The Prodigy The Prodigy story starts with a 12” EP called What Evil Lurks the four tracks of which were taken from the youthful Liam Howlett’s first demo tape. The EP wasn’t received on the then- massive rave scene, and it remains hardcore club anthem to this day, as well as being one of the most sought-afterpieces of dance vinyl of all time. On the back of the underground EP’s success, The Prodigy gigged extensively throughout the UK, and were able to make their first trips abroad. In Italy they were hailed as pop and mobbed by ecstatic ravers. On August 12th 1991, The Prodigy released their second single – the legendary Charly.
There was a huge buzz around the track months before it’s release, and that excitement was unjustified when Charly shot to No 1 in the National Dance Charts and to no3 in the Gallup Top 40. ‘Charly’ inspired a string of copycat records, and triggered the notoriously heated ‘is rave dead’ debate. Amid all the furore it was easy to miss the fact that Charly was one of the most successful dance records of the time, and far better than any of the opportunist tunes that came in it’s wake. Twenty-two year old Liam Howlett is the musical force behind the Prodigy sound, although there are three other members who contribute to the live performance – Maxim Reality, Leeroy Thornhill and Keith Flint Liam was once the DJ for the London rap act Cut To Kill, but he became disillusioned with the rap scence’s aggressive attitude after experiencing the ‘Love, Peace and Happiness’ that dominated the rave scene. Liam is also a classically trained pianist, whose ambition once was ‘to get a record deal and put out a few tunes’.
That goal was achieved very quickly, so Liam is now concentrating on maintaining his status as the most successful hardcore underground act, blending his unique sound of hip-hop beats and manic house music, and, most importantly, keeping the crowds happy. The next single was released on December 30th 1991. Although Everybody in the place made an earlier appearance as a track on the “What Evil Lurks” EP, it managed to better the chart success of ‘Charly’ by peaking at number two. Only the shamelessly reissued ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ kept the single from the top spot. The following September, “Fire” became The Prodigy’s third hit single, paving the way for an album. Up until the release of the Prodigy Experience there had been no truly successful long players from the hard dance scene. The Prodigy’s debut, however, completely rewrote the rulebook.
The band were determined to give their followers value for money, and the combination of new material and otherwise unavailable re-mixes off the singles which made up the album was clearly appreciated by the thousands who bought it. The prodigy experience entered the chart at number 11, was quickly awarded a gold disc, and then remained in the Top 40 for 25 weeks “Out of Space” followed hard on the heels of the L.P, and became another Top 15 hit, as did the last single from “The Prodigy’s” first phase, “Wind It Up.” Despite the huge success of The Prodigy’s rave-oriented, break beat- derived sound, Liam was increasingly feeling the need to develop his musical style. Because of touring in Australia, Holland, Germany, Italy and America and re-mixing artists as diverse as Jesus Jones, Front 242 and The Art of Noise, Liam had been exposed to a lot of new influences, and he wanted to reflect that in his future work. As he put it, “I realized that the band had to progress and evolve, that I had to get back to the music and move forward”. When One Love appeared in October 1993, it was clear that Liam had done just that. One Love had more of a techno feel than The Prodigy’s previous work, but the band’s supporters took this change of direction in their stride and the single shot to Number 8.
The single’s progress was no doubt helped by the most ambitious video that the band had made so far. The One Love video was completely computer generated, made using brand new technology from the States, and put together over a demanding six weeks. The result was fantastic, and a definite advance for the band. No Good (Start the Dance) was released on May 16th 1994,and became one of The Prodigy’s most successful records to date. The single was perhaps more accessible than anything else the band had done, and it reached number 4 in the charts, spending an incredible seven weeks in the Top 10. There could have been no better introduction to the band’s second LP.
When Music for The Jilted Generation was released in July 1994 it was phenomenally successful both critically and commercially. As the album entered the charts at number 1, the ‘indie’ papers unleashed torrents of praise. The NME described Liam as ‘a Robocop and a modern day Beethoven rolled into one’. Select said Music For The Jilted Generation was ‘the best electronic pop record you’ll hear this year’, while Melody Maker called the album “bloody essential”. The public agreed.
Music for “The Jilted Generation” went gold within two weeks of its release, and has now sold over a million copies worldwide. A spate of award nominations have followed in its wake – the band were nominated for the “Mercury Music Prize”, won the MTV Best Dance award, won the best Dance LP at the Independent Dance Awards, and have been nominated for Best dance Act at both the Brits and the NME’s alternative: The Brats Throughout their career, the band have toured almost non-stop. 1994 and 1995 continued in this proud tradition as “The Prodigy” played all round the world, and became a leading fixture on the International festival circuit. Keith’s radical flame-haired image put him on the cover of the NME and many other publications worldwide as the band wowed audiences from Iceland to Japan and backs again. In 1995’Poison’ became The Prodigy’s 9th consecutive top 15 hit, Electronic Punks put them into the video chart as well as the music chart, and they were universally hailed as the best act at the Glastonbury festival, confirming the band’s metamorphosis from rave crowd-pleasers into one of the most exciting and adventurous live acts in the world.
And what Liam’s new material- due to see the light of day in January 1996 – will bring is anyone’s guess. “The Prodigy” just keeps moving forward.