In the mid-to-late-1990s, Big Beat was dominating UK dance music, thanks to The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers, and a Brighton-bred producer named Fatboy Slim who had begun tantalizing audiences with his sample-heavy, bombastic debut Better Living Through Chemistry. Each of these artists brought a little bit something different to Big Beat – a twist on acid house, techno, and rap breakbeats crammed into a traditional pop structure. But it was Fatboy Slim’s 1998 album, the massive, groundbreaking, discourse-shifting You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby, that cemented the sound as the world’s most exciting party.
With You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby, Fatboy Slim – born Norman Quentin Cook – blended ecstatic build-ups of the rave scene with the “guess the sample” playfulness of 90s rap. (At the time of the album’s release, websites like WhoSampled were still years away.) Some of the samples were relatively obvious. (“Praise You” nicked a guitar from “It’s a Small World” and an electric piano from Steve Miller Band.) Others were more obscure. (The iconic “funk soul brother” Lord Finesse sample was from the only release that ever bore the artist name Vinyl Dogs.) What united it all, however, was the overarching sense that Fatboy Slim was having tons of fun putting all this stuff together.
That extended to the videos that were created as part of the album. The Spike Jonze-directed clip for “Praise You” likely made You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby even more of a success in the United States, due to its constant airing on MTV. The one line script for “Gangster Trippin’”? “Blow stuff up.” Director Roman Coppola was happy to oblige. European Fatboy fans got an extra treat with the video for “Right Here, Right Now,” which referenced a beloved French children’s show from the late 1970s. (Not that you needed to know much to enjoy its hilarious race from the Big Bang to 1998.)
You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby was a hit in both the US and the UK, a huge step up in commercial success from Fatboy’s 1996 debut Better Living Through Chemistry. That 1996 album was more in thrall to dance music, with songs like “Everybody Needs a 303.” What made You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby such a different beast was the in-your-face vocal samples and a relentless focus on merging pop music and electronic music structures. It became a turning point for Fatboy and electronic music as a whole, culminating a few years later with an iconic 2002 concert in Brighton Beach, in which an estimated 250,000 fans came to see him spin records. You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby, though, is where everything started.