«Smack My Bitch Up» cover story
This November the legendary «Smack My Bitch Up» turned 24 — it was released through XL Recordings on the 17th of November 1997. Nowadays just a few can be surprised by the «bitch» word in pop culture, but back then the track and the promo behind it produced an exploding bomb effect. Everyone took notice.
The release date was postponed a few times. The first news about the «Smack My Bitch Up» as a single leaked in summer 1997. It was planned for release in September 1997, Kerrang magazine confirmed this detail in its 657 issue (July 19, 1997). There were even a few promo posters floating around with the single release date advert.
All of the band’s promo stuff was designed by Alex Jenkins back then. While being the in-house graphic artist for XL Recordings he did loads of stuff for the label, including the legendary «The Fat Of The Land» cover and way more recognizable The Prodigy material. From 1997 to 2000 he created all of «The Fat» era designs, including the «Smack My Bitch Up» single cover.
The original release artwork featured Aldo Torelli’s photo of a Volkswagen Beetle wrapped around a lamppost, but in the early hours of 31 August 1997, a tragedy occurred in England: Diana, Princess of Wales, died from the injuries she sustained in a car crash. The country plunged into mourning, and the label decided to delay the release date.
While chatting with one of theprodi.gy creators back in the days, Alex Jenkins confirmed that the story was true! He shared some details:
Alex Jenkins: Yes, the cover had logo top left, the same position as ‘Breathe’ single design. I don’t have the artwork anymore, unfortunately — it was ready to go to print but was delayed because we changed the design at the last minute. Diana’s death was one of the reasons I believe
Liam Howlett, who is well-known for his love of VW Beetles and camper vans, also told NME that «it was the right sleeve at the wrong time».
At first, the release date moved to October 27, but according to NME’s article «Di death delays Prodigy single» (published in October 1997) the single still did not have a new release date those days. That’s how The Prodigy spokesman reflected about the release date: «Basically Liam is involved in all our artwork decisions and he’s only been back from holiday for four days. So nobody has had a chance to come to any decisions». So the band & their team needed to get the new single artwork.
The image on the final cover was taken on Sunday, September 29, 1996, at UK Breakdance Championships. Breakdancer Joel Botschinsky De Andrade from the Freestyle Phanatix team is pictured on the photo — in the middle of the show, he battled with the b-boy from the Second 2 None team. Check out the video excerpt, where the legendary moment was caught on the camera.
The shot was made by British photographer Hamish Brown. He recalls: «It cost me six pints to get on someone’s shoulders to get the same height as the dancers to take the pictures!». While creating the cover, Alex Jenkins painted out the faces on the background and put the band’s logo & lettering on the top.
The lettering was made by the fabulous Jake Detonator — that’s what he remembers: «The billboard ad was just the title in my handstyle, The Prodigy logo and XL logo, it was crazy seeing it that big»
The inner sleeve had the same rough feeling as the cover. Jenkins told theprodi.gy team that the dog on the CD was photographed in an old scrapyard in Rhydyfelin in South Wales — it was on the same truck that is in «The Fat Of The Land» artwork.
Additional thanks to: Alex Lloyd Jenkins, Jake Detonator