Keith Flint 1969-2019

Now!
The writing’s on the wall
It won’t go away
It’s an omen
You just run on automation

I’ve always had mixed feelings about The Prodigy’s music.  When they first came to fame in the early 90s, I was a devout indie kid, and their brand of smiley acid face cheesy quaver rave pop was the natural opponent of the type of music I enjoyed.  But as I grew older, darker and angrier, so did they, and I actually found myself buying a copy of Music For A Jilted Generation after one two many warm, fuzzy, sweaty nights pounding the Slimelight dancefloor to the tune of No Good (Start The Dance).  I have a wonderful cassette tape that my best friend Felicity and I completely off our tits at Slimelight trying to reproduce the “trippy background noises” and identify our favourites (followed by a ten minute discussion on whether “simulate” or “emulate” is a better word).    I’m pretty sure I even went to see them at the Brixton Academy in 1997, although I remember nothing at all about it, or the rest of 1997 for that matter.   To be perfectly honest, the Prodigy made the sort of music that I couldn’t quite tolerate when sober, and as I grew older and was sober more I lost interest, although I did include their 2009 track Omen on several of my more recently running playlists.  I listen to the sort of music when I am running that I only used to listen to when I was off my tits, you see.

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And yesterday, Keith Flint, the unforgettable, energetic, maniacal Prodigy singer/dancer/frontman, took his own life, leaving pretty much everyone I knew, many of whom had similar memories of The Prodge from the 90s (and some of whom actually listened to their music sober), completely shell shocked.  Keith’s death seems to have been the one celebrity death no one saw coming.

Having no idea about Keith’s life outside of his stage persona (and his stage persona of  two decades ago at that), I immediately formed a totally stereotype-driven and incorrect mental image of this being the result of some kind of drug bender/comedown and the sharp end of the rock star lifestyle.  Then I saw something that shattered that picture.  (Have you been wondering what this post is doing in a running blog?)  Keith Flint was a parkrunner.  He started running at Chelmsford Central three weeks ago,  and recorded a fantastic time of 21:22 two days before his death.  The photographer captured him and his flying feet several times on the course.  He has a big smile on his face.  He doesn’t look like a man battling demons, drugs or depression.  He looks the picture of health.

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Photo by Chelmsford Central parkrun

There’s two messages to take home from this.  The first is that sometimes you just can’t know what is going through people’s minds.  It’s not enough to just repost bollocksy “I want to prove someone is always listening! Here’s the number for Samaritans in New Zealand! 95% won’t repost this” bullshit on Facebook, especially if you don’t follow through on your word.  If your friends (or the random bloke in front of you at parkrun) are suffering, they probably won’t just randomly announce that they are thinking of topping themselves.  They could well say some odd things and lash out angrily at you.  They don’t just sit around looking sad and waiting for someone to cheer them up.  Sometimes a word of kindness goes a long way.

The second message is that sometimes nothing is enough.  On the face of it, Keith Flint seemed to have a pretty good life: a successful music career, a great house, he loved motorcycles and had bought and renovated a pub, he owned dogs and was married to a beautiful woman.  His bands were about to embark on a tour.  Clearly, something else was going on that was not public knowledge.  But he wasn’t sitting around wasting time or wallowing, he was getting out there and doing a bit of exercise like we’re all encouraged to do.  Could anything anyone said or did have changed what happened two days later?  Perhaps he had already made his decision as he ran on Saturday, and wanted one last honk of the parkrun PB hooter before he left us.  I have heard that people who take their own lives often seem happier in the days leading up to their deaths, as if making the decision takes a weight off their mind and they feel they can enjoy their final days.  In a 2015 interview, he said “I’ve always had this thing inside me that, when I’m done, I’ll kill myself.”  Keith Flint must have felt that he was done.  A terrible tragedy and a great loss to his friends, colleagues and fans, but I hope he is now at peace.

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