The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band Who Burned a Million Pounds – John Higgs (Phoenix Books/ Hachette)


Every now and then a music group comes along that makes you sit up and really wonder what the fuck is going on. Similarly, on occasion writers, philosophers, religious spoofers and conspiracy theorists will simultaneously manifest at the right time and place to reinforce this message. This book then, is a collective collection of the inside of my mind from my early 20s on, an investigation into the formative thinkers and activists and their journey through time, space and the popular mediums of music, art, literacy and politics.

Yes, dear reader, I realise that this book is about Bill Drummond and James Cauty, collectively known as The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, The KLF, K Foundation etc, but in reality it is a book about the counter-cultural subterranean of the last third of the 20th century. About the small and large events that shaped the modern world, outside of the mainstream, away from the bright lights, in the shadows, lurking, joking and laughing. Operation Mindfuck was conceived and implemented from the office of Jim Garrison, District Attorney behind the Warren Commission into the JFK assassination. From his office came the first transmissions of the Discordian Society, which informed the writers behind the Illuminatus trilogy, which in turn directly influenced a jaded Bill Drummond to hook up with his mate Jimmy Cauty, who had a sampler to make some nasty-fucked-up-copyright-infringing-rap.

Higgs’ book flows through space and time, through the here and then, through the Hodge and the Podge to give the reader a background understanding to the KLF that they themselves probably don’ even have. The premise of the book revolves around understanding why the hell did these two geezers go and burn a million quid. Why did they? Who knows. There are theories put forward, and writer/illustrator Alan Moore’ interpretation takes us into deep metaphysical territory. We move in and out of space, though the movements of a young Bill Drummond, through the synchronicities of events influencing future events, through archetypes and fulfilment of prophecy, from Echo and the Bunnymen to Tammy Wynette.

The connections drawn by Higgs are sometimes tenuous, often humorous, and pretty much constantly on the mark. For any K Foundation buff, this book is a must. If you even have a passing interest in the story behind this enigmatic duo then this is also worth your time. As an introduction to some of the mid- to late-20th century’ esoteric philosophies this book also ticks the boxes. Fuck it, buy it today. You deserve it.


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