I awoke this morning to the tragic news of the death of Keith Flint, the face, and voice to one of the UK’s most prominent and popular indie dance bands “The Prodigy”.
Waking to the death of a musical hero is sadly becoming more common these days. When I was a kid, when celebrities died, we could just shrug it off and carry on as normal not quite understanding what all the hubbub was about.
In 1977, when I was 5, Elvis Presley died. My Uncle Bill, a big muscular biker gang member, with long hair, a beard and a collection of bandanas, went into a period of grief and mourning that lasted weeks. It was weird that he didn’t want to play with me during this time. Someone in America had died. I didn’t know who they were, and this death took my favourite Uncle away from me and my needs to be chased and tickled for what felt like forever.
I remember, vividly, the evening I found out that Freddie Mercury died in 1991. I was at an old girlfriends house in east London. Her parents were away for the weekend so we were going to make use of a comfy warm bed rather than having teenage sex in the back of her Mk2 Ford Escort in The Camelot pub’s car park, just outside Romford, after closing time. Politely speaking we were in a frustrated state of undress on her parents grey velour couch when the 10’oclock news came on. We stopped, watched the news piece in our underwear, spoke a few words of shock and disbelief and then, well, we switched off the TV and carried on without thinking any more about it.
The death of Kurt Cobain in 1994 was once again a shocking piece of news. The hysteria of his death was numbed to me because of how quickly people started to wear the “To Boddah” shirts in the street. So, I was sad for a day but seeing as Kurt was 5 years older than me — I was 22, he was 27 and that’s like being 30 when you were my age — and the music industry at the time was healthy enough to sustain itself even without his incredible influence life just carried on.
When John Peel died in 2004 I was knocked for 6. I’d never met him. Never seen him at a public appearance, never written to his show on Radio 1, but I felt like someone who was a member of my family had died. As a student, I was a regular listener to his show. I would remember the bands he showcased and then hunt for their music at my local independent record store, Oasis Records in Stafford, Staffordshire. I joked that JP had cost me a fortune over the years with the number of albums and singles I had bought. I even had to take a couple of days off work to get over it. My boss was not only understanding but was totally fine about it! For the first time, I understood what Uncle Bill had gone through.
Since 2004 I have seen musical icons die for all sorts of reasons, and it’s been sad, and a tragedy but nothing that has really had a significant depression to my life or my future record collection.
Bowie, Aretha Franklin, Arthur Kane (New York Dolls), Martin Gilks (The Wonderstuff), Lux Interior (The Cramps), Stuart Cable (The Stereophonics), Andy Hummel (Big Star), Adam Yauch (Beastie Boys), Andy Anderson (The Cure) are just a few of the couple of hundred musicians, DJs and Producers who have died since my first official bereavement in 2004 and while I will miss them all for the work they still had yet to achieve, their passing has just been awfully sad, but not devastating.
But Keith is different. Unlike many of the musicians above, Keith and the rest of Liam Howlett’s The Prodigy, were still top of their game — I will add an obvious exception to Adam Yeuch’s Beastie Boys as, just like The Prodigy, they were constantly evolving. Those of us who had been listening to The Prodigy since the early 90’s knew Keith as the bands “dancer” until his breakout performance singing the lyrics to Firestarter in 1996. Since then Liam Howlett has been the musical genius but Keith has been the face and voice of one of the most influential bands the UK has had to offer. They crossed over and brought together many musical genres such as indie, rave, rock, and punk. A true cross-cultural act.
Keith and the other band members had just completed a sell-out tour of Australia and were home getting ready for the next stage in North America. Their latest album, released in 2018, was their seventh album and the sixth consecutive album to hit number one here in the UK. This morning, Monday 4th March, he was found by paramedic’s unconscious at his Essex home. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital where he was taken. Police said there were no suspicious circumstances. Liam, later in the morning, took to Twitter to say how sad and “fucking angry” he was to lose his friend. A sentiment echoed by thousands of 40 something fans around the world who readily admit that The Prodigy are the soundtrack of their generation.
Tonight, in the dingiest most run-down part of heaven there is an abandoned warehouse, pumping out music with dry ice and lasers. Stood at the entrance are some shifty looking angels, demanding £25 quid to get in. Around the outside, there is a mile long queue of angelic teens wearing baggy jeans, crop tops, rose-tinted round glasses popping some pretty non-kosher pills. On the heavenly version of the M25 more angels are driving their clapped out XR3i’s and Vauxhall Nova’s following directions to the pay phones that are giving cryptic clues as to the whereabouts of this illicit raves location. And at the center of it all is heavens new anarchist. Keith Flint, the original “trouble starter, punkin’ instigator”.
Cheers Keith, have a good journey.