‘One Love’ turned 29: story & design
On October 4, 1993, XL Recordings released One Love — The Prodigy’s sixth single, which was a huge step forward after the habitual ravey sound the band did before. The release, which was available on cassette tapes, CDs, and vinyl, contained the original mixes of One Love, Rhythm Of Life, and Full Throttle. The One Love remix from Jonny L ended the tracklist and was a cherry on the cake. Initially, the 3 tracks from this release were presented anonymously under the Earthbound alias a few months before the official coming out…
The title track was a hard house-based affair with Arabic-sounding refrains and heavy percussion. Liam Howlett himself called the tune “a big jump” when the band pioneered and moved on substantially from where they had originated.
That’s how Martin Roach described the first appearances of One Love in his book “Electronic Punks: The Official Story”:
During the summer of 1993 there was a promotional white label hard house tune circulating around the underground scene by a band calling themselves Earthbound, with two versions available. The record arrived cheaply packaged and with someone’s home address hastily scribbled on the label. Despite the spartan packaging, reactions to these records were very enthusiastic, with all the major DJs of note picking up on them, and crowd reactions were similarly positive. One dance magazine even went as far as to say, “This is the best white label we have received this year”.
The track’s Arabic muezzin-punctuated hardcore, with its percussion laden and bouncy bassline was an impressive mixture. Earthbound 2 was mellower, more tranced and chilled, but equally effective. The unearthly voices across the record were complemented by classical sweeps and hard pulsing house beats, but all controlled with an admirable degree of finesse. Clearly, Earthbound was a new act with enormous potential. There was much discussion about who Earthbound were, yet no-one knew or guessed. When the writer of these tracks was finally made known to the public, there was much consternation by the underground scene snobs who had derided The Prodigy for many months because of their commercial success. The record they were now hailing as the year’s best white label was in fact a product of Liam Howlett’s very own Earthbound studios, and the tracks were from the forthcoming release by The Prodigy.
The One Love music video was released right before the single came out officially: it was created by Paul Simpson and James Boty from Hyperbolic Productions in 1993. The production was a radical change from anything they had done before. Using a brand new computer package from the United States, the Hyperbolic Productions created a splendid Aztec-style city, a visual feast of hi-tech graphics and computer reality to accompany the breakthrough track. The video also featured occasional images of the band members dancing along with tribal figures.
While being interviewed by MTV in October 1993, Paul Simpson says: «We had 5 weeks to do the video, which is not enough time — basically, with about 20 minutes per frame we are talking about 2 hours per second on computers. What we can actually do is not really limited by our imagination, it’s limited by the time and money that we actually get to do these projects»
How much involvement did The Prodigy themselves have in the making of the video? The only thing the band had to do is to spend an afternoon in the studio dancing. Their appearances in the video were limited to only a few computer-simulated dance moves, and Keith was featured for no more than three seconds at the very end of the piece. He confirms: «They got us into a blue screen box and pictured us dancing with the sound on basically, and then they moved on the graphics onto it».
The Hyperbolic production seemed to understand the band’s desire to move on and progress and they worked well together. As a result, MTV picked up on the video and gave it heavy rotation, something that had eluded the band so far, and this subsequently exposed their music to a whole new fan-base of people.
One Love was also the first-ever collaboration between Liam Howlett and Neil Mclellan, the man behind The Prodigy’s production and Howlett’s right hand — Neil co-created and co-produced practically all of the band’s records from 1993 to 2015 and really much influenced the sound of the band. Their long-term friendship continues to this day.
The fun fact is that the ring on the single cover also belonged to Neil! That’s what he remembered back in 2021:
The ring was bought in some jewelry shop in Notting Hill Gate, and it was given to me by a lovely lady called Annabel. Bella was one of the most amazing people on the planet. She’s no longer with us, she passed away. My brother was going out with her sister, and we had a really good relationship. Annabel saw the ring and because there was a great family moment, she just bought the ring for me and gave it to me. And then by pure chance, literally six or seven months later, in 1993 I’m doing a song and it’s called One Love. And I was like, pointing on my fingers: «How about that? Look, how about that?» — when Liam saw the ring, he was like «That’s fucking dope, can I borrow it and make the album cover?», and I went «Fuck yeah, of course, you can!». And when I got the ring back about three months later it was fucked. I mean, they’ve done stuff to it for the cover, and when I got it back it was just destroyed. And it sort of basically fell apart over the years, I couldn’t even wear it, it was just done, they really dirtied it up, it was very painful to wear, — I think they’d sandblasted it or something. But at the end of the day I thought: «Fuck it, look at that, it’s on every cover!», like that.
The original shot was taken by British photographer James Fry — among the others, he worked with The Prodigy, Oasis, Public Enemy, Saint Etienne, Gary Numan, Supergrass, and a wealth of respected DJs across the last 30 years. «I got sent the ring with the One Love inscription on it. It was kind of like “Your mission today Mr. Fry… is to create a cover out of this”, very simple and direct» — he recalls while chatting with one of theprodi.gy creators. Someday he just got a piece of blue cardboard and shot everything at his place: «I photographed it all in my living room in Kilburn on a Saturday morning in my pyjamas. The light was coming right through the front window. After then I blew it up, then blew it up again and it looked majestic, grainy, and natural».
When the second album called Music For The Jilted Generation was close to being done, Liam was growing slowly more confident of its quality, and when it came to the cut, he had few reservations. “The only thing I regret is that I could have put a different version of ‘One Love’ on there, but there was just no time” — said Howlett while speaking with Martin Roach.
An important detail about this unreleased version of One Love is that after releasing the album The Prodigy played another version repeatedly at 1994 & 1995 gigs, — but until today, a studio-quality recording of this track had never appeared on the Internet. You can find the clean studio version of One Love (’94 Live Re-Edit) in the best quality you’ve ever heard on our Patreon.
Additional thanks to: James Fry, Danny Kara & Etienne Lebon
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OPEN COMMENTS | 4 thoughts on • ‘One Love’ turned 29: story & design •
The truth is , all this nonsense about promo Earthbound “all major djs picking it up” looks like bullshit. If you’ll check the tracklists for 93 sets by many various djs (in house and rave scene) – “One Love” is rarely played, most likely, played as usual as other Prodigy tracks in UK.
Nothing special, but the default “blah blah blah” by Liam and his surroundings just to show how they cool in the underground scene.
Maybe… Anyway, i think it was done just for better promotion their forthcomin single.
Also they already played ‘One Love’ in their live gigs from May of 1993 and maybe early – https://youtu.be/Z0Brp06WX04?t=3177
Yes, was no internet then, but UK music community i think knew in August what is ‘Earthbound’.
I found the secret. Nice work!