Fuck the Millennium
|"Fuck the Millennium"|
|Single by 2K|
|Released||13 October 1997|
|Format||12", cassette, CD|
|Recorded||Parr Street Studios / Konk|
|Genre||Acid house, protest song|
|Label||Blast First, Mute (UK)|
|Producer(s)||Bill Drummond, Jimmy Cauty|
"Fuck the Millennium", sometimes spelled "***K the Millennium", is an electronic protest song that was released as a single in 1997 by 2K (Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, better known as The KLF and The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu). Based upon The KLF's acid house track "What Time Is Love?", it was promoted as a comeback single and released to mark the tenth anniversary of Drummond and Cauty's first collaborations; however, it was also in part intended to mock the notion of the comeback. It remains the only commercial release by the duo since The KLF's 1992 retirement. The single reached #28 in the UK Singles Chart in October 1997.1
Drummond and Cauty's campaign to "fuck the millennium" also involved an appearance by 2K at London's Barbican Arts Centre and a number of outlandish proposals to 'commemorate' the millennium under the moniker "K2 Plant Hire". These activities were intended to culminate in the construction of "The People's Pyramid", a 150-foot (46 m)-high structure built from recycled bricks, but the pyramid was never built.
From 1987 to 1992, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty released music under names including The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (The JAMs) and The KLF. Following a run of five consecutive UK top-five singles, The KLF executed a high-profile retirement from the music business and deleted their entire back catalogue, declaring that "For the foreseeable future, there will be no further record releases from any past, present or future name attached to our activities."2 Drummond and Cauty's subsequent art project, the K Foundation, disposed of The KLF's earnings, including by burning one million pounds of it, money which was originally provisionally earmarked by the duo for millennial celebrations. Bill Drummond: "Originally we were going to invest the whole lot in some capital growth fund and spend it all on one big event, maybe at the millennium".3
In the four years following The KLF's retirement, Drummond and Cauty's musical output consisted only of a limited edition single released in Israel and Palestine ("K Cera Cera"), and a contribution to The Help Album ("The Magnificent").
In 1997, British artist Jeremy Deller pioneered the Acid Brass concept, collaborating with the Williams Fairey Brass Band to interpret and perform classic acid house tracks as brass arrangements. Deller was described by one source as a prankster,4 a notion frequently applied to Drummond and Cauty themselves.5 In February 1997, Drummond was contacted by his former Big in Japan bandmate Jayne Casey, who was helping to organise an arts festival in Liverpool and had noticed that Acid Brass' repertoire included The KLF's "What Time Is Love?". Drummond attended the festival performance and heard "What Time Is Love?" performed as the encore, during which he telephoned Cauty. Cauty and Drummond together attended a 19 April Acid Brass performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.6 Collaborative work ensued between Drummond, Cauty, and Deller, in which the Acid Brass rendition of their track was incorporated into a composition designed to mark the tenth anniversary of Drummond and Cauty's first work.
A comeback of The KLF7 was implied by two black and white full-page adverts placed in the 21 August 1997 issue of Time Out. The first proclaimed "They're Back. The Creators of Trance. The Lords of Ambient. The Kings of Stadium House. The Godfathers of Techno Metal. The Greatest Rave Band In The World. Ever! 2K. For 23 minutes Only". The second stated "'Jeremy Deller presents '1997 What The Fuck's Going On'", a reference to The JAMs' debut album 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?). It continued, "Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond invite you to a 23 minute performance during which the next 840 days of our lives will be discussed".8 The Independent looked forward to the event, saying that "It was just a matter of time before Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond hatched another prank and put a grin back on the face of pop music." "You just ache for them to be No. 1 again....", they said, but "One hopes they are not about to shoot themselves in the foot" because "the idea walks the tightrope between lunacy and brilliance.... the pop world's countdown to the millennium surely starts here".9
"1997 (What The Fuck's Going On?)" was performed by 2K as a one-off event at London's Barbican Arts Centre on 17 September 199710 with Acid Brass, the Liverpool Dockers, the Viking Society, and Drummond's creative associates Mark Manning and Gimpo,1112 who appeared, respectively, as "an axe-wielding "salvationist" in a vicar's collar and gold lame suit, and a shop steward character in a white coat with a megaphone".13 The performance began with a screening of This Brick, a short 35mm film of a brick made from the ashes of the K Foundation's million-pound bonfire.14 Following an introduction by Factory Records founder Tony Wilson,13 Drummond and Cauty were then unveiled as pyjama-clad, wheelchair-using pensioners with grey hair and, strapped to their foreheads, prominent horns that had been used regularly in The KLF's promotional videos. Drummond was also seen plucking feathers from a dead swan.13 According to a press release issued by Mute/Blast First (Acid Brass' and 2K's record label), "Two elderly gentlemen, reeking of Dettol, caused havoc in their motorised wheelchairs. These old reprobates, bearing a grandfatherly resemblance to messrs Cauty and Drummond, claimed to have just been asked along."12 The duo wheeled around the stage to the sound of Acid Brass' "What Time Is Love?". They were supported variously by a male choir's rendition of "K Cera Cera", joined by opera singer Sally Bradshaw;15 the Viking Society in costume as lifeboatmen; and the politically topical Liverpool Dockers chanting "Fuck the Millennium". Following the performance, every audience member received a "Fuck the Millennium" T-shirt, poster, and bumper sticker in a carrier bag.13
In a comprehensive assessment, The Observer rationalised the spectacle: "They did what they always do: too many things at the same time. Their points are lost along with the plot. So, just to explain: ... Bill and Jimmy were dressed as old men as a comment on elderly pop groups making a comeback. The brass band playing house music tunes was organised by Jeremy Deller as a comment on class culture (working-class band playing working-class music). The dockers were asked along because their cause is important."16 The Guardian called the performance "a glorious, jaw-dropping mess",15 and The Times commented that "the strongest point in its favour was its brevity".13 Select said, "There was no press furore the next morning—merely the anticlimactic aftertaste left by 40-year-old men miming to a seven-year-old song.... 2K was unquestionably a failure."17
A single, "Fuck the Millennium"18 was subsequently released, a studio-based recording falsely promoted as an edited version of the Barbican performance.16 Comparing the single with the live performance, The Times said that "On CD, things become more orthodox, though no less entertaining, comprising an acid brass version of their classic, What Time Is Love? and a young man shouting rude words."19
The unedited studio recording of "Fuck the Millennium" is a 14-minute composition, a protest song based around The KLF's house music track "What Time Is Love?", drawing additionally on musical refrains and concepts from throughout Drummond and Cauty's canon. The track contains three main segued parts: a house section led by the brass band Acid Brass, a choral rendition of the English hymn "Eternal Father, Strong to Save", and a rhythmically hardened remix of "What Time Is Love? (Pure Trance Original)". The lead vocals before and after the hymn consist mainly of angry chants, with hundreds of instances of the word "fuck". Apart from a small number of chord changes during the segues, "Fuck the Millennium" contains no new music. However, the lyrics and brass arrangement are not found elsewhere in Drummond and Cauty's output.
A fusion of Drummond and Cauty's past works, with chants of "Fuck the Millennium". Gimpo's screams for "Bill" and "Jimmy" interrupt the opening chords of "Eternal Father, Strong to Save".
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The track is opened by Gimpo screaming "It's 1997: what the fuck is going on?". There follows a brass band version of "What Time Is Love? (Pure Trance Original)", with a house rhythm added, along with samples from The JAMs' 1987 recordings "All You Need Is Love", "Don't Take Five (Take What You Want)", "Whitney Joins The JAMs" and "Burn the Bastards". Drummond leads a crowd of Liverpool Dockers in angry chants: "Fuck the millennium! We want it now!".
Among the voices singing the three verses of the hymn are keyboardist Nick Coler, Drummond and Cauty, multiple recordings of whom are overlain to simulate a congregation.20 Mark Manning evangelically narrates its lyrics, and between verses, Gimpo screams for "Bill!" (Drummond) and "Jimmy!" (Cauty)—the only instance throughout their music that either of them is referred to without a pseudonym.
A Select journalist enthused about the track in the context of the duo's wider catalogue: "As soon as it starts you immediately remember the excitement that comes from hearing a KLF record for the first time. The original ambient house melody kicks in - and it hasn't dated a day. The chorus is given an extra kick by Acid Brass' massed ranks of horns and trumpets.... It is quite brilliant."6
Around the time of the single's release, further full-page adverts appeared in the national press, this time asking readers "***k The Millennium: Yes/No?", with a telephone number—the "Millennium Crisis Line"—provided for voting: "If you want to fuck the millennium, press '1'. If not, press '2'."16 The adverts were placed under the pseudonym K2 Plant Hire Ltd., who duly claimed that 18,436 (89%) of respondents wished to fuck the millennium. Thus, on 31 October 1997, K2 Plant Hire announced "The People's Pyramid", an estimated 150-foot (46 m)-high structure built from as many house bricks as there were British 20th century births (estimated by the duo as 87 million), with no cost to the taxpayer.2122 According to Melody Maker, a statement posted on K2 Plant Hire's website23 "pointedly contrast[ed] the intended virtues of their People's Pyramid with the drawbacks of the officially sponsored Millennium Dome".21 The Guardian noted drily that the idea "would appear to be far-fetched even by their own standards" and "Planning permission might pose a problem."24 The Pyramid was never built.
K2 Plant Hire also contributed a short story, written by Drummond, to editor Sarah Champion's anthology Disco 2000. Entitled "'Let's Grind' or 'How K2 Plant Hire Went To Work'", the 1997 story is a fictional account of K2 Plant Hire's plan to demolish Stonehenge on the eve of the millennium.25 Also in 1997, Drummond and Cauty reportedly used K2 Plant Hire's remaining funds to bid for purchase of the Rollright Stones ancient monument.25 Psychogeographer Stewart Home alleged that despite K2 Plant Hire's bid being the highest, the owners of the monument refused to trade with the duo.26
Drummond and Cauty's works were both highly self-referential and rife with references to The Illuminatus! Trilogy esoteric novel, from which The JAMs took their name. Their last work, as 2K and K2 Plant Hire, continued many of these themes. Their subversive attitude was exhibited in their attempt to undermine the pop comeback. They defaced a wall of the National Theatre the day after the Barbican performance: the graffiti "1997: What the fuck's going on?" referenced their similar graffiti of ten years earlier on the same wall of the arts establishment. The unusual show at the Barbican was typical of their previous confusing and humorous costumed appearances; moreover, the horns strapped to their foreheads were previously used in The KLF's cowl costumes. The advertising campaigns before and after the single's release resumed Drummond and Cauty's characteristic promotional tactic of cryptic, monochrome full-page adverts placed in UK national newspapers and music press.
The duo's tenth anniversary was prominently implied by the adverts and graffiti, and "Fuck the Millennium" contains many samples from their earliest works. The KLF's "What Time Is Love?"—a breakthrough track for Drummond and Cauty on two occasions—is also used extensively: "Fuck the Millennium" contains the entirety of "What Time Is Love? (Pure Trance Original)", as well as samples used in "What Time Is Love? (Live at Trancentral)".
Seafaring was a recurring element of Drummond and Cauty's output, in lyrics from Who Killed The JAMs?, The White Room and "America: What Time Is Love?", and in imagery used to illustrate The KLF's retirement press notice. Prior to entering the music business, Drummond had worked as a trawlerman. Samples of evangelists also feature in several KLF Communications recordings: the album Chill Out and the B-sides "What Time Is Love? (Virtual Reality Mix)" and "America No More". "Fuck the Millennium" was a studio track promoted as a live recording and featuring sampled crowd noise, as were The KLF's self-named "Stadium House Trilogy" of singles. The use of an English hymn is central to The JAMs' "It's Grim up North". All of The KLF's chart singles either refer or allude to time, a theme continued by "Fuck the Millennium".
2K's lifespan was billed as the duration of the Barbican performance, 23 minutes. The number is given numerological significance in The Illuminatus! Trilogy. The "Fuck the Millennium" sleevenotes state that "The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu appear courtesy of The Five", a reference to the five Illuminati leaders of the novels.27 Drummond and Cauty took The JAMs' name from the fictional cult in Illuminatus!, wherein the fictional JAMs are long-standing enemies of the Illuminati.28 K2 Plant Hire's "The People's Pyramid" recalled Drummond and Cauty's "Pyramid Blaster" logo (a ghetto blaster suspended in front of a pyramid), itself a reference to the all-seeing eye icon used in Illuminatus!.
Although the references to Illuminatus! and themselves were in keeping with Drummond and Cauty's tradition, this was also in part intended to be a self-parodying dredge of The KLF's "myth". Drummond's opinions of the "rock 'n' roll comeback" were recorded by him at the time and aired in 2000: "The history of rock 'n' roll has been littered with pathetic comebacks.... No comeback has ever worked. The motivation behind the comeback has never and will never be the same as when the group or artist first crawled out of their sub-cult.... If there was fresh original talent, it is now tired and tested, only capable of flicking the nostalgia switch."29 Designing 2K's parody of the comeback, Drummond wrote that he and Cauty were "getting totally into the institution of The Comeback, drawing on the sad, pathetic nature of the whole thing, the desperation of all concerned to exploit whatever they can from the myth...".20
Contemporary press reaction to 2K and their Barbican performance was mixed but mostly negative. Since then, however, The Observer have held up the Barbican show as the model of a pop performance. "At one unfortunately memorable Stereophonics gig ...", the paper said, "the extent of Richard Jones' showmanship was to play his bass while standing on a rug.... this is hardly the pyjama-clad KLF, horns strapped to their heads, whizzing around the Barbican in wheelchairs with Zodiac Mindwarp in a pulpit and hundreds of sacked Liverpool dockers yelling "Fuck the millennium!" at the tops of their voices ..."30 Likewise, a 1999 feature on Drummond and Cauty in The Irish Times reported their millennium activities with some warmth. "As a critique of the sponsor-saturated multi-million pound Millennium Dome," the editorial ran, "the 'people's pyramid' is unsurpassed."31
Recounting the exploits of 2K, and the press reaction, in his book 45 (published in the millennium year, 2000), Drummond said:
|“||I wanted to stamp my feet and scream "But you don't understand, the whole show was about the crapness of the comeback, of blowing one's own myth. You are supposed to see that and applaud the fact that we have an incredible understanding and postmodern take on all things pop, at the same time as delivering the goods". And then I did understand. Everything was OK. The show was a success, the record stiffing at number twenty-eight in the charts was just what the doctor ordered. We had not only blown it, we had destroyed whatever remnants of credibility, bankability and myth we had left.32||”|
"Fuck the Millennium" was given an international single release on 13 October 1997. The record was not a success in comparison to The KLF's earlier chart-topping endeavours, peaking at a moderate #28 in the UK Singles Chart.
All formats contained at least one version of 2K's "Fuck the Millennium" and one of Acid Brass' "What Time Is Love?". The formats and track listings are tabulated below:33
|Format (and countries)||Track number|
|CD single (France), 12" single||M||K||P|
|CD single (Japan) (inc. 4 stickers, 12-page booklet)||c||M||m||K||P||O|
|CD single (elsewhere)||M||K||m||c|
- m – "***K the Millennium" (radio edit) (4:18)
- c – "***K the Millennium" (censored radio edit) (4:18)
- M – "***K the Millennium" (13:57)
- K – "Acid Brass / What Time Is Love (Version K)" (4:33)
- P – "Acid Brass / What Time Is Love (Version P – Royal Oak Mix)" (5:28) (remixed by Pan Sonic)
- O – "Acid Brass / What Time Is Love (Original Version)" (4:39)
- Jeremy Deller - Acid Brass concept
- Williams Fairey Band - Acid Brass performance of "What Time Is Love?", conducted by Brian Hurdley.
- Jimmy Cauty, Nick Coler and Bill Drummond - The National Retired Life Boat Men's Choral Society, conducted and arranged by Nick Coler27
- Chike - credited for samples "Ancients of Mu Mu" and "Don't take five, take what you want to take", originally from 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?)
- Alan Goodrick - spoken contributions
- Donald Johnson - live drumming
- Mark Manning - "Reverend Bitumen Hoarfrost"'s evangelical narration
- Rodney Newton - Acid Brass arrangement of The KLF's "What Time Is Love?"
- Mark "Spike" Stent - mixing
- Roberts, David. Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums. Guinness World Records Ltd 17th edition (2004), p. 569 ISBN 0-85112-199-3
- KLF Communications retirement advertisement, originally in New Musical Express, May 1992, cited in Perry, A. and Upton, S., "Millennial Mu Mu", Select, October 1997 (link).
- Reid, J., "Money to burn", The Observer, 25 September 1994, passim. This article is a first-hand account by freelance journalist Jim Reid, the only independent witness to the burning. (link)
- Perry, A. and Upton, S., "Millennial Mu Mu", Select, October 1997 (link).
- For example, Flint, C., "Media Pranksters KLF Re-emerge As 2K", Billboard, 2 September 1997 (link)
- Frith, M., "The Return of The KLF", Sky, October 1997 (link).
- Flint, C. "Media Pranksters KLF Re-emerge As 2K", Billboard, 2 September 1997 (link)
- Drummond, B. and Cauty, J., advertisements, Time Out, 21 August 1997 (1, 2).
- Lewis, A., The Independent, 30 August 1997, Pop & Jazz section p25.
- Originally scheduled for 2 September, but postponed due to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales on 31 August; reportedly, a 2K spokesman ascribed this to the expectation that the concert would have been deprived of tabloid coverage. Barber, N., "Stadium, palladium, tedium", The Independent, 7 September 1997, p12.
- "Justified and (Very) Ancient?", Melody Maker, 20 August 1997 (link)
- 2K press release & biography on the website of their record label, Mute/Blast First (link)
- Sinclair, D., "Stop the millennium dumb", The Times, 22 September 1997, p20.
- K Foundation Burn a Million Quid review, Big Issue, 3 November 1997 (link).
- Daoust, P., "Blast from the past", The Guardian, 20 September 1997 (link).
- Sawyer, M., "They set fire to £1m and they're still not happy", The Observer, 26 October 1997 (link).
- Select, cited in Drummond, B., "Now That's What I Call Disillusionment, 2", 45, (Little & Brown, ISBN 0-316-85385-2 / Abacus, ISBN 0-349-11289-4), 2000.
- The titles "Fuck the Millennium" and "***K the Millennium" appear to be interchangeable. Bill Drummond has referred to the track as "Fuck the Millennium", as does Allmusic. However, most single formats use the title "***K the Millennium", as does Discogs.com. The conventional censorship of the word "fuck" is "f*ck" or "f**k"; however, the letter 'K' is significant for its appearance in Drummond and Cauty's monikers 'The KLF', 'K Foundation', '2K' and 'K2 Plant Hire'. For more information, see The KLF.
- "Singled out", The Times, 11 October 1997
- Drummond, B., "Wheelchairs", 45, (Little & Brown, ISBN 0-316-85385-2 / Abacus, ISBN 0-349-11289-4), 2000.
- News item, Melody Maker, 15 November 1997 (link).
- K2 Plant Hire, advertisement, The Guardian, 31 October 1997 (link).
- k2planthire.ltd.uk at archive.org
- Varley, N., "The People's Pyramid challenges the dome", The Guardian, 5 November 1997, p10.
- Champion, S. (editor), Disco 2000, Sceptre, ISBN 0-340-70771-2, 1998.
- The Guardian, 5 November 1997, and The Big Issue, 15 September 1997, cited in "All bound for *millennium* land", Fortean Times, February 1998 (link).
- Sleevenotes, "Fuck the Millennium", Blast First/Mute Records BFFP 146, 1997.
- Shea, R. and Wilson, R. A., The Illuminatus! Trilogy, ISBN 1-56731-237-3, Dell, US, 1984.
- Drummond, B., "Thrashed", 45, (Little & Brown, ISBN 0-316-85385-2 / Abacus, ISBN 0-349-11289-4), 2000.
- Paterson, C., "The guide: Music: COLIN PATERSON wants more than pop in a performance", The Observer, 8 September 2001
- Boyd, B., "Millennium Matters", The Irish Times, 29 May 1999, Home News section p2.
- Drummond, B., "Now That's What I Call Disillusionment, 2", 45, (Little & Brown, ISBN 0-316-85385-2 / Abacus, ISBN 0-349-11289-4), 2000.
- Longmire, Ernie et al. (2005). KLF discography Compiled by Ernie Longmire, this has been the authoritative KLF discography on the internet for some 10 years or more and has been the subject of long-term scrutiny and peer review by KLF fans and collectors. It is now maintained by the fan site klf.de.