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Flashback: The Madness of KLF

In a week when David Bowie, Justin Timberlake and Destiny’s Child all unexpectedly premiered new material, it was the re-emergence of several albums more than twenty years old which perhaps caused the biggest frenzy.

Virtually wiped from existence since their 1992 split, The KLF’s concept albums Chill and Space and final studio effort, The White Room, suddenly found themselves on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify alongside bootlegs The Lost Sounds of Mu Vols 1 & 2 and The White Room (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack).

Released without any official confirmation, many believe the acid house pioneers’ back catalogue was somehow uploaded illegally. But considering Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty’s fondness for anarchy, it wouldn’t be a surprise to discover that the sudden re-emergence of their music was yet another of their ploys to baffle the music industry.

Indeed, since their initial incarnation as The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu in 1987, it’s fair to say that no other act has managed to flaunt such a disregard for convention while reaching such commercial heights. From debut single, “All You Need Is Love,” surely the only track to borrow from both The Beatles and Samantha Fox, to debut album 1987, What The F*** Is Going On, which the duo burned most copies of after failing to gain permission to use one of ABBA’s songs, their early sample-heavy material almost made Napster appear a beacon of anti-piracy.

Such chaos was merely a sign of things to come. In 1988, they confused their earlier champions by scoring a UK number one with novelty single “Doctorin’ The Tardis,” a glam-rock makeover of the Doctor Who theme which deliberately aimed at the lowest common denominator and paved the way for tongue-in-cheek how-to guide, The Manual (How To Have A Number One The Easy Way).

Incredibly, The KLF’s behaviour only got more bizarre as they became more successful. After scoring worldwide hits with “What Time Is Love,” Tammy Wynette duet “Justified and Ancient” and “3 a.m Eternal,” the pair decided the best way to celebrate receiving their Best British Group award at the BRIT Awards was to perform the latter with obscure crunk-punk outfit Extreme Noise Terror whilst shooting blanks into the audience before announcing that “The KLF have left the music industry.”

Add the fact that they then sent a dead sheep to one of the ceremony’s after parties with the message, “I died for ewe”, buried their award in a field at Stonehenge and later filmed themselves burning £1m in £50 notes as an artistic statement, and it’s undeniable that The KLF are responsible for one of the most insane music career exits of all time.


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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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Posted in: Electronic Music, Featured


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