Where To Start With... Fatboy Slim
Since getting his first taste of the music business in the late 1980s as the bass player for Hull-based indie band The Housemartins, Norman Cook has produced and released music under many different aliases - Beats International, Freak Power, Pizzaman, Mighty Dub Katz and The Brighton Port Authority, to name a handful - but it's under the moniker Fatboy Slim that Cook has enjoyed the most success, both artistically and commercially speaking.
Despite the fact that The Housemartins were very much in the indie / alternative camp, Cook's musical interests were always a little broader and he spent much of the late 1980s as a DJ in his adopted home of Brighton, spinning records under the name DJ Quentox and becoming one the key figures in the emerging hip-hop scene on the south coast that produced the likes of Elemental, Dr. Syntax and Lost Souls.
Cook's musical excursions took in a variety of styles, from the dub / reggae influenced Beats International to the acid jazz vibes of Freak Power, the latter scoring a hit after one of its singles, 'Turn On, Tune In, Cop Out', was picked up by Levis for one of their TV ad campaigns.
By the mid-1990s though the Big Beat scene had begun to emerge, taking its name from Cook's Brighton nightclub Big Beat Boutique, with acts like The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers evolving out of the rave scene of the 1980s and blending acid house with hip-hop, breakbeats and funk & soul samples. Releasing his first LP under the name of Fatboy Slim, 1996's Better Living Through Chemistry, Cook began to cement his reputation as one of the key figures in an emerging scene that also included the likes of Groove Armada, Basement Jaxx and Propellerheads.
It was Fatboy Slim's second LP, You've Come A Long Way, Baby, that proved to be the real breakthrough, spawning huge hits like 'The Rockafeller Skank' and earning Cook his first No.1 album in the UK. A further two albums followed - Halfway Between The Gutter and the Stars and Palookaville – while Cook became one of the world's best known DJs, playing sets in clubs everywhere from Ibiza to Australia and producing remixes for a range of artists including The Beastie Boys and Jean Jaques Perrey.
Next week (May 25th) sees the release of The Fatboy Slim Collection, Cook's own lovingly assembled playlist featuring his favourite tunes from the last two decades as a DJ, including dancefloor fillers from the likes of Cassius, Frankie Knuckles, Underworld and Leftfield, among many others. While you're waiting for the album to arrive, we thought we'd make our own playlist featuring five of Fatboy Slim's best tunes as a guide for the uninitiated...
'Everybody Needs a 303'
Fatboy Slim's first LP didn't contain the huge hits of its successor, but there are still some well known club anthems on Better Living Through Chemistry, including this homage to Roland's famous bassline synthesizer, the TB303. With its snaking bassline and heavily compressed breakbeats, the track sets the scene for everything that would follow on his next record.
'The Rockafeller Skank'
Probably still his best known track, this cut from You've Come A Long Way, Baby works in samples from John Barry, Just Brothers, Duane Eddy and, of course, that famous vocal sample from Lord Finesse.
Based around a sample from Camille Yarborough's 'Take Yo' Praise' and accompanied by an award-winning video directed by and starring Spike Jonze, 'Praise You' is another cut from You've Come A Long Way, Baby and is still one of Fatboy Slim's biggest hits.
'Weapon of Choice'
Taken from Fatboy Slim's third LP, Halfway Between The Gutter and the Stars, the Black Sheep-sampling 'Weapon of Choice' is probably best known for its video – another directed by Spike Jonze – which features legendary actor Christopher Walken showing off his dance moves.
'Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat'
Our final pick is Fatboy Slim's most recent hit, released as a single almost a full decade on from his last album Palookaville. Featuring Riva Starr and beatbox supremo Beardyman, it's proof that Norman Cook still knows how to fill a dancefloor. We've gone for the Calvin Harris remix below...