Category: Bill Drummond

KLF Vs Extreme Noise Terror: 3AM Eternal (Christmas Top Of The Pops 1991)

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KLF Communications 1993.  3AM1

Discogs

I’m endlessly amused by KLF pranks, well the ones that worked anyway.  This was an especially good one – performing their stadium house anthem on that most family orientated of music shows, Christmas TOTP with thrash metal band Extreme Noise Terror.  Music is way too dominated by the marketing men, so it’s really refreshing to see something as stupid as this kick down the doors into the mainstream.  At the end of the performance, Bill Drummond fired a machine gun into the audience, and it was announced that the KLF had left the music business.  They duly split and deleted their lucrative back catalogue, and apart from a handful of fairly low key projects have been true to their word.

As a record I quite like it.  Yes, it is a joke but it works better than you might think, not that it inspired me to buy any more ENT stuff.

Big In Japan: From Y to X And Never Again

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Zoo 1978 (Bootlegged 1989).  Zoo 135

Discogs

Big In Japan are more interesting for the line-up than the music.  Everyone in the band went on to be pretty successful in future ventures, although didn’t show much promise here.  It was like a supergroup in reverse.  So we have Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes To Hollywood), Bill Drummond (KLF), David Balfe (Teardrop Explodes), Ian Broudie (The Lightning Seeds), Budgie (Siouxsie and the Banshees) and others.

The music was conceptual art-punk with little emphasis on proficiency and is really only of interest as a curiosity.  It’s listenable though and worth a download if you’re into any of the bands these guys were later successful with.

My copy is a bootleg, bought in Virgin.  I do find it irritating that the music industry makes such a fuss about piracy, but are more than happy to stock dodgy product if they think they can make a few quid.  This had the tell-tale “Import Licence” which is usually a sign of a bootleg.  As a result the sound quality isn’t great – it sounds like it was ripped (poorly) from an original 7″.

The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu: 1987, What The Fuck’s Going On

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KLF Communications 1987.  JAMSLP1

Discogs

This is one of the most notorious albums of the 80s, and when you listen to it, it’s not hard to see why.  It was an early example of sampling, none of the people sampled had given permission (except The Fall), but also because because of the way the sampling was done.  In places, the “samples”, in particular Abba’s Dancing Queen last for several minutes and when that happens, there’s not much in the way of original content.  Not surprisingly Abba took legal action and the album was withdrawn.  Since then it’s been widely bootlegged, but has never been re-issued.  This is a vinyl rip from an original copy.

When I bought this I laughed about it for days.  The sheer cheek of it was breathtaking, especially when sampling was pretty much unknown.  That it’s so amateurish didn’t even occur to me – back then there were no rules about how sampling should be done and for me there was nothing to compare it to.  It got me into turntablism and I’m still into it now.

Drummond and Cauty had no idea what they were doing, which is what makes this album both brilliant and terrible, although they got their act together by the time their second album came out, shortly after this one.  Terrible because it’s just technically inept most of the time and Bill Drummond can’t rap at all, although I’ve always liked the strong Scottish accent he uses.  Brilliant because, well, because like so much else the pair have done, that they would even think that this was a good idea.  Brilliant because it really does tell us stuff about what 1987 was like and because they did have something to say.  Sometimes the samples even work – Bo Diddley and Stevie Wonder are both used to good effect.

The best track was also their first single, All You Need Is Love which is a brilliant commentary on AIDS and how the government of the day was dealing with it using Samantha Fox’s Touch Me, bits from government AIDS awareness films and children singing Ring-A Ring-A-Roses overlaid with pithy commentary from Drummond.  It’s not subtle but it is effective.

The Queen And I, the track which caused all the trouble, is, not surprisingly a swipe at the monarchy, but you’d be forgiven for not spotting that amidst the sheer lunacy of it.  It finishes with several minutes recorded direct from the TV show Top Of The Pops which most people under the age of 25 regarded as genuinely important back then.  There’s a bit of channel hopping going on too, so there are snatches of adverts and new bulletins too.  Again the point is obvious, but the insanity of what they’ve done dominates.

If you’re not a Brit, you might not realise that the long section at the end of the first track is a field recording of a London Underground train arriving at a station and then leaving, complete with recorded announcements.

The 4th track, Me Ru Con doesn’t fit at all.  It was an impromptu performance of a traditional Vietnamese song by their sax player.  It’s there because they liked it, and well, they were right, but it sits rather uneasily with the rest of the album.

Even if you’ve never heard this before there are sections which are probably familiar (apart from the samples of course).  While they were later embarrassed by this record, it introduced several motifs which would appear over and over again during their commercially successful KLF phase.  I guess if you’re as keen on sampling as they were, you need to sample yourself.

The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu: Who Killed The Jams

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KLF Communications 1988.  JAMSLP2

Discogs

This is the follow up to the JAMS notorious debut, 1987, What The Fuck’s Going On.   That album was groundbreaking, brave, hilarious, conceptually amazing, illegal, but not that great.  The material was pretty weak, it was technically laughable and clearly thrown together.  This one though is an altogether different proposition.

On the face of it, it’s a good-time disco record.  It’s uplifting, you can dance to it, the samples work well (at least by the standards of the time) and the material is mostly really good.  Delve a little deeper though and there’s more to it.  The cover shows Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty with their American cop car in a field in Sweden burning the remaining copies of their debut LP.  That album was withdrawn at the insistence of Abba because it “sampled” (wholsale theft is a more accurate term than sampling) huge chunks of Dancing Queen.  They were ordered to track down all the unsold copies and destroy them.  What they actually did was track them down and then head over to Sweden to talk to Abba, artist to artist as they put it.  Of course no meeting took place, so the albums were burnt in a field.  At the time it seemed like another KLF stunt, but listen to this album (particularly the none-too-subtle track Burn The Bastards, but also Disaster Fund Collection) and it’s clear that they were really hurt by what Abba did and intended to have that meeting.  There’s also a potted history of the band on Prestwich Prophet’s Grin which of course namechecks The Fall’s Mark E Smith, the real Prestwich Prophet (1987 has a Fall sample which was the only one they got permission to use), and made the album sound as though it would be their last, which indeed it was.  Most subsequent releases were credited to The KLF, and apart from a single or two, the JAMS name was abandoned.

The technical development here is remarkable.  1987 was amateurish in the extreme, to the extent that it’s barely listenable now, but this, appearing very hurredly soon after, is well constructed, especially when you consider how new the techniques they were using were back then.  It was well reviewed and set the scene for the huge stars they were about to become.  It’s strange that this, of all their albums, is most overlooked.

I may or may not post the 1987 album.  It’s so widely available online that I imagine that everyone who’s interested has heard it.  Let me know if you want it.

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Various Artists: Kalevala Singles

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Kalevala 1997.  KALA 001 – 006

Discogs

I posted a fake KLF single here, and this is another KLF related fake, this time, the band pretending to be someone else, rather than the other way around.

It was one of their more peculiar projects – a fake Finnish record label purporting to be tapping into a dynamic but hitherto unknown Finnish music scene.  What it actually is, is Bill (Drummond) and Mark (Manning) holed up in a studio in Helsinki with sundry locals making records by bands that didn’t exist.  That it was all a hoax was an open secret at the time, but it didn’t generate much interest and the project fizzled out after 6 singles, of which only 500 of each were pressed.  Rumour has it that Drummond still has most of them, which would account for the silly prices they now go for.   There was supposed to be an album of all the single tracks with a few extras, but only a handful of test pressings were ever done.  There was also an album of sorts recorded with a local singer, but again only a few test pressing materialised.  This is a rip of all 6 singles, bundled up together as an album.

Bill had a Scandinavian connection which seemed to be the driving force behind this.  They’d travelled to Sweden to try to persuade Abba to allow the Dancing Queen sample of their 1987 LP, and the book Bad Wisdom (by Drummond and Manning) was set there, inasmuch as it was set anywhere at all.

So what are they actually like?  Well in the main they’re rather fabulous, and of course bonkers.  It kicks off with Dracula’s Daughter which is a pretty successful fuzzy Velvets sounding track, then The Fuckers with a punk ditty about Roy Orbison.  Things go a bit wrong on the third single, by Gimpo, the KLF’s roadie and general fixer – side one is a pointless load of swearing and side two is Gimpo relating a rather grubby story.  Single 4 is by the Daytonas, a kind of surf-punk outfit which works well, the 5th (which suffers from playing at 33rpm) has bizarre covers of The Doors, Elvis and Bert Kamfaert in a kind of overblown Vegas style (probably my favourite).  It finishes with Aurora Borealis which is a pair of ambient tracks not too dissimilar from the KLF’s ambient works (which is a good thing).  I’m not so sure about Mark Manning, but this stuff works because Bill Drummond really understands music.  Yes, it’s a fake, none of these band exist and most of the sounds are made by session musicians, but that doesn’t really matter.  Drummond knows very well what a great surf-punk record should sound like, and can make it happen with a bunch of random Finns in a studio.    Importantly he’s also nuts enough to think that doing this is a good idea.

Probe Records have a rather odd page about Kalevala here.

Kid Chaos: 20 Greatest Hits EP

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Fierce Recordings 1988.  No catalogue number.

Discogs

This continues the Fierce theme and is something of an oddball record.  It claims to be by the KLF, and was sent to the music papers in 1988 for review.  However the KLF themselves denied all knowledge of it while heartily approving of the idea of musicians pretending to be other musicians.  It should have been obvious to anyone with even the slightest knowledge of the KLF that this was a fake because it lacked any of the features which made the KLF worth paying attention to.  There’s no humour, no statement, no Scottish ranting, no flair and no tunes, but the British music press fell for it and reviewed it as a KLF release.  To their credit it got the bad reviews it deserved.

What this actually is, is a Fierce scam, a real one this time, not a pretend one.  It was made by Kid Chaos – which does give a KLF connection because he played bass with Zodiac Windwarp, aka Mark Manning who co-wrote various books with Bill Drummond, most notably Bad Wisdom.

The A side, probably called Borderline is Jon Bonham’s drum break from When The Levee Breaks looped with some random records playing in the background.  To call it sampling would imply some sort of competence.  So it’s garbage, but still an enjoyable listen because the looped drum break is fabulous.  It would have been better without Kid Chaos’s inept turntablism in the background though.  The first of the B sides, All U Need Is Love actually has some merit.  Like Borderline it has looped drums, although I don’t know where they’re lifted from, which create a powerful sense of tension.  In the background is a Morcambe and Wise skit, but without the laughter track.  For some reason it works really well – maybe I’m just a sucker for anything different sounding.  The final track, BFB is a rip-off of the Public Enemy track She Watch Channel Zero – it samples the same Slayer riff and dumps more random bits of music on top.  It is utter garbage and doesn’t even have the appeal of the first track…

The “info” sheet it came with is above, and I’ve pasted a couple more letters from Fierce below.  It’s an interesting historical curio and worth hearing if you’re interested in Fierce or the KLF.

Update: I’ve just played this to a friend and he described it as fascinating, so maybe I’ve been a little harsh. It’s certainly true that it doesn’t sound like anything else.

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Bill Drummond: The King Of Joy

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Creation 1987. CRE039T

Discogs

Hallelujah.  After a long wait my turntable is up and running again (new phono stage if you’re interested), so here’s the first vinyl rip.

Bill Drummond’s career has been endlessly interesting, right back to his stint as manager of The Teardrop Explodes and Echo And The Bunnymen.  Since then he’s best know for his commercial success with The KLF, as the guy who burnt a million quid, and more recently as artist and author.

Between the Manager phase and the KLF phase was a short lived period as a solo artist on Creation which yielded an album (The Man) and this single.  It is one of the most uplifting  records I own; I’ve spent far too much time this morning gyrating around the house to it.  While completely different in style to what he did next, the quality of these two tracks shows that the appeal of the records he made with Jimmy Cauty was grounded not in the pranks, but in the ability to write and produce great material.

The title track, King Of Joy is lifted from the album I’ve already mentioned.  Drummond himself says the song which is his “theme” is True To The Trail, a country style ditty from The Man, but for me King Of Joy does the job much better.  It’s a great song, and I’m a total sucker for pop songs with trumpet parts.  Never mind that ol’ Bill isn’t much of a singer – the overall effect is great and works all the better for his Scottish accent.

I Want That Girl is also on the album, but this is an instrumental version including a beautiful trumpet part by Henry Lowther.  It also has a Hammond solo too – could it get any better?

The B side is the spoken word The Manager, apparently the soundtrack to a film, although I’ve never seen it.  He’s ranting about the state of the music industry and what he’d do to fix it in his usual slightly unhinged but very entertaining way.  It works as a kind of statement of intent for what he was to become famous for.  You can hear True To The Trail playing in the background at the start.

Further listening?  Well there’s nothing available.  His Creation material is long deleted and the KLF and related stuff was all ceremonially deleted by Drummond and Cauty when they left the music industry.  He’s written quite a few books over the years, most of which are also out of print and very rare, but right now you can get 45 pretty easily which is a great read about his rather idiosyncratic take on the music industry.  It’s also worth keeping an eye on his web site.

The album is available (for a short time) here