My interest, and eventual obsession, with KLF started at Virgin Records in Portsmouth in 1987 where most of my early adventures began. My introduction to them came via a very good friend of mine called John Carter who came into the store most days. John was a massive John Peel fan and also read cool fanzines and magazines like ‘Maximum Rocknroll’, so was onto new music before anyone else that I was aware of. One day John came in and asked me if I had heard of a band called The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu and started telling me about them how he’d heard a track called ‘All You Need Is Love’ on Peel’s show and then subsequently read about it when James Brown wrote about the band in the NME.
The reason why he liked it was that it was different and very cutting edge for the time. The band was using blatant samples (The Beatles, Samantha Fox & Abba) when at the time recording copyright and sampling was quite loose and hadn’t clearly been defined. The technique was also embraced by the likes of Pop Will Eat Itself and Big Audio Dynamite who combined music and film samples. Also, the rap and hip-hop communities were starting to introduce sampling to records that we were hearing in the store for the first time. This included ‘Funky’ by Ultramagnetic MC’s which, to me, was a groundbreaking record. John wrote to James Brown and asked for more information about the band and where he could buy the record. James kindly sent John a promo of the debut 12-inch to John in return which is pictured in this blog (I swapped it with him for a Sonic Youth box set). We played the record constantly and eventually it was released (JAMS23T). The initial feedback from all the indie kids was extremely encouraging. This personal interest then manifested into an obsession where I wanted just wanted to hear more from the band. Fortunately, the debut album ‘1987 What The Fuck’s Going On?’ (JAMSLP1) was quickly released. As I was the indie album buyer at the time I ordered twenty copies and persuaded the store manager to chart it so that we could put it into our racks at the front of the store. Little did I know at the time that I was doing anyone that I encouraged to buy the album a big favour because they all benefitted from a large return on investment literally a few months after the album’s release (this will be covered in Part 2)! Listening to the album for the first time was exciting for a young music fan who was looking for something a little bit different. The more I played the album the more I loved it.
I eventually left Virgin Records in September that year to go and work at the Cartel which was part of Rough Trade’s distribution arm. I had to move up to Warwick to work in the Cartel office called Nine Mile/Backs. This was just a general telesales role speaking to the independent and individual chain stores and selling in the new releases, taking orders, and just getting all the buyers excited about what was going on. In part two of this blog, I will start to look at further JAMMS offerings as well as the early KLF releases which took the musical path from indie onto rave and eventually to pop domination. This personal journey from me being utterly obsessed with the band lasted a total of four years before the eventual demise of KLF and their last stunt declaring that ‘The KLF have now left the music business’. It was a big part of my life, not just as a music fan but working at Rough Trade and selling their records into the smaller stores and then eventually into the major chains as a snotty, egotistical and cocky 23-year-old key-account manager and having the bravado to believe we had a future number-one single on our hands.
Part 2 – From the summer of love to the charts.