William E. Drummond was born in 1953 and grew up in Galloway and Corby in the Borders in Scotland. Prior to the formation of the JAMS, the teenage Drummond ran away to sea to become a fisherman off the North East coast of Scotland, which he described as “my youth years lost afloat”. And he developed interests in bird-watching, nature walks and the ins-and-outs of livestock farming before going to Liverpool to study art. There he helped to put on a stage production of the cult book Illuminatus! with Ken Campbell’s Science Fiction Theatre (and he maintained an interest in amateur dramatics throughout the 80’s), before becoming involved with the punk scene and forming Liverpool punk band ‘Big In Japan’ with Holly (‘Frankie Goes To Hollywood’) Johnson, and Ian (‘Lightning Seeds’, now top producer) Broudie, on the 5th of May 1977, a date which he would later refer to as “entering the music industry”. Later Budgie (‘Siouxsie and the Banshees’) and Jayne (‘Pink Industry’) Casey, joined the group, which released a couple of singles in its year-long life.
Bill then formed Zoo Records in 1978 with Dave (‘Food Records’) Balfe to release an acrimonious posthumous ‘Big In Japan’ EP and then records by seminal UK independent bands ‘Echo and The Bunnymen’ and ‘The Teardrop Explodes’ whom he also managed. Balfe and Drummond were also the Zoo in-house production team ‘The Chameleons’ and the band ‘Lori and the Chameleons’. Both the Bunnymen and the Teardrops signed publishing deals through Zoo with WEA, and Drummond returned this gesture by re-mortgaging his house to fund a Bunnymen tour, and on making his money back, doing it again to pay for the recording of the first Teardrops LP.
Many of the people who would later work with the KLF worked with Zoo in these days: Mick Houghton was publicist for the Teardrops, and Bill Butt directed the Teardrops videos. Drummond later sent the Bunnymen on a tour of bizarre and apparently random sites, including the Northern Isles. “It’s not random,” said Drummond, speaking as the Bunnymen’s manager. “If you look at a map of the world, the whole tour’s in the shape of a rabbit’s ears.” As the Teardrops manager, Bill once told Julian Cope to commit suicide in order to boost record sales. Julian Cope’s autobiography, ‘Head On’ is a good source for more info on the late 70’s/early 80’s Liverpool scene and all the players therein, including some great anecdotes.
After an acrimonious parting with both bands, he joined WEA Records as a A&R person, working with Strawberry Switchblade, Zodiac Mindwarp And The Love Reaction, The Proclaimers and Brilliant who featured ex-Killing Joke member (and now top producer) Martin ‘Youth’ Glover and ex-artist Jimmy Cauty and were produced by Stock-Aitken-Waterman.
When Brilliant failed to be a hit with the British public, Drummond retired from WEA in 1986 when he was aged 33 and a third, writing a typically Drummond-esque retirement note. He recorded his solo LP The Man for Creation Records as a cathartic farewell gesture to the music industry in 1986. This features the hilarious ‘Julian Cope Is Dead’ which is Drummond’s answer to the track ‘Bill Drummond Said’ which appears on Julian Cope’s solo LP ‘Fried’. (This features Cope quoting what he must have seen as typical Drummond quotes, such as “Give me one good reason why this couldn’t wait…”. ‘Fried’ was released on Island Records in about 1985.) Many future KLF collaborators also helped with the recording and production of this album. When Drummond was given money by Creation to film a video, and record a b-side for the ‘King Of Joy’ he used it to start a new project: ‘The Managers Speech’ was an ambient video filmed by Bill Butt, with Drummond dressed as a street sweeper ambling up a country lane talking of the music industry and telling how if you sent him 100 pounds he would give new bands important advice on how to be successful. An extract of this featured on the cover tape of the May 1992 issue of Select magazine.
His self-imposed retiral from the music industry only lasted six months until on the 1st of January 1987 he decided to form the JAMs. In a Radio 1 ‘Story Of Pop’ documentary interview, Bill said: “It was New Year’s Day, um, the first day of 1987. I was at home with my parents, I was going for a walk in the morning, it was, like, bright blue sky, and I thought “I’m going to make a hip-hop record. Who can I make a hip-hop record with?”. I wasn’t brave enough to go and do it myself, cos’, although I can play the guitar, and I can knock out a few things on the piano, I knew nothing, personally, about the technology. And, I thought, I knew Jimi, I knew he was a like spirit, we share similar tastes and backgrounds in music and things. So I phoned him up that day and said “Let’s form a band called The Justified Ancients of Mu-Mu.”. And he knew exactly, to coin a phrase, “Where I was coming from”. And within a week we had recorded our first single which was called “All You Need Is Love”.
James (or Jimmy or Jimi) Cauty was born in Devon in 1956 and not much is known about him until, as a 17-year old artist he painted a quite famous Lord of the Rings poster for Athena. He has continued painting over the years, with his early reputation being “London artist, bohemian”. His later paintings include various posters and postcards, which also got released on Athena, as well as a record cover for the audio book ‘The King Of Elfland’s Daughter’ (narrated by Christopher Lee and featuring later KLF vocalist P.P. Arnold).
In 1981/2 he was in a band called Angels One 5 along with his later wife Cressida Bowyer. He next crops up as a guitarist with Brilliant in the mid-80’s with Youth. Youth said he “cut the original ten (or so) members of the band down to just him, June (Montana) and Jimmy…” Brilliant sign for WEA where Jimmy meets Bill. They collaborate on the JAMs early work and Jimmy also DJ’s in the Chill Out room at Paul Oakenfold’s London club, Heaven, with Alex Paterson with whom he forms The Orb. After releasing a handful of singles, he then leaves The Orb and goes to work with Bill full-time.
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I saw big in japan play an open air , free gig in Liverpool in 1978. There was meant to be a bloke jumping into a skip full of custard at the end. I cant seem to find any information about it on the internet though.