I Remember: The KLF

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This is the first installment of a new series on Jaxlore, called I Remember. One of the goals of this blog is to have the staff pen some of their personal memories of Electronic Dance Music Culture (EDMC) from the ’80s to now, whether it be bands, shows, genres, punters, what have you. Tonight, I wanted to talk about a band that touched a lot of us and still does.

Like many 13-year olds in the summer of 1991, I probably caught The KLF’s ‘3 A.M. Eternal‘ listening to the radio since I don’t think we got cable until early 1992. I was CD single crazy at the time and back then, tracks sometimes came out on 12″ and CD5 (as CD singles were referred to then) or just 12″ and/or some other combination of formats (which are irrelevant in the context of this memory and which I’ll bore you about in another feature). What I didn’t know in the pre-internet days was that there was no US CD5 for ‘3 A.M. Eternal’. And I couldn’t find a 12″. So I bought the lowly Cassingle. I think they were $2.49 then. The format ended up maxing out at $3.49 around ’94 when nobody was buying them. That too, is another story for another time.

August ’91, I was sitting on a bench near a field at Stanton College Preparatory School talking to this girl who started singing lines from the track. I said that I had that tape single and would sell it to her (I had found a 12″ by then, having given up on the CD single – I never even saw an import at Coconuts). That track was everything. It was electronic, it was dance, it was breakbeats, it was urban, rap, r&b, it was British, it was everything I wanted to be in 1991.

The killer though was when I was watching Club MTV. Remember that show? It was like ‘120 Minutes’ for dance music freaks. They’d flip back-and-forth from a few seconds of a video like Information Society’s ‘Think‘ to a club (NYC’s The Palladium) with said video on a bunch of TV screens and people dancing and I’d be like “Show the video, show the video!” because MTV in the States didn’t play many dance music videos until the ‘Amp’ show came out and by then (1996), we were well off and running in the rave scene.

Well, on this episode of Club MTV, they played the new-to-the-US single ‘What Time Is Love?‘. The version with the rap. I had to find that shit immediately. This must have been October ’91 and I soon found it on CD single at Tape World in Regency Square Mall.

Before I bought the regular Arista Records US CD single though, TVT Records had decided to re-release The Timelords’ (an early KLF alias) ‘Doctorin’ The Tardis‘ (the title is a play on Coldcut’s UK-house jam ‘Doctorin’ The House’) on the strength of ‘3 A.M. Eternal’.

Now here’s where I need you to stay with me:

‘Doctorin’ The Tardis’ was a novelty single released in 1988 based on Gary Glitter’s ‘Rock And Roll Part II’ and the Doctor Who theme song that went to number 1 in the UK. An extra cut on the 1991 CD single was the original ’88 version of ‘What Time Is Love?’ I just saw on the sleeve ‘The Timelords/The KLF’ and ‘What Time Is Love?’ printed on the CD (it was in a slimline case) and ponied up my $6.42. When I realized the rap wasn’t on it, I was devastated (I grew to appreciate the ’88 mix later). I returned that disc to Turtles on Atlantic Blvd. That was when you could return anything to Turtles. Not like those Too Short tickets at The Paradome in ’96 (yet another story, another time).

By the end of the year, I was ridin’ high. I would get asked to play parties at rec rooms at subdivisions I had no hope of ever living in and I’d bring the 5-minute version of ‘What Time Is Love? (Live At Trancentral)’ and knock ’em out. Then I’d follow it up with Electronic’s ‘Free Will (Extended Mix)’ and everyone would look at me sideways.

I remember vividly the first release I bought in 1992. It was January 16, 1992 and it was the CD5 for the KLF’s last single ‘Justified And Ancient‘. Country music annoyed me being a New York transplant and I didn’t get the Tammy Wynette version. People honestly called in to Power 95 and asked, “Could y’all play that song mu mu land?” That was probably when I stopped listening to the radio for good. The other version with Maxine Harvey on lead was the one I played (they both rate about the same for me now – I can appreciate the dispiritedness of the Wynette vocal). ‘Let Them Eat Ice Cream’ was dope, too. I even got ‘The White Room’ full-length on CD which came with the ‘Justified’ single as a bonus CD (guess they had a few extras even though it was a popular song). Have you ever heard ‘Church Of The KLF’? Turn the bass up to 11, get a breeze blowing, and it’ll change your perspective. It clocks in at less than two minutes.

What’s funny about all this is two things: in late-late 1991, The KLF released ‘Last Train To Trancentral’ but I remember KLF singles being hard to find at the time so I actually didn’t purchase the 12″ (again, no US CD5) until after January. It proved to be more of a fitting end than ‘Justified’, though: it’s such a stadium-house banger with that huge patriotic breakdown that the group’s breakup on May 14, 1992 kind of cemented the end of an era. I remember Kurt ‘Coke’ Loder announcing it on MTV News, saying: “to pursue what we know not”. I’ll never forget it. He paraphrased the press-release.

Thus began the decades-long search for used KLF records and learning the whole story behind this mysterious, wonderful, and highly influential band.

What will always stand out for me about this band is how great they were for such a short period of time but how long their legacy has lived on. They were only cookin’ from late ’88 to early ’92 (and for me, I knew them as an active band for less than a year). Their back catalogue has been deleted. They literally set fire to a million quid. Whenever a KLF song gets dropped or heard these days, those who remember, know that that good vibe is laid on a foundation of melancholy. It’s a metaphor for the Jacksonville EDM scene of the last quarter-century.

NTOTD: Charlie May – Puschkah

OTOTD: Kyau & Albert – Riding On A Star

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