Welcome To The Dark Ages Pt.4 – Friday: Toxteth Day of the Dead and MuMufication

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Friday – the day of The Great Pull North, the Day of MuMufication, the Graduation Ball and many other things. At 2pm I was to be at The Florrie, a community centre / flourishing arts lab in the heart of Toxteth to complete my task as ‘Skull Painter’. Trying to second guess what I’d be doing all week I’d run through several scenarios: they had built a huge skull effigy that needed to be decorated? Badger Kull needed a backdrop painting? The JAMs had 400 Toxteth Day of the Dead masks that we would wear that needed customising? I was almost correct with the last one, not masks though, faces – I and 22 others had to face paint skulls onto the 400 and we set to work transforming many friend’s and stranger’s faces alike.

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The Ice Kream Van was parked up outside, now with looped rope attached to the front and graffiti’d Dalek on wheels* behind – so that’s what we were going to pull North then, but what fate lay at the other end? (*Update: see comments below for Dalek origin)

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At 5pm we were ushered upstairs to a church-like auditorium with seating arranged either side, three vertical video screens framed by an arch above the stage at the far end. A ‘hymn book’ was on each seat which contained the words to ‘Justified & Ancient’ inside but on a quick scan some of the words had been changed. “They called me up in Sheffield town, they said ‘Jarvis, stand by The JAMs'” – surely not? Was Jarvis Cocker going to join the JAMs? The room fell silent and all phones were ordered to be turned off (hence no photos for this part), this didn’t deter some people as you may well have seen by now on the web but it did mean that one of the highlights of the week was captured at least in part.

We were treated to the 23 minute version of the film ‘2023’, a triptych of dark, menacing imagery and iconography that was beautiful, disturbing, baffling, unnerving and loaded with symbolism, the soundtrack mostly ambient industrial sounds and radio noise finishing with Nilsson‘s ‘Everybody’s Talking ‘Bout Me’ over the end credits.
I’ve yet to read the book so most of the imagery has little context at the moment but I noticed revolving grapefruit and Yoko Ono as the Starbucks logo (already seen on some of the merch and the free paper cups when you bought drinks at the Dead Perch). These are both surely a reference to Yoko’s book ‘Grapefruit’ and could allude to the ‘Grapefruit Are Not The Only Bombs’ book we all contributed to the day before, itself an allusion to Jeanette Winterson‘sOranges Are Not The Only Fruit’ maybe? The Shard blazed, black pyramids turned above seas and rolling corn fields, stormy skies filled with black clouds, a fox padded the London streets and four bullets from North, South, East and West collided in slow motion in the final scene.

What followed was a long presentation / sales pitch by ‘green undertakers’ Claire and Rupert Callender – a very dark, depressing, occasionally humorous but deadly serious meditation of death that served to bring the mood down to rock bottom. The assertion was not to be afraid but that we were already dead, that The JAMs were now in business with them as undertakers to the underworld and we were all invited to take part in ‘MuMufication’. In a nutshell this meant that they had engineered their own house bricks (stamped with the words ‘Mu Mu’) which each participant could have part of their ashes poured into when they died. These bricks would be collected annually on November 23rd which was now designated ‘Toxteth Day of the Dead’ and a ‘People’s Pyramid’ would be built, year on year, until it was 23 feet high. The pyramid will be situated in Toxteth (site yet to be determined) and it will take 34,592 bricks to build it. Participants who sign up pay £99 and get a brick plus Certificate of MuMufication – this is all real, anyone can do it, check out www.mumufication.com for more info. IMG_5118

The ‘MuMufication’ sticker I’d snapped a few days earlier on the side of the Ice Kream Van suddenly made sense, and the 99 Mu Mu Bricks, the signs had been there all along. This was the one point where the internet jokes that we’d all be committing some Jim Jones-style suicide pact by the end of things started to gain some credence and I started to wonder if there was anything in the face paint we’d just all applied. I pity anyone in the crowd who had recently lost a loved one or was preparing for a funeral. It was wrist-slashingly sombre.

But Lo! Suddenly a procession sweeps into the room, standard-bearers holding a Toxteth Day of the Dead banner, monks in Mu Mu gowns, coffin-bearers carrying two no-frills bare wood coffins, gravediggers, I also remember traffic cones worn on heads, a choir, there were more but it’s all a but of a blur. Also a blue robed, hooded figure in their midst, face concealed, who mounted the stage behind the congregation and started to speak; ‘They’re Justified, and they’re Ancient, and they drive an ice cream van’ in a soft northern brogue that could only belong to Jarvis Cocker. As the choir mournfully intoned the lyrics the cloak was pulled back to reveal the man himself, brilliantly hamming it up for all his worth in a slow, understated gospel version of their 1991 hit. The videos on the web don’t do it justice without the proceeding events described above, the song lifting the mood higher and higher as the incredulous crowd joined in with the end chant of ‘All Bound For Mu Mu Land’ before exiting the hall in a procession that followed Jarvis, the choir and all performers from the stage and out into the street.

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Outside the crowd spilled onto the road and a small gaggle of locals had gathered to watch, Gimpo quickly got the first team to man the ropes of the ice cream van and we were underway on the three mile pull North to The Invisible Wind Factory. Heading the procession were a bagpipe and drummer duo, standard bearers, the pullers, the van with Drummond & Cauty inside, the choir, assorted Mu in robes and sacks and then the rest of us spilling out on both sides and behind. Ragwort was thrown from shopping carts at the front and then collected by more carts at the back and run up to the front again.

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The police turned up within half an hour to escort us along the busy riverside road and contain traffic, at one point trying to stop the procession but failing – did they have a permit to march? FUUK knows.
Halfway along the route a car parked up and helpers proceeded to throw yellow kagools out to the marchers, emblazoned with the pyramid blaster and JAMs logos and the legend ‘Delivering Sustainable Death’. The sea of yellow with black and white skull masks moved forward at a brisk pace…

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Finally we reached a waste ground, opposite the Invisible Wind Factory, the sunset earlier was a blazing orange sky which would have framed the occasion all the better had we arrived an hour before. A wooden pyramid / pyre was erected in the centre of a circle and the wooden coffins in the back of the Ice Kream Van (I did mention those didn’t I?) were ceremoniously loaded into it. Bill and Jimmy, Mu Mu horns now on their heads, wasted no time, lit long torches and quickly set fire to the structure, it catching almost immediately, going up in a yellow blaze against the night sky as the robed 400 watched and cheered. I’m not going to lie, I was hoping they’d pile the Dalek, the T-Speaker and the van onto the pyre too, cleanse their past in one fell swoop and put the lid on it once and for all but it wasn’t to be.

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Some said the plan was to drive the van into the Mersey but I don’t think that happened. After this events got confused, Daisy Campbell, megaphone in hand, struggled to make herself heard to the widely assembled crowd, some of who wanted to eat and drink after the fun and games and some who made for the toilets nearby. The undertakers were in the Ice Kream Van signing up people for ‘MuMufication’, bricks on display, but now wasn’t the time for this on a dark patch of wasteland with the light gone and the temperature dropping. A huge queue formed but with only a small window to explain the process from they were fighting a losing battle.

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I retired to the club opposite to set up the decks for my set later on and grab some food backstage. Pete Wylie was there in the dressing room, having schooled Badger Kull half the week and we could see the gathering outside winding down from our high vantage point on the top floor. Punters started arriving at 10pm, a mixture of the 400 and paying public who could also buy tickets, you could tell who was who from the face paint. Greg Wilson was on stage whipping the crowd up with pumped up versions of electronic classics like Gary Numan‘s ‘Cars’, The Human League‘s ‘Being Boiled’ and ‘The Message’ and Kermit from Black Grape was dancing around in bunny ears.

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The T-speaker was behind the merch table, selling Badger Kull T-shirts to the faithful and the bemused and it was all about their impending one and only performance at 23 seconds past midnight, a fitting end to the proceedings. The mood was electric as they took to the stage, four guys, all on bass guitar, in face masks and robes with yellow and black warning tape decorations, playing their one note riff over and over to strobes, chanting ‘Toxteth Day of the Dead’ repeatedly, leaving the stage three minutes later to a squall of bass feedback. It was never going to win any prizes for subtlety but it was all the crowd needed.

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Lastly it was my turn, pretty daunting to step up to the decks after that performance to a club packed to the rafters with JAMs fans on a total high after what they’d just witnessed I can tell you (I took the photo above as I stepped up). When Jimmy asked me to play at the Ball my first question was, ‘Should I play any JAMs / KLF?’ and the answer was an unequivocal ‘no’, which was fine. Bill wanted ‘no revisiting of one’s acid house days’ and gave me a superb brief to play dangerously, wide and lateral. They also provided me with a glimpse at a page from ‘2023′ where it lists the line up for a fictitious Xmas day episode of Top of The Pops.

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(photo by George Stewart-Lockheart)
I took that list fairly literally and decided to source as many original samples that The JAMs, Timelords and KLF had used as possible, I wouldn’t be playing their records, just the records they’d played with. I opened with the MC5’s ‘Kick Out the Jams’ (of course) and proceeded through Abba, The Monkees, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, various TOTPs themes, Tommy Vance spoken word, The Sweet, the Dr Who theme, The Human League‘s version of ‘Rock n Roll’, themes from Jesus Christ Superstar, Sly & The Family Stone, James Brown and more before dropping a ton of club classics and a full final hour of downtempo tunes including ‘Wichita Lineman’ and ‘War Is Over If You Want It’, ending with ‘In The Ghetto’ at just shy of 3am.

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(photo by George Stewart-Lockheart)
As gigs go, it was a milestone in my career that I’ll never forget. As an event it was a success on so many levels I doubt the participants will ever fully get their heads around it. As a comeback it was unparalleled, everything and more that a fan of this duo could have wanted but never dreamed up. As an exercise in the closing of one chapter and the opening of another, with the fans helping to write that chapter from the building blocks the JAMs had put in place, it was genius. That they closed the event with the opportunity to eventually place part of those fans and others inside the blocks and build a People’s Pyramid to commemorate the event on the very ground it took place in was another nice touch. Best graduation party ever…

 

Saturday, the aftermath:

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Some graduated early that night and received their certificates at the club, for most though it was one final trip to the Dead Perch Lounge on Saturday morning to be met by an unexpected series of posters that had been plastered up outside overnight. Someone had expressed their displeasure at the events in a very JAMs-esque way, enough to make most question if these weren’t an elaborate double-bluff by Drummond & Cauty themselves.

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Inside, The JAMs were handing out signed Certificates Of Graduation with stern handshakes and little banter and we stayed for a drink and an explanation on how exactly The People’s Pyramid was going to be constructed by the architect who had drawn up the plans, now displayed in the gallery. Finally we were ushered into a previously hidden back room where a tower of TV sets showed video loops whilst the choir’s A cappella from Friday’s ‘Justified & Ancient’ quietly played in the background.

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Whether Bill and Jimmy ever do another event, make another record or create any more art together ever again (and there were rumours that this could happen elsewhere in the future) doesn’t matter. They and the team around them pulled off an incredible experience that could have crashed and burned (pun intended) so many times and in the process must have inspired many of the participants to go forth and continue this kind of work and thinking in their daily lives from this point on. There were rules, there always is with Drummond, but these were also guidelines to break out of conventional thinking and you have to know the rules before you can break them – always accept the contradictions with The JAMs. Worth the £100 ticket price? Many times over. The experience was priceless and SO much more thought-provoking, entertaining and genuinely life-changing than most of what’s happening in current music, literature and art at the moment.

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Travelling back home, to ‘real life’, was surreal, what had happen constantly churning around in my head, the NEED to get this all down and make some kind of sense of it for my own selfish reasons of paramount importance. The desire to talk to people about it burns bright, to those that were there and friends who witnessed it secondhand via the web. The urge to look further into The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, the Green Funeral Company and, of course, read ‘2023’ – things that were completely alien to myself and many others a week ago – is strong and will no doubt point to other people and places as The JAMs begin a new chapter…

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13 thoughts on “Welcome To The Dark Ages Pt.4 – Friday: Toxteth Day of the Dead and MuMufication

  1. Noooooooo, just read the previous message about your set:

    Well done for putting on a great set as an end to a Jam’s ride and education as something to continue perhaps in real life, pity I hear you had started to record it but technology fuuked up and I will only have my memory’s of the set.

    Nice one

    Technology pah, sad times, I was wondering why it wasn’t up as you do share your treats with us. Maybe a Solid Steel special with The United States of Audio – The KLF: Embrace The Contradictions mix which is special as well. Solid Steel take over to rejoice the beautiful minds of Mu Mu.

  2. As a super Dj Food fan and a super KLF fan I couldn’t have asked for a better person to be there and report on the beautiful minds of Drummond & Cauty. Can never get enough The KLF whether it is original or the dozens of professional fan made mixes (Yours obviously included) Cant get enough of your mixes either and listened to Raiding The 20th Century twice back to back today as its magical. Another favourite is your iRaq anti war mix which might have been the 1st time I heard you and now love everything you do especially when you make the perfect concept mix either by yourself or as a 3 way with Paul’s Boutique etc. Anyway enough fawning, just know that I think you are a musical genius still producing mixes as fresh and relevant today as they where in the early Solid Steel days. Anyway the point was thanks for capturing this in full detail, listened to Greg Wilson’s mix today and it was a dream, but what we all want to know is will you treat us to your set in a glorious high quality MP3 download as I am sure if it gets out there it will spread wide and far and bring so much joy, like the rest of your material to Dj Food fans, KLF fans and anyone that appreciates great tune selection crafted with skill and love. Hope your set surfaces and doesn’t take 23 years. Respect for everything you have done, you have played a major part in the soundtrack of my life and will continue to bring me joy with your old and new mixes to come. I could write forever as you are such a source of mixes, and as a recording artist, but before you get a restraining order I will just say thanks one more time.

  3. Thank for this Kev. I was 9 years old in 87 and just remember hearing the KLF coming from my brothers bed room, on the radio and various chart shows. By 97 I was old enough to appriciate that they were more than the monster hits I heard and I managed to get tickets to the ***k The Millenium Barbican gig. Gutted I couldn’t be a part of this one but thanks to youself and others there recording events on social media, I managed to feel conected in a small way as I delved into my copy of 2023.
    Cheers.

  4. The Dalek wasn’t anything to do with the Jams it was a prop for something in Liverpool and belonged to Tommy who thought the Jams might burn it or trash it bu then asked a little kid and he said don’t burn it so he didn’t.

    Well done for putting on a great set as an end to a Jam’s ride and education as something to continue perhaps in real life, pity I hear you had started to record it but technology fuuked up and I will only have my memory’s of the set.

    Nice one

  5. I had an awesome time there and I only made it to the Graduation Ball at the end so I can only imagine what it would’ve been like to have been involved in the whole thing. Sounds like one hell of an event, thanks for your write-ups!

  6. Great to read your detailed, exhilarating reaction from the other side of the planet, Kev! NB: shoddy though it is, that Dalek is FAR more accurate than the one from the Doctorin’ video…

    “ending with ‘In The Ghetto’ at just shy of 3am”

    The version from Bill’s Blizzard King 7″, one hopes! (20 years later, I’m still hoping for a sample-spotter to pick the rap loop at the end of that…)

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