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Members include Bill Drummond, vocals, programming; Jimmy Cauty, programming. Addresses: Record company--Arista Records, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036, phone: (212) 930-4000, website: http://www.arista.com.
While the KLF, or Kopyright Liberation Front, were primarily known as hit-makers on the British pop music scene, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty also promoted their careers with numerous media spectacles that were designed to challenge corporate power, copyright laws and ideas of public space.
Drummond, the band's founder, started his music career after moving from Scotland to Liverpool in the late 1970s. He initially enrolled in art school, but was soon attracted to the city's burgeoning punk rock scene. His first punk experiments came in 1977 as a member of the short-lived band Big in Japan, in which he collaborated with Holly Johnson (later of Frankie Goes to Hollywood Fame) and Ian Broudie (later of the Lightning Seeds). The following year Drummond started the Zoo label and became producer and manager for the bands Echo & the Bunnymen and the Teardrop Explodes. Shortly after, both bands left Zoo Records for major labels and found international success. Drummond, too, crossed over to the majors, taking an A&R (artists and repertoire) job with the WEA conglomerate. Though he signed a number of bands to WEA including the Proclaimers, Brilliant, Strawberry Switchblade, and Zodiac Mindwarp, the corporate life soon began to eat at Drummond, and by 1986 he had left the business.
Drummond's first solo album, The Man, was released on British indie stalwart Creation Records, and was a tongue-in-cheek attack on major labels. Just six months later, however, he made a hip-hop album with his producer friend Jimmy Cauty of Brilliant. They called themselves Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (JAMS) and together recorded the illegal sample-heavy collage "All You Need is Love."
Soon after the single, JAMS released their first album, 1987 (What the F*** is Going On?), which lifted samples from the Beatles, Abba, and Led Zeppelin, and landed JAMS in hot water with the copyright authorities. The Copyright Protection Society forced the band to recall all of the discs and destroy them. First, though, Cauty and Drummond traveled to Sweden to discuss the case with Abba in person. Abba declined any deal, and Cauty and Drummond soon found themselves burning 500 copies of the record at 3 a.m. in a field in Sweden. The event was later referred to in the hit song "3 A.M. Eternal," and a photograph of the burning later appeared as the cover art on the band's History of the JAMS. JAMS kept a few copies and advertised their sale for £1000 each in Face magazine. In October of 1987 the band re-released the record without the samples, as 1987 (The JAMS 45 Edits), but with detailed instructions for recreating the controversial original version.
In 1988 the duo put out their second album, Who Killed the JAMS?, and also had a successful single on their hands by this time. "Doctorin' the Tardis," recorded under the moniker the Timelords, rose up the British charts to number one. It included samples from Sweet, Gary Glitter, and the theme song to the television show Dr. Who, and became one of the country's most popular songs to be played at sporting events. Following the somewhat cool reception for Who Killed the JAMS?, the band released two compilations, History of the JAMS a.k.a. the Timelords and Circa 1987: Shag Times, both including "Doctorin' the Tardis."
Stepping away from music production in 1989, Cauty and Drummond pooled their hit-making experience and knowledge of the music industry to write the controversial book The Manual, subtitled, "How to Have a Number One the Easy Way." The book detailed the path they took, from stealing samples and working the press, to creating the chart-topping hit "Doctorin' the Tardis." The duo's next single, "Kylie Said to Jason," their first under the KLF guise, was unsuccessful. Redirecting their efforts and picking up on the growing ambient music trend, the KLF began to concentrate on production work, and released the now seminal Chill Out to critical and public acclaim.
Still relying heavily on the ambient acid house sounds that they cultivated with "Doctorin' the Tardis," KLF returned to the studio and made "What Time is Love?," eventually hitting number five on the British singles charts in August of 1990. Following with "3 A.M. Eternal," the band surged to number one, and their full-length LP The White Room hit number one in March of 1991. "Last Train to Trancentral" also moved up the charts, hitting Britain's top ten.
KLF's success carried over into the United States, with the release of "America: What Time is Love?." Their early 1992 pairing with country singer Tammy Wynette, "Justified and Ancient," almost reached the American top ten. The collaboration was picked by London's Independent as one of pop's most unlikely pairings. "I really don't know why they chose me," Wynette told the Independent. "I was apprehensive at first, but I'm really excited with the way it's all turned out." The American press was also quite enthralled with the pairing, and Wynette explained to Entertainment Weekly, "I fell for the track the moment I heard it. It had a perfect melody, but I didn't really understand what they were talking about."
That year KLF was honored by the Brit Awards and was voted Best British Group by the British Phonographic Industry. Rather than perform "3 A.M. Eternal" in the style to which most fans had become accustomed, KLF performed a hardcore thrash version of the song with the help of the band Extreme Noise Terror. While announcing on stage, "The KLF have left the music industry," Drummond showered the crowd with blanks fired from an automatic rifle. Originally he and Cauty had planned to spray the crowd with eight gallons of blood, but at the behest of their lawyers they instead had the blood and a sheep's carcass delivered to the event's after-party.
The KLF made their retirement official in 1992, declaring that they'd never release another single until world peace reigned. To stick by their claim, they also deleted the entire back catalogue of their label, KLF Communications, so that not another single record of theirs could be bought or sold.
While Drummond and Cauty's musical careers were on hold, the duo's political actions continued. As the K Foundation, they began an "Abandon All Art Now" campaign in 1993, which awarded a £40,000 prize to what they termed the country's worst piece of art. When the artist, Rachel Whiteread---also the recipient of Britain's highest art award, the Turner Prize---refused the prize, Drummond and Cauty threatened to burn the money. Moments before the burning, Whiteread accepted the cash and passed it on to a charity.
In 1994, as an act of political art, the K Foundation withdrew £1 million from their bank account, nailed it to a board, and called it "Nailed to the Wall." On a secluded island with one journalist and a cameraman in attendance, the duo burned the entire £1 million. A film of the burning was subsequently produced and presented as Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid.
While it didn't quite qualify as world peace, the KLF did return to the recording studio to honor a peace accord struck between Israel's Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine's Yasser Arafat, releasing a limited single, "K Sera Sera," in Israel with the Red Army Choir, under the K Foundation name. The duo also contributed a track to the HELP charity 1995 benefit album under the name One World Orchestra. In 1997 the band returned with their last disc, a single called "***K the Millennium" on Mute Records, under the name 2K.
The members of KLF have continued with several political and artistic projects. Drummond released a memoir titled 45 in 2000, and four years later organized a kettle swap for the residents of Kensington, where numerous households traded teakettles and Drummond photographed the results and later displayed them in an art exhibit.
by Ken Taylor
The KLF's Career
Bill Drummond founded Justified Ancients of Mu Mu with Brilliant's Jimmy Cauty in 1986, after a failed career in major label management; they changed their name to the KLF (Kopyright Liberation Front) in 1989; also recorded under names the Timelords and later 2K; as Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, released 1987 (What the F*** is Going On?), 1987; The JAMS 45 Edits, 1987; Who Killed the JAMS?, 1988; Shag Times, 1989; The History of the JAMS a.k.a. The Timelords, 1989; as the Timelords, released "Doctorin' the Tardis," 1988; as the KLF, released Chill Out, 1990, and The White Room, 1991.
- Selected discography
- As Bill Drummond
- The Man Creation, 1986.
- As Space
- Space Space/KLF Communications, 1990.
- As Justified Ancients of Mu Mu
- 1987 (What the F*** is Going On?) KLF Communications, 1987.
- The JAMS 45 Edits KLF Communications, 1987.
- Who Killed the JAMS? KLF Communications, 1988.
- Shag Times KLF Communications, 1989.
- The History of the JAMS a.k.a. the Timelords TVT, 1989.
- As The Timelords
- "Doctorin' the Tardis," KLF Communications, 1988.
- As The KLF
- Chill Out KLF Communications, 1990.
- The White Room Arista, 1991.
- As K Foundation
- "K Sera Sera," KLF Communications, 1993.
- As 2K
- "***K the Millennium," Mute, 1997.
- Independent (London, England), November 3, 2000.
- Entertainment Weekly, February 7, 1992.
- "The KLF," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (October 22, 2004).
- "The KLF," Trouser Press, http://www.trouserpress.com (October 22, 2004).
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