Classic Scottish Albums: The KLF
My good friend and brother in rock Duglas T Stewart agrees that there is something compelling and ultimately very moving about the strange video that accompanies The KLF's 1992 single Justified And Ancient. In it a wizened and world weary Tammy Wynette gets her heartbroken pipes round a folksy ol' tune and some lyrical tosh about ice cream vans, the justified ancients of Mu Mu and an exhortation to 'stand by the jams' while a choir wave their hands ecstatically chanting "all bound for Mu Mu land" and scantily clad drummers pound away earnestly. It's the Dada Wizard Of Oz, hypercandied, stoopid, magical. And this is a thing about one strand of the greatest pop music - there are some artists who are so fleet of foot, so cocksure that they can chuck together a series of outré, often plain bad elements and still come up smelling of sonic roses. Examples might include Dexys Midnight Runners who brought banjos, fiddles, poorly conceived facial hair and dungarees to bear on American R&B and came up with Come On Eileen, or Brian Wilson who combined idiotic teenage themes, sophisticated chord changes and structures, frankly farty sounding synths and his own 1970s-vintage, cigarette-ruined croak for the latter-day classic The Beach Boys Love You.
The KLF - 'The White Room'
Gosh, the chutzpah, the emotional endurance to go 15 rounds with something you suspect (in the opening seconds of round 1) might be absolute rubbish and then sit exhausted in the corner stool, realising either:
a. It WAS rubbish
b. It is basically The Mona Lisa, OK Computer, insert masterpiece here.
Very funny moment making this programme. We have Glenn Hughes (ex-Deep Purple, Trapeze) on the line from his palatial gaff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the very essence of California breezing through what CSA producer Victoria McArthur and I imagine is quite an impressive head of hair. Conviviality itself, Glenn is talking (in that curious transatlantic croak recently trademarked by Paul McCartney) about the career-turning moment when he hit the ball clean out of the park with a guest vocal on What Time Is Love America. As he continues we start hearing the odd local yelp from a dog. Maybe three dogs. Or four. A rock star would probably have at least four dogs, right? Glenn ploughs on regardless. Now those five dogs are getting excited, angry, and ready to rampage through the streets. Glenn continues, and now we're hearing just the odd syllable, the snatched consonant as the dogs go completely, biblically mad, howling now, six or seven actually by the sounds of them. Big dogs, frenzied, screaming dogs and somewhere, in the tiny middle of this craziness is Glenn and the continuing anecdote. Victoria and I are calling out, Glenn! Glenn! Glenn! He can't hear us but he's trouping on anyway. And as the animals eventually turn the dial down from the setting 'Hell Hound Of Hades' to 'Spot the Dog Has A Slightly Irksome But Not Actually Painful Jag At The Local Vets' it is clear that Glenn is just coming to the end of his anecdote. There is a lovely pause before he says, hey, Davie, did you, like, hear anything there? Did you hear those dogs barking?
The White Room by The KLF is wearing wonderfully well. That Dexys / Wilson trick is carried off track by bonkers track and still feels (nearly 20 years after release - really, really ouch) vibrantly, profoundly daft. Son of the manse Bill Drummond and his partner in chaos Jimmy Cauty continue various forms of cultural agitation and I for one live in hope that we may see their like again.
Thanks for listening to the 5th Series of Classic Scottish Albums. We hope to have more for you very soon - and keep the suggestions coming, they really do help us focus on where we should go with this...