This track dragged the E-fuelled rave scene mainstream, hitting number three in the UK charts. Yet it was written by Howlett in his bedroom at his dad’s house. The “Charly says, always tell your mummy before you go off somewhere” sample was taken from an ITV’s ‘Say No To Strangers’ public service campaign.
The chorus hook, “I’m gonna send him to outer space, to find another race”, was taken from roots reggae godfather Max Romeo’s ‘I Chase The Devil’. The trippy video features Keith Flint donning ‘industrial rave’ gear along with footage of ostriches, supposedly linked to Howlett’s close encounter with the bird looking for food after an outdoor party.
Despite Liam Howlett’s reservations that the Kelly Charles “no good for me” line was too pop for him, The Prodigy used it to create this four-minute raveathon, later sampled by Oxide and Neutrino. Howlett’s still not that fond of it: “I would never write like that again. It’s not a cool sound,” he later said.
The original video for this track features former member Leeroy Thornhill as a voodoo priest and footage of real witch doctors, which was later censored. ‘Voodoo People’ has since been covered by hardcore band Refused and remixed by Aussies Pendulum to ensure its success as a classic dancefloor fillers.
Probably the best-known Prodigy song, ‘Firestarter’ was their first UK number one, despite causing controversy around the country because of its confrontational, violent lyrics and video, shot in an abandoned London Underground tube station (Aldwych, fact fans). Some TV channels refused to play it before watershed.
Originally an instrumental, ‘Breathe’ is about a confrontation between vocalist Keith Flint and dancer Maxim, shown in the video, which won a 1997 MTV Europe Video Music Award. Howlett describes the track as an “almost punk dance track” with “the edge of ‘Firestarter'”. It became the band’s second UK number one single of 1996.
“If people honestly think that ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ is gonna make people go and beat up women, then we’ll just do a song saying ‘deposit all your money in this P.O Box number’,” joked former member Leeroy Thornhill about the controversial hit. It was banned from many radio stations around the globe.
Featuring vocals from Juliette Lewis, ‘Hotride’ didn’t conform to chart regulations as it was released as an EP with three additional B-sides, so did not enter the UK charts. The video, directed by Daniel Levi, was initially rejected by Howlett. “I thought the song deserved a more intelligent video,” he said.
Another track to feature the purring vocals of Juliette Lewis, ‘Spitfire”s video remains one of Howlett’s favourites: “It doesn’t look like anything else out there,” he later explained. The clip was directed by Tim Qualtrough, also responsible for Muse’s ‘Butterflies And Hurricanes’ video.
The Prodigy’s second single, following the now-rare ‘What Evil Lurks’, almost gave them their first number one: it was kept from the top spot by a re-release of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ following Freddie Mercury’s death. Typical of the full-pelt warehouse sound of their early material, it ends with a sample of The Doors’ ‘Riders On The Storm’.