I just read a short little book called "The Manual: How to have a Number One the Easy Way". Published in 1988, it's a cheeky instruction book on how to write, record, manufacture, distribute and promote your very own pop single and how to get it to #1 in the official Gallup Charts in the UK. It's very specific to the UK, and not the UK of 2008. Alot of it is dated, but the idea is wonderful. You can read it here: The Manual It was written by 2 guys, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, better known as the KLF. They have also have gone by several other names: The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, The JAMs, The Timelords. As the Timelords the duo released a novelty single, "Doctorin' the Tardis", a mash-up of the Doctor Who theme music and Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll (Part Two) and some Sweet song. You can hear a sample of it on their wikipedia page:
They were savaged in the press for making a dreadful single, which they acknowledged as true, a flat out attempt to have a number one aiming for the lowest common denominator. It worked and they made quite a bit of money. Oh, and they put it out themselves on their own label. My favorite part of the whole single idea, they put a Ford sedan on the cover of the single. The whole gag was that this Ford wrote the song. They had a friend pretend to be the Ford in phone interviews. When they were scheduled to play Top of the Pops, they were just going to have the Ford on the stage and nothing else while their song played! I personally think that's brilliant. When the BBC said no, they hired sexy backup dancers to strut around the Ford. Genius!
Another great gag they pulled was their exit of the music biz. They played the 1992 BRIT Awards show with the metal act, EXTREME NOISE TERROR. In what was described as a "violently antagonistic performance" in front of "a stunned music-business audience", the performance consisted of "a limping, kilted, cigar-chomping Drummond firing blanks from an automatic weapon over the heads of the crowd". At the conclusion, a voice announced over the PA system that "The KLF have now left the music business". To top the night off, the band dumped a dead sheep with the message "I died for ewe—bon appetit" tied around its waist at the entrance to one of the post-ceremony parties. When I found out about this recently I kept thinking, why oh why have I never heard about this or these guys. I'm sure those of you over in the UK and of a certain age remember this, but for us Yankees, these guys are totally obscure. Maybe they were just before my time, but I've never heard anyone I know mention them. I read an interview with Bill Drummond where he said he was planning on cutting off his hand on stage that night, and throwing it into the audience. His bandmate convinced him otherwise, and they killed the sheep instead. Yowza!
While certainly all of these stunts are incredible and incredibly entertaining, it was their final gag that really leaves one scrathcing his or her head.
1994. KLF has earned quite a nice sum of money from their #1 hit and other succesfully charting songs. Having all this money and having disbanded you'd think these guys would relax and enjoy the finer things in life, having really pulled off the great rock and roll swindle? (Malcom McLaren pales in comparison. Do you think Steve Cook was set after the Pistols broke up? Isn't he a DJ in LA now?) Well obviously, no. So what do they do? They withdraw a million pounds sterling (about 3 million US dollars), go to some obscure island off the Scottish coast and burn all of it. It takes a little over an hour. Their buddy films it. These fuckers burned a million pounds! Later, Drummond said he regretted it. Ya think? What was the point? Art? Either way, they've got my attention. So we salute you KLF. Crazy motherfuckers.
They just don't make 'em like they used to.
Here is a ridiculous video of them performing on some wacky show. I don't know about you, but I find this endlessly amusing and ridiculous. I pine for the simpler times in pop music.
This is them on the Top of the Pops with the world's most famous pedophile as a very special guest. I know it's 2 videos of the same song, but they're both so wonderful in the best possible way. Enjoy
And finally, KLF with Extreme Noise Terror at the 1992 Brit Awards, with their infamous shooting a machine gun at the audience.