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Mar 11

THE KLF ft THE CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION – “3AM Eternal”

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#659, 2nd February 1991

“Faceless”. I don’t know who first used this particular epithet against dance music’s pop takeover, but the concept stuck. Facelessness became a stick used to beat the new music with – by suddenly-old DJs, faux-concerned critics, frustrated executives and not a few confused former pop fans. The idea was that club music didn’t create stars, marketable individuals, long-term careers and audience focus points – in the longer term these claims were proved wrong but in the wide-eyed, loose-limbed climate of the early 90s they seemed credible. In fact they didn’t go far enough – what the dance singles filling the charts were doing was turning the existing purpose of a ‘single’ on its head. Singles had long been a promotional medium – an advert for something, be it an album, a tour, a film or TV show, a comedian’s career. Dance tracks, though, weren’t announcing anything – they were instead the echoes of events which had already happened. A rave record’s moment of currency was when it spread through DJ sets, not when it entered the charts. This had been, for a long time, the logic of the holiday hit, “Y Viva Espana” et al – but now extended to encompass an entire subculture. No wonder the old guard were horrified.

This meant that the public face of rave music – on TV music shows, for instance – was enormously variable. Sometimes the acts genuinely didn’t seem bothered, sometimes they were woefully amateurish… and sometimes they seized the opportunity, redefined “facelessness” as a blank pop canvas and worked to bring a bit of spectacle into the charts. Altern 8, with their boiler suits and face masks; The Orb, playing cosmic chess on Top Of The Pops. And before them, the KLF.

Bill Drummond had been creating pop events for more than a decade – it was his signature tactic as a manager, it had carried successfully over into the early, sample-driven KLF days and it had taken him to the top of the charts already. He’d been a student during glam rock, managed at the start of the video era – he knew how important concept and imagery were to pop. And I think his insight with the KLF at their (and his) mainstream zenith was something like this: if rave music is always the aftermath of a party that’s already happened, the ideal pop incarnation of rave music needs to be the aftermath of an entirely imaginary party, the greatest party that ever could happen.

So the Stadium House trilogy – the trio of hits which includes “3AM Eternal” – is all billed as “live” from some imaginary geographies (Trancentral, the Lost Continent… though “SSL”, the cryptic location of “3AM”, is rather prosaically a mixing desk). The group’s work is full of jumbled references to their own private mythology, which almost certainly was never even as barely coherent as the songs made out. But the robes and horns and cars looked great, the “ancients of Mu Mu” chants sounded great – the group dressed and acted like nobody else around. In a way it was pure gimmick, just the Timelords again on an even bigger scale: but they gave the impression of enough going on in the background for deep cult appeal, and there was enough happening in the hits to cross over completely. Because, after all, none of it would have worked if the Stadium House material wasn’t instant pop, thrilling and energising even if you never paid attention to anything else the KLF did.

“3AM Eternal” is the rushiest, most exciting, most modern-sounding Number One since Adamski – but it’s also the weakest of the Stadium House hits for me. “What Time Is Love?” has even bigger hooks; “Last Train To Trancentral” is even more euphoric. What “3AM” does have is the amazing, machine-gun fire intro, and Wanda Dee floating pure and serene over the crowd noises and crunching breakbeats, and an oddly wistful, high synth line picking its way through the bombast and into your brain. And it has Ricardo Da Force, not the first or last dodgy rapper we’ll encounter in the early 90s, spouting amiable nonsense on roughly a Turbo B level. The whole thing is similar to “The Power”, in fact, but everything seems faster, more flamboyant, more baffling and more of an event. It’s a shot of abstracted pop thrill-power and still an enormously welcome one.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Kat but logged out innit on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Hooray! “What Time Is Love?” is my favourite of the three, but all are solid 9s from me.

  2. 2
    Chelovek na lune on 16 Mar 2011 #

    …and of course the machine-gun fire in the intro wasn’t played on the radio at the time, because of the BBC’s approach to the Gulf War…

    And Kylie Said to Jason, you’ve got it, you’ve got it… – their only 1989 single that wasn’t rerecorded as stadium house. Partly, I spose because Jason’s time was well up. But as a bit of New Order/Kon Kan-ish pop….was alright.

    They got annoying quickly, with all the stunts, the money-burning, the dead sheep, but for a brief moment their music was a blast.

  3. 3
    Tom on 16 Mar 2011 #

    I love Bill Drummond’s voice on KSTJ – the tune is just OK though but his monologue makes it a favourite.

    Worst KLF side project: Disco 2000!

  4. 4
    Mark G on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Ah, the money “shot”…

    As i have said elsewhere…

    When Bill and Jimmy were doing their ‘anti-art’ thing, various of their ‘sculptures’ were wads of money, in some form or other. On returning one load, which was one thousand pounds nailed to a board, they had to invoke their insurance to pay for the reprinting of the cash.

    So….

    If you take a million quid out of the bank, and prearrange the
    1) destruction of same
    2) an independant witness/representative from the bank, to show no-one ‘making off with less than unrecognisably charred banknotes..’
    3) Documentary evidence of destruction..
    Then the money can be replaced simply by reprinting it.

    Seems too obvious, there must be a lot of people in on it that are sworn to secrecy…

  5. 5
    lonepilgrim on 16 Mar 2011 #

    perhaps because they deleted their recordings, this still sounds fresh, immediate and compelling – ‘last train to transcentral’ is even more of a rush.
    This sounds like the 90s

  6. 6
    wichita lineman on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Intriguing, Chelovek, that you think “they got annoying quickly”. I’d always found the idea of the KLF quite fascinating (the ltd eds, the pronouncements, the subversion, the independence, and latterly the dead sheep AT A BPI PARTY!); it wasn’t til this point that I loved them. Agreed, Last Train To Trancentral is “even more euphoric”, but 3AME has those rich, melancholic, loosely eastern chords. It stands up very well, and it doesn’t half make Innuendo sound flat and flabby – the most contrasting Popular juxtaposition since Reet Petite/Jack Your Body.

    I’m nabbing someone else’s idea here, but there are very few answers to “who’s your favourite group” which are completely satisfying. Pet Shop Boys? Long tail. Beach Boys? Too many assholes. The KLF? Oh, good shout.

  7. 7
    lex on 16 Mar 2011 #

    “Last Train To Trancentral” was always my favourite KLF song because it’s so ridiculously banging – it’s the most ravey by far. (Though for ages I was never quite sure which was which, it always felt like any given constituent part of one could fit neatly into the others) (in the best possible way! like a megamix or something). Second favourite “Justified & Ancient”! Those two are so amazing that I end up never really thinking about “What Time Is Love?” and “3am Eternal”. Obv they’re both great though, 8/10 seems right.

    At the time I had no idea of the conceptual context whatsoever, but the first style of music I got into, to the extent of buying compilations of cassette, was early ’90s rave, specifically this one – it fit pretty much seamlessly into the other tracks there, like you’d never have been able to tell just from the music that it was meant to be different in any way.

  8. 8
    flahr on 16 Mar 2011 #

    There is an NME article that succinctly sums their later doings, reproduced at http://www.klf.de/home/?p=48146 . But ignore that, because this song is pretty great (thought “Last Train to Trancentral” is much better – will look forward to Lena hearing it). I agree that Da Force’s nonsense is a high point (“all point to the fact that TIME IS ETERNAL!”). 8 indeed.

    Smart marketing from the KLF: whenever I see a clock at 3am the hook from this drifts into my head. Sometimes it happens at 3pm too.

  9. 9
    Simon on 16 Mar 2011 #

    The best story about Ricardo da Force is round about the end of the 90s, at a time when svengalis from Tom Watkins downwards were seemingly all working on animated pop stars who were supposedly the future – not animated in the Gorillaz sense, as in characters that entirely lived in this new cyberspace thing with no backstory or awareness of who was behind it – he was according to a number of music news outlets set to provide the voice of an animated robot that would perform with a boy/girl pop band called Sonic Boom. The robot, of course, would be the all-bases-covered merchandise angle.

  10. 10
    lex on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Actually relistening it’s the Ricardo da Force bit that lets “3am Eternal” down, not because it’s overly dodgy per se but it’s just a bit boring and the track loses its energy somewhat.

    OTOH “Last Train” just keeps on giving, even in the last 30 seconds with the even bigger-sounding “MUU-MUU! MUU-MUU!” chant.

  11. 11
    Tom on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Ha on that album I think it’s poor old Right Said Fred who stick out like the sore thumb.

    You honestly could not go wrong making a chart dance compilation in the early 90s.

    I don’t think that musically the KLF were trying to do anything other than make amazingly banging pop-rave, it’s just the way they went about constructing an identity that was a bit different (though in some ways similar to what some US techno bods did)

  12. 12
    MikeMCSG on 16 Mar 2011 #

    This is the first number one since finding Popular (circa Uptown Girl) that I’ve had to revisit to remember how it went (though I remember the group and their stunts well enough).

    That done, I can see why it hasn’t stuck ; I just don’t understand this music or its appeal. I guess some people get left behind when tastes move on. In chart terms the 90s were a constant disappointment to me with the diminishing number of records I liked nearly always underachieving. Cue violins…

  13. 13
    lex on 16 Mar 2011 #

    “compilations of cassette” wtf am I even trying to say there.

    Yeah I hated Right Said Fred even at the time, just the worst. It was 2 Unlimited who became my first ever favourite group though!

  14. 14
    punctum on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Looking back over Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty’s relatively eventless last nineteen years, with their limited edition folios of elephant dung and hardcore porn, their Boys’ Own books of psychogeographic capers (if only one of those had been a Boyzone book!), their ribbing of Turner Prizewinners, their dim poetry readings in obscure East End churches and the unutterable foolishness of No Music Day, can anyone seriously argue that the KLF worked so much better as uncommon pop stars than as routine fringe art semi-jesters? That, surely, was the thrill of the sextet of singles which made the KLF Britain’s best-selling singles act of the early nineties; that art tactics and stratagems, combined with an unerring and exceptionally deep love of pop and the magic it can produce, or be persuaded to generate, could work squarely in the centre of the marketplace and both excite and prosper. In truth that career’s deliberately limited lifespan also worked in its favour; although the catalogue is still freely available on import CD, or wherever you know to look for it, its deletion in early 1992 cemented the concept of a pop dream doomed never to come to fruition.

    It would take very acute persuasion to wean myself off the notion that these six singles – the Stadium House quintet of “What Time Is Love?,” “3 A.M. Eternal,” “Last Train To Transcentral,” “Justified And Ancient” and “America: What Time Is Love?” plus the JAMMs’ “It’s Grim Up North,” which latter might be the masterpiece of the lot – together may comprise the greatest and most breathtaking uninterrupted sequence of singles anywhere in pop; ingenious and superficial, heartfelt and cynical, bright and apocalpytic, hopeless yet hopeful. Some would argue that it constituted the most imaginative use of a very limited template, though you could say as much for the Stones, or the Pet Shop Boys, or the Specials, or anyone. All made the top ten; all disturbed, provoked and entertained (in the biological sense of “entertaining hosts”); some enhanced already strong charts, while others put their charts to shame. Few pop single sequences narrow with such randy ruthlessness the gap between process and product without collapsing through the inverted commas trapdoor. Simultaneously the KLF urged us to take it and pleaded with us not to take any of it.

    In addition, they were atmospheric masters; anyone familiar with regular overnight National Express coach journeys will instantly smell the sodden cigarette packets in the lay-bys of the M62, the wan light dimly and greyly rising over ruined cities, which characterise “It’s Grim Up North.” Voiced on the original issue by Pete Wylie, Drummond solemnly intones the litany of place names as though reciting a register of the war dead through banging rain and coldly brutalist post-House beats – it is a masterpiece worthy to stand alongside Trans-Europe Express, and yet has the courage to end its protest with hope; the storm drowned out by “Jerusalem” (and succeeded by Hughes’ Crow), the words “THE NORTH WILL RISE AGAIN” materialising through the showers in the video. They could depict hopelessness with equal ease and profundity; the fifteen-year-old “America No More” – the B-side of “America: What Time Is Love?” – still sounds like the last piece of music on Earth.

    But they could also be gloriously absurdist; a bemused Tammy Wynette sings of ice cream vans on “Justified And Ancient” and (had it not been for national tragedy elsewhere) one of the greatest Christmas number ones – crucially, unlike subsequent celebrity guest appearances on novelty dance records, the KLF never sound or seem as though they are sending her up.

    That sextet perhaps ought to be extended to a septet, since in 1991 two different versions of “3 A.M. Eternal” – the only one of the sequence to make number one – were released. Both “What Time Is Love?” and “3 A.M. Eternal” – tracks umbilically linked, as their titles suggest – had been floating around for over two years in various adaptations of their original “Pure Trance” format until the KLF decided to turn them into pop. The opening “Radio Freedom” announcement, followed by a militia of machine guns, indicated their real intent before launching into the most sublime of post-House dance records – it is worth noting that its structure almost exactly follows that of “The Power” with its rap verse, two-line female chorus, pause for air and then thundering back into the main riff. The cover of the single, with its blurred and crooked shot of a car circling Parliament Square at the dead of night, signifies early morning post-clubbing disorientation. The words are utterly functional – like all the others, a promotional precis for the KLF – since the record’s brilliance lies in its process, its total sound/rhythm continuum, filtered through nearly all of pops (the ghosts of Rubettes members and P P Arnold who drift through the track in a “we told you so” sense). Though they failed to divert into carpet or tinned peach manufacture, the KLF made a far more convincing job of coming across as an ironic organisation than B.E.F. or Rhythm Of Life ever managed.

    Certainly, in a 1991 procession of number ones which until now was threatening to turn into another 1975, “3 A.M. Eternal” represented an eruption of nowness, a sudden jolt back into the present. But the KLF couldn’t resist undermining their own triumph – and would we cherish them quite so dearly if they could? – and promptly re-recorded the song with the aid of avant-speed-thrash stalwarts Extreme Noise Terror, retaining “This is Radio Freedom” and the machine guns but then flushing itself into 200 mph feedback growls and screams, Drummond barely able to keep up with his own lyrics. This latter was proposed for the Christmas edition of TOTP, but turned down (hence their otherwise baffling absence from that programme), and a couple of months later resurfaced as the basis for the famous Brit Awards performance, with the dead sheep in the hotel lobby, the kilts, cigars and machine guns – there was some talk of hurtling buckets of blood over the audience, but event organiser Jonathan King just about managed to talk them out of that (though secretly grinning at the prospect, he wasn’t grinning at the prospect of subsequent multiple lawsuits). The Extreme Noise Terror “3 A.M. Eternal” was released as a limited edition one-sided mail-order-only seven-inch single; reputedly it sold out almost immediately, although discreet periodic repressings still see consignments of the single turning up in second-hand shops.

    No doubt this represented the KLF’s turning point; thereafter came the diversions into art, including the alleged burning of a million quid – though Drummond and Cauty’s relative inactivity suggests that they had a few more put by – but, separated from pop, did these amount to much more than standard wind-up post-mod art gestures? What if I argued that Rachel Whiteread’s House was an intensely personal and painfully emotional piece of art whose nature – much as The Church Of Me – defies “explaining” or “justifying” (in other words, it has to be felt) and that the KLF’s Turner Prize antics, which we witnessed personally, since the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain) was situated just around the corner from where we lived at the time, divorced from its double-bluff context, came across in practice as just another routine, philistine protest against modern art? As it turned out, there was no point in their attempting to return to pop – apart from the Magnificent Seven/Gulf War rejig they contributed to the Help! album, the “Fuck The Millennium” attempted Barbican mass punch-up (again we were there, again it didn’t come off) and single which very much constituted shutting the stable doors long after the horse had bolted (it peeked curiously into the Top 30 for a week and then ducked out again) and Jimmy Cauty’s admittedly great (and commercially unreleased) tribute to roadie Gimpo as heard at Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital evening (again, at the Barbican), they have remained silent. But in terms of the pop of 1990-2, their conceptual faultline was faultless. “Ladies and gentlemen,” announces the late Scott Piering at the end of “3 A.M. Eternal” to a non-existent crowd, “the KLF have now left the building.” But they left it in a different state.

  15. 15
    tonya on 16 Mar 2011 #

    #2 I’ve been wondering whether deleting the machine gun sounds really was at the BBC request, or whether Drummond noticed the PR other bands were getting from having to change their names, lyrics, whatever and decided to join in the fun.

    #7 agree re constituent parts/megamix, I love how the sounds from the records repeat themselves. Some artists you hear the same vocal tics in record after record, with the KLF you hear sheep or sonar pings or men chanting.

  16. 16
    Tom on 16 Mar 2011 #

    I still adore “Last Train To Trancentral” of course (my 1999 write-up of it, linked in the related articles sidebar, is relatively non-embarassing!)

    But I think I’m in the “It’s Grim Up North” camp now when it comes to favourite KLF things.

    xpost Punctum explains why, very well indeed.

  17. 17
    Chelovek na lune on 16 Mar 2011 #

    With “What Time Is Love”, they certainly hit the nail on the head on the repackaging/remixing thing – if anything “What Time Is Love (America?)” might be my favourite of the three different releases of them. In full agreement with those praising the incessently chugging undertoe of “Last Train…”

    And also in agreement that “It’s Grim Up North” is the finest of the lot.

    #14 is an ultra-exceptional Punctum post IMHO

    #15 given that “Boom Bang-A-Bang” and even “Walk Like An Egyptian” were banned, I don’t think the BBC needed much encouraging! Bomb The Bass became Tim Simenon, and Massive lost their Attack. (Still, “Rock The Casbah”, on rerelease at the time, went fully uncensored, “drop your bombs around the minarets” evidently being OK for sensitive ears)

    And at (exactly) the same time – the week the war broke out – (and presumably for the same reason) GLR had its (fantastic, IMPERIAL) Sunday schedule disemboweled. No more Chris Morris, as he clearly couldn’t be trusted (“If you see the GLR Prize Policeman walking round London, you should approach him with an imitation pistol, aim it at himn and say “give us the ackers, or I’ll blow off your knackers. You can recognize him as he is a tall man with dark hair, dressed in a police uniform”) , and no more intelligent chat from Annie Nightingale and whoever might call her. That was London local radio at its finest. Finest ever, possibly. (Gary Crowley and David Rodigan “playing bloody good music” survived the change, though, so all was not lost)

  18. 18
    Rory on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Re “Britain’s best-selling singles act of the early nineties” – time to replace Madge in the header?

    “America” was my favourite, but this was great too.

  19. 19
    MikeMCSG on 16 Mar 2011 #

    #16 Which reminds me that I did buy “IGUN”; I guess actually living there gave me a way into that one !

  20. 20
    wichita lineman on 16 Mar 2011 #

    “You honestly could not go wrong making a chart dance compilation in the early 90s.”

    At least, until M People showed up with their “There’s got to be more to life than Cola Boy” schtick. Boooooring!

    Always a couple of Acid Jazzers fouling things up for me, as well. But the Deep Heat comps are something I really regret flogging.

  21. 21
    Susan on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Their mythology really wasn’t private–all the Mumu stuff etc. was referencing Discordianism, an actual…well, not really a religion or a mythology in any normal sense, but anyway, if you’re interested there’s a pretty good wikipedia article on it.

    I’m surprised that nobody’s mentioned The Manual: How to Have a Number One the Easy Way yet: “Other than achieving a Number One hit single we offer you nothing else. There will be no endless wealth. Fame will flicker and fade and sex will still be a problem. What was once yours for a few days will now enter the public domain.”

  22. 22
    LondonLee on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Acid Jazz? I didn’t mind a bit of Galliano and Brand New Heavies myself but I can understand how, in the context of a record like this, they could seem like DadRockers you could dance to (DadFunkers?)

    I think I’d have to give this a 10. Every time I reckon it might actually be an 8 or 9 I remember what a glorious rush is it and have to mark it up just for the feeling it gives you (and gave me, wonderfully so, in clubs at the time).

  23. 23
    lex on 16 Mar 2011 #

    WTF is wrong with acid jazz? I loved everything I heard, Brand New Heavies’ “Dream On Dreamer” and “Dream Come True” are bona fide classics. NO HATING! Galliano’s “Long Time Gone” was great too, and M People would’ve been a pretty unimpeachable band at their peak had it not been for Heather Small’s strained vocals.

    BRB gonna go dig all of this out again!

  24. 24
    Erithian on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Going on 29, never a clubber, never much of a fan of “dance” music or disco before it, I knew this wasn’t for me, not pitched at the likes of me and not something I’d enjoy. Except for the inconvenient fact that it was a total, total rush – life-enhancing, witty, funny, inhabiting its own world which sounded a great one to be in, and more hooks than an anglers’ convention. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

    It was all part of their game, the robes, the clues to the mythology which, as Tom indicates, they were probably making up as they went along. I’ve just looked at the video for “Justified and Ancient” and the comments box is referring to the Masons, the Illuminati, and various other obscure bodies they were no doubt having fun with. And the other notable thing about that video – the scrolling details of Tammy Wynette’s brilliant career. Exactly the kind of thing you see in the star guest slot on The X Factor nearly 20 years later. Another part of the modern world slots into place!

    (The YouTube comments box for 3AM also loves the brick-sized mobile phone…)

  25. 25
    wichita lineman on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Re 23: Retrograde and smug was how I saw it, Lex, but if I’d been 16 instead of 26 maybe I’d have loved it. It felt like an extension of the anti-house rare groove scene; there was a political element to my dislike.

    The Brand New Heavies played three hour sets. This seemed to me the antithesis of the KLF’s three minutes-and-out hits. Plus it had the Weller seal of approval (yes Lee, dadfunk is about right). PLUS it gave us Jamiroquai. Couldn’t see the point when there was SO MUCH more exciting stuff going on. Soz.

  26. 26
    Cumbrian on 16 Mar 2011 #

    An awful lot to agree with that’s already been said.

    As Tom has said, I think this to be the weakest of the Stadium House Trilogy (and even weakest of the sextet/septet to which Punctum refers) but that doesn’t mean it is bad by any stretch of the imagination. Personally, I preferred What Time Is Love? which has the same Mu Mu chant over the outro as well as the boing-boing noises in the chorus that would have me jumping around my bedroom like the proverbial Mexican bean. 3AME, to my pre-adolescent self, just didn’t have the same level of urgency – and I still find that lacking to be honest. It’s still pretty damn fine though. Probably a 7 or an 8 from me. WTIL? would have been a 9. L3T would have been an 8 or a 9 I suspect.

    I was reading a bit about The Black Room earlier actually – seeing this record was coming up and having some time to kill in my lunch hour. It sounds pretty intriguing to me – could have been an absolute killer to their career though, following up euphoric stadium house with industrial techno metal in collaboration with Extreme Noise Terror. It might have been best that they called it quits.

    I’d never thought about the K Foundation Burn A Million Quid in the light that MarkG @4 has done though. Makes me wonder…

  27. 27
    Tom on 16 Mar 2011 #

    #26 I was reading about the Black Room too, thinking it sounded a bit like Psalm 69! IIRC Bill Drummond keeps – or kept – claiming he would make a metal record, the second JAMMs album was meant to be metal and I’m sure there was meant to be a black metal album coming out of his Finnish activities.

  28. 28
    LondonLee on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Re 25: “but if I’d been 16 instead of 26 maybe I’d have loved it”

    The other way around surely? Acid Jazz and Rare Groove appealed to me because, at the advanced age of 28 in 1990, I had a hard time getting with this new-fangled turn dance music was taking (with exceptions of course, there was still lots to love)

  29. 29
    Paytesy on 16 Mar 2011 #

    The KLF were possibly the last act to truly understand the possibilities of a TOTP performance from the Timelords appearances (with Gary G …) right through to Tammy W (interesting that the Extreme Noise Terror Brits antics were planned for Xmas TOTP 1991 …) they knew how to make an impression – and get the kids talking in the playground on the Friday morning after.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujP7sDzL-9Q

    I’m going to swim against the tide here and nail my colours to the 3am mast. I LOVE it. Yes, it’s got ridiclous rapping on it but when that breakbeat kicks in … My favourite single from one of my favourite bands – a 10

  30. 30
    lex on 16 Mar 2011 #

    #25 – I’m not really aware of the politics at work, but acid jazz types seemed to me a logical extension of what eg Soul II Soul had been doing (Jazzie B, the clue was in the name), and of course they paved the way for broken beat, two-step to an extent, UK funky…the jazz elements of the UK underground have been written out of its story to an extent (mostly thanks to hardcore cuntinuum types obsessed by how ~dark~ music had to be), but it’s always been there. Is this another manifestation of the suspicion of smoothness/classiness that I often see around here?

    Point taken about Jamiroquai but I think if we’re going to write off urban genres based on the lame #whitepeople who try to do them, there wouldn’t be much left.

    Anyway I just went back to the Brand New Heavies’ singles and fuckinell “Dream On Dreamer” is still an amazing tune – N’dea Davenport’s voice was so silky, the “over, over, over and over” section is fantastic and then that amazing SAX SOLO!!!

  31. 31
    Cumbrian on 16 Mar 2011 #

    #27 Yes Tom, the description of The Black Room sounds a hell of a lot like it could have been Ministry. Given it was their most successful record to that point, it might have been ok for The KLF. But Ministry successful and KLF successful are two rather different beasts. It probably would have been perceived as a mis-step.

  32. 32
    wichita lineman on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Re 28: I meant that if I was 16 it might have all felt fresher, and I wouldn’t have known the originals of Always There, Don’t You Worry ’bout a Thing, Midnight At the Oasis etc.

    Re 30: Must revisit Dream On Dreamer! I always imagine the title as a line Phil Mitchell might come up with. Or evil Mike Reid, in the (genuinely) apocalyptic kids tv show Noah’s Castle.

  33. 33
    Tom on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Yeah I don’t disagree – I wasn’t really commenting on the perceived success of it, as you say it would have gone down like a lead balloon no doubt.

    It is easy for me to overestimate the success of Psalm 69, going to university in 1992 that record was EVERYWHERE.

  34. 34

    Three things:
    Acid Jazz as a label and an idea actually preceded Soul II Soul, and at least some of the “political” resistance was a hangover from the pre-88 world of the London world of clubbing, when it was a lot more exclusive in the sense of people not being allowed in if they “looked wrong” — the huge expansion of the audience for dancemusic in the late 80s rendered this moot I think. (Basically this retroactively overrides the dadfunk issue…)

    Second: there was a BIG battle going on within jazz broadcasting c.86-88, which the danceworld basically won, to the extreme bitterness of the pre-existing (older) jazz audience, which momentarily glimpsed a settlement in which it got a much better media shake, only for it to be stolen away by crowds of pill-head kids.

    Third: one of the things that routinely got writers and editors backs up at the time was that a lot of it was actually really LOUSILY written about. (Again the Weller dimension was at work here: he didn’t seem to attract quality journalism!)

  35. 35
    Steve Mannion on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Add me as another who prefers all of the other KLF hits (It’s Grim Up North may be the deepest and most powerful but I’m not sure it really outstrips the sheer fun of the others especially Justified And Ancient), but it was such a pleasant surprise that this reached the top. That said I’m sure I’ve heard this one played out and danced to more than the others over the years. Must be because its slower groove is more condusive in those situations.

    Anticipation of the ‘What Time Is Love?’ follow-up was big (fuelled by the duo’s excellent and inspired interviews here and there including a couple of Record Mirror ones focussing respectively on crop circles, a dance music discussion in which Drummond peddled his Stadium House concept to the approval of Richard Norris, and a Q&A in which Drummond reviewed 1990 as Michael Jackson for some reason) and this was the pay-off in an increasingly chaotic chartscape peppered with nods to mysticism and darkness (including both Enigma and Queen).

    The ‘best-selling UK act of the period’ stat is still remarkable and their spectacular run of top 5 hits suggested commercial consistency was viable for rave-inspired acts with an unconventional approach to ‘face’ (Altern 8 as mentioned but more importantly The Prodigy). Unfortunately the KLF had to share their Best Group award at the ’92 Brit Awards with Simply Red.

    As for Acid Jazz, I did indeed love it when I was 16 (despite initially hating the Brand New Heavies…who were essentially to AJ what M People were to House – too pedestrian a gambit) but I seemed to be trying to love everything that felt vaguely ‘alternative’ at that point, with some success.

  36. 36

    I agree with Wichita’s point about being too old not to be aware of — and basically prefer — precursors, feeling they were very hard done by: again, the huge phase-shift that came round 88 took care of this in terms of the numbers, and in terms of rendering awareness of histories of prior black music an irrelevance

  37. 37

    Sorry: third bite — the aspect of the scene that you’re arguing, correctly, has been left out of “continuum” type histories was I actually think a lot more balkanised that retrospect would indicate

    SOMEWHERE I have a diagram — maybe from in i-D or the Face — which did a kind of Pete Frame on all the sound systems and clubs mid-70s to mid-80s: what I’m getting at is that a “logical extension” as intuited from 25 years later might well, on the ground at the time, have been seen/heard as an absurd smooshing together of bitter rivals!

  38. 38
    23 Daves on 16 Mar 2011 #

    If I had to name the one band I actually obsessed over as a teenager to the point of worrying my parents and the people around me, it would be the KLF. They clearly kickstarted something in me too, because from the point of me buying the “Shag Times” compilation (my introduction to them) I began to demand more from the bands I was a fan of. I wasn’t as impressed by angst anymore, I wanted fantasy, absurdity and a sense of possibilities. From my perspective as a bored teenager in a dull little town, Drummond and Cauty lived the ultimate life, hatching pie-in-the-sky schemes and making them work, having elaborate ideas which they refused to reveal the meaning of (I wrote to Drummond as a teenager twice asking for explanations, and his responses weren’t particularly helpful, although I suppose he did at least respond). They gave me the sense that there were broader horizons to be had, that you didn’t need to wait for permission to create interesting work or do memorable things with your life (my punk rock moment, if you will). They caused the trad indie bands I loved beforehand to work their way slowly towards the back of my bedroom record pile, and I’m genuinely grateful to them for introducing me to the idea that music could be mysterious, intelligent, vibrant and adventurous without seeming earnest or miserable.

    I’m aware the above sounds like fanboy gushing, so let me deflate all that by saying that I agree with the posters above who say that “3AM Eternal” isn’t their best Stadium House work. In fact, in all honesty I prefer “Doctorin’ The Tardis”, “Burn The Bastards”, the needlessly maligned “Kylie Said To Jason” and “It’s Grim Up North” over and above “3AM Eternal” as well. At the time, though, any KLF release felt like such an event, and certainly in my area sales for the single were berserk. I went to my local record shop a few days after the Monday release date, and was told that I would have to have a cassingle or nothing – all other formats had already sold out. I think it remains the only cassingle I have ever bought, so desperate was I to bring a copy in any form at all home.

    Never the best “Pure Trance” single in its original form, “3AM Eternal” is similarly not their best piece of pop, and sounds very opportunistic in places – those Sheffield beeps after “KLF a-ha a-ha” are one of the few instances I can think of where they’ve blatantly tried to mimic somebody’s else’s gimmick, which seemed disappointing at the time. Still though, I was as pleased as punch when this got to number one, and even a below par KLF at this period in the careers outscored other acts. It also seemed like a rare treat for a band I genuinely cared about – rather than merely liked a lot – to reach the number one spot. At the time “Doctorin’ The Tardis” hit, I had no idea who or what they were, just that I really liked the record. This time around, I was in on the joke and the celebrations, and that felt important to me. 8 seems like a fair score, but if I were able to mark the moment itself, it would be a 10.

  39. 39
    Steve Mannion on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Ah yes those bleeps previously featured on 808 State vs MC Tunes ‘Tunes Splits The Atom’, and there was the similar effect on Sweet Exorcist’s ‘Testone’ but ‘3AM Eternal’ did seem to make more of them, playing with their pitch to create a ‘tune’ of sorts. Wanda Dee’s “A-ha”s were themselves later sampled on EMF’s ‘They’re Here’.

  40. 40
    thefatgit on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Oh, my! So much has been said already, but I’m in total agreement that IGUN stands as the pinnacle of their output. I’m a sucker for list songs, and from a southerner’s perspective, with occasional forays to Lancashire and Yorkshire under my belt, this confirmed my personal view of the North, in much the same way The Fall’s “Hit The North” and John Cooper Clarke’s “Chickentown” had done a few years earlier, but with that Stadium House bravura bass drum, sounding like elephants tumbling out the back of a C-130 transporter landing on taut drumskin stretched over the Grand Canyon. It’s the largest, most incredible noise, feeling like an alien bursting out of your chest cavity, when you hear it in a club environment.

    Next to IGUN, 3AME is noticably weaker, but it’s much more knowing, immediate and compelling than SNAP! “The Power”. Butter vs marge.

  41. 41
    admin on 16 Mar 2011 #

    I’d put good money on KLF – not the Pet Shop Boys – being the most referenced act on FT. IGUN has 2 articles dedicated to it (partly because of Tom’s retrospectively archived Top 100 of the 90s). Only What Time is Love seems lacking any focus article. Why don’t we do something about that?

    (I think I still have the cassingle of it that I bought at the time.)

  42. 42
    anto on 16 Mar 2011 #

    I think this is marvellous just in itself. The KLF mainly passed me by but I always liked 3AM Eternal and still think it sounds incredible.
    There’s a sublime contrast between urgency and serenity that I’m sure stood out even in 1991. If you look at the number ones around it there’s a surplus of blandness and novelty that makes one feel a touch nauseous so if a track like this was managing to rise above the malaise than that’s reassuring.

  43. 43
    wichita lineman on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Re 39: Oh how I love that pure tone! Here’s my favourite single of the era to incorporate it into a melody; also includes one of the deepest basslines ever recorded, and a touch of electro nostalgia… which makes it sound oddly timeless but still very ’91.

    Mark, I was speaking from a purely personal ‘political’ pov, but I think you’ve sort of got what I didn’t like about AJ. It seemed snobbish and buttoned-up in the least buttoned-up age since the late 60s. Acid jazzers felt (to me) like wall-building killjoys. So, the “huge phase-shift that came round 88” doesn’t really come into it. They didn’t want the barriers to melt away.

    I was asked to dj at a club in Newcastle in ’92 and the promoter, who was also putting on Galliano, looked truly horrified when I pulled Felix’s then-new Don’t You Want Me out of the box.

    Again, we played a 40 minute set in Japan and – in spite of the incredible politesse of the Japanese – one Acid Jazzer told me sniffily that the Brand New Heavies had played for three hours the week before.

    So, y’know, it’s personal!

  44. 44
    Billy Hicks on 16 Mar 2011 #

    I had never heard of The KLF, or any of their songs, until fairly recently. My parents were 23 when this came out, raising a young child and their pop knowledge was even by now long behind them (the last record in their collection was bought in 1988), so it passed them by as well.

    That changed in January 2004, when VH1 broadcast every single number 1 of the last two decades, and 15-year-old me sat transfixed in front of the screen all day. Exposed to hundreds of new songs in an instant, it was the dance number 1s that grabbed me the most – ‘Ride On Time’, two other future tracks from 1992 and 1993, and this. I didn’t know about their history, who they were, anything about them, I just knew that ‘3am Eternal’ blew modern-day pop out the water and was one of the most exciting things I’d ever heard.

    It’s only in the last few months I happened to discover the rest of their back catalogue, and wonder what on earth I’ve been missing. ‘What Time Is Love’, ‘Last Train to Trancentral’ and ‘Justifed & Ancient’ all make me envious of those who were around at the time, experiencing them new. No one my age has heard of the KLF, I rarely see them mentioned, and by all rights I shouldn’t know about them either…but wow am I glad I do. Easiest 10 since Black Box.

    ‘It’s Grim Up North’, meanwhile, is one of my top ten favourite songs of all time. The combination of the heavy beat and orchestral ‘Jerusalem’ ending never fails to send chills down my spine every time, even when listening to it on tinny iPod headphones. Most of my top ten have yet to be released in ‘Popular time’, as they postdate 1991. For the next, we have to wait until 1994 and Britpop…

  45. 45
    swanstep on 16 Mar 2011 #

    The record’s new to me, as are the rest of KLF’s output (if Doctorin the Tardis is excluded). Perhaps you had to be there – this record’s busy without being at all memorable or interesting I find, and Last Train and IGUN aren’t obviously better. ‘Stadium House’ – well I never! Strange, but also inevitable, how some micro-generations and -scenes of dance music can completely pass one by. And when one gets around to hearing them, they strike you as completely inconsequential compared to whatever damn thing you happened to be caught up in at the time (Aphex, but also Belgium and Frankfurt stuff among others at this time for me) or would be caught up in later (Underworld’s Dirty Epic blew my mind in ’93’94, it’s a favorite to this day, etc. – the way people are talking about IGUN here kind of reminds me of myself about that record! But to me the difference is night and day! But maybe there’s a gulf of intelligibility here that can never be crossed.)

    I’m not convinced by Tom’s ‘dance records are echoes of prior events vs normal pop records are forward-looking ads for albums’ idea. Where to start? Well there have always been more singles-oriented than album-oriented acts (and I don’t see that there’s *that* big a difference between something that gets consumed first as a radio earworm and something that’s first heard out at a club). And what about compilation/collection/scene albums and general scene-participation as the thing that’s finally advertized? Not just the ‘Solid Gold Hits Vol 5’, ‘Now, that’s what I call music’ stuff but on the dance side surely all of us have cds floating around called things like, Heavenly Hardcore, Northern Exposure vol 4, Frankfurt Trax 3, Jungle Madness, and so on. Which brings me to:

    ‘faceless’
    But, hang on, that’s a feature not a bug. I thought that the endlessly proliferating pseudonymous authorship in the ’90s dance scene was utterly intentional. You’d pick up a compilation record and there’d be two columns of sentence fragments listed on the back. Often it would be unclear which column was artist names and which was song titles. That was disturbing but also exhilirating. In a genre devoted to dissolution of boundaries between self and other on a dance floor the arrival of ‘the death of the author’ as a genre feature just about made the Comp. Lit/Cultural Studies people I knew wet themselves. Say with pseudo-Russian accent: ‘In dance culture, the song plays you’. Or something. I’m not sure that Tom (or anyone else here) disagrees with any of this, but doesn’t that perspective cast a slightly awkward light on KLF’s alleged effort to answer the charge of ‘facelessness’? They’re solving a non-problem with a non-solution. (There must be a way of connecting that with Punctum’s interesting observation that KLF were less impressive as art scene provocateurs than as perverse pop stars, but will need to think more about how.)

    Anyhow, back to 3 a.m. Eternal. I give it a curve-ruining:
    4 or 5

  46. 46
    Steve Mannion on 17 Mar 2011 #

    I recommend The Orb remix of this btw – heavy delay, funkier percussion and a big burst of The Blue Danube halfway through: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilqzxmOXnPk

  47. 47
    lockedintheattic on 17 Mar 2011 #

    There was another stage in the journey between the original pure trance version and this, the stadium house number one. An extended sample of 3am (along with Justified & Ancient, and Last Train to Transcentral) also make an appearance on 1990’s Chill Out, which also features bits of Elvis & Fleetwood Mac.

    It’s definitely streets ahead of most of the other ‘chill-out’ works that followed (including the number one before last)

  48. 48
    Mark M on 17 Mar 2011 #

    Classic meta-Popular artists moment: Drummond’s encounter with Peter Green as recounted in 45. Which has, as almost all his post-pop stuff including the gloomy million quid burning business, a rather depressive edge.

  49. 49
    pink champale on 17 Mar 2011 #

    i think that’s right that there’s slightly depressive, knowingly worthless, aspect to a lot of drummond’s post klf activities. there’s a bit in 45 where he describes as his greatest achievement and the summation of his life’s work, the look of slight but perceptible disillusionment he sees in the face of one of his long-term admirers after the barbican debacle. I mean, this is a great line and everything, but you get the feeling that he almost means it, which is kind of sad.

    other than that, i’m with the majority in loving the bangin’ness and silly conceptual grandeur of prime klf stuff.

  50. 50
    Conrad on 17 Mar 2011 #

    I find it really annoying that such mediocre pop music can inspire so much discussion, really based on nothing more than an entertaining manifesto. Drummond should have written a weekly column for NME (perhaps he did?), and avoided recording studios altogether.

    Rave music for people who don’t go to raves. Made by people who almost certainly can’t dance.

    This is almost as dire as the Timelords record and to say it hasn’t aged well would be an understatement.

    1.

  51. 51
    Izzy on 17 Mar 2011 #

    I was fourteen when this came out, loved it, and certainly lapped up the image-building. I certainly wasn’t ever sure that Stadium House wasn’t an actual thing – I have a drawing I did at the time of a KLF gig in a massive natural forested arena somewhere, with 80,000 in attendance, white everywhere, the bleeps and crowd noises a perfect soundtrack in my mind. It made perfect sense, if the likes of Springsteen or The Rolling Stones could play stadiums, how big must a band who had actual #1 hits be?

  52. 52
    the pinefox on 17 Mar 2011 #

    I didn’t remember how this went. I found it on youtube and it is playing now.

    It sounds pretty horrible. I never liked this band and their music at all, except that there was a brief (sampled?) section in ‘Last Train To Trancentral’ that was more uplifting.

    The youtube track has just ended and I’m stunned by how worthless it was.

  53. 53
    Mark M on 17 Mar 2011 #

    The notion of 3AM being eternal makes me think of being forever trapped in the moment during a night out when you’re regretting not having taken the last tube home, can’t face waiting for a night bus, don’t want to shell out for a cab, and know there are three bleak hours before the underground is working again…

  54. 54
    LondonLee on 17 Mar 2011 #

    ..and the only food available is the blokes selling burgers in Trafalgar Square. I swear I ate three of those nasty things on the way home one night I was so starving (booze and drugs induced most likely). My vegetarian girlfriend at the time wasn’t too happy.

  55. 55
    Erithian on 17 Mar 2011 #

    Add to that the moment when you’ve decided you have enough money left for a drink OR a kebab, not both, and when you bite into the kebab you realise they’ve doused it in chilli sauce you hadn’t asked for and it’s a while before you’ll have a drink. Mind you it depends what you do with your 3 AM’s.

  56. 56
    punctum on 17 Mar 2011 #

    If I’m travelling on the National Express overnight to Scotland, then it’s 3AM at Charnock Richard Services, when my mind is sufficiently disorientated at that point to make me think I’m in Blackpool (they have a huge picture of the Tower on the side of their mall for no good reason; the ‘Pool is not exactly up the road. Disturbing when you’ve only just been woken up).

  57. 57
    Jimmy the Swede on 17 Mar 2011 #

    C,mon, Erithian. Surely you can’t have a kebab sans chilli sauce…

    Before the days of home satellite tv, I used to roll up at the Odeon Leicester Square to watch the great boxing matches of the day – Leonard/Hearns, Holmes/Ali, Hagler/Hearns etc. These routinely began at around 3 AM and the trick was to find a pub which did “afters” and then roll into the Odeon. In between, the inevitable munchies kicked in but Leicester Square was great for garbage food. And after the boxing was finished and the sun was invariably up, I dropped in to Maccy D’s for eggy muffins, OJ and coffee before grabbing a couple of hours kip. Then, whether I was at the office or not, it was straight back into the drinker at lunchtime and then back out again in the evening for Evensong.

    Happy Healthy Days!!

  58. 58
    pink champale on 17 Mar 2011 #

    re: 50
    music made by people who can’t dance = klf
    music made by people who can dance = andrew stone

  59. 59
    Mark G on 17 Mar 2011 #

    For me, it was about the Dunkin Donuts, round the back at Picadilly Circus..

  60. 60
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 17 Mar 2011 #

    My guess is that many people who make EXCELLENT dancemusic are themselves studio-bound boffins, but — even though it’s not really relevant to the actual quality of this particular record — I still think the question is interesting WHICH good dance music is made by people who can dance! Can you tell if they can just by listening?

  61. 61
    LondonLee on 17 Mar 2011 #

    The Burger King between Leicester Square and Piccadilly was open pretty late.

  62. 62
    Steve Mannion on 17 Mar 2011 #

    #60 It’s even less relevant when you look at how most people danced at raves!

  63. 63
    Erithian on 17 Mar 2011 #

    David Guetta for instance – can he dance or does he make the records he does so that he can get to hang out with the good-looking people and go to their pool parties?

  64. 64
    Jimmy the Swede on 17 Mar 2011 #

    # 61 – Yes, I’m sure that was the place I went to just before watching Larry Holmes punch several holes through poor old Ali in 1980. Holmes was vilified for that, which was a travesty for a wonderful heavyweight champion, certainly one of the best of my lifetime.

    Wandering around the streets at 3AM, scoffing burgers, would be unthinkable for the Swede nowadays and I’m very comfortable with that.

  65. 65
    admin on 17 Mar 2011 #

    Williams Fairey Brass Band – Acid Brass (What Time Is Love?)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27-FwZuEKQE

    also worth checking out their covers of Voodoo Ray (minimal), Cubik and Strings of Life

  66. 66
    AndyPandy on 17 Mar 2011 #

    Unfortunately/fortunately (?)if you’d been on the Jack and Jills the
    last thing you felt like doing was eating so you misssed out on all this…

    re 50 very true about not being played at raves – one in the long line of artists who used to fill up the pages of so called dance magazines (once there WERE dance magazines at all! the first few years from 1988 onwards was pretty poorly chronicled) but you never heard played at any raves/”proper” clubs eg Underworld, Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers, Leftfield, Prodigy (from ‘Firestarter’
    onwards). The magazines that seemed to actually reflect the scene they were supposed to represent were things like ‘Dream’ and ‘Eternity’ (but which were generally full of happy hardcore unfortunately) and the Scottish magazine which was available in England for a bit ‘M8’.

    A sorry state of affairs really….

  67. 67

    Someone with a better ear than me can maybe clear this up: is one the samples layered here the Enigma panpipes? It’s at 0.18, and there’s a LOT of other stuff going on round it, just after he says “KLF is gnna rock ya!”

  68. 68

    haha also i have found something that purports to be a KLF mix of Enigma’s “mea culpa”, though on their website KLF disclaim responsibility

  69. 69
    23 Daves on 17 Mar 2011 #

    I’m surprised to see people referencing “It’s Grim Up North” being played in clubs – that’s one pleasure I’ve yet to experience. I once asked a DJ if he’d consider putting it on, and he said with a massive sneer: “You think people are going to dance to THAT?” He did have a point, I suppose. I can’t quite imagine how you would move to it on the dancefloor. However, I do find it fantastic for jogging around East London to in the depths of winter, especially if it’s raining, so it’s definitely good for some kind of bodily movement (it can get pretty grim down here as well).

    The “Jerusalem” bit of the song once came on at the very moment I was running through an industrial state past a chicken egg distribution warehouse with cracked windows. It felt oddly appropriate somehow.

  70. 70
    dftujitly on 18 Mar 2011 #

    dsghjyyuk

  71. 71
    dftujitly on 18 Mar 2011 #

    http://qkr.cc/KZjQ

  72. 72
    Steve Mannion on 18 Mar 2011 #

    #66 It depends what you mean by “proper clubs” but most of Britain’s big name DJs played material by the acts you mentioned throughout the mid-late 90s (e.g. techno DJs like Dave Clarke and Carl Cox would still play stuff like ‘Dark & Long (Dark Train)’ and ‘Leftism’ tracks). Obviously there was a concurrent ‘underground’ that tended to ignore anyone popular but those artists mostly came from that before going mainstream, the overlap was palpable and that middle ground was where I felt most comfortable.

    Eternity was a great (if threadbare) magazine somehow – really looked forward to reading it every month. They covered Jungle as much as HH when I read it so I was happy.

  73. 73
    weej on 18 Mar 2011 #

    I’m another one who managed to miss the KLF the first time round, and I can see what Swanstep’s getting at with the “maybe you had to be there” thing – it’s a big event single, the main hook is certainly on the money, but the rap on the verses seems if anything lazier than the one from Turbo B on ‘The Power’. It’s an 8 for me when the riff comes in at the start, but it’s all downhill from there.

    It perhaps doesn’t help that I have an urge to resist any music where the artistes announce their name at the start of a track (probably one of the reasons I was so late getting into rap). It seems fundamentally arrogant (as nobody’s going to care who they are until they’ve heard the song, at the very least) and it can only be justified when the track itself is an absolute belter, which it’s not going to be 99% of the time.

  74. 74
    Tim Byron on 18 Mar 2011 #

    I prefer ‘Justified and Ancient’ (surely I’m not the first person to note the resemblance between it and U2’s ‘The Wanderer’ with Johnny Cash? U2’s Zoo TV culture-jamming period was inspired a bit by KLF, right?) which feels more coherent to me, but this is enjoyable fluff. 9-year-old me, I think, remembered ‘3am Eternal’ coming across as basically silly fun pop – I would have entirely missed all the Discordian stuff, though I read a Robert Anton Wilson book and had played the Illuminati card game by 14-15, so I might have picked up on it then.

    The rap on this is pretty awful. But before you even get to the rap, there’s an impressive amount of hooks that are introduced at the start of the song:
    1) “KLF, uh uh uh, uh uh uh, uh!”
    2) “KLF is gonna rock ya”
    3) “Are you ready?”
    4) “Exit some groove!”
    5) “Eternal, oh whoa oh whoa”

    And then there’s the metallic sounding bassy riff under the chorus, and the pure tone synth riff when everything breaks down – all of these are heavy duty hooks, and to have all of them in the one song is pretty irresistable. Does 75% of The Manual consist of “pack your song with hooks” written over and over again?

    (This only got to #3 in the charts in Australia, in June 1991. It stayed at #3 for 2 weeks – the first week, it was kept from the top by Ratcat’s “Don’t Go Now” and Daryl Braithwaite’s “The Horses”. The second week, KLF outsold both of these, but Rod Stewart’s “Rhythm Of The Heart” and the Grease Megamix popped ahead)

  75. 75
    Conrad on 18 Mar 2011 #

    72, if you were off your head on E the last thing you’d want to hear is this, or a track by any of those artists. You’d want something a lot more uplifting, quicker and less song/vocal based.

    Also, listening again to this, that beat isn’t anything close to house, let alone rave. It’s the ubiquitous oakenfold indie dance beat.

  76. 76
    weej on 18 Mar 2011 #

    Got to disagree with you a bit, Conrad, I never found that E dulled my music taste that much. Something like Underworld’s “Two Months Off” or “Out Of Control” or “Afrika Shox” was exactly what I was hoping to hear (nothing by Fatboy Slim or late Prodigy though, or 3AM Eternal for that matter.) DJs tend to like to stick to one subgenre though, it’s easier to mix, it’s quite likely to have the same BPM, it doesn’t sound wrong when you speed it up or slow it down. None of these artists generally produced music that fitted neatly into that, and I’d say that’s why you didn’t hear them so much in clubs.

  77. 77
    Erithian on 18 Mar 2011 #

    #74 – Just off the top of my head, Tim, without looking up the YouTube clip, parts of “Justified and Ancient”, with a kind of cowboy groove (you can almost hear the beats as hooves) remind me a little of “John Wayne Is Big Leggy”! – whereas the “All bound for MuMu land” bit (beautiful harmonies too) remind me of the line “all bound for Morningtown” from the Seekers’ “Morningtown Ride”, also known as the theme from “Junior Choice”. Was this more than coincidence? On the other hand, if you were old enough to hear this as an almost subliminal reminder of childhood, you were probably rather older than most of the rave crowd!

  78. 78
    Tom on 18 Mar 2011 #

    re. the never played at raves stuff – have to say my reaction to this is a bit “well duh” (aka “so what?”) – this is what I was trying to get at in the review, the KLF’s output at this point is making a pop version of dance music, located very much NOT in yr actual clubbing scene but in the band’s own fantasy world: they’re closer to Queen in that respect than to ‘actual’ rave acts. Whether you like what results or not is entirely up to you but I don’t think it’s making any kind of authenticity claim or inviting one.

    Were the “pure trance” 12″s in 89-90 actual club hits, incidentally? There’s that weird mini-album of What Time Is Love? versions/remixes which purported to be European rip-offs of the original WTIL? but I was always a little bit suspicious of it.

  79. 79
    Mark G on 18 Mar 2011 #

    4) “Exit some groove!”

    actually:

    4) “Ancients of Mu-mu!”

    also #77: Bill Drummond is well known as a Seekers fan, he went to their reunion and wrote about it (I think it’s in “17” book), I hadn’t noticed that line as such, but I’m sure you are right about it not being a coincidence.

  80. 80
    Cumbrian on 18 Mar 2011 #

    Further point of order:

    Someone mentioned that Wanda Dee did the “KLF! uh, uh” bits. She did do the 3am Eternal bits but I am fairly sure that “KLF! uh uh” is PP Arnold.

  81. 81
    Mark G on 18 Mar 2011 #

    I had the original “trance” 12″ when it came out. That has Wanda Dee on it. By the time “stadium house” came around, they presumably could afford PP Arnold…

  82. 82

    No one is answering my panpipes sample query => I must after all have the best ears here :(

  83. 83
    Steve Mannion on 18 Mar 2011 #

    #80 Doh yeah, blatantly PP’s voice and having watched the video I forgot she appears in it. Nice to see her (not just hear her) in the brilliant vid for Altern 8’s ‘Evapor-8’ too.

    It seems the KLF spent a sizeable chunk of the proceeds from ‘What Time Is Love?’ on constructing an impressive model (Mega-)city that appears at the start of the ‘3AM’ video. Interested in what gave them this idea, and what happened to the model.

  84. 84
    Izzy on 18 Mar 2011 #

    The model city features even more prominently in the ‘Last Train To Transcentral’ video. Rockman Rock and King Boy D rock out rather impressively on sitars, which aren’t noticably high in the mix.

  85. 85
    Chelovek na lune on 18 Mar 2011 #

    So, who initiated the (thoroughly desirable, thoroughly deserved) revival of P.P. Arnold’s career over a dance beat?

    The Beatmasters, with “Burn It Up” in ’88 is the earliest I recall (and of course she was a fully-fledged and credited vocalist there, even I think, appearing on TOTP with them. “It’s not a question of gettin’ hot, It’s a question of how much heat you can take”. But did anything predate this?

    (Noticable, how the attempt to give Eartha Kitt a career boost came to very much less. Although actually, and in an entirely different genre, I think “King of the New York Streets” by Dion was my favourite track from this sort of time – mid-1989 actually, so a bit earlier – from someone on a serious comeback.)

    But PP? Where else was she, with her lungs that could breathe fire?

  86. 86
    Chelovek na lune on 18 Mar 2011 #

    So, who initiated the (thoroughly desirable, thoroughly deserved) revival of P.P. Arnold’s career over a dance beat?

    The Beatmasters, with “Burn It Up” in ’88 is the earliest I recall (and of course she was a fully-fledged and credited vocalist there, even I think, appearing on TOTP with them. “It’s not a question of gettin’ hot, It’s a question of how much heat you can take”. But did anything predate this?

    (Noticable, how the attempt to give Eartha Kitt a career boost came to very much less. Although actually, and in an entirely different genre, I think “King of the New York Streets” by Dion was my favourite track from this sort of time – mid-1989 actually, so a bit earlier – from someone on a serious comeback.)

    But PP? Where else was she, with her lungs that could breathe fire?

  87. 87
    B33K34 on 18 Mar 2011 #

    Surely 3am was the time the uncommitted headed home and the party really started? Ad Steve M says above, all those acts came from the underground and were heard there first. The KLF tracks had been around forcyears in less poppy forms. As for the Chem Bros and FBS – you obviously never made it to any BigBeat nights.

  88. 88
    Kit on 19 Mar 2011 #

    This is in the bottom three of my KLF Communications singles, which always made it frustrating when other people my age thought it was their only record ever. (The multi-cited “KLF! Uh-huh, uh-huh” was undoubtedly the major factor in this, of course.) It’s still a total 8.

    @4: they didn’t have a representative of the bank on Jura, just a journalist and Gimpo operating the video camera (and trying to nick some of the money when Jimmy wasn’t looking). IIRC the Omnibus documentary on the burning included a talking head from the bank, and shots of their statements, proving that the money hadn’t been replaced? The difference between Nailed To A Board and the burning being that THEY ACTUALLY TOOK THE MONEY BACK TO THE BANK in the former case!

    Speaking of Gimpo, @14:
    “Jimmy Cauty’s admittedly great (and commercially unreleased) tribute to roadie Gimpo as heard at Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital evening” – was this not KALA003? The guitars on that always sounded more like the hand of Cauty than Drummond or Manning to these ears.

  89. 89
    lonepilgrim on 19 Mar 2011 #

    re 77 & 79 – I get the impression that Bill Drummond was able to draw from a rich and varied well of experience – he worked on Ken Campbell’s epic dramatisation of the ‘illuminatus’ trilogy – source of the Discordian imagery referenced above – and the video scenes of them driving around late at night are vey reminiscent of the ‘Ghost Town’ video.

    The model that features in this and the Transcentral video reminds me of Jake and Dinos Chapman’s ‘Hell’ – and their approach to their work is reminiscent of KLF at their most transgressive.

  90. 90
    Billy Smart on 20 Mar 2011 #

    TOTPWatch: The KLF twice performed ‘3AM Eternal’ on Top Of The Pops;

    19 January 1991. Also in the studio that week were; Soho, Alexander O’Neal and Seal. Nicky Campbell was the host. Transmission of this edition was delayed until the Saturday because of Gulf War coverage.

    31 January 1991. Also in the studio that week were; EMF, Nomad & MC Mikee Freedom, Praise and Soho. Anthea Turner was the host. This show and the preceding week’s edition were the shortest ever Top Of The Pops programmes, running at only twenty minutes due to Gulf War coverage.

  91. 91
    heather on 20 Mar 2011 #

    I always thought this was weedy compared to the epic ‘What Time Is Love’, but it’s definitely part of the future of 1991 and pretty good. Very pre-trance in a way.

    I think you have to enjoy dancing purely for its own sake to enjoy dance music, especially the really repetitive and lyric-free sort of techno. Not dress-to-impress or drink, but happy to get down and groove for four hours solid on nothing more than caffeine. Otherwise it must seem like horrible robot noise.

  92. 92
    RDMcNamara on 20 Mar 2011 #

    “They are STILL 3AM Eternal!” Tommy Vance eh?

  93. 93
    Kit on 20 Mar 2011 #

    “Someone mentioned that Wanda Dee did the “KLF! uh, uh” bits. She did do the 3am Eternal bits but I am fairly sure that “KLF! uh uh” is PP Arnold.”

    Don’t think Wanda is actually on 3AM at all – AFAIK her only contributions to their ouevre were sampled from one solo single she’d done (“I wanna see you sweat” on What Time Is Love, and “Come on boy, do you wanna ride?” on Last Train To Trancentral). The extensive credits and video appearances she made were down to her manager/husband (and formerly Leroy from Fame, TRUFAX!) being v v canny and negotiating them as part of the settlement for sampling.

    She and he have also ripped Drummond & Cauty off in return good and proper by touring the world as “The KLF” ever since, always avoiding the UK so they can’t complete the circle by injuncting her.

  94. 94
    Steve Mannion on 20 Mar 2011 #

    I love the varied but constant lyrical confusion these tracks create. Always heard that bit in LTTT as “Come on (a)board if you wanna ride”. The train of course.

  95. 95
    Paul on 21 Mar 2011 #

    Before you take the KLF too seriously:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Manual

    Probably due for a re-write!

  96. 96
    punctum on 21 Mar 2011 #

    “ripped Drummond & Cauty off” oh the etc.

  97. 97
    Kit on 21 Mar 2011 #

    well yes, hence the subsequent words in that sentence.

    I have no idea why The Manual would stop one from taking The KLF seriously. Possibly the greatest sustained piece of pop criticism ever!

  98. 98
    Erithian on 21 Mar 2011 #

    During the latter part of Comic Relief on Friday I had visions of a mash-up to come:
    “JLS! Uh-huh uh-huh..” etc

  99. 99
    punctum on 21 Mar 2011 #

    Preferably involving a cement mixer.

  100. 100
    Ben on 22 Mar 2011 #

    Wow, 100th post.

    I don’t really remember this… it was about the time I was turning on to music, but it was 18 months before I’d start watching TOTP or following the charts. And I’ve never really heard much KLF – like every boy my age, I knew ‘Doctorin’ The Tardis’, but that was about it.

    Listening to this now, I sense the importance of this going to number 1 when it did. Would 11-12 year old me have ever heard anything by Prodigy had it not been for this?

  101. 101
    abaffledrepublic on 26 Mar 2011 #

    #90: the January 31st TOTP appearance must therefore have been the occasion when Anthea Turner proved how down with the kids she was, by introducing the group as the KLM.

  102. 102
    Tom on 4 Apr 2011 #

    Anyone keen to see me talk about the KLF at (even) greater length is urged to get themselves to http://oneweekoneband.tumblr.com, where I’ll be guest-blogging about them all week.

  103. 103
    Cumbrian on 4 Apr 2011 #

    Tom: enjoying the oneweekoneband thus far. Wouldn’t dream of providing a suggestion if the question of Friday were not still open – but it seems to me that something could be said of the remix work that KLF did and how they fitted in with the wider pop music culture of the UK in the late 80s/early 90s (especially in as much as they remixed Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode at points in their careers where all three were large/important bands). Feel free to ignore – as I said, enjoying it as it is unfolding anyway and I am sure you’ll have better ideas than me!

  104. 104
    Tom on 4 Apr 2011 #

    Cumbrian – thanks! The question of Friday isn’t actually open, I know what’s going to be in there (and actually the PSB/DM stuff would fit in with it). Just not saying what it is yet. There’ll be stuff about the KLF in 80s/90s pop culture on Wednesday, too.

  105. 105
    Cumbrian on 4 Apr 2011 #

    Cool – I shall look forward to it.

  106. 106
    enitharmon on 5 Apr 2011 #

    As I was waiting for my bus to Kendal this morning in Cavendish Street, known around these parts as “The Gaza Strip” for it’s vibrant{1} club scene, I noticed that the Circus Circus club claims to feature one ‘Deejay Migraine’.

    Says it all, really, about how I feel about this kind of music.

    {1} I reference, I should think, to the multicoloured vomit to be found eternally at 3am on a Saturday morning.

  107. 107
    Tom on 5 Apr 2011 #

    Oddly enough Chill Out often makes me think of long journeys by car up to Kendal. It’s the dry-stone wall on the cover I guess!

  108. 108
    Dave on 13 Apr 2011 #

    This tune (in its pure trance incarnation) was absolutely played in clubs and at raves – KLF famously did a PA at one of the outdoor raves (Helter Skelter?) and threw their fee in pound notes into the crowd.

    I distinctly remember Bukem featuring KLF tunes in his set around 90 / 91

  109. 109
    lonepilgrim on 8 May 2011 #

    This track features in this round-up of clips from 1991:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b010w8t0/Movin_on_Up_Pop_Hits_from_1991/

  110. 110
    AndyPandy on 8 May 2011 #

    108 yes that was the pure trance version which was very different and very good (the What Time Is Love one was good too)and that was about 1988/89. And just because they did that PA doesn’t mean people were buying them at Boogie Times etc By the time of the completely revamped (and IMHO ruined pop chart toppers) I’d be very surprised if the new (‘stadium house’)versions were getting spun – I know you didn’t hear them on the pirates or even Kiss except for a token play on chart rundowns.

  111. 111
    lonepilgrim on 20 Jan 2012 #

    one of the sources for KLFs mythology can be found here:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/gwendalcentrifugue/6666374389/in/photostream/lightbox/

  112. 112
    wichita lineman on 11 Mar 2013 #

    A sad and unexpected goodbye to Ricardo Da Force, aka Ricky Lyte.

    http://newsflash.bigshotmag.com/news/uk-news/23576/

  113. 113
    hectorthebat on 22 Mar 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Mixmag (UK) – Nominations for the Greatest Dance Track of All Time (2012)
    Paul Morley (UK) – Words and Music, 210 Greatest Pop Singles of All Time (2003)
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 150
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    Eye Weekly Canadian Critics Poll – Singles of the Year 17
    Rock de Lux (Spain) – Songs of the Year 14

  114. 114
    Blythwood on 17 Oct 2016 #

    I’d be interested to see if anyone can confirm a claim I’ve seen online that the machine gun / “This is Radio Freedom” intro was sampled from the station ident of an ANC radio station of that name. I’d always assumed it was some kind of WWII/Free French reference.

    Anyway, yes, “baffling” is the word for this – the incredible mixture of bizarre, pumped-up, self-referential slogans and the wistfulness of being awake late at night. Somehow it seems like a triumph of self-imposed restrictions: no lyrics except slogans. Very Frankie.

    The video is really excellent after the cheapness of the Doctorin’ the Tardis video – the decision to share elements between their stadium house singles videos and presumably pool the budget was inspired. You have the combination of Thomas-The-Tank-Engine-gone-dystopian model shots and studio of the pyramid, the space of the first studio shot where the camera zooms away from the performers on the pyramid to reveal the vocalist in the KLF t-shirt, the whirling late-night shots of the car in London…it all feels very appropriate somehow, very imagined geographies.

  115. 115
    Cumbrian on 4 Jan 2017 #

    http://www.factmag.com/2017/01/03/the-klf-video-collage-return-23/

    If this really is the precursor to a comeback, rather than just a continuation of The KLF’s stunt monkey tendencies, I’m unsure how I feel about it. Going back to this well simultaneously does and doesn’t feel like the sort of thing that they should be doing.

  116. 116
    Cumbrian on 5 Jan 2017 #

    Further update, including bill poster stuck up somewhere in Hackney.

    http://thequietus.com/articles/21514-klf-jamms-to-return-slam-film

  117. 117
    Adam Puke on 7 Jan 2017 #

    My money’s on them touring their classic White Room album. With support from N-Trance.

  118. 118
    flahr on 7 Jan 2017 #

    They should tour Chill Out. Or the sampleless version of 1987.

  119. 119
    Phil on 7 Jan 2017 #

    The poster was quote spotted unquote by Cally, the design genius behind everything from Eastfolk to the Kaiser Chiefs board game to that Nick Drake CD (and that other Nick Drake CD) to the Tea Set. (I think I had a letter from him once. It said the Rabbi Joseph Gordan single had sold out ages ago and tried to flog me something else. Those were the days.) Oh, and he’s also Bill Drummond’s manager.

    Anyway, the 23 years aren’t up until November 2018, so you’d think next August would be a bit previous, but who’s to say. I have to admit that my admiration for everyone involved is puppyishly intense, even after all this time (and it’s a long time since “Cups and Saucers”).

  120. 120
    Adam Grylls on 30 Dec 2017 #

    In recent year i’ve become obsessed with Mr Drummond and the KLF mythos. I’m a sucker for subversive artists, but the KLF seemed not only to be willing to go far further than most, but also had a staggering ability to actually get away with it. The dadaist nonsense of the lyrics, the perpetual motion between ridicule and praise between band, press and fans, the barmy mythology, and the brazen publicity stunts. Their appearance at the Brits and their subsequent exit from the industry is the stuff of legend. They are one of the most fascinating acts of the past 30 years even without the music. It’s entirely understandable, but certainly not forgivable, to pass them off as a novelty act who relied on shrewd marketing to create a following. But lest we forget just quite how brilliant their musical output was, their slew of off-kilter singles are all uniquely appealing, and you would be completely foolish to never listen to ‘Chill Out’ which is one of the greatest electronic albums ever made.

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