I Certify that all material in this essay which is not my own is duly acknowledged. I have read and understand the section in the programme handbook dealing with plagiarism In the early nineties a band came together through the underground rave scene. Liam Howlett, the driving force of the band handed a tape to his friends, Keith flint and Leroy Thornhill. On one side was a mix done by Liam, and on the other was simply scrawled Prodigy.
This is the beginning of the band we know today. Keith and Leroy became dancers for Liam’s shows. The fourth member, a reggae mc called maxim flight joined later to complete the set-up The future for them was driving break beat and techno sounds into the heart of a generation. This band was the prodigy. Their unique sound and image was to propel them through the underground scene and set them up for worldwide acclaim. Their most recent album, the Fat of the Land broke the album charts on release and became the sound of 1997 for thousands of fans. It consisted of powerful tunes with an indisputably punky feel, blending hard beats with guitar and unlikely vocals.
This report will try to chart the prodigy’s success with the Fat of the Land, investigating i. What was the market for such an album at the time, ii. What design implementation influenced the success. It will prove the album has been one of the highlights of the prodigy’s career, and how this success has been down to the prodigy themselves, with very little outside influence.
To understand the success of Fat of the Land, it is useful to look at the market for such an album leading up to the sale. In the prodigy’s case they had already influenced the dance market being the first post acid house artists to release an album. ‘Experience”, released in Oct 1992 went into the charts at no.12 and their second album “Music for the Jilted Generation” went straight to no.1 and sold over 200,000 copies, so by the time Fat of the Land was released, their fan base was huge.
The BPI statistical Handbook shows an increase in dance album sales in the early nineties (appendices i.) The target audience of such music is 16-25 year olds, which represents a sizeable portion of the U.K.’s population, as shown in the current census data (appendices ii.). Martin James’s book, Prodigy, has a quote from a young prodigy fan, Kristie Woods. She talks of Keith Flint, possibly the most iconic member of the band, saying’
“It’s a good thing someone like Keith was thrown into the limelight because it lets people like him (like me), somewhat expressing their individuality with bright hair and piercings, gets a bit more respect than before any firestarting episode.” This shows the age group was keen to find such a band to identify with. Their strong image clearly held much attraction for fans, appealing to the natural desire for individuality.
The bands uniqueness is reflected also in XL records, the label the band signed to in October 1990. Martin James book states, “Prodigy’s early success may not have been achieved had it not been for the fact that people would collect a labels output. XL-Recordings was a very collectible independent label.” The labels reputation worked for the Prodigy at an underground level, which would mean by the time The Fat of the Land had its first single, Firestarter, the fan base was already set-up. Coupled with the media attention surrounding the single this would prove to sell the album in droves.
Design Analysis. To understand fully why the album was productive it is useful to look at the various aspects of the overall design concept. In the Prodigy’s case, this is best recognised in their musical output and appearance coupled with dark, vicious videos. The Media has much to say, seemingly trying to rip them to shreds at first, which only works to their advantage, and later hailing them as genius. Playing festivals and gigs gave fans a preview of what was to come on the album. Artwork, logos and recurring themes are definitely involved within the product, and within the music itself past works are drawn upon, acting as to familiarisation for the audience.
The Prodigy’s image changed quite dramatically in the build up to the release of the Fat of the Land. Most notable is Keith’s transition from longhaired hippy raver to all out cyber punk. His new image made the band instantly recognisable and memorable. Keith’s new style was revealed at a gig on the 28th of October 1996 at Ilford Island. This was also the first time Firestarter was heard, which contained Keith’s debut vocal performance. Along side Keith’s image, Maxim Flights strong looks and coloured contact lenses completed a stage performance to remember. It is this image that has attracted a large portion of the younger generation, as demonstrated by Kristie Woods. It also upset parents and the media jumped all over the Prodigy for it.
In March 1996, Firestarter was released. Martin James describes the track as “slow and heavy break beat, with guitars literally splashed all over it.”***. The video for the track was originally shot by a team known for their Diesel jeans adverts. It was a costly affair, but the band was disappointed with the result. The band scrapped it and called in Walter Stern who had previously worked for them on video.
His main aim, he told The Times, was “to make a visually stunning piece of film that looked menacing, but not mainstream.” The result was shot in black and white, with Keith in a tunnel with a lot of smoke doing his best to look menacing. It tied in perfectly with their pseudo-underground image and instantly created a buzz. At this point the media stepped in. The day after Firestarter was released, the tabloid papers were full of headlines such as “Ban this evil record”. Martin James says