Review – Who Killed the KLF?

Review – Who Killed the KLF?

Genre: Documentary

Original Language: English

Director: Chris Atkins

Producer: Nicky Bentham

Studio: Neon Films

Runtime: 1h 28m

Score: Five Stars!


From their punk rock origins in 1970s Liverpool, the dynamic duo of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty shot to the top of the pop charts as one of electronic dance music’s progenitors, The KLF. Less a music group than an artistic collaboration that used music to spread chaos, their success was massive with hits like “3 AM Eternal” selling millions of copies, but it was all a big accident — one they neither foresaw nor desired. Then, just as they were at the pinnacle of their success, they disappeared and took the music with them. Not only did The KLF come to an end, but they also deleted all of their music from catalogues, making it impossible to produce CDs or licenses for streaming, forgoing millions of dollars in revenue in the process.

Director Chris Atkins uses audio recordings of Drummond and Cauty, combined with archive, animation and reconstruction to tell their story, and it’s crazier and more chaotic than anyone could’ve possibly understood at the time. Science-fiction, new age religion, abstract art, ABBA, Doctor Who, Tammy Wynette, and some big-ass beats come together to finally answer the question, WHO KILLED THE KLF?

They’re Justified, and they’re Ancient, And they drive an Ice Cream Van

In 1991, I worked in Centre 1, the biggest tax office in Scotland and I spent six hellish months archiving thousands of old tax records. As a 19-year-old, specky, spotty kid I was shy and spent most of the time with a crappy Walkman style portable tape player. Centre 1 was a megalith with 18 floors of millions of paper tax records all stored on sight and archived every few years to make space. The only thing to keep me going was a tape copy that a fellow Revenue Assistant gave me for the KLF Album: The White Room.

1991 was the height of dance and stadium-style pop and the undisputed gods of this music were messers Drummond and Caulty. From banging hits like 3 AM Eternal to slow ones like Build A Fire my little mind was blown and I spent the next few months trying to find out more about this band. The songs had great melodies but the constant piss-take of songs that disappear up their own arseholes was such a delight. At the time I remember reading the story of the 1987 underground single “Whitney joins The JAMS” and I looked around markets and bootleg shops to find a copy. It was a manic, chaotic glorious mess. Drummond’s pleading for “Mission Impossible they said” starts the track and after 2 mins of pleading the triumphant “I wanna dance with somebody!” blasts out.

At the time the rumour was they had to burn all the copies after the Copyright and Musical Rights caught up and I have always wondered if this brush with fire pushed them to later burn their back catalogue and the infamous £1 million in used notes?

Atkins helps fill in most of the blanks for those who do not already have an obsession with the duo and it was a delight to see the early Liverpool scenes where Drummond was drinking with many of the future pop stars of the 1980s.

The KLF and its other manifestations were always about sticking the finger at the establishment like Stock, Aitken and Waterman who pumped out puerile hits in the late 1980s. Aitken’s focus on Drummond shows a disillusioned man wanting to pull back the curtain of pop and show the world how to cheat the system.

The success of songs like Edelweiss to great effect. I still think the charts are full of songs following Drummonds’s “How To Get A Number One The Easy Way”

This is what KLF is about. Also known as the Justified Ancients of Mu-Mu. Furthermore known as the JAMS…

The question within the title of the document is actually self-evident to all The KLF committed cultural suicide at the 1992 BRIT awards when Drummond both provided a sacrificial sheep as well as attacking the audience with a machine gun filled with Blanks.

Atkins captures the sadness at Drummond and Cauty becoming the thing they always hated big enough that Tammy Wynette joined their biggest hit as well as other stars begging to be involved.

Overall Thoughts

For anybody looking for a good music documentary to get pissed to this is the perfect Friday Night treat. It’s almost too short and I’m sure that Drummond and Cauty must be laughing about the threats about the use of unauthorised material in the film. Watch this, dig out your old vinyl 12-inch singles, turn the volume up to 11 and kick out the JAMS motherfuckers!

If you enjoyed our review, look out for Who Killed the KLF? at your local Cinema or Rent it Online

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Michael Lennox

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T'was a cold dark night in East Kilbride... and below the roundabouts, something old and ancient began to shudder awake. The world would rue the day that it gave the Green Jaguar comics to read!

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