Apparently the KLF disliked the constant attention they got from the dance and pop music worlds: in the form of requests for PA’s, remixes etc., and the constant questions they got asked. Indeed they even refer to the ‘four handmaidens of evil: WHO WHAT WHERE and WHY’. So as Drummond states in info sheet 13 they decided to hold the Rites of Mu to make “the questions we get asked and are unable to answer” redundant. Of course other reasons for the Rites are more probable: they wanted to hold a good party, they would get a lot of press coverage, and it would increase their enigma.
Whatever the reason then, for the 1991 Summer Solstice, The KLF entertained a selection of music industry figures, journalists, etc. on Isle Of Jura in an event known as the Rites of Mu. As they travelled to Jura on Friday 21st June, each guest was given a copy of the following statement:
THE RITES OF MU.
SINCE THAT FATEFUL DAY WHEN MAN LEFT BY THE EASTERN GATE, FRUIT STILL FRESH IN HIS BELLY, THOSE FOUR BEAUTIFUL HANDMAIDENS OF LUCIFER _WHY_, _WHAT_, _WHERE_ AND _WHEN_ HAVE LONG TEMPTED BUT NEVER QUENCHED HIS DISASTROUS THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE. THE KLF HAVE INVITED YOU TO JOIN THEM IN CELEBRATING THE RITES OF MU THIS SUMMER SOLSTICE, DURING WHICH THE FALL OF MANKIND MAY BE REVERSED, RETURNING HIM TO THE GARDEN WHERE THE REST OF CREATION WAITS.
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL, YET MOST EVIL, OF THE FOUR HANDMAIDENS IS_WHY_. SHE EVEN NOW MAY BE TEMPTING YOU TO ASK QUESTIONS, WHEN ANSWERS ARE NOT ONLY NOT NEEDED BUT COULD NEVER BE GIVEN. SINCE CELEBRATING THE RITES OF MU FOUR SEASONS PAST, THE KLF’S MOMENT HAS COME; SHIMMERING AND DAZZLING LIKE THE HAUNTING BEAUTY OF AURORA’S RACE, IT IS DESTINED ONLY TO FADE. WHILE THE MOMENT LASTS THEIR STADIUM HOUSE TRILOGY REVERBERATES AROUND THE GLOBE, THE REQUESTS FOR LIVE SHOWS, INTERVIEWS, TV APPEARANCES, REMIXES, PROMOTIONAL TOURS AND COMMERCIAL ENDORSEMENTS HAVE SPEWED FORTH RELENTLESSLY FROM THEIR FAX MACHINE.
_WHY_, _WHAT_, _WHERE_ AND _WHEN_ HAVE BEEN VERY BUSY; THEIR SEDUCTION TECHNIQUES NEAR-PERFECT. THE KLF, WITH REGULAR FEET OF CLAY, HAVE WEAKENED AT TIMES AND HAVE PRETENDED TO ANSWER THE UNANSWERABLE. THEY TOO HAVE TRIED TO UNDERSTAND INSTEAD OF ACCEPTING THE UNFOCUSABLE, BEAUTIFUL TRUTH OF THE MYSTERY THAT LIES AT THE HEART OF POP’S PASSING MOMENTS.
AS WELL AS ASKING YOU TO ACCEPT THE CONTRADICTIONS OF THE ABOVE WE HOPE THAT YOU WILL GIVE YOURSELF FULLY TO THESE THREE DAYS, ACCEPTING WHATEVER THE ELEMENTS TIP OUR WAY; WHATEVER MILD PHYSICAL STRAINS MAY BE PLACED UPON OUR BODIES AND SAVOUR THE UNDERVALUED QUALITIES OF WAITING, AND MAYBE AFTER IT IS ALL OVER WE WILL UNDERSTAND THAT THERE IS FAR LESS TO UNDERSTAND THAN WE EVER KNEW.
On the first day, the arriving guest were welcomed by Drummond, decked out in full military garb. Acting as a passport control officer, he checked every guest’s passport and stamped them with a pyramid blaster stamp. That evening after dinner, yellow hooded robes emblazoned with the very same logo were handed out and gamely donned by the journalists, who were marched down a muddy road to the beach where a film crew was waiting. Drummond, now wearing a white hooded robe and a fake rhino’s horn protruding from his forehead, lead the group in chants – a low, “om”-like mu and loud, fist-thrusting mu mus – all at the base of a forty-foot wicker man that had been erected at water’s edge. Right at the summer solstice at 10:21 pm, the wicker man was torched, with cameras recording its burning.
All of a sudden you saw the wicker man blow up, which transfixed you. And the next thing you knew bottles of champagne were being popped and it was party weekend.
Not much was happening on the second day beyond the already proposed savouring, with the entourage playing and reposing on the beach, clueless of what was coming. Eventually they got transported to the hillier terrain up-island, and the late afternoon was again spent enrobed before a film crew, wordlessly marching behind Drummond against a backdrop of alpine scenery. In the evening, Bill and Jimmy held a rave on the beach, complete with an arena-size sound system, strobe lights and a bonfire blazing until dawn.
The later video obviously streamlines these two days into a coherent, yet not necessarily more comprehensible story: the guests are welcomed from the ferry by Mu passport control officer Drummond in peaked cap and shades, who checks their passports and stamps them with a pyramid blaster stamp. They then allow themselves to be dressed in yellow ceremonial robes, and led in a chanting procession by a white robed high priest of Mu with Horned God headpiece, over the moors to a bonfire beside a huge wicker man, arms raised with weapons poised, head looking up to the sky.
The four Angels of Mu, in white dresses, with flower head-bands, rise from the sea, and join the celebrants. The high priest addresses the crowd in ‘a tongue that no longer exists, at least not in this world’. As the ceremony reaches its climax at midnight on the longest day the priest encourages the guests to direct their psychic energy towards the wicker man, chanting ‘Burn Burn Burn’, and the idol bursts into flames. By sacrificing the wicker idol, somehow The KLF have reversed the fall of mankind.
On the third day, the group was ferried to the nearby island of Islay before boarding a chartered plane to Liverpool. Several hours later, on the bus ride to downtown Liverpool, Drummond cheerfully announced to the unexpecting journalists that they would be performing a KLF song in several hours before a sold-out crowd of 2,000 at the Liverpool Festival Of Comedy. To prepare them for their big moment, Drummond – along with Black Steel – then taught them the first two verses of Justified And Ancient. Donning their robes again, the journalists were filed onstage during the interval at Emo Phillips’s Liverpool Royal Court show, being introduced as “the Lost Children of Mu” before warbling the song in off-key acappella.
Instead of granting interviews we turned the tables and had journalists onstage giving a concert, to give them an opportunity to see what it feels like from the other side.
At intermission, Bill and Jimmy handed out ice creams from an ice-cream van which they had borrowed.
We just got the idea for the video project a week ago; we still don’t know what we’re going to do with it. The party we threw last night, we didn’t know until six o’clock where we were going to hold it. The ice cream truck we used onstage, we didn’t know until an hour or so before the show whether or not we had that lined up.
The total cost of the weekend was supposed to be around 70,000£, though The KLF would not quite explain why they had decided to spent such an amount on their all-weekender.
‘The Rites of Mu’ was something Bill and Jimmy admitted had no real purpose other than to do it. ‘Not everything is a publicity stunt,’ said Billl at one point.
We have nothing to say about ourselves. Nothing that”s been printed has ever really explained anything about us better than our work did anyway. The past three days have said more about me and Jimmy than anything we could say in an interview.
I wasn’t prepared to turn up at Glasgow airport with my passport, heading for God knows where. I’m just not one for orchestrated, enforced participation, so I missed out on something quite amazing. I consoled myself that staying at home was better than freaking out on a barren island.
You could put quotation marks around this whole story and call it definitive. As far as The KLF is concerned, it’s as definitive as anyone’s ever got. In interviews, rock papers always ask things like how me and Jimmy got together; we felt what we were doing that weekend was getting to the heart of things like an interview nevercould. The way we feel now is that we never want to sit down and do an interview again.
As with all The KLF’s public appearances, the event was filmed by Bill Butt and edited for promotional use. However, a widespread release fell victim to the moratorium that came into effect when The KLF announced their departure from the music business. While the audio got found its way onto the Waiting For The Rights Of Mu [sic] bootleg it wasn’t until 2021 that the full version narrated by Martin Sheen eventually got uploaded to YouTube as part of The KLF’s embracement of modern streaming services.
To be honest, I was a bit pissed off when I was told about the embargo. We had just premiered Rites Of Mu at the National Film Theatre, to good reviews, and it was about to go into distribution. Lots of people had done me massive favours to finish the film including Martin Sheen for the voiceover, many talented feature film technicians, and film companies such as Pinewood/Panavison, Kodak, Technicolour, my agent even let me use her offices at Shepperton Studios as a cutting room. Of course it’s possible that the film was/is a bit indulgent and a bit shit, so I have mixed feelings, I guess I would like people to be able to see the film but I also think I quite like the past remaining in the the past.
A promo video of 5×2 min episodes was circulated in July 91. The soundtrack music is largely dark, sinister, and evil, often punctuated by sudden outbursts of the industrial ‘woooooo!’ sound from It’s Grim Up North. A narration by Scott Piering (their record plugger) proved that he couldn’t act. Each episode begins with the closing scene of the previous.
Part I – The Bonker (the passports to sunset)
Part II – The Construction (sunset to procession)
Part III – The Initiation (procession to Angels of Mu)
Part IV – The Offering (Angels to High Priest chanting)
Part V – The Burning (High Priest to burning)
The film ends intriguingly with ‘America 1992 – the celebration continues’. It unclear whether they intend to have a Rites Of Mu in the US in 1992, or this was just a reference to the America promotional campaign.
A new 1×7 min version appeared on ‘The Work’ promo video at the end of 1991, with the opening credits removed from each episode. There were rumours that it was to be screened on Channel 4 in the UK, or on MTV Europe, at some point that winter, but it wasn’t screened until after the retiral, on the shortest day 1992, on MTV Europe, with a re-recorded soundtrack and new narration as the 1×7 min version. On the 26th of August 94 another (new?) version was shown at the NME film season in a triple bill with the Beatles ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ and Echo and the Bunnymen’s ‘Shine So Hard’ – perhaps this version makes more of the mystery tour aspect. It also features as a bonus track on the ‘Work’ DVD.
5 thoughts on “The Rites Of Mu”
I was part of this incredible journey to the Isle of Jura. It was amazing and still remains one of the most amazing days I’ve ever lived ever.
A complete Master of the Rites of Mu just found its way unto Youtube just yesterday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4rdmdg2jHY
It was on here for like, a few years: https://theritesofmu.wixsite.com/klf-kommunications/chapter-2
Just watched this for the first time…very strange but good and the voiceover guy actually sounds like Charlie sheen to me ..even tho I have just read that it is the record plugged guy.
That would have been on the 23rd.