The Prodigy’s Music for the Jilted Generation was released 26 years ago today, on 4 July 1994, and while the album itself would go on to make rave history, the album’s artwork, in particular the inner sleeve, would prove to be a major talking point…
The iconic image, by artist Les Edwards, was seen by many as an artistic nod to the UK’s Criminal Justice Bill of the same year, which famously banned the hosting of events featuring music “characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats”.
Indeed, less than two weeks after the album’s release, some 50,000 ravers marched from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square to protest the Bill, captured here in this article by Vice.
“This might sound like the kind of clichéd hyperbole you’d hear in a Happy Mondays documentary, but the joy and unity the clause aimed to destroy was something rare,” the article puts it. “All of it was exciting: the wait to hear where the party was; mass congregations in a service station; dropping a pill before joining a convoy of cars; tail lights glittering into the distance; arriving to lines of parked cars and beats in the distance, stumbling – butterflies in stomach – towards the lights and into dancing mayhem.”
Music For The Jilted Generation is full of nods to the rebellious spirit of the time as well, from the spoken word phrase before opener Break & Enter (“So, I’ve decided to take my work back underground … to stop it falling into the wrong hands”) to the crushing apolitical sentiment of Their Law.
As for the ‘Jilted Generation’ of the album’s title… well, it’s obvious, innit?
But as The Prodigy’s musical maestro Liam Howlett told Clash in 2014, the artwork chosen for the album was mere coincidence, having been chosen long before the Criminal Justice Bill reared its ugly head.
“There was that whole ‘fight the party’ thing at the time,” he explained, “you know, that bill. And we got roped into that. But it’s funny, because the inside cover art, that’s just a coincidence. Nobody knows that.
“But people read into it, that it was connected to that protest. But it’s not at all – it’s just what we wanted on the cover.”
As for the artist himself, Les Edwards, who had previously prepared artwork for artists as diverse as Metallica, Uriah Heep and Monty Python?
As he explained in a 2014 interview with Dazed, the message portrayed by the artwork wasn’t of a particular time or place, it was more a timeless study of youth in rebellion.
“I’m something of an old hippy, but it seems to me to be the same message you’d heard in the 1960s, people criticising governments for being tyrannical,” he explained.
“I don’t remember the 1990s as being a particularly repressive time, but if you were Liam and Keith’s age, perhaps you felt differently. Rave culture was going on, and people just disapproved. There was a bit of concern about the drug culture, but in a lot of instances, the police were so heavy handed. Things haven’t changed there.”
And as for his thoughts on the image these days, looking back?
“I think it’s very striking when you open up the sleeve, but I’ve always found it slightly jarring, because it’s so different from the cover. I suppose they’re both quite dark in a way, but I always found the decision to put those together quite strange. Then again, people seemed to like it, so good.”
So, what do you think? Was the choice of imagery accidental or on purpose? Either way, as if we needed an excuse to give the album another listen….
Happy birthday Music For The Jilted Generation! 🙂