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July 14, 2004

The Curious Case of Bill Drummond and Jimi Cauty

In the pantheon of rock stars, few can match the bravado or strangeness of Bill Drummond and Jimi Cauty. You probably don't recognize their names, or the names of the various groups they created, but in the late 80's and early 90's they were responsible for some of the most bizarre pop cultural happenings ever. After playing in various punk bands in the late 70's, the two formed The J.A.M.s ("The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu") and released a sample-heavy album titled 1987 (What The Fuck Is Going On?). These weren't DJ Shadow-esque samples that were indistinguishable from the original songs and buried deep within the mix; these were closer to the work of Puff Daddy and MC Hammer, where everybody knows exactly what's being ripped off. To up the ante, Drummond and Cauty didn't clear any of the samples, because all they wanted to do was piss off rich rock stars like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. They definitely pissed off ABBA, who sued the duo when their classic "Dancing Queen" was used in the album's first single. Hoping to capture a hee-larious photo op, the two caught the next flight to Stockholm to raid ABBA's private studio but were physically escorted from the building. Instead of getting extensive press coverage of a fight with the towheaded legends, Drummond and Cauty got extensive press coverage of a bonfire in which they burned every remaining copy of 1987.

Next, they redubbed themselves The Timelords and released their first number one hit, "Doctorin' The Tardis," which was basically just a long loop of Gary Glitter's Jock Jams staple "Rock And Roll Part 2." After a string of similar hits, they published The Manual, a bestselling book that contained their formula for making pop hits, or as they put it on the back cover, "How to have a number one the easy way - The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu reveal their zenarchistic method used in making the unthinkable happen."

They lived up to their egos as The KLF ("The Kopyright Liberation Front") and released the groundbreaking opus The White Room in 1991, which brought Britain's booming acid house movement to America. The duo soon became international superstars on the strength of tracks like "What Time Is Love." When American reporters asked them what they wanted to accomplish they usually answered, "To work with Tammy Wynette." In a few months they did, on a song called "All Bound For Mu Mu Land (Justified And Ancient)," and inexplicably scored another hit.

On February 13, 1992, The KLF were to be named Best British Group by the aristocratic Brit Awards, a major coup for electronic music. Drummond and Cauty were expected to perform their big pop hit, "3 AM Eternal." Instead, backed by a death metal band named Extreme Noise Terror (who had just released an album called Holocaust In Your Head), they ran out on stage with machine guns filled with blanks and shot them into the crowd while screaming, "The KLF have left the music industry." They also wanted to slaughter a sheep onstage and bathe in its blood, but thought it would be a tad over the top. Instead, they threw one through the doors of the after party, horrifying the champagne-sipping executives and royals. They vowed to never again record until world peace was declared and, to prove it, took everything they had ever recorded out of print.

The next year, Drummond and Cauty dubbed themselves The K Foundation and began a serious of elaborate pranks on the art world. They offered a $75,000 prize for the "Worst Artwork Of 1993" and picked successful artist Rachel Whiteread as the winner. Deeply offended, Whiteread initially refused the money; she later accepted it to donate to charity moments before the pair were to set it ablaze. In 1994, they nailed £1,000,000 to a board, called it "Nailed To The Wall," and sent it around to British galleries. Then they called a press conference and, yep, burned it.

Since then the duo have recorded several other singles under various names, but have mostly used their fortunes to sit around on beaches, possibly discussing how the antics of an overtly commercial Eurotrash hit-making machine can make the Rolling Stones look about as dangerous as Pat Boone.


  © copyright scott howard