The KLF

The KLF's album The White Room came out 25 years ago this week, and it is fucking awful. Really, it's just a deplorable house/disco mess and I hate every track.

The KLF themselves, however, are absolute geniuses and I truly admire their commitment. First they published a book in 1988, The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way):

WE GUARANTEE THAT WE WILL REFUND THE COMPLETE PRICE OF THIS MANUAL IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO ACHIEVE A NUMBER ONE SINGLE IN THE OFFICIAL (GALLUP) U.K. CHARTS WITHIN THREE MONTHS OF THE PURCHASE OF THIS MANUAL AND ON CONDITION THAT YOU HAVE FULFILLED OUR INSTRUCTIONS TO THE LETTER. TO RECEIVE THIS GUARANTEE PLEASE WRITE TO KLF PUBLICATIONS, BOX 283, HP21 7HG, U.K. WITH YOUR NAME, ADDRESS AND A PHOTOCOPY OF YOUR PURCHASE RECEIPT AND AN S.A.E. YOU WlLL RECEIVE YOUR GUARANTEE WITHIN 28 DAYS. [...]

Firstly, you must be skint and on the dole. Anybody with a proper job or tied up with full time education will not have the time to devote to see it through. Also, being on the dole gives you a clearer perspective on how much of society is run. If you are already a musician stop playing your instrument. Even better, sell the junk. It will become clearer later on but just take our word for it for the time being. Sitting around tinkering with the Portastudio or musical gear (either ancient or modern) just complicates and distracts you from the main objective. Even worse than being a musician is being a musician in a band. Real bands never get to Number One -- unless they are puppets.

It's really pretty amazing. But then they followed their own instructions, and got a number one single later that year. And then they did it again in 1990. And all of this was wrapped up inside a whole lot of Robert Anton Wilson Illuminatus mythological nonsense.

(If you're like me, you might assume that the unrelenting awfulness of their music was, in fact, part of the joke.)

Then they retired in 1992 with a wonderful table-flip mic-drop:

The KLF and crust punk group Extreme Noise Terror performed a live version of "3 a.m. Eternal" at the BRIT Awards, the British Phonographic Industry's annual awards show; a "violently antagonistic performance" in front of "a stunned music-business audience". Drummond and Cauty had planned to throw buckets of sheep's blood over the audience, but were prevented from doing so due to opposition from BBC lawyers and "hardcore vegans" Extreme Noise Terror. The performance was instead garnished by a limping, kilted, cigar-chomping Drummond firing blanks from an automatic weapon over the heads of the crowd. As the band left the stage, The KLF's promoter and narrator Scott Piering announced over the PA system that "The KLF have now left the music business". Later in the evening the band dumped a dead sheep with the message "I died for you -- bon appetit" tied around its waist at the entrance to one of the post-ceremony parties.

Reactions were mixed.

And then in 1994 they withdrew the remaining £1M they had in the bank, and they set it on fire:

"If we had gone and spent the money on Rolls Royces and swimming pools, I don't think people would be upset. It's because we burnt it. [...] Seeing as you're talking about the charity angle: our burning that money doesn't mean there's any less loaves of bread in the world. Any less apples. Any less anything. The only thing there's less of, is a pile of paper."

"But there could have been a little more. More bread, more apples."

"No. We didn't burn any loaves of bread. We didn't burn any apples. Those loaves of bread still exist. There's nothing less in the world."

People rarely commit like these fellows did. Slow clap.


Previously, previously.

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