We welcome guest writer – techno producer and long time KLF fan, Stephen Clarke 1980. With so many people across the globe watching events at ‘Welcome To The Dark Ages’ from afar, we wanted to get a perspective on how proceedings looked from outside of the ‘volunteers’. Many of the 400 have been intrigued to see how the world has reacted to the ‘situation’ created by The JAMs. Stephen shows us how it all came across via the web and social media…
Follow Stephen on Twitter.
Words by Stephen Clarke 1980
Music by The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu
Earlier this afternoon I was contacted by Welcome To The Dark Ages. They wanted to know if I’d be interested in writing about the recent return of The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu, from the perspective of someone who wasn’t in Liverpool between Wednesday the 23rd and Saturday the 26th of August, 2017, and wasn’t one of the 400 “volunteers” who paid a hundred quid each to be there. I was perfect for the job, with my skill set matching their requirements to the letter. Being in such a strong position, I quickly managed to negotiate a fee of £0,000,000 for my services, and within minutes the job was mine.
I was 7 years old when Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty first topped the charts, as The Timelords. I lived in Belfast at the time, and I can remember the sounds of army helicopters, gun battles and bomb explosions a lot more clearly than any of the Pop records of that time. Once their “Stadium House Trilogy” songs were on the radio though, I was a bit older, and getting into all of the hip new sounds that my Dad hated. The first KLF song I played, repeatedly, was the All Bound For Mu Mu Land version of Justified & Ancient. This mix doesn’t feature “The First Lady Of Country”, Tammy Wynette. It had Maxine Harvey on vocal duties, and a running time of almost 8 minutes. As far as I can recall, it was the second track on a Rave compilation CD I’d bought with some money I’d been given for my birthday, and I can’t remember any of the other songs on the disk. I just kept playing the same song, over and over. I’d never heard anything like it before (or since). It had, amongst a maelstrom of other noises, a sound like a school bell or a fire alarm running through it, and a rap about an ice cream van. When it finally drifted away all I was left with were questions. I mean, where are the Rivers Of Life? Do you need a licence to fish there? Where on earth is Mu Mu Land? I’d heard that the last train had left an hour ago, but I was hoping there would be a replacement bus service, or a connecting flight that I could catch to take me there.
Sometime after that girls, and underage drinking, began to creep into my life, and that early, magical, rush provided by brilliant Pop music began to drift away, never again to be captured in quite the same way. It happens to us all, I guess. Just like you’ll never forget your first kiss, you’ll never forget the first time a great song takes your brain to another dimension. For Bill Drummond, that song is Strawberry Fields Forever by The Beatles, and for me, it’s Justified & Ancient (All Bound For Mu Mu Land) by The KLF. To be honest, the rest of their activities completely passed me by. That is until I bought a copy of Bill Drummond’s book “45”, a few years after it was originally published. To this day, it remains my favourite publication of all time, and, in fact, I can tell you exactly where I was when I was first reading it.
On the second day of November 2002 I was being driven on a coach from Belfast to Prague, via the Irish and North sea’s. I was reading the chapter Towers, Tunnels And Elderflower Wine as the coach headed towards Bill Drummond’s old stomping ground, Newton Stewart. Suddenly there was a diversion, both in the book and off the route the coach I was on was supposed to be taking, and then, suddenly, both I, in the present, and Bill, when he wrote the chapter (9th of September, 1998), are in the village of Minnigaff. Suddenly, my mobile phone began to ring. I didn’t recognise the number, but I answered the call and heard; “Hello, this is Bill Drummond. Is that Stephen?”. What followed was the most surreal, let’s say, 23 minutes, of my life. I’d posted Bill a letter about a week, or so, previously, saying that I was enjoying his book, and that The KLF should think about putting out a Greatest Hits CD (This was the peak time for CD selling, profit wise. Just before Napster, and, well, you know all the rest). Bill said he had just arrived home from Belfast. He’d been repairing his Curfew Tower, and had found himself at a loose end, but he didn’t have my contact details with him. So, he thought he’d phone me now that he was home and catching up on business. I asked about The KLF and he said “I feel that I have totally left the music business. That stuff doesn’t interest me any more. But, I’m still friends with Jimmy. We met up last year actually. We we’re thinking of maybe doing something with our film footage. We have loads of film, and we actually started working on it.”. All the while we were talking I could hear his kids playing in the background. It was a lovely, easy, conversation. The kind of chat that you’d hope you could have with an artist who’s work you admire, but how you often dread that they’d actually be an arsehole if you ever spoke to them in real life (In fact, in “45”, Bill does have that exact kind of, soul destroying, conversation with his own hero, Peter Green). At the end of the chat we both wished each other a happy Christmas and said goodbye. As the coach I was sitting in continued to trundle on through the Scottish countryside, I gazed out of the window and smiled, for a long time. In the years that followed I exchanged the odd email with Bill, and in 2008 he asked me if I’d like to write a Score for his project, The 17. This is what I wrote;
SCORE 338. DREAM
Sit in a place where journeys begin. Look around you for sixteen people you connect with. Think about these connections and absorb them deeply. Close your eyes. Clear your mind of all thoughts. There will be noise. Your body will turn the volume up. The sixteen people you connect with share this feeling. They will each contact you through sound. Focus your mind on making the greatest music you have ever heard. You will believe that this is possible for you. You will feel this possibility on every level. You will feel it as if it has already happened. The greatest music of all time is inside you. Wake up. The sixteen people you have connected with will have moved on. It will be time for you to begin your journey.
In the years that followed I had a life. I ran some successful club nights in Edinburgh and had a few of my songs played on Radio 1. Then I moved to a tiny cottage on a large country estate in rural Perthshire, during the worst winter in living memory, and one of my neighbours was Dougie Maclean, who wrote the famous Scottish song “Caledonia”. I’ve had some of the honey from the bees he keeps on my toast. You can do things like eat your neighbours honey when you live out in the countryside. I got married. I got divorced. The seasons changed, and the years rolled by. All the while I’d occasionally check out what Bill Drummond and James Cauty were up to. I read Bill’s books, and I visited Jimmy’s Aftermath Dislocation Principle when it came to Edinburgh, where I’m now living, last year. However, all the while there was silence on anything relating to their previous work as The KLF, K Foundation, Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu etc. This was, roughly, due to them signing a contract relating to a 23 year moratorium on their activities, in gold ink, on the windscreen of a Nissan Bluebird that they had hired in Aviemore, then driven to Cape Wrath, Scotland. After that, they painted the contract all over the car, before pushing the vehicle over a clifftop and walking away into oblivion, or London, as it’s more commonly known. All the while, their loyal fans would tweet each other occasionally, share the odd home made remix, talk about A Riot In A Jam Jar, or The Soup Line, and basically wait around, listening to rare albums on YouTube, whilst they read the odd unofficial book, or watched a fan made video, about their old heroes. It was a long and quiet wait for all of us old, ageing, KLF fans. I wonder how many of the good men and women of Mu we lost along the way?
Then, suddenly, on January 5th, 2017, a single poster appeared on a wall in Hackney, London. At long, long last, this was the sign that K watchers the world over had been waiting for. Under the logo for the duo’s company K2 PLANT HIRE Ltd (The name under which Drummond and Cauty had once planned to “Fix” Stonehenge, and “Get it working again”, as a millennial gift to the nation) the poster read; “2017: What the Fuck Is Going On?” (A very pertinent question, for a lot of people, after the remarkable global events of 2016). It then rambled on for a few paragraphs before delivering a killer couple of lines that would set the internet ablaze for weeks to come; “The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu are currently at work in their light industrial unit. This work will not be made public until the 23rd of August 2017.”. Over the coming weeks, and months, rumours began circulating that this “Work” was going to be a sculpture, and that there would definitely be no new music made by the duo. Then, another poster appeared. It’s job was to let the world know that “K2 Plant Hire Ltd present 2023 – a trilogy by The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu”. So, it wasn’t going to be a sculpture then? It was going to be a book. A book published by Faber & Faber, no less. So, probably a descent book, but still, a book. I mean, we’ve only been waiting 23 sodding years guys! Soon after, yet another poster appeared, declaring that The JAMs would be “unearthing aspects of the 2023 trilogy across Liverpool from 00:23 on the 23rd to 23:23 on the 27th Aug 2017.”. At least this poster had the Pyramid Blaster logo on it, even if it was probably advertising a three day book reading. Maybe Bill would be doing one of his talks, whilst Jimmy made a 1:87 scale sculpture of the Pyramid Blaster live on stage, and then they’d set fire to both the book and the model while all around them yawned, or something like that. I mean, they’re getting on a bit now. Maybe that’s all they could manage. It was 2017, and all was dull again. That was until a DVD+R, with the words “2023 The Triptych Trailer 1”, scrawled on it with a black Sharpie, was found stuck to a wall in London, with black duct tape. Within 24 hours this, insane, trailer was on YouTube. It featured, amongst other things, a beeping alarm clock noise, floating, sliced grapefruit, a revolving tall pyramid that looked like The Shard, London – except it was hovering over a wheat field, with two dark figures wearing long hats and carrying walking sticks, gazing at this revolving object. Then, suddenly, The Shard In The Sky (That’s where I’m gonna go when I die. When I die and they lay me to rest, gonna go to the place that’s the best…) was ablaze. Then, ladies and gentlemen, we were floating in space. A sleeping satellite told us all to FUUK-UP. Starbucks Yoko was there too, before Vladimir Putin appeared, sitting on a throne with a fox by his side, in front of an image from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (The intense gaze of chief Droog, Malcolm McDowell, fixing us all with a menacing intent), as the words “Art War” flashed. Then we watched a fox on the prowl, walking through the city streets as The Shard burned in the background (This was before the Grenfell Tower fire in London, and watching this video now as I make these notes, is actually a bit shocking). We could see graffiti on a wall, and it read “Kick out The JAMs”. This was all followed by some floating green leaves with the Facebook logo on them, before the video ended. By now, The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu had been asking us all the same question for 30 years. At the end of “2023 The Triptych Trailer 1”, all we could do was ask them that very same question; 2017: WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?
As the Summer of 2017 began, we were all treated to the site of The JAMs, who had now become slightly freaky looking scarecrows, as they stood in various locations. The media began to softly tickle the nation again, and more details began to emerge of what would be happening in Liverpool in August. The JAMs were going to be launching their new book in the News From Nowhere bookshop, on Bold Street. A few years ago I, and my ex-wife, had both tried our very best to get hold of Bill Drummond’s book “100” from this shop, and from any other place we could think of, but, alas, we failed. If any kind hearted readers have a copy of this book, I would dearly love to read it. Maybe it belongs to your partner, and you don’t like your partner any more? Perhaps you’re an over worked and underpaid teacher, with a disruptive class. Maybe they could copy the book out for me during detention? Perhaps you are Bill Drummond, and you could email it to me as a PDF? My name is Stephen Clarke 1980, and you can find me on the outerweb. Anyway, tickets for their upcoming return went on sale, for £100 a pop, on the 23rd of July, and they sold like hot sheep. All were sold in 23 seconds. The rest of the world, myself included, were assured this particular revolution would not be televised. There were no invited media, there was no guest list and there would be no red carpet.
I’ve just realised that there’s already a healthy word count on this piece, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of Welcome To The Dark Ages yet. That, in fact, is what this blog post is supposed to be about, after all. My sense of humour, being what it is, means that I would quite like to end this script right here, and tell you that that’s what it was like not being there. However, that’s simply not true. While I’ve been typing up the words you’ve been reading so far, I’ve also been scrawling down 4 pages of handwritten notes on what it was like, as a long time KLF fan, watching Welcome To The Dark Ages unfold from a distance. The temptation, of course, is to try and describe the events as they unfolded on the ground. However, I, along with the bulk of the population, simply wasn’t there, and that’s just not the way the information from this, rather mammoth, event tended to reach us. There are plenty of “The 400” who have written about Welcome To The Dark Ages, as they happened (Day One; We did this, then that. Day Two; No sleep…. etc), and for that, I, and many others will be eternally grateful. From this point onwards, I’m going to try to tell the truth about the event, as I saw it, as it came to me. The emotions that I felt, and the ideas that went through my mind as I watched Welcome To The Dark Ages; The return, after 23 long years in the wilderness, of the band that I love more than any other band in the eternal history of time.
I’m going to begin by saying that Welcome To The Dark Ages was, without a shadow of a doubt, a live performance by the artists forever known as The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu. I know they don’t like being called The KLF, and they’ve always thought of themselves as The JAMs, even when they were The KLF. However, they simply don’t get a choice when it comes to this one. Every press piece, TV slot, radio broadcast and Tweet worldwide, called this The Return Of The KLF. So, that’s what it was guys. Sorry, it’s already out there, in the big, bad, world now, and there’s nothing that any of us, Bill and Jimmy included, can do about it. The good news for fans is that, despite The JAMs request for no broadcast quality equipment, the outerweb has been absolutely filled to the brim with hours worth of footage, and photos, from this remarkable, once in a lifetime, three day happening. I, personally, have downloaded over 4GB worth of videos and photographs taken over the course of this event. The bulk of these were found by searching YouTube and Twitter for The KLF or #KLF, then checking out what had been uploaded in the last 24 hours. I really didn’t find too much when searching for The JAMs. In fact, at many times during the three day event I was more likely to find fresh footage and photos by searching for the, at the time imaginary, band Badger Kull, than I was by searching for The JAMs. However, The JAMs, being The JAMs probably don’t want to be sodding found anyway. They like a bit of isolation, in order to get to work – these pyramids don’t build themselves you know. Writing that reminds me of the answerphone message at the beginning of their old, strange, film “Waiting”. It’s basically a video of Bill and Jimmy on the island of Jura, giving KLF fans instructions on what they themselves, along with their fans, would be spending the next couple of decades doing; Pissing about, and gazing into the middle distance. Anyway, the answerphone message says things like, “I’ve been trying to get a hold of The KLF…. I need to get a hold of The KLF….”. Well, that’s what the world’s media were trying to do during Welcome To The Dark Ages, but, in the main, they failed. They managed to get a couple of books stamped, and then they, rather lazily, dug up a few, old, irrelevant, Pop videos from the previous century, giggled and rolled their eyes about the money burning whilst dressed in sharp suits, and then moved on to the weather forecast. The fans, however, got the lot. The KLF live on stage, The JAMs dead in the streets (Who killed them this time?), and the Rites Of Mu(Mufication). Everything they’ve been dreaming about, and waiting years for, and more.
I spent much of Tuesday the 22nd of August, 2017, following everyone on Twitter who were discussing things like what time the love was going to start, what time the last train was going to leave and who could bring home a dime. By 11:55pm I had live feeds running and updates pouring in from every person who was standing within a 23 mile radius of Bold Street. At 11:58 a series of huge, orange, armoured cars entered the area. They had large, black, K’s on the side, and were being driven by a masked gang, wearing high visibility vests. A police helicopter appeared in the night sky, just about visible through the blinding aurora borealis. A cop was hanging out of the side of the chopper, holding a megaphone, and instructing the enormous crowd to go back to their homes, that this was an illegal gathering, and that there was nothing to see here. “Go home and watch the rolling news channels. They will keep you all informed about what is truly important in this world. Please remember to lock your doors and fear your neighbours at all times.” he said, in a calm, strong and stable voice. The swelling crowd, mostly, stood their ground. A single, brave, and almost broken, civilian (A beautiful, young, girl. Her head shaven by the Protectors Of The State) stepped forward into a small clearing. Then, as the strong beam of light from the chopper shone directly into her dazzling, weeping, eyes, and her body trembled she abruptly raised her fist to the stars and screamed “If you don’t like what they’re going to do, You better not stop them ’cause they’re coming through!”. The copper in the chopper scanned her faced with a long range video lens, and then fucked off. A few people started fleeing the scene, fearing for their safety, but they soon came back when they got a sudden, midnight, craving for ice cream. One crazed fan had climbed the rigging of an old Viking long ship that had just pulled up. Ford Timelord arrived, with a fresh paint job, and raced down Bold Street, doing his best To Serve And Protect the Children Of Mu, and clearing the way for the return of his old pals. High above Liverpool the International Space Station was passing slowly through the night sky. It was hard to make out the audio on some of the periscope feeds, but the ISS did clearly declare “Poised for main engine start.”. The feed from bold street was crystal clear though, and Ford Timelord replied, “Roger that, copy”. At that moment the bells of a nearby church began to ring, indicating that it was now the 23rd of August, 2017. The ISS said “Okay Liverpool, we’ll give you a countdown,
Twenty three, twenty two, twenty one…”. At this point the crowd were seriously losing their shit. Some people were fainting, others were holding sheep aloft and pointing them at the church. The ISS continued “Four, three, two, one…”. Just then, the figure who had climbed the rigging of the long ship appeared, just briefly, to be the King Of Pop! The crowd roared as he yelled, “TURN UP THE STROBE!”. At that exact moment every periscope stream went down for one 23rd of a second. When the broadcast returned, the Viking long ship was gone, the aurora had cleared, taking Michael with it, and the ISS was flashing the largest strobe light in the galaxy. Everything happened so fast that it was hard to keep up, but suddenly, there they were, our long, long, lost heroes! I fainted briefly, then regained Konsciousness, as Rockman Rock and King Boy D raced into Bold Street in their famous Ice Kream Van to perform live, as The KLF, for the first time in 23 years! The old van was as knackered as our heroes looked, and they were all leaking burnt £50 notes. An effigy of Tammy Wynette was resting peacefully inside a beautiful Koffin that The JAMs had made especially for her. Grown men and women were weeping openly and holding hands, as children, with rhino horns attached to their heads, laughed, giggled, and danced around, chanting “Mu Mu!”, and “Bring home a dime, Make mine a “99”!”. King Boy D impulsively started playing The KLF’s sampler, live, for the first time since the Helter Skelter Rave in Chipping Norton in 1989. He was older now, for sure, but he still had that twinkle in his eye, and with his maniacal grin and missing tooth he seemed happy to be mesmerising the crowd again, plus he was totally fucking smashing the What Time Is Love riff. Whatever it was he used to have, well, he still had it. By the time he was mashing it up with Justified & Ancient the Mersey was filled to the brim with dancing perch. Rockman had been playing it pretty cool up to this point, tapping out the beats flawlessly on the steering wheel of the Ice Kream Van. Then he promptly stopped the van and handed his aviator shades through the window to Gimpo. Suddenly the whole world fell silent to listen to Rockman speak. “Any chance you could get the press out of the way mate?”, said Jimmy, softly. “No worries, pal.” said Gimpo, who then turned and walked to the front of the Ice Kream Van with his arms outstretched like the messiah, and the press quickly retreated back into the gutters. King Boy D rolled down his window, and held the hand of a trembling fan, I think it was Scarlett Johansson. Then Bill, in his thickest, deepest, Scottish accent, with a hint of reverb, said “And from somewhere, I hear…”. Scarlett held Bill close, and mumbled something incomprehensible, but clearly loving and affectionate into his ear. Bill turned his face away and, with a single tear rolling down his right cheek, he pressed play on the old sampler that he’d once pissed off ABBA with. The night air instantly filled with sound of “‘O sole mio (Famous Again With The Headlines Coming Up Remix). It was at that moment that the most iconic photograph of this millennium was taken. The one with the Ice Kream Van in the middle of Bold Street, with The KLF and Tammy all aboard, all aboard, a-woah-ho, all smiling away, with “The Boys Are Back In Town” written on top of the van in Ukrainian. It’s the photograph that was on the front page of every major global news paper for 23 weeks after the event. By now The JAMs were pretty tired, and it was time for them to take their meds. So, they went into the book shop to drink some tea and stamp anything that was put in front of them, their eyes not being quite what they used to be. They were stamping books, boobs, Scottish Wild Cats, a signed photo of Tony Wilson, Pete Waterman’s arm, all kinds of stuff. Once their meds had kicked in though, Bill took the time to enquire politely to the News From Nowhere staff, to check if they still had a copy of “100” lying around that they could send to Stephen Clarke 1980 immediately, as a special request. “Even on PDF”, Jimmy expanded, “We like him. He’s cool with us.”.
OK, OK. There might be a few half truths in the above paragraph, but to me, watching The Return Of The KLF from afar FELT like that. You and I both know the story of this band, and the myths that surround them. However, a lot of people don’t. Maybe they missed them first time around, or they were too old, or not born yet by the time The JAMs were playing games with the universe. The story of their strange return was all over the television news by breakfast time. I mean, can you imagine what it must have been like to be a teenager who watched that before they headed off to school, or a stock broker off to work in the city? An example story, from the BBC; “You might remember that back in the early 1990’s, the British Electronic duo KLF churned out hit after hit, with songs like 3AM Eternal and Justified and Ancient. But then, in 1994 they burned a million pounds in cash and disappeared, and just before that they said they would come back in 23 years time. At the stroke of midnight last night that was when the 23 years were up; KLF reappeared – They did it!”. I’m pretty sure the reaction to stories like that, in houses up and down the country, indeed, throughout the world, would have been just as The JAMs would have wanted it; Thousands of people, of every race, creed and colour, staring at their TV screens and saying “What the fuck?” in unison. So, while “The 400” were tucking into their non-Full English breakfast the next morning, and waiting around to get allocated jobs and all of that shite, the real magic was happening back out in the unreal world.
As far as me calling the event a live KLF show, well, of course it wasn’t, in the traditional sense. However, if you’re thinking traditionally about The KLF then, frankly, you’re doing it wrong. The KLF were never a live act. Of course they could put on sensational, and memorable, TV performances and create colossal Pop videos, but you were never going to catch them playing your local arena, and I sincerely hope that they never do. And yes, I know they played live with Echo And The Bunnymen in Bootle, and then there’s the Helter Skelter rave in Chipping Norton where they showered the crowd with Scottish pound notes, with “We love you” scrawled on them, and there was the Extreme Noise Terror show at The Brits. However, I’m not sure I’d really like to see them play The Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury (even if it has them written all over it). These are the kinds of things that real bands do, and I don’t think The KLF are a real band. I think they are a great art project, run by The JAMs. Bill is, obviously, the project manager, and Jimmy is the artist that makes the piece, and then they both take their finished product out of their studio, or their light industrial unit, and present it to the world in the weirdest way possible, not for our benefit, but just to make themselves laugh. Just a great pair of old friends that like a giggle, and a walk around the town together with their pockets stuffed full with in jokes (They’ve always valued in jokes more than money). That doesn’t mean I’m having a go at their music, from What Time Is Love (Pure Trance Version), through Chill Out, to Build A Fire, I love them all. It’s just that I see them as great pieces of art, rather than a bunch of songs I’d like to see them perform every night for 3 months on a tour of Europe in the shape of a K, with every gig starting at 23:23 local time. That said, what “The 400” witnessed was undoubtedly a live KLF show, in the non-traditional sense. Bill and Jimmy did arrive in their Ice Kream Van playing a medley of What Time Is Love, Justified & Ancient and ‘O sole mio. I’m sticking to my Tammy Wynette in the Koffin theory, as it’s the first thought I had when I saw the Koffin in the back of the Ice Kream Van, and I’m a man who trusts his gut feelings. I’ve heard other people saying that the Koffin contained an effigy of James Brown. If that’s the case, then he’ll always be “The First Lady Of Country” to me. Then there were the two Koffins carried into the K2 gig, to the epic sounds of Jerusalem On The Moors by The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu. Again, it’s obvious that Bill and Jimmy were inside these two koffins throughout the whole gig. So, they could both be centre stage and lie back and enjoy their own funeral. This was then followed by the internet sensation of Jarvis Cocker Joins The JAMs / MuMufied & Ancient, or whatever the fuuk that was. It was pointed out pretty quickly why The KLF and Jarvis Cocker were so well matched; They had both caused anarchy at The Brit Awards, a mere four years apart. Admittedly, “They called me up in Sheffield town. They said “Jarvis, stand by The JAMs.”, was a pretty cool moment. I felt a bit like Rocky Balboa dancing about on top of those steps in Philadelphia, when he sang that. KLF fans will have noticed that this particular performance contains the beautiful breakdown from Last Train To Trancentral ( “The di-na-ni-na-ni-na-ni-na, Big Country bit”, as Bill Drummond described it to Tom Robinson in 2004). I must admit here, dear reader, that when this section of the track kicked in, and Jarvis began to pray, and because it was Bill and Jimmy’s funeral, and…. Well, anyway, I welled up, and I thought it was worth the 23 year wait just for that moment alone. Then, at The Funeral Pyre, where Bill and Jimmy torched their own Koffins, “The 400” got a live performance of America No More (Just The Pipe Band) by The KLF, whilst Bill and Jimmy walked around a burning funeral pyre, representing The People’s Pyramid, with The KLF’s iconic rhino horns on their heads. Now, seriously, if you can’t see that as the finest live KLF show of all time, then we have issues. Then, of course, we had Badger Kull and, their one and only 3 minute song, “Toxteth Day Of The Dead.”. Again, this live performance kicked off with an introduction made very much to sound like the legendary MC5 sample that The KLF famously used in their 1991 hit, Stadium House, remake of What Time Is Love. As for the Badger Kull song itself, it reminded me of the type of songs that Bill Drummond came up with when he invented a load of fake bands in Finland, then released them on his own label Kalevala Records. In fact, at the end of this whole evening DJ Food ended his set with one of those very records, “In The Ghetto” by The Blizzard King. Personally, I was so into the Badger Kull idea that I recorded two tracks myself, under the Badger Kull name, and uploaded them to the outerweb. They were basically remakes of old KLF songs, with silly updates (Badger noises, President Trump, Ice Kream Van chimes). The first track was called “What Chimes With Love (Live At TranSETTral)”, the second one was “America: What Time Is Liverpool (Just The Piped Badgers)”. The hysteria for all things Badger Kull related, meant that these tracks were played over 700 times in one day, and I’d only alerted the public about them via a single Tweet.
Apart from us being told that The JAMs wouldn’t be performing any music, which, as I’ve explained, isn’t true – they did, we were also informed that there would be no new songs from them either, this too was bollocks. The new JAMs song is called “Fuuk The World (How To Have A Christmas Number One The Easy Way)”, and it was the first Drummond/Cauty musical collaboration since their 2K “Fuck The Millennium” project in 1997. Just like the 2k performance, The JAMs themselves were made up as a pair of grumpy old men for the live show. This time, instead of a brass band and some striking dockers providing the audio content, our heroes put together a group of talented members of The 400, called Band Aid 2023. Now, if you’re going to try and tell me that this song was not a Drummond/Cauty song, then riddle me this one Batman; Without Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty giving Band Aid 2023 the opportunity to make a Christmas Number One in a bombed out church in Liverpool, after providing them with words from a book they’d just published, would this, great, song exist? It’s filled with wonderful lines, like “Selling arms around the world, at Dark Age time.”, “It’s Mu Mu time, but What The Fuuk Is Going On?”, “There’s a world outside your boathouse.”, and “There won’t be perch in Merseyside this Christmas time.”. OK, maybe they didn’t write the tune, but The Timelords didn’t write the tune to their number one either, did they? In all honesty, I think this performance is one of the best things to come out of Welcome To The Dark Ages. Like lots of the events that happened over those three days in Liverpool, it was very unexpected. But, this might have been one of the few things that even The JAMs themselves didn’t see coming, and they loved it. You can see them nudging each other and smiling as they read the lyrics. You can watch them rocking with laughter, and nodding their heads in approval when the beat kicks in. They’ve both always loved, and understood, Pop music, and that was exactly what this was. It’s perfect, absolutely perfect, and entertaining, and funny. To further back up my claim, I’ll quote something that Bill Drummond said about the duo’s first number one record, “Doctorin’ The Tardis” by The Timelords; “We were rolling around on the floor laughing because we knew it was a number one single, which we wanted. Wouldn’t you? But it was more an act of celebration than cynicism.”. Now, go and watch the clip of “Band Aid 2023 – Christmas No1” if it’s still floating around the outerweb in whatever year it is that you’re reading this, and have a look at Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty as they listen to the first playback of their new song. It might have been nearly 30 years since they first rolled around on the floor laughing while listening to one of their creations by then, but their reaction to a great piece of Pop music remain the same. The only difference is that this time we all got to laugh along with them, and it was absolutely glorious. One of my Twitter friends, Paul, who was a member of The 400, agrees; “I was right at the front and every time I glanced across at them they were both pissing themselves laughing.”. I think that’s one of the things about Bill and Jimmy, they are a pair of like minded guys with a great sense of humour. We’re all just lucky that they are also exceptionally talented artists as well, because we can get to join in on the fun too. If you’re ever feeling a bit low, have a listen to The JAMs “The Queen And I” (Unless you’re a member of ABBA), or “Whitney Joins The JAMs”. I mean even Tammy singing about an ice cream van should put a smile on your face. Why sheep? Why perch? I love that when the definitive answer to why they burned £1,000,000 23 years ago was given to them by The 400, their response was “Whatever”. They really are teenagers at heart, and despite Bill Drummond’s 10 commandments of art including; “Don’t come the rebel”, I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that a rebel is exactly what he is. But, I’m sure if I brought it up with him, his reply would be “Accept the contradictions.”. I thought the pair of them giving the replica of Ford Timelord a fresh white paint job was really funny. The owner of the car didn’t seem too impressed, but if he watched the film The White Room, that’s what they did to the original Ford Timelord anyway. The owner has since cleaned the paint off, but I think he should have let The JAMMs finish their job. I mean, who else on earth could say, “Oh, The KLF? Yeah I know, they were great weren’t they? They painted my car.”. Personally I thought the touch up job was cooler, and should have been donated to the city of Liverpool, for it’s safe storage atop a plinth in the centre of an area of outstanding natural beauty.
By the end of Welcome To The Dark Ages, we had all learned that the sculpture that The JAMs had been working on was called The People’s Pyramid. At the time of it’s completion it will stand at 23 feet in height, and be built from 34,592 household bricks. Each of these bricks will contain 23 grams of cremated ashes from willing individual’s. The name given to this process is MuMufication. I’ve known that Jimmy Cauty has wanted to become a house brick for quite some time. Between the years 2003 and 2012, Bill Drummond ran a website called My Death, where users could sign up and provide details of what they’d like to have happen in the event of their death; funeral plans etc. Anyway, Jimmy Cauty wrote, “I want to be cremated and the ashes made into a house brick. If Bill or Gimpo outlive me they will know where to go, if not any brick maker will do.”. As we all know, he’s been calling himself Rockman Rock for years. The White Room version of Justified & Ancient even includes the line “Rock Man, he’s just made of bricks.”. The ashes from their burning of £1,000,000 on the Isle Of Jura on the 23rd of August, 1994, were also, as every schoolboy knows, made into a house brick. There’s a common British phrase, relating to money, that says “Invest in bricks and mortar, and you can’t go wrong.”. I have a theory that at some point in the early 90’s, when The KLF were rolling in cash, someone gave the lads this common bit of advice, but after playing live with Extreme Noise Terror their ears weren’t in great shape, and The JAMs heard this as “Invest yourselves in bricks and mortuaries, and you can’t be gone.”. Other than MuMufication, The JAMs, or CCCD (Callender, Callender, Cauty & Drummond Undertakers) have a few other services on offer. If you’d like them to build you a Koffin For Life, or K4L, made to order, from packing case material, it will cost you £999. However, my favourite service is “Ice Kream Van as Hearse with The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu as driver and knitter to carry a Koffin 4 Life containing body to a funeral – £9,999 (UK only).”. Frankly, I think that’s an absolute bargain to be driven by your favourite Pop stars to your funeral in their world famous Ice Kream Van. I mean, what’s the going rate for The Orb to get you to the church on time? That lot don’t even have an Ice Kream Van. I mean, try getting a Little Fluffy Cloud to carry you along to a funeral the next time you’re in need of one. I guarantee you you’ll have a solid excuse for being late. I wonder if Bill will be putting 23g of himself into The People’s Pyramid, or if the whole Drummond, and nothing but the whole Drummond, will be tipped into the Penkiln Burn when the time comes? (By the way, Bill, if you’re reading this, I miss the Penkiln Burn Website. in particular the work you were doing with barbers. If you made that into a book, I’d buy it. If not, just send it to me in a PDF along with “100”, and that’ll be fine.).
I’ve read a lot of Tweets over the last few days from members of The 400 who have been trying to decompress. Getting back to their day jobs, thinking that if they tried to explain to their co-workers what they’ve just been getting up to in Liverpool, they just wouldn’t get it. Some are finding it hard to get back to life, back to reality, others have tattoos relating to a band that once played a song for 3 minutes and then disappeared forever. They’ve all joined a rather elite group of people who have worked with The KLF, and I’m not just talking about now. The members of The 400 are all just as important as every dancer who ever took part in one of the bands epic videos, or Top Of The Pops appearances. Just as significant as every robed journalist who took part in The Rites Of Mu, and just as crucial as every sheep who lay down (and the one that stood up) for the cover photo of “Chill Out”. You see, at the time that all of these events happened, those people involved probably felt the same as well. Years from now, members of The 400 will be asked, at length, in late night pub conversations about what they got up to that time they did that thing with The KLF. Other times, they themselves might want to show off about it, and be greeted by faces that just don’t get it, and who’s only reply will be “What the fuck’s going on?”. I like the way it all ends up as precious old, grainy, footage making it’s way around YouTube for obsessive fans to watch on their day’s away from the grindstone. For all of The 400’s worries about how the event was reported, and how the magic just wasn’t captured. Try not to worry about it. Even the burning of £1,000,000 was hardly reported anywhere at the time. These events become whispers, and strange tales told with bits missing, or facts got wrong. That’s OK. I think it’s exactly how The Jams want it to be. Their real strength lies in mystery, and this is how mystery is created. If they’d filmed it all professionally, and released a DVD packed with extras, just in time for Christmas, it would be great. But, then again, it would also be shit. It would become something you could walk into a music shop and buy, and that is not what KLF is about. Some people get it, and some people don’t. I love the old line from the Saint Etienne song, Mario’s Cafe; “Eubank wins the fight,
and did you see the KLF last night?”. For me, that’s what they are, at their best; a great topic of conversation down your local greasy spoon cafe. Just as I hope that some schoolkids minds were blown when they watched the BBC breakfast news, and heard for the first time that some band burned a million quid, I hope that there were plenty of truckers, and shelf stackers (like me), and all kinds of everyday Joe’s who just had a little chat down the cafe about “Those fucking nutters! Did you see that ice cream van? There was a bloody coffin in the back of the sodding thing!”,”Yeah I know. I saw a video with all these zombies in robes at a Pulp gig. What the fuck’s going on?”.
I don’t think the work of The 400 has finished, it may have only just begun. In the words of Bill Drummond, “Don’t join the dots.”. It’s your job now to print the legend, be mysterious, speak the truth, tell lies, and watch the magic and mystery of the event, that you just helped create, grow over time. The JAMs gave you the seeds, plant them wisely. Like I wrote earlier, I’ve downloaded over 4GB worth of videos and photographs from Welcome To The Dark Ages. I have all of the videos in one folder of my computer, and I was going to match them up with the timetable of events that The JAMs gave out, in order that when I play them it all has a structure and a flow to it. A documentary style accuracy to it that makes sense. However, I made a wee playlist earlier from the videos that just played them all, one after the other, in alphabetical order. This meant that they were all out of sequence, and they didn’t make too much sense at all at times. In fact, it was a bit like watching Pulp Fiction for the first time; You don’t really have a clue who these people are, or what they’re doing, and it jumps around a lot. But, the dialogue is cool, and the way it jumps around means you’re going to have to watch it a few times to really work out What The Fuck it’s all about. Then every now and then, suddenly one of those brilliant, memorable, moments from the event would come on. A classic scene you’ll be quoting to your friends for years, and it’s just magical. So, I’m tempted to keep them all as they came to me, just as they would have came to everyone else on the planet who wasn’t at Welcome To The Dark Ages; A strange, crazy, amazing, jaw dropping, confusing, exhausting, exciting, tear jerking, hands in the air, rocking, mystical, trance like, ritualistic, badger filled, Christmas song in August, rhino horned, cop car painting, skull faced procession, that had something to do with a dead perch, Starbucks, Yoko Ono, traffic cones and ragworts in shopping trolleys. Jarvis Cocker was there at one point, in a choir of skulls There were stamped books, cups of tea and a bombed out church. Oh, and the whole thing started in an Ice Kream Van and ended in a pyramid made out of 34,592 dead people. Yeah, as you can see, it’s going to be a really simple experience to process and then relate to people. Either that, or you may end up on some kind of ward with just a toothbrush and a badly designed gown for company. It could go either way, really.
I’ve called this blog Liberation Loophole, because in my 2001 edition of The Manual (How To Have A Number One The Easy Way), Bill Drummond wrote an afterword called “In Praise Of Council Homes” (It’s also in his book, “45”). In the piece he discusses the list of band names Bill and Jimmy listed for themselves at the front of the first edition of The Manual in 1988. These were; Lord Rock And Time Boy, The Timelords, Rockman Rock And Kingboy D, The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu, The Jams, The KLF, The Fall and The Forever Ancients Liberation Loophole. He says that The Forever Ancients Liberation Loophole is a name that they never got to use. “It still feels like we’re holding back on it, keeping it in reserve for when things get totally out of control and we need to make a quick escape.”. Well, I reckon since Bill and Jimmy aren’t using the Liberation Loophole just now, they’ll not mind lending it to us for a bit (They’re nice like that). So, if you find that things are getting totally out of control and you need to make a quick escape, you now know what to do.
If you’re still confused about things, and really not sure What The Fuck is Going On? The only further information I can give you, are some words that were once delivered, with a powerful strength and conviction, by a man named Jervis Ricardo Alfonso Lyte (30 April 1967 – 8 March 2013). He was better known to the world as Ricardo Da Force, or to KLF fans as Ricardo Lyte (He is a credited performer on 3AM Eternal, Last Train To Trancentral and Justified And Ancient). Anyway, sometime way back in the early 1990’s, this man walked into a recording studio with The KLF, got himself inside the vocal booth, put a pair of headphones on, stepped up to the microphone, opened his mouth and gave you the only answer that you’ll ever need to reach for the next time you’re feeling baffled by your experiences at Welcome To The Dark Ages, or, if you’re worried that the rest of the world just doesn’t get it; Remember to “Chill Out”, give yourself some “Space”, and remember;
“THIS IS WHAT KLF IS ABOUT,
ALSO KNOWN AS THE JUSTIFIED ANCIENTS OF MU MU,
FURTHERMORE KNOWN AS THE JAMS.”
OVER AND OUT.
You have been reading “Liberation Loophole” by Stephen Clarke 1980.
You can find Stephen Clarke 1980 by searching for him.
**This article also appears on Stephen Clarke 1980‘s website. Used with the kind permission of the author.**