Timelords, Trains & Tammy Wynette: 23 Mindblowing KLF Facts

Timelords, Trains & Tammy Wynette: 23 Mindblowing KLF Facts

Posted 8 Jan 2021
The KLF
The KLF's Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond. Photo by Simon Ritter/Redferns/Getty Images. 

From their ‘80s hit "Doctorin’ The Tardis" as The Timelords through to their '90s 'stadium house’ classics as The KLF, British duo Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond blazed an idiosyncratic trail through the music industry. After deleting their music catalogue more than 25 years ago, 2021 sees Drummond and Cauty kickstart an official roll-out of their music to streaming services.

In honour of the exciting news, we’ve gathered 23 extraordinary facts about Cauty and Drummond’s fascinating musical adventures as both anarchistic pranksters, performance art masterminds and musical innovators.

1. "All bound for Mu Mu Land," a line used in The KLF’s 1992 Australian top five hit "Justified & Ancient", was based on Bill Drummond’s love of Australian band The Seekers. Drummond, who attended the band’s 1994 reunion show in London, based the lyric on the chorus of The Seekers’ 1966 hit "Morningtown Ride".

2. Another Australian connection to The KLF’s 1991 album The White Room: The Triffids‘Evil’ Graham Lee plays pedal steel on the Scottish country sounds of the album track "Build A Fire". Lee is perhaps best known for his work on The Triffids’ praised 1986 album Born Sandy Devotional. Lee met Drummond prior to the inauguration of The KLF, playing on Bill’s 1986 solo album. “The Triffids minus Dave were the musicians for most of Bill 's solo record, The Man,” Lee notes on his website. “It was a strange and exciting series of sessions and I quickly warmed to this odd but exceedingly warm and talented man.” Lee also provided the pedal steel sounds woven throughout the band’s infamous “ambient house” album, Chill Out.

3. As a teenager in the 1970s, Jimmy Cauty made a small fortune as the artist of a famous Lord Of The Rings poster. Appearing on student walls across the world, it was sold by UK store Athena. “It was the second most sold poster in its history behind the girl playing tennis with no knickers on,” Cauty admitted in 2016.

4. Guns N’ Roses’ frontman Axl Rose was Cauty and Drummond’s first pick for guest vocalist on the 1992 single “America: What Time Is Love?”. It was former Deep Purple frontman (and ‘70s David Bowie housemate) Glenn Hughes who ended up taking the gig.

5. In 1991, The KLF were the biggest single selling music act in the world.

6. A cover of Andy Williams’ hit “Born Free” closed the band’s unreleased 1989 album Tunes From The White Room. When The KLF’s 1989 single "Kylie Said to Jason" wasn't a hit, Cauty and Drummond scrapped the album and reworked it as 1991’s The White Room.

7. The large ceremonial horns worn in The KLF’s music video “Justified & Ancient”, as well as during the duo’s “1997: What The Fuck Is Going On” live event, were made by Jimmy Cauty’s brother Simon Cauty from foam and cans (baked bean cans according to Cauty, cat food tins according to Drummond). Simon also created the models used in the video of “Last Train to Trancentral” at Pinewood Studios (best known as the set location for multiple James Bond films) and, according to his brother, made one of the “Doctorin’ The Tardis” Daleks “out of a tea chest.”

8. Before he entered the music industry, Bill Drummond did a stint working on deep-sea fishing trawlers.

9. Drummond called The Timelords’ "Doctorin’ The Tardis" "the lowest common denominator in every aspect." A UK number one in 1988, a 12” mix called “Gary In The Tardis” featured a guest appearance by the now-disgraced glam star Gary Glitter. In his autobiography, Glitter thanked The KLF for the collaboration returning him to the cover of UK music magazine NME.

The KLF
The KLF's Jimmy Caulty and Bill Drummond, 1996. Photo by Roberta Parkin/Redferns/Getty Images.

10. It has commonly been suggested The KLF’s acronym stood for Kopyright Liberation Front, but Drummond dismissed this claim in Uncut magazine in 2008. “It was a journalist who came up with the idea that The KLF stood for that… We were never called the Kopyright Liberation Front.”

11. In the wake of the success of “Doctorin’ The Tardis”, Cauty and Drummond penned The Manual (How To Have A Number One The Easy Way), a tongue-in-cheek guide to hitting the top of the charts. To promote the book, Drummond appeared on Factory Records head honcho Tony Wilson’s TV show The Other Side Of Midnight wearing a moustache drawn on paper with a felt-tip pen, as he felt "the real iconic figures have based their status on their ‘tache.'" Drummond later admitted his error: "Afterwards I just thought, what a fucking arsehole I was to do that."

12. The Manual featured details of how to have a hit, including “sell the junk” if you own an instrument, or “if in a band, quit.” Using The Manual’s suggestions, Austrian band Edelweiss had a hit with “Bring Me Edelweiss”, which went to number one in New Zealand and six European countries. “Although they never had that UK number one, that did sell a couple of million records worldwide,” Drummond noted in 2000.

Brilliant
Brilliant. 

13. Cauty and Drummond first hit it off when Cauty’s band Brilliant were signed to Warner, where Drummond was working after previously managing Echo & The Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes. Brilliant recorded their debut album Kiss The Lips Of Life in 1986, with producers Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman pocketing £30,000 for their efforts. While the album was a flop, Stock, Aitken & Waterman would soon go on to record-breaking success with Kylie Minogue, Rick Astley, Bananarama and many more. You can listen to Brilliant’s album on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

14. Which KLF associate is now a highly regarded scientist? That would be Jimmy Cauty’s ex-wife, Cressida Bowyer. Working as the Creative Director of KLF Communications between 1984 and 1994, Cressida appeared in the videos for “Last Train To Trancentral” (wearing an Indigenous American headdress) and “America: What Time Is Love?” (wearing little more than a couple of bits of tape over her breasts). After splitting with Cauty, Cressida Bowyer went back to study and gained a PHD at the University of Brighton investigating liver cancer therapy. She is now Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Science & Health and the Faculty of Creative & Cultural Industries at the University of Portsmouth.

15. Since their February 1992 Brit Awards performance was planned as The KLF’s farewell to the music industry, the band wanted to go out with a bang. In 2005, fellow musician and KLF ally Zodiac Mindwarp recalled Drummond had originally planned to dismember himself during the Brits performance of “3am Eternal”. “He turned up at my house with a meat cleaver. He was going to cut his arm off onstage or something. He doesn’t joke about things like that.”

16. Word got back to the Brits organisers The KLF were planning something drastic for their live performance of “3am Eternal” with hardcore act Extreme Noise Terror. Drummond and Cauty were forced to sign a ‘no slaughter’ contract by Brits management before the band’s appearance, as rumours suggested they were planning to kill a sheep live on stage. They’d actually bought a dead sheep from an abattoir before the show, later dumping it outside the post Awards party at Royal Lancaster Hotel. Attached to the sacrificial lamb was the note “I died for you. Bon appetit.”

17. In spite of the hullabaloo over the 1992 Brits event, where Drummond ended The KLF’s performance by taking a fake machine gun and firing it into the audience, The KLF won the Best Group Award. They shared the gong with Simply Red, but had left the event by the time the award winners were announced. Mick Hucknall told presenter Martika he’d accept “second place” to The KLF.

18. While The KLF never toured, a US artist named Wanda Dee has created a highly dubious live KLF experience. Dee, whose ‘80s track “To The Bone” was sampled on the KLF hits “What Time Is Love?” and “Last Train To Trancentral”, appears in the video for the latter track. In the ‘90s the enterprising hustler began touring locations such as Australia under The KLF banner. “We actually asked our solicitor about it,” Drummond said in 2008. “He said, well unless you go to Australia and hand her a legal paper, just as she’s about to go on stage… And we thought, ah, fuck it.”

19. The “America: What Time Is Love” video saw the band working with a Viking Society to ensure a certain credibility in the longboat scenes filmed at Pinewood Studios, England. “They were committed beard growers,” Drummond reflected.

20. Drummond’s great-great uncle Reverend Oliver Tomkins was a missionary in British New Guinea who was killed and eaten by the locals. Eye-witness reports from the 1901 incident Tomkins’ ship was visited by “natives who appeared to be in a dangerous mood” just prior to his death.

21. “Flush with cash” from their “Doctorin’ The Tardis” hit in the late ‘80s, Cauty and Drummond planned to hire “a massive helicopter” and set Stonehenge’s fallen stones back in order, “mending the Henge, get it working again.” Drummond reports in his book 45 they couldn’t convince any chopper pilots to work with them on the project, since the airspace was military.

Help War Child
Help. 

22. Cauty and Drummond returned to the music industry momentarily in September 1995 as the One World Orchestra to appear on an album alongside Radiohead, Paul McCartney, Blur and Oasis. As part of the Help album, recorded in a single day for the War Child charity, the former KLF duo submitted the song "The Magnificent" featuring a sample of The Magnificent Seven theme. They’d initially hoped to collaborate with former Take That member Robbie Williams, but he was unavailable (he was on holiday in Turkey with his mum).

23. Despite her KLF collaboration “Justified & Ancient” being a 1992 UK Christmas number two (held from the top spot by Queen after the death of Freddie Mercury), Tammy Wynette actually had her eye on working with another British electronic duo. A year or two earlier, the Pet Shop Boys had received a letter from Tammy Wynette saying she was a big fan and wanted to record with them. As they had already collaborated with Dusty Springfield and Liza Minnelli in the late ‘80s and didn’t want to become a cliche, PSB's Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant passed up the offer. “Anyway, The KLF did a fantastic record with her,” Tennant later admitted. Drummond suggested he was “starstruck like I’d never been before” when he flew to Tennessee to record Wynette’s vocals. She would send him a Christmas card every year up until her death in 1998.

Want more? You don't have to look hard to find a stack of additional fascinating facts online about The KLF, with Cauty and Drummond also popping up in the I Like Your Old Stuff story Fake Artists, Real Hits here.

Listen to The KLF’s Solid State Logik 1 compilation on Spotify here:

Listen to The KLF’s Solid State Logik 1 on Apple Music here:

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