The KLF - the Band
Created | Updated Jan 16, 2012
The KLF are/were an ever-changing art terrorism duo consisting of Jimmy Cauty ('Rockman Rock') and Bill Drummond ('King Boy D'). Formed on New Year's Day 1987 as The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu, their first single (All You Need Is Love) and album (1987 - What The F***'s Going On?) were critically acclaimed, but strangled at birth by a million apoplectic copyright lawyers when they spotted that the recordings used samples of almost every record ever made, from the Beatles' All You Need Is Love to Samantha Fox's Touch Me (I Want Your Body). The single was eventually released in a heavily edited form, but Abba's lawyers took great exception to the sample of Dancing Queen on the album track The Queen And I, and insisted that all copies of the album be destroyed. The duo travelled to Sweden to burn the albums, an event which inspired the later recordings Build A Fire and Burn The Bastards.
Following two further singles (Whitney Joins The JAMS and Downtown) and a second album (Who Killed The JAMS?) the Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu split up, and reformed almost immediately as The Timelords. Borrowing sections of Gary Glitter's Rock 'n Roll and the theme from Doctor Who, they unexpectedly spent a week at number one in the UK with their single Doctorin' The Tardis.
After this bizarre accident, they wrote a book (The Manual - How To Have A Number One Hit The Easy Way) and split up, reforming almost immediately as The KLF. This was by far their most successful period, during which they invented ambient house music on their Chill Out album, and went on to become the UK's biggest selling singles act of 1991, with a string of top ten hits including What Time Is Love?, 3am Eternal, Last Train To Trancentral, Justified And Ancient and the American remix of What Time Is Love?, cunningly entitled America: What Time Is Love?, probably the most over-produced record ever made. This intensely busy period also saw them hit the top 10 under the Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu moniker, with It's Grim Up North, a list of names of towns in the north of England, spoken over a techno backing.
The KLF's last public appearance was at the 1992 Brit Awards, where they performed a version of 3am Eternal in collaboration with thrash metal group Extreme Noise Terror. Drummond, wearing a kilt, hobbled around the stage supported by one crutch, got the lyrics wrong, and ended the performance by firing a machine gun into the audience (it is believed that the gun was loaded with blanks, not live ammunition, although this has never been officially confirmed). After the performance, which was met with total bemusement by the assembled music industry bosses, the band left a dead sheep backstage (their original plan to throw sheep's blood into the audience having been thwarted by the non-availability of sufficient quantities of sheep's blood), and split up, deleting their entire back catalogue and effectively vanishing from the face of the earth.
The K Foundation and 2K
That is, until the following year, when they reformed as the K Foundation. This 'project' declared war on the elitist, self-serving British art establishment. Two highlights included trying to sell £1,000,000 nailed to a board to London's Tate Gallery for £750,000. The Tate said it was a security risk, despite the K Foundation pointing out that they would immediately make a profit of a quarter of a million which they could use to buy some 'real' art. Their second shot at the Tate was in 1993 when they usurped the gallery's Turner Prize award for the best British artist by offering £40,000 to the worst British artist of the year. Significantly, this prize money was double that of the Turner award, and in a wonderful piece of irony Rachel Whiteread won both. (In fact, she refused to collect the K Foundation award until Drummond threatened to set fire to it outside the gallery.)
The K Foundation also recorded the odd piece of music, the most important of which was the recording of a single with the Red Army Choir, K Cera Cera (War Is Over If You Want It), which was released only in Israel to commemorate the peace process in the Middle East. Their best remembered exploit, however, was the ceremonial burning of a million pounds of their own money, earned during their KLF period. Footage of this event was later given limited release as a film Watch The K Foundation Burn A Million Quid. Reviews were, to say the least, mixed, and it is still under debate whether or not they burned a full million, or if the money in the video was actually real.
Since then, Drummond and Cauty have kept a reasonably low profile, although they resurfaced briefly in 1997, releasing the single F*** The Millennium (essentially yet another remix of What Time Is Love?) under the name 2K. This was accompanied by a 23-minute performance at the Barbican arts centre in London, after which the band split up again. This performance began with a projection of a brick, entitled 'This Brick' backed by a feedback-augmented version of the theme from Fame. This abruptly disappeared and the remainder of the performance mostly involved Drummond and Cauty sat in wheelchairs, dressed as old men with horns on their heads rampaging round the stage. A funk band played in the corner, unheard and buried by the massive PA. Jimmy thought it funny to continually harass one poor violinist who got really annoyed. Bill simply plucked a dead swan. Eventually, a crowd of Liverpool dockers stormed the stage before a choir of fishermen was revealed and everyone chilled out to sing K Cera Cera.
Drummond and Cauty's latest plan is to commemorate the new millennium by building a pyramid from house bricks entitled 'The Great Northern Pyramid Of The People'. The exact location of the pyramid, and the current status of the project, remain unknown at this time. You are, however, welcome to donate a brick. That is, if you can find where to send it ...