THE JUSTIFIED ANCIENTS OF MU MU
1987 (What The Fuck’s Going On?)
(The Sound Of Mu(sic), 1987)
Considering the notoriety they’d later achieve as the KLF, it’s sometimes easy to forget the significance of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty’s thrillingly deviant assaults on the British music industry as The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu. But everything for which they became infamous in the 1990s – the provocative art statements, establishment baiting and wilful destruction of their back catalogue – can be found in their earliest collaboration, The JAMs.
For Drummond – a former A&R man and one-time manager of Echo And The Bunnymen – and Cauty, guitarist with one of Drummond’s signings, Brilliant, their plan was revolutionary. Nothing less, it seemed, than to make an album that pillaged the entire continuum of rock’n’roll, using sampling technology to recontextualise popular music.
“We wanted to make an album that in some way would be a British response to what hip hop artists were doing in the States,” explains Drummond today. “It gained instant infamy status due to our wholesale use of sampling. None of which we had sought to get permission. We were artists and artists have the right to use whatever they can lay their hands on to make their art – that was our rationale.”
Released in June, 1987… found Drummond and Cauty – under their aliases King Boy D and Rockman Rock – sampling everything from the Sex Pistols to Scott Walker, an edition of Top Of The Pops and, most famously, ABBA, on “The Queen And I”.
It was the Swedes who proved to be the JAMs’ undoing. “ABBA’s publishers took exception and requested that we destroy all copies of our album immediately, or they would take legal action against us,” Drummond recalls. “Jimmy and I thought we should sit down with Benny and Björn and have a discussion artist to artist…”
So Drummond and Cauty drove to ABBA’s Polar Studios in Stockholm, carrying with them what they claimed to be the album’s remaining stock, plus a gold disc of 1987… to present to the band. Failing to find ABBA in residence, they instead presented the gold disc to a blonde prostitute they pretended was band member Agnetha Fältskog “fallen on hard times” before heading back to London – stopping to burn the records in a field outside Gothenberg around dawn.
“I just wished it had been a massive bonfire – hundreds of thousands of our records all going up in flames,” sighs Drummond. “Instead we just had a couple of boxes with us and even then some of them we forgot about. We didn’t discover that last box until we were back on the ferry home. We had to throw them off the back. Burial at sea is never as good as proper funeral pyre. The Vikings had the right idea by combining the both.”
But this wasn’t the last of 1987… In October, Drummond and Cauty issued 1987 (The JAMs Edits) with the offending samples removed, replaced by great tracts of silence, interrupted by sudden bursts of beats or Drummond’s acerbic social commentary. The only sample remaining from the original was The Fall’s “Totally Wired”.
“We never thought about even attempting to get permission,” adds Drummond. “Nowadays there is a whole section of the industry based on dealing with the ‘clearance’ of samples. Back then they would have just said no…”
EXPECT TO PAY: £10 for the legalised recut. Don’t tell Abba if you’ve got an original
(Line, 1981; Razor & Tie, 1993)
The creepy remakes and covers that comprise Bach’s Bottom were cut in Memphis’ Ardent Studios in autumn ’75, which might make this set look like a candidate for the great, lost fourth Big Star LP. It’s not: Chilton never fully endorsed producer Jon Tiven’s decision to release the sessions, yet when four songs filtered into the punk underground via a 1977 Ork Records EP, listeners found the results quite punk rock. Acrimony between Tiven and Chilton ensured that Bach’s Bottom has a complex history: that Ork EP was succeeded in 1981 by a German vinyl issue, and then by 1993’s expanded CD version. While the CD added, crucially, Chilton’s finest post-Big Star single, “Bangkok”, it also contained some controversial, later overdubs by Tiven himself.
EXPECT TO PAY: Depends on the version. £10-20, maybe?
A Harvard mathematician, Stoughton played the Boston folk circuit in the early 1960s before coming under the spell of John Cage’s musique concrète. While certain songs – “The Sun Comes Up Each Day”, say – are musically reminiscent of Tim Buckley at his most extreme, Transformer also contained experimental sound collages. Never on CD, vinyl copies are becoming scarcer – but Transformer is scheduled for digital re-release in the summer ahead of Elektra’s 60th anniversary.
EXPECT TO PAY: £15, if you find one!