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The Prodigy: Electronic Punks 1988-1994 Paperback – 24 Jul 2010
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About the Author
Author Martin Roach is a Number 1 Best-selling author with scores of books on music, celebrity and youth culture to his name, including works on Red Hot Chili Peppers, The White Stripes, Dr. Martens and Kurt Cobain. His books have to date sold 1.5 million copies worldwide.
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As stated in the books title, it covers the period of the band between '88-94'. However '88' isn't when The Prodigy formed, that was 1990. The year 1988 refers to the stories/lives of the members of the band before it formed. Martin Roach tells the respective journey of each band member; Liam, Maxim, Keith & Leeroy (a little known fact is the Prodigy started as a 5 piece with 3 dancers, the 3rd being a female named 'Sharky' who left the band shortly after they formed. This is touched upon in this book as to be expected). It's interesting to hear where each band member came from and their respective influences as youths. It's well documented that Liam is big into hip-hop (as reflected in alot of his tracks) and the nature of that scene is documented well in this book. However the stories of Keith, Maxim & Leeroy aren't as widely documented as those of Howlett, so it's interesting to see just how different each of the four members of the band were before its formation.
The early days of the band are covered well by Roach. He describes the band being so nervous for their first gig (at the Labyrinth nightclub in Dalston) that they arrived 8 hours early. And it was on that very day that Liam, Keith, Leeroy and Sharky actually met Maxim for the first time too. The book then moves on to their performances around various venues & raves across the country (including a gig which was attended by less than 10 people, and of those 10 people, several were said to be security guards) and also covers their breakthrough 1991 release; 'Charly' and its longstanding positive and negative effects on both the career of the band and the rave scene around them.
The tales told of the antics between gigs (and even some mishaps at gigs!) are usually very funny and portray the humour of the band as both individuals and as a collective. However, there is a dark tone to the majority of this book; it's very much a 'rise from adversity' style portrayal that highlights the issues faced by the band with the media, promoters and record labels in their formative years. (Mixmags infamous attempt to sabotage the band is quite well covered by Roach here). The writer recalls tours which lasted for weeks on end, that saw the guys playing to packed out venues to great response, yet the tour actually left the band in debt, the various issues and attitudes they faced upon their first tour of the States. And their first trip to Japan which saw them sharing the stage with bands they despised at the time. (The writer here also includes a hilarious tale of the band scouring the Japanese streets for entertainment and then their subsequent destruction of a local convenience store in search of food).
Also covered is the release of each of the E.P's between 91 & 94, and the release of both L.P's; `Experience'  & 'Music for the Jilted Generation' . Liam also discusses his initial hesitation to write their first album due to the past track record for 'rave' acts releasing their own L.P's to subsequent negative sales and reviews. Also discussed at length is the thought process of the massive sonic transformation that took place between two aforementioned albums.
Sadly, the book ends at a time where Liam & Co were on the verge of becoming the biggest band in the world (albeit for a short period of time in 96 & 97). It's a shame that the tent crushing stampede of Oasis fans at Glastonbury 1995 (who left the field in which Oasis were playing at the same time The Prodigy were playing to get a piece of the frenzied set The Prodigy were storming their way through that night), the writing process of `Firestarter', the massive 'Red Square' gig in Moscow and the worldwide domination of 'Fat of the Land' aren't covered here (however those events are covered in great detail in Martin James 2002 book simply entitled 'Prodigy'). But that being said, Martin Roach had a first class seat with The Prodigy for a period of time between 1991 & 1994 and the passion, drive, talent and energy of the band is impossible to miss here. It's a must read book for new and old fans alike. It's a fitting piece which describes and captures the spirit of the band and the dance scene at the time perfectly. Their 'FU' attitude is all too apparent at times, and the brave and bold decisions made both sonically, visually and from a business standpoint are highly admirable. It's the decisions in those early days which built the foundation on which Liam, Keith & Maxim are still stood on to this very day.
I highly encourage any Prodigy fan to grab this book now. And when you've finished with this, go and find a copy of Martin James book from 2002. No self-respecting fan should be without either!!