Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Jimmy Cauty & Bill Drummond: The Manual: How To Have A Number One The Easy Way

The world needs more artists like The KLF. Rarely has such a subversive prank of a band gone so far while expressing such blatant contempt for the music industry and its audience. During its brief tenure in the limelight, The KLF—Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond, a.k.a. The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu—managed to score several hit singles; rope Tammy Wynette into singing "Justified And Ancient," an almost self-mocking techno number; toss a dead goat into the seated audience at a British awards show before firing an automatic weapon over the crowd's heads; and burn £1 million at a public funeral for The KLF. One of the earliest indications of the confrontational direction the group would eventually head was The Manual. Released in a limited number after The KLF's Doctor Who-sampling song "Doctorin' The Tardis" (released as the work of "The Timelords") somehow made it to number one, The Manual was a hugely cynical yet oddly accurate and savvy account of the steps, from recording to marketing, one could take to hit the top of the charts. (Cauty and Drummond even offered a money-back guarantee.) Now reissued in a pocket-sized format, with a new foreword by Jon Savage and a surprisingly sentimental postscript from Drummond, The Manual comes just at the renewed peak of disposable formula-pop. Though the British charts have generally proved more daring than their American counterparts—only in England could the Orb's 40-minute "Blue Room" vie with, say, Take That—The Manual makes a whole lot of sense against a background of Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys. One of Cauty and Drummond's most intriguing conclusions is that hit factories like Michael Jackson or Motown only slow down when they get bored with the foolproof hitmaking formula and many "golden rules." Reading and rereading The Manual makes it an interesting exercise to listen for any digressions from the current crop of hitmakers, just to see if they do lead to commercial decline. As for Drummond and Cauty, their place on the charts is not what it once was, but their reputation as modern-day Duchamps still prevails.