Bonfire Of The Sanities: KLF – Chaos, Magic, Music, Money

From The Quietus:

Hunter S. Thompson was once famously quoted as saying, “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” And when Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond – the duo who have been known, among other things, as the JAMS, the KLF and the K-Foundation – decided to burn a million quid on the Isle of Jura in 1994, the chaos coiled around the trajectory of their career wound itself even tighter.

To most people, this very expensive bonfire looked like nothing more than sheer wanton destruction. It was two ‘attention-seeking arseholes’, who had spent the majority of their career winding the music industry up, incinerating a vast amount of money; a life-changing amount of cash that could have gone to charity, art galleries, hospitals or schools. Jimmy and Bill themselves admitted they weren’t entirely sure why they’d done it. “I don’t know what it is, what we did. Some days I do. Bits of it”, Drummond is quoted as saying, “But I’ve never thought it was wrong.” Their inability (or unwillingness) to justify their actions culminated in them creating a very KLF-esque pact – they signed a contract (“on the windscreen of a G-reg Nissan” – the banal details are everything here) stating that they wouldn’t talk about the incident, before sealing the deal by pushing the car off a cliff into the Atlantic Ocean.

Of course, nothing ever quite worked out as the duo planned. While the most sympathetic of biographers might have written the infamous incident off as an extravagant publicity stunt, author, designer and TV producer JMR Higgs decided to take an alternative, somewhat more opaque, view. In KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money, he uses it as the departure point on a wild romp through the career of one of the most subversive musical acts of the past few decades. His argument is that burning a million quid wasn’t a political or artistic statement, rather an invocation of chaos – a magical act inspired by the edicts of Dadaism and Discordianism that kindled the modern world into being. As this should make evident, this is not your typical rock biography. If you’re looking for a torpid hagiography full of Q Magazine clippings, linear chronologies and glossy colour photos, then why are you a KLF fan?

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