English Dance music Royalty visits Ibiza tonight, as The Prodigy plays Ushuaia. The musical highlight of the season in Ibiza?….for purists of Dance music, the people that were around when home grown dance first burst onto the scene in England, then nothing will come close this year, only New Order at Ibiza Rocks in 2012 can stand on the same stage as The Prodigy. When I started out as a DJ in 1989 there was very little to choose from when it came to dance music. House had not made the crossover from America, the nearest we had to mainstream dance at the time was Stock Aiken and Waterman produced material, the EDM of its day, but to be fair they did lay down a path to educate people that music was not all about pop and chart and that you could happily dance to a fast electronic beat. Rave was been played in the forests of England but it was difficult to get your hands on the music which at the time arrived in 12″ white label vinyl. There was no downloads, cd’s or easy access to dance music in the early 90’s – radio was not even playing it. A DJ had to walk into a record store, take a pile of imported 12″ and listen to them individually in the shop. It was a great place to meet other DJ’s and we would discuss what was good and where the new sound was coming from and after a while, the shop would get to know your preference for style and filter the vinyl they reserved for you, but I remember taking hours going through different tracks.
My early education in Dance was industrial techno and Trance from Germany and Holland. In England there was not much going on in dance, except for Stock Aiken and Waterman and The Pet Shop Boys, who awoke our ears to something darker with West End Girls…but you couldn’t really dance to West End Girls. Orbital were knocking around too, but once again you could not dance to their stuff. When The Prodigy released their unique sound onto the world stage with the classic Charly in 1991, it was a musical epiphany to a certain generation -like Rock n Roll was to the 60’s generation. This sound was something new, urban, dirty, twisted and original. It was so distinctive and fresh and most importantly it came from England – it was home grown and reflected a cool, underground generation that the media in Britain did not like. There was nothing pretty or marketable about the kids who were into rave, the musical media more interested in promoting Kylie and well groomed boy bands, so it would take a major breakthrough for the sound of hardcore to become mainstream and thankfully it was Liam Howlett that had both the business acumen and talent to do it.
In 1990 he signed a deal with the iconic XL Recordings label after creating a 10 track demo on a Roland W-30 music workstation, incorporating the Moog Prodigy analogue synthesizer – the name he adopted for the The Prodigy. What he created was a sound that came from the forests and warehouses of England and represented the mood of a generation that discovered dance music in Britain and put their own imprint on it. It did have influences of German techno but The Prodigy was educated dance music, it brought you on a trip where German techno was monotonous and insular. It had British punk and an angry attitude forged in the dark times of Thatcher England. This was not the Hacienda it was something unique and different and cool – it was the Prodigy and it was Urban dance music. While Charly was a tester to see how the mass market would react to such a radical new sound, Everybody In The Place gave us a taste of what was to come as it was included in their classic first album, Experience, which featured one of my favorite Prodigy tracks, Out Of Space. Also on that iconic album was Fire which was released as a single with Jerico on the B-side and the piano house leaning Wind It Up.
As the world warmed to the brand new sound that was coming out of England, with it roots in rave, garage and breakbeat, The Prodigy started to let loose with confidence. They next released the aptly named, Music For A Jilted Generation Album, which featured the classic Voodoo People which grabbed the dance world by the nuts and squeezed. What more can you say about Poison – it was just that to the pop generation and killed off the likes of Stock, Aiken and Waterman produced music. Another big favorite of mine came from this album, No Good Start The Dance. The long awaited third Prodigy album, The Fat Of The Land, was released in 1996 and defined The Prodigy in English culture. It was their finest hour and they were Kings of all the surveyed – this was their golden era as tracks like the orgasmic Firestarter, came close to being artistic. Smack my Bitch Up and Breath, gave us in your face, fuck off attitude, with dirty baselines and hooks that took them to another level. In my opinion this was the peak of The Prodigys sound in England as other forms of dance, especially House were beginning to appeal to a wider generation of dance music aficionados, who preferred a more polished sound.
But least we not forget, it was The Prodigy that proudly flew the British flag for dance music. In my opinion, the Prodigy were to England what Kraftwerk were to Germany. They created their own style and sound in a time when nobody wanted to play dance music. Mainstream bars and clubs didn’t want it as they thought it attracted the wrong type of crowd to their premises, I had to beg and play for free in my local disco bar for them to allow me to play dance music. It helped that after 3 weeks the bar was full, the tills ringing and people happy that dance music could deliver real cash to bar owners, without and trouble, that the scene took off. Mainstream record labels started to sign dance acts and with their financial power and contacts, Dance started to receive air play on the radio. The rest is now history. So when The Prodigy step out onto the Ushuaia stage tonight be aware of their talented and ground breaking contribution to dance music. Rebel pioneers who gave us so much that we came to expect more from them each time they released a track. They rarely disappointed and when you look at their back catalog of work, it is both deep and rich in quality and distinctiveness.
When The Prodigy walk out onto The Ushuaia stage tonight, Ibiza will be graced with musical Royalty. It promises to be the gig of the year and hopefully it will deliver on its potential tonight. Well done to all involved at Ushuaia for making this happen – if they never do another thing right, at least they can say they brought The Prodigy to Ibiza.