Wednesday, 16 October 2019

The Leader of The Gang


That one scene in Joker where he climbs completely inside his own refrigerator and locks himself inside...?

It’s because he isn’t Done yet.

“A significant upturn in Cauty and Drummond’s financial circumstances occurred in May 1988, when they accidentally produced a hit single. It was called ‘Doctorin’ The TARDIS’ and they released it under the name The Timelords. It was a novelty record. It started with a desire to make a credible dance record based around the theme music of the science fiction series Doctor Who. 

Lovers of electronic music consider this theme to be something of a classic, and the pioneering work of its creators, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, is much admired. The problem was that Cauty couldn’t get a standard 4-4 dance beat to work with it. After some experimentation, he came to the conclusion that the only drumbeat that would fit was the glitter beat. As a result, samples of Gary Glitter’s ‘Rock ’n’ Roll (Part Two)’, plus the odd bit of ‘Blockbuster!’ by Sweet, were added to the mix. 

‘Not until a couple of days into it did we realise how terrible it was,’ Cauty admitted to Richard King. Yet by the time they had added samples of Daleks quoting Harry Enfield’s Loadsamoney character, it was clear that they had a potential hit on their hands. ‘We justified it all by saying to ourselves “We’re celebrating a very British thing here . . . you know”,’ Drummond told BBC Radio 1, ‘something that Timmy Mallett understands.’ 

Having accidentally created a potentially massiveselling novelty record, the question then became how to publicise it. Drummond and Cauty themselves were both in their mid-thirties and neither were natural frontmen for a mainstream pop record. They decided to claim that the record had been made by Cauty’s car. This was a huge American cop car that looked like a beaten-up version of the Blues Brothers’ Bluesmobile. It was, if nothing else, an original idea. 

No car had ever had a hit record before. Drummond and Cauty thought that this gimmick would make a nice gift for the newspapers, handing them an easy little story on a plate. The press did not agree, by and large, finding the idea idiotic and wondering, perhaps for the first time, if Cauty and Drummond were taking the piss. 

Regardless, the single sleeve was printed featuring a photograph of the car, now renamed Ford Timelord, complete with a speech bubble saying, ‘Hi! I’m Ford Timelord. I’m a car, and I’ve made a record.’ The name ‘Ford Timelord’ was an echo of Ford Prefect, a character in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by the Doctor Who script editor Douglas Adams. This was nicely fitting, as Ken Campbell’s follow-up to Illuminatus! was a production of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 

In three weeks, despite not being playlisted by Radio 1, the record reached the fabled position of number one in the charts. It would go on to sell more than a million copies. A video was shot showing the car driving around locations in Wiltshire, including the Avebury stone circles. It included a couple of home-made Daleks which avoided legal problems by being so poorly constructed that no one could claim with a straight face they contravened copyright. 

Another problem was that the producers of Top Of The Pops believed that a car sitting by itself on stage for three minutes, flashing its lights in time to the music, would not make an interesting performance. The solution was to recruit Gary Glitter to front the performance, for which he donned a silver cape and hammed it up for all he was worth. His reward was to find himself on the cover of the NME for the first time in his career.”

“At that point, Jonathan King was not known to be a paedophile: only in 2001 was he jailed for the sexual assault of five teenage boys. 

• This makes him the third person in this story to have been sent to prison for sexual offences related to minors. 

• Gary Glitter, who appeared with Cauty and Drummond on Top Of The Pops, was jailed for possessing thousands of images of child pornography and charged with having sexual relations with a fourteenyear-old child. 

• Chris Langham, the Thick Of It actor and co-author with Ken Campbell of the Illuminatus! stage play, was jailed in 2007 for possessing child pornography. 

You might think this a remarkably high instance of such crimes for one story, and you would be correct. It becomes more uncomfortable in light of a character in Illuminatus! called Padre Pederastia, a paedophile priest who initiates new recruits into The Justified Ancients of Mummu by leading a satanic black mass. Not all the coincidences that circle this story are light and funny. 

After the Brit Awards, the actions of The KLF were quickly rationalised by journalists as ‘pranks’ or ‘scams’. They were nothing of the sort. They were an honest expression from the very core of Drummond and Cauty. As Drummond told the journalist Danny Kelly the next day, ‘There is humour in what we do, and in the records, but I really hate it when people go on about us being “schemers” and “scammers”. We do all this stuff from the very depths of our soul and people make out it’s some sort of game. It depresses me.’ 

Once again they had reacted instinctively on the deepest level they knew, and found their actions misinterpreted as some sophisticated Machiavellian media manipulation. They could not wound the industry, and they could not fight it. When they first decided to take on the mantle of The Justified Ancients of Mummu their intention had been to claim the music industry for themselves. Instead, it had swallowed them up. They had failed. They were in a very dark place. 

As Drummond told Danny Kelly, ‘Looking back, we realise we don’t really know what our motivation was. All we know is we’ve got, as well as everything else, this dark side to our personality. We looked into our souls and entered into the same area that [Charles] Manson must have entered . . . and that bloke who shot up Hungerford.’ Here Drummond was referring to the mass shooting in 1987 by a lone gunman called Michael Ryan, which led to the tightening up of Britain’s gun laws. Kelly challenged him on this because, if it was hyperbole, then it was in terrible taste. He asked Drummond if he really meant it. ‘I do actually. Yes I do,’ Drummond said. ‘It is the same area. Somebody recently used the phrase “corporate rebels”–about The Manic Street Preachers, I think–and both Jimmy and I didn’t want to be just corporate rebels because there’s just so much of that, shameless, in the music business. We felt we were headbutting . . . headbutting . . . trying to push at what’s acceptable. It was completely pointless and you don’t know why you’re doing it but it has to be done. And that’s what Michael Ryan did; he just woke up one morning and thought “right, today’s the day I go out and get the bastards” and went out and shot the bastards . . .’ 

A number of journalists from this period came away from interviews speculating as to whether or not Drummond was on the edge of a breakdown. What next? Where could they go from there? They had been on a journey deep into the very heart of the beast. They had failed, and they might never feel clean again. They had to get away, but was it possible for a group that successful to escape from the industry? 

In 1992, The KLF were massive. The previous year they had sold more singles than any other act in the world. They had had a string of global number one records. They had hits in America. The critics adored them. How could they escape from the industry? How could they become forgotten? 

How could they reclaim their souls?”

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