What is a ’99’?

In the UK, a Flake 99, (or often just a ’99) is a wafer cone with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a piece of Cadbury’s Flake. Any ice cream van will know what you mean if you ask for a ’99.

A ’99’ ice cream

The first KLF ice cream connection took place at the Liverpool Festival of comedy when they handed out 99’s from an ice cream van they’d borrowed from it’s owner outside Trancentral. Then came Justified and Ancient with its ice cream references in the lyrics, an ice cream van on the cover, a catalogue number of KLF 099, and promo’s labelled CHOCICE 1 to 3. When they appeared on TOTP Drummond and Cauty were dressed in huge latex 99 costumes designed by Luck and Flaw of the ‘Spitting Image’ TV programme. In promotional campaigns in the US, Arista organised ice cream van stunts too. The KLF used to “pop up” unexpectedly in places, blasting tunes and passing out ice cream, from their ice cream. During an intermission at one of Emo Phillip’s concerts, they drove onstage, blastin’ and passin’ which you could describe as being very typical of the “strange” behaviour of the KLF.

All this lead some fans to wonder if there was a connection to The Ice Cream Men from ‘Rudy Rucker’s cyberpunk novels ‘Software’ & ‘Wetware’. It would seem not as “The Ice Cream Man was a android controlled by one of the main computers on the moon, who was advancing the cause of one of the two factions in a revolution between the little robots and the big robots that was ongoing on the moon. It was also to allow the ‘personalities’ that had been read (by the aforementioned brain-eating) into the computer to operate as if they still had human bodies. (The brain eating took all of the chemically- encoded memories into a processor so that the computer could integrate the personality.) Anyway, the ice-cream man’s van was really a refrigerator for the robot brain that it carried around, I seem to remember. Since the novel took place in the Orlando-Cocoa Beach-Daytona Beach area of Florida, USA and no-one has reported that Bill and Jimmy acted a bit ‘mechanical’ on meeting them, I don’t see that there’s much connection beyond the coincidental. However, they were written back in the late 80’s, so there is a slight possibility of it being influential, but it just doesn’t seem likely to me.”

However, strangely, Info sheet 13 has a list of “questions that we get asked and are unable to answer. So we decided to hold “The Rites Of Mu” to celebrate this year’s summer solstice and in doing so hopefully make the above questions redundant.” One of the questions was ‘Are you the ice cream men?’ But the KLF’s ice cream activities came just after the ‘Rites Of Mu’, where they performed in Liverpool using an ice-cream van they had borrowed from a man in the street outside Trancentral. But why did someone ask if they were the ice cream men, before they had done any ice cream related activity?

(ice cream cone image by distillated / Flickr / Wikicommons / CC BY-SA 2.0)

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