Baby’s Got A Temper: single story & behind the cover details
The Prodigy’s Baby’s Got A Temper was released on 1 July 2002 and had a pretty interesting fate: it was loved by many and then it was renounced by the band. The single supposed to precede the release of the Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned — but not the one that came out in 2004. Another version of the album was half-ready in 2002, but the buzz around Baby’s Got A Temper forced the band to set a different direction.
Liam Howlett caught himself on writing the second Firestarter and threw the album away. One day he left the studio with expensive equipment and began to write new tunes on a laptop in his bedroom.
The Prodigy is no stranger to scandals. Now Keith Flint sang about Rohypnol — a powerful sedative drug with sad fame. It is known to induce anterograde amnesia in sufficient doses; individuals are unable to remember certain events that they experienced while under the influence of the drug. The combination of ethanol and Rohypnol completely knocks out the memories of the ill-fated evening. Because of the constant repeating “We love Rohypnol” in the chorus, NME magazine called The Prodigy “bunch of morons” or something — Radio 1 also banned the song at the early promotion stage.
“I don’t really care,” Flint replied to NME. “If I’m writing a tune, I have to visualise it onstage, not on Radio 1”. Then the song will be slightly edited for radio broadcasts, and the critics will say that the song reminds them of the second Smack My Bitch Up.
“I don’t know its true medical title. Have I tried it? Oh yeah, absolutely. That’s what the song is about. It’s a reflection on going out, maybe doing cocaine, then doing downers. Y’know, some people do all manner of downers and Rohypnol is one of them. If I wanted Rohypnol, I could get it off girlfriends of mine, so I wrote about that, how punk they are. I respect that. A lot of girls I know are more out there than guys. The song is just thoughts summoned up about nights out, getting high, bringing yourself back down again” (Keith Flint replied to NME)
In that interview Keith also told about the original Baby’s Got A Temper demo: “In its original format, it was quite slow, drugged-out kind of song. Almost smacked out — which I wasn’t doing myself, at all. But that’s where it was coming from”
Not to say that the release of the track was a rash decision: they played it live many times, filmed a video in Prague (the script came to Liam Howlett in a dream), and the leader himself answered confidently:
“It’s a reflection on what goes on in Keith’s mad head and his mad world. The overall feel is like, Keith gets fucked up, goes out with these girls, comes back, and writes a song reflecting on his nights out with these girls. He came with those lyrics and I’m like “Fucking cool, I like it!”. Have I tried Rohypnol? Absolutely, yeah. It’s like modern-day valium” (Liam Howlett replied to NME)
But shit happens: the band records an album, invests in an expensive promotion campaign, and a few years later they say that it all was a mistake and that the album was not good enough. An almost three-year non-stop tour in support of The Fat Of The Land, the bunch of successful singles, a large amount of incredible live shows, and the legendary status of the band itself put The Prodigy in a difficult period in its career.
Leeroy Thornhill left the band, Flint and Maxim focused on their solo work — everyone needed a rest. Liam remembers that the guys managed to communicate with great difficulties. XL Recordings was begging for new tunes, and Howlett was running around with the idea that The Prodigy needed a new vocalist. Even when the guys finally mixed Baby’s Got A Temper, Liam still had his doubts.
“All I knew was I had to find the excitement and energy in my music that I used to have, so I set out to start finding myself again. Finding what the fuck I was about and what did I like? What were The Prodigy about and what was I really about? Getting back to the stage of putting the music first. I didn’t want the focus to be on Keith or Maxim or the front bit. I wanted to focus it on the music first and bring that to the attention of people again” (Liam told DJ Ron Slomowicz)
Liam regretted letting Flint get too close to the studio. Remembering The Fat Of The Land times, Howlett recalled how he used to record everything on his own, and added the vocalists only at the final production stages. “I pulled on Keith (Flint) too much on that” — he replied to NME. “Keith’s lyrics are very introverted and that’s not we’re about. The Prodigy are about fist-in-the-air shit, real simple. But it was important because it showed me exactly where I shouldn’t go.”
Liam Howlett told DJ Ron Slomowicz: “That’s basically what it resembled, it was a weird stage of The Prodigy. Baby’s Got A Temper wasn’t on the album The Fat of the Land it was inbetween these two albums. The best thing about that record was the artwork for the sleeve. I loved the artwork for the sleeve and everything else I wasn’t really that excited about.”
The legendary cover was designed by Jimmy Turrell in 2002. The brief was to create a package and cover that was loud, bold, and aggressive, and that reflected the music of The Prodigy. The initial idea for the cover came from hearing part of the track, which had the sound of a creepy laughing policeman doll. Jimmy Turrell wanted to give the artwork a sinister, malevolent feel, so the policeman seemed perfect. To create the cover he photographed a laughing policeman and faxed the logo to give it distressed well. The title, a hand-rendered chop-up of the typefaces Platelet and Citizen, has been applied using acetate. The policeman was cut straight from the photograph. A standard gatefold-panel Digipak was chosen as the packaging, but with a matte finish, which gives the CD a more earthy feel.
Jimmy recalls: “I actually did a whole album campaign for The Prodigy which then got killed right at the final hurdle. It was my first big job, and I presented way too many options, which ended up confusing everybody. The whole process went on for a year and a half. It made me want to quit design altogether and do something else entirely. Instead, I went back and did an M.A. at St Martins, and then I also got an agent which changed everything” (interview for itsnicethat.com)
By the way, in several episodes of the Flashbacks of a Fool movie (released in 2008) you can see the same doll from the cover!