Shrouded in mystery and occultist imagery, The KLF were the biggest selling British singles act of 1991.
Formed as the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (JAMS) four years previously by ex-Echo and The Bunnymen manager Bill Drummond and graphic artist James Cauty, they debuted under the KLF moniker (standing for Kopyright Liberation Front) with controversial sample collage album 1987 (What The Fuck’s Going On?) – withdrawn from sale after five days following legal action by ABBA.
Alongside their novelty #1 hit Doctorin’ The Tardis (1988) – recorded under the pseudonym The Timelords – their early releases coined new musical terms such as “trance” and “chilled out”.
The more traditional dance track What Time Is Love? originally sank without trace, but its minimalist soaring synth lines stormed the European club scene in 1989 during the aftermath of the acid house revolution.
A harder remix, featuring an incendiary rap from MC Bello, crashed into the UK Top Ten the following year. Its massive bass sound accompanied by sampled crowd noise (dubbed “stadium house” by the band) was an attempt to create the atmosphere of the open-air ‘raves’ that were then springing up across the UK.
The KLF poured their profits into their The White Room movie project, though only a so-called ‘soundtrack’ album appeared in 1991.
Transatlantic hit 3 AM Eternal (1991) was a unique blend of Maxine Harvey’s soulful vocals and the ‘bleep techno’ popularised by LFO and Sweet Exorcist. The rest of the album utilised then-current club styles with a creative playfulness.
Drummond and Cauty would score three more Top 5 singles before retiring and dedicating their royalties to the mysterious K Foundation, whose activities included burning £1 million in cash as an artistic statement.
King Boy D/Bill Drummond
Jim ‘Rockman Rock’ Cauty