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


KLF Communications 1987.  JAMSLP1


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  Not surprisingly Abba took legal action and the album was withdrawn.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.

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