Turn Up The Strobe: The KLF, The Jams, The Timelords – A History. Ian Shirley.

Ian Shirley’s brilliant new book on Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty’s various exploits of the music world could be summed up in two words: Incendiary, insightful.
Yes some of the records they made together such as 1988’s Doctorin’ the Tardis may occupy the same realms as Agadoo in history, but then again they also timestamped beautiful, inspirational pieces of music such as their KLF ‘Chill Out’ album which captured those transcendent moments perfectly at the dawn of 1990.

The tale begins referencing The Illuminatus! Trilogy (a series of three novels written by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson) and significantly the ideas emanating there where eventually carried throughout their artistic endeavours. Although, the wildly impressive thing about the background to this story is primarily about Bill Drummond’s time in Liverpool orbiting the chaos of the Punk scene. Big In Japan features as of course does Roger Eagle and Ken Testi’s legendary club Eric’s, situated within the world surrounding all of that exciting possibility. As the adventure expands Drummond manages Echo and the Bunnymen as well as Teardrop Explodes, while running his own label alongside David Balfe the fabulous Zoo Records. Tales are legion around the era. And that is one of the strengths of the book that it covers the exciting times that played out from the late seventies straight through to the 1990’s. Which is of course complimented by the return of KLF at the end of this month in Liverpool.

In-between times the pair joined minds utilising eighties sampling culture through releases such as The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu ‎highlighting the influence of American rap at the time, just before House Music hit the UK as a cultural force in 1988. Which in turn they absorbed releasing the Acid inspired What Time Is Love alongside a burst of other singles looped around the era.

Possibly, ironically given the strength of this book neither of the protagonists choose to be interviewed for the pages however an excess of source material readily fills in any gaps. Besides, given the pairs’ prevalence for Art inspired pranks, what’s not like about that?


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