KLF Chaos Magic Music Money

KLF chaos magic music money


Why DID the KLF burn a million quid? We review what is simply one of the best books to come out in 2012.

In 1994 the KLF (Bill Drummond and Jim Cauty) burned a million quid. Not a million pounds, which is the same amount of money but sounds unachievable and uber-corporate. They burned a million quid that you’d be happy to imagine spending.

Drummond and Cauty probably imagined spending it too, but the thought didn’t make them happy. It seemed so alien to what they’d set out to do as a pop band that they dragged their earnings from numerous hit singles (Doctorin’ the Tardis, What Time Is Now, Last Train to Trancentral) to a small island and burned the money.


Oh, the dirty fookers, sniffed the world at large.

To add insult to injury, the KLF, who had by this point renamed themselves the K Foundation, didn’t even know why they’d done it. Bewildered, they went so far as to ask the world at large for an explanation.

After much public chin-stroking, the world at large came to, as author John Higgs notes, an almost inevitable conclusion. The conclusion was this:

Drummond and Cauty were a pair of attention-seeking arseholes.

While it’s a perfectly reasonable conclusion, this book aims to peer beyond the opaque curtain of reason and reveal something far more meaningful. Something that might even be akin to the truth.

Why did the KLF really burn a million quid? What did it mean to them? What does it mean to us all?

The book takes us on a freewheeling ride through conspiracy theory, Doctor Who, Dada, Situationism, Discordianism, chaos magic, pyschogeography, punk, rave and the corporate music industry. John Higgs wisely asks many far-reaching questions before attempting to engage with answers. He is humorous without being flippant, broad without being shallow and clever without ever coming even close to sounding like a knob. Taking in the opinion of notables like Alan Moore, he spirals in on a potential answer to the KLF’s actions and the ramifications for the 21st century.

The result is a book full of Big Thought that anyone can engage with. What do we think about money? What do we think about art? Why is it that the world at large – even indie media journalists who consider themselves open-minded – might be more disgusted at the thought of money being utterly negated than the thought of it being spent unwisely?

John Higgs (author of The Brandy of the Damned and I Have America Surrounded: The Life of Timothy Leary) goes deep and broad in his quest, leading the reader in an exhilerating polka across a dancefloor tiled with with an interlocking motif of tiny telling details and huge concepts. With a writing style is honest, witty and elegant, Higgs puts forward the idea that the KLF might have been magicians, if one chooses to accept the concept that magic operates entirely in an interior landscape.

KLF was so good it actually made me feel queasy. I don’t say this lightly, but it’s the best book I’ve read this year. And I’ve read some very good books. As a guide to the reader it would sit comfortably on the shelf of anyone whose literary leanings include A Clockwork Orange, Illuminatus!, Alan Moore, C.J.Stone, Tom Wolfe and Tom Robbins. You know who you are…

While the book is an unofficial one, in the sense that it was written without the involvement of Drummond and Cauty themselves, there is no doubt that they would enjoy it immensely, and find much to ponder in its pages.

Aptly, it has a choose-your-own ending. No book should tell you what to think, only encourage you to do so. It’s life’s questions rather than the answers that need to be explored.

Buy KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money in eBook format