The KLF Are Back!

From the BBC


The KLF: Pop’s saboteurs return after 23 years

The KLF return 23 years after bowing out of the music industry

On 23 August 1994, The KLF – one of Britain’s most incendiary bands, in more ways than one – burned £1m on a remote Scottish island.

They then vowed to put their careers on hold for 23 years.

That time is now up.

So at 23 seconds past midnight on Wednesday they made their comeback at a book launch in Liverpool.

The duo were greeted by 500 fans as they arrived at the News From Nowhere book shop in an ice cream van that played their hit What Time Is Love? and O Sole Mio.

That marked the start of a three-day festival of talks, performance and live art, which will continue on Wednesday with a debate on the topic “Why Did the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid?”

However, fans have been told that The KLF’s Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond will not be performing any music.

Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty
Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty made their comeback at a bookshop in Liverpool

Their new novel 2023, described as “a utopian costume drama set in the near future written in the recent past”, is due to be performed in full in the city on Thursday.

The event will finish on Friday with a “Graduation Ball” headlined by a hitherto unknown artist named Badger Kull, who is billed as having just one three-minute song, titled Toxteth Day of the Dead.

The KLF – who also went by names including The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, The K Foundation and The Timelords – had hits like 3AM Eternal, Last Train to Trancentral and What Time Is Love? in the late 1980s and early ’90s.

As well as their electrifying pop-trance hits, Cauty and Drummond became known for sabotaging their own success and subverting the music business in a serious of infamous stunts.

Here are four of them:

The Timelords on Top of the Pops
Image captionThey went to number one in 1988 as The Timelords

1. Abba vs The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu

The duo were ordered to destroy all copies of their 1987 debut album after a complaint from Abba, who objected to the unauthorised sampling of Dancing Queen.

Cauty and Drummond travelled to Sweden to try to track Abba down in person. But they failed, so they presented the gold disc they had brought with them to a Swedish prostitute instead.

As you do.

They burned some of the LPs in a field before throwing the rest overboard from the ferry on the way home.

The album was eventually released with large stretches of silence where the samples had been.

2. The chart manual

After getting to number one as The Timelords with Doctor Who theme rip-off Doctorin’ the Tardis (fronted by Gary Glitter), they published a book called The Manual (How To Have A Number One The Easy Way) with instructions about how to top the charts.

Austrian Eurotrash band Edelweiss followed their advice and sold five million records.

The KLF at the Brit Awards 1992Image copyrightRICHARD YOUNG/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

3. The great Brit Awards massacre

When The KLF won best British group at the 1992 Brit Awards, they made their disdain for the music industry clear by performing 3AM Eternal with death metal group Extreme Noise Terror.

The appearance ended with Drummond firing blanks from a machine gun into the stunned audience before an announcer said: “The KLF have left the music business.”

Not satisfied with that, they dumped a dead sheep on the steps of the after-show party with a note reading “I died for you”, and deleted their back catalogue.

4. The £1m bonfire

After their resignation from the music industry, they rejected everything that had gone before in the most extreme way in 1994 – taking the £1m they had left in royalties to the island of Jura and burning bundles of £50 notes.

That led to howls of protests from those who said it should have gone to a worthy cause.

Despite saying they wouldn’t talk about it, they actually have. “There’s plenty of people who want to give money to charity,” Cauty told Irish TV. “We want to do something that we found more interesting with the money.”

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