The most frequently asked questions regarding The KLF. This is where you should start reading about the work of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty to explore the History of the JAMS.
From when they first paired up in 1987, to when the KLF split in 1992 (and even beyond), Drummond and Cauty progressed through many varying musical styles in their commercial releases.
There are never ending discussions about how good or bad a certain phase of their history was. You should be aware that Drummond and Cauty had very short attention spans and changed musical direction more often than other bands changed their underwear. You don’t have to like everything they’ve done, but have an open mind and remember the context of the time they produced those songs.
Here’s a short guide to the various incarnations:
1987-1988 as The JAMs
Punk ethic, political Scottish rap, blatant cut-n-paste sampling, primitive hip-hop, but they gradually got better at it with their second LP. Huge influence on Pop Will Eat Itself.
1987-1989 as Disco 2000
Started as a Cauty solo project. Cheesy pop. Resembled later JAMs singles like Burn The Bastards, while influencing the later following pre-Stadium House KLF records.
1988 as The Timelords
An exercise in nauseating novelty, charting a number one house record Doctorin’ the Tardis and explaining how they did it in The Manual. Huge influence on Edelweiss who in fact got a Number One hit by following the Golden Rules.
1988-1990 as The KLF
Twin styles of acid trance house and ambient soundscapes, very difficult to find the records, but check out the Chill Out album, which is still in print in the USA. The rave stuff was an influence on Black Box, and other Italians, while the ambient stuff practically started the whole 90’s ambient scene along with The Orb.
They also recorded various songs for their soundtrack of the “White Room” movie but never released them in their original form. Trying to mimic the style of the Pet Shop Boys around that time with their single Kylie Said To Jason.
1990-1992 as The KLF
Their early singles and huge parts of the White Room soundtrack were remixed and re-remixed and re-re-re-remixed into the Stadium House pop permutations you have probably heard on the radio. Influence on Blue Pearl, Utah Saints, Nomad etc.
1990-1991 as The JAMS
While gaining success with their KLF releases, they teamed up once more as the JAMS and released a remixed version of their previous promo It’s Grim Up North, a first glimpse of the always-scheduled-and-delayed Black Room album. Dark electronic.
1992 as The KLF
They started working on thrash guitar heavy-metal techno dance together with Extreme Noise Terror but scrapped most of the sessions. Could this have been yet another new musical style? Possible influence on God Machine and Kerosene (who both did a KLF cover).
1993-1995 as K Foundation
Like all good post-modernists they are branching out into interdisciplinary arts, releasing their only single K Cera Cera, a limited release in Israel/Palestine to celebrate the peace accord. A mix of orchestral sound and Russian choir.
1995 as One World Orchestra
They sneaked out of retirement for one day to record a hastily constructed orchestral/drum’n’bass track for the much hyped “Help! (Artists for War Child)” LP.
1997 as 2K
Celebrating the 10th birthday of The JAMS, they released Fuck The Millennium as a statement against the more and more growing Y2K frenzy and, according to Drummond, “to celebrate the crapness of comebacks”. Somewhere between early 90’s acid-pop, Chemical Brothers-style big beat and a 40-piece brass band.
2017 as The JAMs
The KLF ‘retired from the music industry’ on the 5th of May 1992, deleted their entire back catalogue, and burned all remaining merchandise to prove that this action was serious and not a stunt to sell more records. In an ad taken out in the UK music press they stated that for ‘the foreseeable future there will be no further record releases from … any past, present & future name attached to our activities’. Quite how long the foreseeable future represents depends on your own optimism/pessimism. They also said that ‘if we meet further along be prepared…our disguise may be complete’.
They did return to public attention as The K Foundation, in a series of strange press ad’s in summer 1993, but as the typeset, the poetic language and pyramid logo were familiar, and there was an excess of letter K’s the disguise was certainly not complete. They have commercially released one single since then, the K Foundation’s interstellar anthem K Sera Sera (War Is Over If You Want It), which is ‘Available Nowhere…No Formats’ until world peace has been established, although it has been played at major public gatherings including music festivals, and a limited release was arranged in Israel/Palestine to honour the limited peace that the signing of the Rabin/Arafat deal represented. Copies of this single now change hands for very large sums of money.
In September 1995 they recorded a track called The Magnificent for the HELP album under the name One World Orchestra. They agreed to make this track, (for free), as it was for a non-profit-making charity record, and Bill considered it worth doing.
In September 1997 they returned for a brief moment as 2K, releasing the single Fuck The Millennium as well as doing a live performance at the Barbican Centre, London. There is a whole chapter in Bill Drummond’s book 45 dedicated to the How’s And Why’s of this short-lived episode.
In 2021 parts of the JAMs/KLF’s back catalogue was eventually made officially available through digital streaming platforms, and while those releases did not contain any completely new recordings some of the contents had been edited and updated.