If you have been following our Twitter page – which you definitely should because we are pretty awesome – you will certainly have heard about How To Burn A Million Quid, a 6-part radio podcast which was broadcast by BBC Radio 4 earlier this month. Over the course of three hours the comedy drama retells the history of the creative partnership of Bill and Jimmy, from the first days of The JAMs to the K Foundation’s titular and infamous burning act.
Being featured on such a prominent outlet it’s not exactly surprising that the podcast garnered some coverage in the national press, and whenever people write about The JAMs or The KLF they are bound to get some things wrong, either because some of the collective ‘facts’ from an era before constant social media coverage are blurry at best, or they just don’t really care about the subject at hand.
However, one such short piece about the podcast described how Bill Drummond had been the main driving force behind the band with Jimmy Cauty as a mere sidekick. This of course could not have been further from the truth, and the frustration about how Jimmy’s role has been played down by the author of said piece even prompted Bill to issue the following statement via the Penkiln Burn newsletter.
You are either in The JAMs or you are not in The JAMs.
In an English national newspaper in January 2019, there was a short piece about a podcast called How To Burn A Million Quid. It would have been written by a journalist just trying to get a job done.
A job that they might not have been thinking that much about.
A job that needed a sprinkling of adjectives etc to spice it up.
In this short piece Jimmy Cauty, my colleague of some thirty years and counting, was passingly defined as a sidekick. I don’t think I have ever known someone to be less of a sidekick than Jimmy Cauty. But even more important than that – The JAMs don’t do sidekicks.
The media often make assumptions about the roles of those working in creative partnerships. This is often done for the sake of the story that is being told. And we all want our stories to be simply understood. We want to know who the baddy is and who the goody is from the moment the film starts etc…
Over those thirty years and counting that Jimmy Cauty and I have been working together most of the memorable things that we have done as The JAMs started as a passing suggestion by Jimmy Cauty. This is a list of some of those suggestions:
- Including ABBA’s Dancing Queen on the album 1987 – What The Fuck’s Going On?
- Using the Doctor Who theme in a pop song and combining it with the glitter beat
- Creating The KLF crop circle in Wiltshire
- Using the cash from Doctorin’ The Tardis to make a road movie
- Creating a KLF wicker man on the isle of Jura
- Performing a metal version of 3AM and using a machine gun at the Brits
- Deleting the KLF catalogue
- Burying the Brit award at Stonehenge
- The 1994 K Foundation award for worst artist
- Burning the money
But the narrative that seems to keep coming up time and time again, is that Bill Drummond comes up with the unrealistic ideas and Jimmy Cauty has to use practical skills to make them a reality. Or that it is me that comes up with the words and Jimmy Cauty comes up with the tunes.
When I got my first guitar at the age of 15, and after I had done the Bert Weedon Play in a Daybook, I bought the Bob Dylan Song Book and learnt the chord structure of every song in it. And from there I went to learn the chord structures of every hit that Goffin & King had ever written. And it is that knowledge I used in the basic structures of almost all of The KLF tracks. Whereas when Jimmy Cauty got his first guitar he learnt every riff that Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page had ever played. And it was with that understanding and knowledge he was able to create the riffs in almost all of The KLF tracks.
In any creative partnership there is no simple black and white. The sum is always greater than the parts.
Neither of us could have ever done it with anyone else.
I hoped I would never have to talk about The KLF again in my life, let alone find myself writing about it, but that line in that newspaper has prompted this outburst.
The JAMs don’t do sidekicks.
Bill Drummond 30 January 2019
We probably couldn’t agree more.