at raves across the country.
But when the video for Charly immediately followed, you could tell that this was different. Leaving the song aside (and despite the criticism for the cheesy cartoon sample, it’s still a cracker), what stood out amidst the strobes flashing, the lasers and the vaguely ridiculous harlequin shirts were the moves.
And while Leroy Thornhill was definitely no slouch on his feet, it was the manic intensity of Keith Flint that leapt out of the screen. This was how we danced. Or, at least how we wanted to dance.
A re-mixed Everybody in the Place hit the charts in 1992 complete with a video of the band ((even Liam Howlett and Maxim could move) showcasing their skills on the streets of New York and my VHS recording of the video was nearly worn out just watching and admiring the sheer amount of fun they seemed to be having. This wasn’t a marketing manager’s view of what they thought a scene should look like. It was relatable to what we were doing at the weekend.
The first time I saw them live was in the round at Dublin’s Point Depot the following year on a bill that included N-Joi, K-Klass and the Sound Crowd Djing.
They tore the roof off and Flint seemed to cover all four corners of the stage at once.
Their second album, Music for the Jilted Generation, came out the year after that and was a fixture at after parties in Summer ‘94 if there was an absence of decks or a DJ. Appearances at Feile and a legendary return to the Point on New Year’s Eve were a serious high to finish the year on.
While Flint had remained a slightly off-the-wall but still relatable character to that point, his reinvention from dancer to vocalist for the Prodigy’s 1996 single, Firestarter blew that relatability out of the water and pushed him and the band into the stratosphere.
With the day-glo rave look replaced by a reverse mohawk, septum piercing, sunken eye-shadow and a John Lydon-esque drawl dripping all over the record, the punk aesthetic on display in the video was enough to earn a Top of the Pops ban after its first showing led to complaints from parents that it was scaring their children.
It wasn’t enough to prevent the song topping the charts or the next year’s album, The Fat of the Land, selling 10 million copies and reaching number one on both sides of the Atlantic. The album’s success has been widely credited with finally breaking dance music into the mainstream in the USA.
A second single with Flint on vocals, Breathe also hit the top spot in the UK and his prowess as a front-man was abundantly apparent on the Fat of the Land tour which saw the band return to Thurles for the final Feile in 1997.
Relatable or not, Keith Flint remained an iconic figure within the music world, let alone the dance scene.
While the seven-year hiatus taken by The Prodigy meant that those mid 90’s heights may not have been reached again, the band’s output has remained vital with albums in 2004 (Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned), 2009 (Invaders Must Die), 2015 (The Day Is My Enemy) and last year’s No Tourists all reaching number one in the UK. Flint continued to provide vocal and songwriting contributions and the band’s live performances with him to the fore remained incendiary.
While Liam Howlett has always been the driving force behind the genius of The Prodigy’s music, Keith Flint ensured that they stood out from the many electronic acts with brilliant producers but little stage presence. He will be sorely missed.
RIP, Keith and thanks for starting the dance.
We asked super fan Matt Acidic his thoughts on the hearing the news..
I feel your loss! You guys made my passion for music!