In November 1992, Drummond and friend Mark Manning (also known as failed rock star Zodiac Mindwarp, furthermore known as Zed or Z) decided to save the world by planting a photo of Elvis at the North Pole, with the idea that his soul would seep down across the world on the ley lines and bring about world peace. The two were also hoping to find Baby Jesus within themselves. So they and Gimpo to drive to the North Pole. They got all the way up to Lapland, almost freezing to death, before realising that the road runs out and the unfrozen Arctic Sea starts. However they did meet the keeper of the ‘most northerly lighthouse in the world’ so they presented the photo to him and then came home.
Drummond and Manning decided to write a book about their trip called initially ‘Bill and Zed’s Excellent Adventure’ or ‘The Lighthouse At The Top Of The World’. They decided that it would be a limited edition of one, hand-transcribed and illustrated by them (they were both artists after all) and bound in 18th century reindeer leather which had been recovered from a shipwreck (!!) and which Drummond bought from an auction for some outrageous price. The idea being that before the invention of the printing press books were so rare and special that an interested reader would make a pilgrimage across Europe to see a book. In this age of information technology, they wanted to re-capture some of that magic. So the book was to be displayed in the specially purchased Curfew Tower, which was built as a prison for 19th century dissidents, in Cushendall on the East coast of Northern Ireland. Unfortunately they hadn’t considered just how long it would take to hand-write and illustrate, and the project was put on hold. Then, in October 1996, it was somewhat surprisingly published in paperback by Penguin and is now widely available as ‘Bad Wisdom’.
The style of the book somewhat reflects that of Hunter S. Thompson (author of ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’). The sleeve reviews are by Jarvis Cocker from Pulp: “The truth, no matter how uncomfortable, cannot help but be beautiful – this is a very beautiful book” and subversive writer/artist Stewart Home: “This is a brilliant anti-novel with a pedigree running from Swift and de Sade to Dada and Burroughs. Blunt, shocking, uncomfortable. A future underground classic.”
There is no dedication, and it all begins on Monday 2 November 1992 the day Bill’n’Z’n’Gimpo set off for Helsinki. The text alternates between Drummond and Manning. Drummond just recounts the detail of the events, presumably truthfully, and describes people in his own often wonderful way. He also writes relfectively about life, his past (and the KLF and it’s demise) and various things that irk him about the world, eg. MTV. In the meantime Manning is writing wild Hunter S Thompson fiction, wild horrific trips of fancy based around the real life characters, but presumably with some basis in truth, like he’s tripping all the time and he sees everything exaggerated. The interplay between the two accounts is very interesting and works very well most of the time. You start to recognise the events or objects or people in real life (i.e. Bill’s account) that Z bases his fantasy’s around. Bill even writes about Z writing which sheds further light … one page he’s bored and not writing anything … the next he’s scribbling away furiously in the back of the car chuckling demonically … the next he’s acting out the characters he’s created, entertaining Gimpo and Bill.
To publicise the book Bill and Mark (and ‘tour manager-cum-support act’ Chris Brook; Gimpo also went along, but played no part in the actual performances) undertook a series of public performances (and book signings) initially starting off with a date in New York then at various venues in towns and cities across the UK. From the event flyer:
“This performance is adapted form the novel Bad Wisdom which is based on Drummond and Manning’s journey to the North Pole in the winter of 1992. The performance reflects the double narrative of the book with Manning and Drummond relating their separate but intertwining versions of the story.”
They react a rehearsed performance, with Zed standing behind an ornate brass lectern which Bill picked up from a church salvage yard for 300 quid, and Bill using “Stig of the Dump’s bird table – a crazed scaffold of fence posts and sycamore stumps”.
Mark Radcliffe’s (late) late-night show on Radio One featured Bill and Mark reading from their book, and sound-clips of these quotes can be found as hidden tracks on ‘Lost Sounds Of Mu 2’.
They also made an appearance on MTV’s Hanging Out, which is pretty surprising considering Bill’s anti-MTV stance in the book. This may be related to the following anecdote from one well-connected list member: “Okay. This is gospel – it came from a friend who works there and saw it happen. A guy who works in transmission at MTV in London found a black bag in the street last week. He took it to work, and from the contents (which I only know to include several sheafs of A4 and six copies of Bad Wisdom) deduced that the bag belonged to none other than…Bill Drummond! So a contact number was found, and Bill had to turn up at MTV to reclaim the bag!!!! According to my friend, he was scowling something horrid, and was rather terse with whoever it was he talked to (so same as ever there then!).”
In May 1996 Bill and Mark went to the Congo to write the next chapter in the search for the Lost Chord. Bill said the next chapter will probably be out around 1998, but it took them seven more years to get their second book finished and published. Wild Highway got released in August 2005, incorporating the same writing style as Bad Wisdom before.
During an online interview session with The Guardian Bill told that a third book was planned to be set in South America, while at other occasions the book was meant to take them to the moon. However, the third journey is yet to happen.