I’m upset about Keith Flint from The Prodigy. I didn’t know him. Almost certainly danced in the same vicinity as him. Probably banged up against him physically while raving. “Alright mate” “Nice one mate”. Could’ve stood behind him in the queue for the bog. Maybe exchanged unknowing greetings. “You ‘aving it?” “Yes mate!”
I don’t immediately recognise friends if they’ve changed their hair. “We’ve met before,” comes out of interactions so often I try to avoid introducing myself. I’d fall back on the old actor’s “Darling, how are you” if it didn’t feel insincere.
I barely recognise people I like if it’s been a while. If the context is shot then it’s impossible. Famous faces and I’m fucked. That round in the pub quiz where it’s someone’s eyes and someone else’s mouth? It’s like looking at pictures of frogs. “That’s Patrick Flump!” says everyone and I go quiet. I can’t do it. I mostly just don’t care, and haven’t watched enough telly. Give me context if we have something to talk about. “Hi Al I haven’t seen you since we did one day reading 1970’s instruction manuals as part of an experimental theatre project in North Wales.” I’ll love you for that. “We’ve met.” Audible full stop. Oh fuck you. Don’t make me guess or I’ll only make you feel more insecure. “You know me, Al. How do you know me?” “I can’t remember when we met. I was probably drunk?” “Yeah. That’s what you said last time.” That’s a genuine one from ANother attractive blond male actor of my age. Who I wouldn’t categorise or dismiss so quickly if they hadn’t given me reason to.
But back to Keith. I wouldn’t know Keith Flint if he kissed me full on the lips without the hair and makeup. Maybe he did. Unlikely. He might have hated me if he had me on paper. Harrow. Establishment. We were all listening to Wendy James at Harrow thinking she was subversive. Then he danced in with his eyes and his fuck you and – well – I didn’t look back.
Music crosses the boundaries we make for ourselves. The Firestarter video with friends from school. They reacted like he was an alien. “He’s mental,” they dismissed. I just thought he was having a blast, and comfortable in his own skin.
He was huge. Mobile. Dangerous. Weird. A disruptive frontman for a group with actual edge. They spoke directly to my age group and they partied with us too. The dirty older brothers. “The Prodigy are here, just dancing.” “Course they fucking are.” And they kept doing it. They kept partying as we got older and had responsibility. And we kept partying right with them when we could. There was a moment of slack, but when they rolled in with Invaders Must Die it was like they’d never been gone. Omen! Dear God yes. “The writing’s on the wall!” It’s not just about the lyrics, this music. It can’t be. There’s only a tiny bit of content per song. It’s about the volume and the variation. It’s about the attitude. It’s about the dancing. Music to fly to.
When we were teenagers dancing in weird places at short notice, they were bringing that party to the mainstream, and still showing up when they could to get stuck in. “I got the poison. I got the remedy.” They really did have both. And they spread both.
The Fat of the Land sold well in America. And those warehouses and fields in London that are so familiar from the videos went out global. A generation of men and women not that much younger than Keith Flint will be mourning with me. Very few celebrity deaths hit me hard. The last one was Leonard and he said goodbye with an album. Keith just took his life, when you could argue things looked good for The Prodigy and for him by extension.
That anger that makes people the fire… So often it’s self directed. Fare forward you pissed off beautiful dark weird spiky legend. You helped me climb down from myself. I’ll see what I can carry forward for you. Your early death is only a complete waste if we don’t learn from it. “Music for the Jilted Generation.” Oh boys, boys, what did you know?
Meanwhile, if you need me I’ll be dancing in my living room.