Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 236
Wed. Sept 5, 2012
I remember the summer of 1997, Prodigy’s “Firestarter” was supposed the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that sparked techno rock into the mainstream. All the tasty musical ingredients were there, Johnny Rotton-esque vocalist in Keith Flint, The Breeders “S.O.S” guitar samples along with a frantic beat you could actually bang your head to. Unfortunately, the electronic techno sounds may have fizzled to cross over three years before the millennium but let’s go back and relive the glory of “Firestarter”
“Firestarter” was originally beats that was missing an edge as Prodigy mastermind Liam Howlett explained to Q Magazine, March 2008, “I’d started The Fat Of The Land and I’d done the first track, an instrumental: ‘Firestarter.’ Keith comes in and goes, ‘If I’m ever going to do any lyrics, I’m going to do it on this tune.’” Keith Flint, Howlett’s friend and vocalist Keith Flint came into the picture wanting to contribute more to the Prodigy musical canvas as he told Q Magazine, “I remember Liam on the phone to (their record label boss) Richard Russell. He said, ‘Do you think these words describe Keith: Twisted? Self Inflicted? Yes, very much so.’ The lyrics were about being onstage: this is what I am. Some of it is a bit deeper than it seems.”
What makes “Firestarter” sizzle on screen is Flint’s 21st Century Sex Pistol punk wearing the colors of the American flag, freaking out with his spiked horn like haircut while dancing in the video clip directed by Walter Stern. Flint discussed what makes his contribution to “Firestarter” the best lyric Prodigy’s whole musical arsenal, when he said “Having barely written anything at school, and then writing the nine lines of Firestarter in Liam’s room… I was taking the piss. Causing a stir, f–king people off! I believe that naiveté served me well.”
“Firestarter” had perfect combination of backbeat samples and raging rock riffs that sparked Prodigy’s explosive sound to top of the charts in the U.K. It may have only peaked at #30 in the States, “Firestarter” shook the foundations with it’s cyber punk rock flavor that send tremors through the mainstream in 1997. Recalling how “Firestarter” came to life, Howlett told Sound on Sound, “With ‘Firestarter’, me and Keith wrote the lyrics together. I’d done the track and played it to him, and he said he’d really like to get some lyrics on it. I was quite surprised, because he’s never done it before. He came round a few days later, sat down and we eventually got over the embarrassing situation where everything you say with the lyrics sounds terrible. Once it’s on record, it doesn’t matter what you say [laughs].” It may have sounded dreadful during the early stages but we’re lucky that Prodigy kept Flint’s monosyllabic rantings on the final mix of “Firestarter.” More than just a one hit wonder, the legacy of “Firestarter” lives on, crank it up and honor the fury fueling the classic spark of Prodigy’s timeless concrete jungle sound.