Been listening to a lot of The KLF recently, taking in full albums and watching quite a bit of online (i.e. Youtube) footage of their music videos, TOTP performances and original video pieces (below).
I'm sure everyone knows enough about them to justify me not writing a full article, (the wikipedia page sums up everything succinctly enough) but I'm still really fascinated and taken aback by a lot of the bands work both musical and not. The production on their records alone is so alien to what I'm used to hearing that it really seems completely foreign and bizarre. I find myself asking just how something like The KLF ever existed and was so widely experimental yet commercially successful at the same time.
That whole era of late 80's/early 90's in fact just seems like a totally different world to me more so than the 60 or early 80s, maybe because the BBC haven't made a slightly comical idiosyncratic period drama starring Judie Dench or Martin Freeman based on that time yet. I remember I went to a talk by Gavin Watson recently about his new(ish) book Ravin' 89 and having that same feeling of what the hell was going on with these people exactly. I do find myself struggling a lot with 90's pop culture in general, mainly in Britian (not that I'm letting Grunge off the hook) - just makes me think of black berets, The Tube, black leggings, The Word and numerous other awful fashion choices and televisions programs. Really makes me dread the inevitable 90's comeback that's already in semi swing, Chris Evans's Omen-like rise through the ranks of Radio 2 being a portent for the horror that'll unfold (up date perhaps not!).
I do sometimes wonder whether I would have liked a band like The KLF had I been the age I am now during their heyday, same with other genres/scenes like Chicago House, The Beatles, Punk, Juke (oh wait that's now). Would I have been able to enjoy them in the context of the times or would I have rejected it due to overexposure or something else like disliking the majority of people who were fans also. I suppose there's no real point thinking about it, and I should just appreciate that I get to enjoy all this great music, free of context, peer pressure and well actually literally free also. Everything's available to everyone essentially. Kanye West made an interesting speech on a sort of similar subject recently at Rolling Stone (here) talking about making music that's popular and how the underground is no longer the avant-garde due to this ease of access.
But back to The KLF, as it's pretty easy to be enamoured with them, their use of samples, visual aesthetic, philosophy (if you could call it that), publicity stunts and range of output over the course of their career is inspiring, as is their savvy-marketing technique of constantly repeating their own name during songs. must start doing that myself.
Always worth a watch is the 1992 Brit Award performance of the KLF with Extreme Noise Terror during which Bill Drummond fired machine gun blanks into the audience.
As exceptional as that might have been, more shocking to my eyes events occurred on that night, as this video below shows - the KLF somehow managed to tie with Simply Red in the category for 'Best British Band', but more importantly host 'Martika' is seen smoking onstage whilst presenting the award, on television, in an enclosed public space, with four or more walls. The early 90's must have been a very different world indeed.