The ABBA Incident

On their first LP, 1987: What The Fuck Is Going On? the stand out track is The Queen And I – a derogatory, political rap about the state of democracy in the UK, which samples large parts of ABBA’s Dancing Queen, (i.e. the whole chorus) and accompanies this with cheeky baby ‘wah wah’ noises. The whole thing is very punky, crude and hilariously funny. And ABBA not surprisingly didn’t like it.

Bill Drummond Being a manager, I obviously knew the copyright laws when we went into the studio.

The Mechanical Copyright Protection Society got in touch with the JAMs and ordered the masters and all copies destroyed, and all copies in the shops recalled.

Letter from the MCPS to Bill Drummond & Jimmy Cauty (26 Aug 1987)

To avoid a court case the JAMs decided to comply with this but first they would try to meet ABBA and convince them of the sincerity of their actions. Of course you could be cynical and say that the trip to Sweden was a publicity exercise pure and simple as they took an NME journalist and photographer along with them in Jimmy’s Galaxy V8 Ford police car.

If we’d made the stance of actually going to Sweden to meet them, it would have looked good for us in court and wouldn’t have cost us as much. It made very sound financial sense to go there. It’s only in the telling of it that it’s come to look like a real scam thing.Bill Drummond (Tennents Live! News, Mar 1991)

In the end the truth probably lies somewhere between the publicity stunt theory and a romantic road trip ideal that the JAMs have with their unthinking ‘lets do it’ attitude.

The Trip To Sweden

So the JAMs and their guests took the ferry to Sweden, drove cross-country to Stockholm where they presented a gold disc “in recognition of sales in excess of zero” to a blonde prostitute outside ABBA’s studio at 3am (!) in the morning. The photographs of this were supposed to convince the world that this was Agnetha, now fallen on hard times. They obviously failed to get a meeting with Benny and Bjorn (if they even tried) and they set off back to England, stopping in a Swedish field to build a fire out of the unsold copies of 1987, a scene which is captured on the cover of Who Killed The JAMs and History Of The JAMs.

As they returned to the JAMs-mobile to drive off an irate Swedish farmer appeared, furious at the heap of burning vinyl giving off acrid black smoke in his field, who proceeded to fire a shotgun at the JAMs-mobile as it drove off. Further down the road the unfortunate car broke down perhaps helped by the shotgun, but luckily (and not so romantically) the JAMs had taken out Automobile Association membership before they left and they got towed home. In Justified And Ancient History Pete Robinson states that on the ferry home they played their only live date for a Toblerone bar, and chucked some more copies of the LP into the sea.

The whole story is told in a great NME article, included on the Shag Times CD gatefold insert. At some point during the JAMs excursion to the land of Stigs they were reported to have run over and killed a moose. There’s even some lyrics about it in one of their songs. However, one list member (Chris Leuty) once wrote to the KLF about this (August 1990), cos’ “…I didn’t quite believe it, and got a reply from Jimi. He said, and I quote: “No it was a giant dog. Write to James Brown c/o NME-he’s got some Polaroid photo’s of the attack.”

Face Ad Aftermath

However, even when facing such an admirable adversary The JAMs were able to find a loophole to somewhat come out on top – as a postscript to all this LP destruction The KLF took out a full-page ad in The Face magazine, offering to sell five remaining unplayed copies for 1,000 pounds each.

We were browsing around this record shop near our studios and came across the five copies of ‘1987’. Now we know that since the MCPS affiar last year, the’ve been selling for between £30 and £75, so we bought all five.

The advert was in The Face because we thought its readers would be familiar with our work and aware of our existence. They might also be rash enough to pay that much, which I don’t think Sounds readers would.

It was a calculated gamble, the advert itself cost about £1,300, so if no one bought them we’d be seriously out of pocket. But fortunately we’ve sold two and had offers on a third.

We’ve found this loophole in the agreement. Although we were ordered to destroy all the remaining copies, we made it perfectly clear to the MCPS that we could’t actually force the shops to send our LPs back. Some actually did, and they were destroyed, so because we bought them in a shop, these LPs don’t come into the agreement and we can do what we like with them and not break any laws.Bill Drummond (Sounds, 16 April 1988)


Advert for the five remaining copies of The JAMs’ “1987” (The Face, Apr 1988)
We sold 3 of the 5 L.P.s we were selling for a $1,000 each, it went some way to paying off our creditors, we gave one away as a prize. We have one left, the price just keeps going up.KLF Info Sheet #2 (6 Jul 1988)

This could be the copy oft seen in the back window of their ice-cream van.

3 thoughts on “The ABBA Incident

  1. I enjoyed reading about the KLF again, does anyone know why they chose the name “the JAMs” from the Illuminati book (I presume) ? Or was it just to piss Paul Weller off?

    Toodle pip

      1. According to Bill he chose the name after re-reading the Illuminatus, though later statements suggest he only skimmed through the first couple of pages.

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