Flashback: All Bound for Mu Mu Land Again

I made quite the score about a week or so ago. While out and about performing the day’s tasks, I finally stopped at the Silver Platters flagship store’s new location.

Apparently, they recently acquired a huge amount of vinyl from Masa, one of the DJs at KEXP. And when I say “huge”, I’m not exaggerating: there’s a whole section of the vinyl area devoted to it—and I’m told there’s more.

I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, since I’d never heard of the guy (I asked while I was at the checkstand), but my curiosity was piqued (note the correct spelling there, folks—it’s never “peaked”) when I saw a (pre-Nomiya Maki) Pizzicato Five EP in a crate near the checkout area. When I looked through it and the two adjacent crates, I found copies of 1987: The Jams 45 Edits by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (aka The Jams)—a record I’d read about, but had never actually seen—and the 2nd Jams LP, Who Killed the Jams.

(Side note: If you’re unfamiliar with the story of the first Jams LP (1987: What the Fuck is Going On?), suffice it to say that it is a key part of the history of The KLF. Because they had made such liberal and blatant use of samples without obtaining any sort of clearance to do s they were forced to withdraw the album, and destroy all copies (which they ended up burning in a field, except for five copies that came to them later—and subsequently sold for outrageously high prices). The Jams Edits removes the offending samples—but comes with instructions on how “to simulate the sound of [the] original record.”)

WELL NOW, needless to say, I had to investigate further. It took a few minutes, but then I came upon the racks with the mysterious “Masa Collection” heading on all the dividers. When I looked under “K”, I found all sorts of KLF goodies—really too many to choose from. Oh, where does it all end?!

I was going to stick with the two discs I mentioned above, and maybe one or two more. But, eventually I decided that: (a) a chance like this wasn’t going to come along again any time soon, and (b) I haven’t let myself indulge myself this way for quite a long time (when it gets right down to it), so I ended up adding the following to my small collection of vinyl:

• The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu—1987: The Jams 45 Edits
• The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu—Who Killed the Jams? (with the original promotional insert)
• Space—Space (originally destined to be the debut album by The Orb, until Jimmy Cauty and Alex Paterson went their separate ways—up to now I’ve had only a bootleg CD copy of this, from back when CD Now (remember them?) briefly carried bootlegs as well as official releases)
• The KLF—The What Time is Love Story (another one I’d only read about, and never seen)
• The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu—All You Need Is Love (Me Ru Con mix) (in the picture sleeve that was available only with the first 5000 copies)
• The KLF—What Time is Love (Pure Trance)
• The KLF—3 A.M. Eternal (Pure Trance)
• The KLF—3 A.M. Eternal (The UK Mixes)
• The KLF—The White Room (with the original printed dust sleeve and promotional insert)
• The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu—Shag Times (with the original promotional sticker on the front cover)
• The KLF—3 A.M. Eternal (Live at the SSL)
• The KLF Present the Moody Boys Selection: 3 A.M. Eternal
• The KLF Meet the Moody Boys Uptown: Last Train to Trancentral
• The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu—It’s Grim Up North

The last 5 or 6 items aren’t all that rare, but I have been collecting some vinyl (hence previous trips to peruse through the 99-cent bins) for the cover art. Much of the other discs, though, include stuff I would never have expected to find.

Some of them (particularly the “Pure Trance” editions, with their high-contrast, black and fluorescent-colored jackets) I remember seeing at Wave in Shibuya during my days in Tokyo; at that time, I really had very little interest in vinyl (I think the last thing I’d bought on 12-inch or LP by 1990–91 was either a copy of the Vanity 6 LP from the bargain bin at Tower in Shibuya, or “Sun City (The Last Remix)”—or possibly the US edition of Scritti Politti’s “Boom! There She Was”)—my interest was strictly what I could get on CD. With the CD single becoming established as a format, I assumed that all new releases would make it onto CD sooner or later. Once I’d changed jobs and moved to a new place, I no longer owned a turntable.

So, when I began reading things about The KLF in 1990, shortly after they’d “remixed” the Pet Shop Boys’ “So Hard” single (released by EMI on 12-inch and CD single as The KLF vs. Pet Shop Boys), it didn’t occur to me to rush right out to look for a bunch of 12-inch singles.

It was only with the release of “3 A.M. Eternal” on CD single in Japan that I first heard anything by The KLF themselves. When The White Room came out on CD the following month, I bought it as well—and I was well and truly hooked. I began snapping up copies of the available CD singles as I found them, and made it a point to look for articles and reviews whenever I’d pick up copies of the latest NMEMelody Maker, and Q.

Over the next few months, I learned more about The KLF—also known as The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (furthermore known as The Jams). I found the Shag Times and Chill Out CDs, and bought a copy of the Coma pressing of The White Room (the copy of the CD on The KLF’s own label cost ¥800 more, which I was not willing to spend at the time)—having learned that the Japanese edition was basically the edited US edition with three extra tracks, whereas the Coma pressing (from Denmark, if I recall correctly) was the same as the original UK edition.

I even located and bought a copy of The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way).

As new singles came out, I bought those. When the Japan-only Mu was released in December 1991, I got that as well.

By that time, I was pretty well-versed in the history of The KLF, from their start as The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, through their one-off as The Timelords, and up to the present. The whole backstory, the seemingly endless recycling of elements into new mixes and versions (a bit reminiscent of early Art of Noise and Frankie Goes to Hollywood), the sense of humor—even the graphic design (the typography alone was enough to identify something as KLF-related)—all made the whole KLF saga fun. And fun was something I badly needed at that particular time, since life in Tokyo was not turning out as I had once hoped; along with my Twin Peaks obsession, my KLF obsession helped make things a lot more bearable.

Sadly (though, in hindsight, it was probably the right thing to do), The KLF called it quits in May 1992, with an advert in the NME and their infamous performance at The BRITS (ending with Bill Drummond spraying the crowd with fake machine-gun fire, and an announcement over the PA that “The KLF have now left the music business”).

The previously announced releases of The Black Room and expanded Mu CDs subsequently never happened, even though both had been given catalog numbers and release dates by Toshiba-EMI in Japan. I kept looking for them, just in case, until the day I finally left Tokyo to return to the States.

The only subsequent official release was This is What KLF is About I & II, two 3-disc sets replicating the UK “Stadium House” trilogy singles (“What Time is Love”, “3 A.M. Eternal”, and “Last Time to Trancentral”) in the first set, and the final three singles (“America: What Time is Love”, “It’s Grim Up North” (credited to The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu), and “Justified & Ancient (featuring Tammy Wynette)”) in the second.

1997 saw the release of another variation on “What Time is Love”, in the form of “F*** the Millennium”, but that was credited to 2K, and released on the Blast First label, through Mute. Whether it was because the pop landscape had changed significantly in the five years since The KLF left the music business, or because the whole “K Foundation Burn a Million Quid” stunt had left a bitter taste in people’s mouths, “F*** the Millennium” didn’t have much of an impact—although the “Acid Brass” component of it was completely brilliant.

(The US edition of The White Room (paired with the “Justified & Ancient” single, because American labels hate it when a popular single isn’t on the album) has remained in print, but probably only because The KLF essentially left marketing of the album in different territories in the hands of the record labels they licensed the album to.)

Anyway…

Hard as it may be to believe, I did show some restraint on this trip-down-memory-lane-fuelled shopping spree. I skipped all the KLF-related discs in generic sleeves (since I already have one of those)—even the one with the “Kylie Said to Jason” remixes, and the one that didn’t actually have labels on either side—the US releases on WaxTrax/TVT, and the 12-inch of “Justified & Ancient (featuring Tammy Wynette)”.

My only regret was that Chill Out was not among the LPs available. The jacket, a tribute of sorts to Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother, would have been perfect for framing. Speaking of which, I’m going to have to get some LP jacket frames.

In the meantime, I’ve had to get myself a turntable for the first time in many years, so I can actually listen to some of these great finds…

(5 July 2013. Originally published 27 June 2013, in a much-shorter version, as a Facebook status update)