John Higgs’ ‘The KLF: Chaos, Magic & the Band who…’

I once took on a jigsaw of a Jackson Pollock painting, I forget which one exactly but it took me something like three months to finish, slowly chipping away every day, finding where the next blob of paint belonged. The same day I placed the final piece it seemed like a burden was lifted and I started and finished a vintage 500 piece Vaughn Bodé jigsaw in a few hours. This book was the Bodé puzzle equivalent after finishing Julian Cope‘s monster-sized book from the previous post.

Up until this point, Cope had been the clear front-runner for book of the year, his exhaustive, multi-genre compilation easily fending off all others by size and heaviness alone (of the Rock kind as well as weight). But John Higgs‘ far-reaching yet concise, ‘The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned A Million Pounds’, is going to pip him to the post by sheer force of ideas and vision.

My love of the KLF and all things related is well documented in the hoax soundtrack and visuals I created with Mr Trick some years back so it’s no surprise that this was on the reading list. The e-book version emerged a year ago to great acclaim and a printed edition followed shortly after with many trumpeting it as a unique view on their well-worn tale.

Rather than trot out a regular history of the duo, detailing all their adventures, hits and misses, Higgs chooses to expand outwards from the band, both back and forward in time. If there’s one event that the book centers on it’s the burning of a million pounds and from there he draws clear lines to Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea, Alan Moore, Ken Campbell, the number 23, Dr Who, magical thinking, The Dadaists, the Devil, Discordianism, the assassination of Kennedy, Wicker Men and the banking crisis of the late 20th Century.

Not your average KLF biography then? Higgs places the band in amongst all of these and more, highlighting the synchronicities and coincidences surrounding them and showing you a bigger picture which may or may not have influenced their actions. He’s also not a fawning fan boy ready to mythologise their back catalogue with rose-tinted spectacles either. He describes their first album, ‘1987’, as ‘shit’, ‘Doctorin The Tardis’ as ‘a novelty record’ and wonders if Drummond and Cauty aren’t just ‘attention-seeking arseholes’. On the first two counts he’s mostly right.

No more to say, I don’t want to spoil it, go and find the book and I guarantee you’ll see the band in a different light, even if you’re the most hardened fan. Also check Higgs’ website as it’s full of great articles related and unrelated including an automated, self-referencing tumblr dedicated to quotes from the book that generates random gifs regularly.


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