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Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
24 August 2023, 16:15

The KLF share unreleased music through the British Library’s free Sound Gallery

The band have opted to donate their work this time, rather than setting it alight or throwing it into the North Sea

The KLF British Library

Rare, previously unreleased music by UK electronic pioneers The KLF is set to be made available through the British Library's free Sound Gallery. 

The only physical copy of a reconstructed version of the group's landmark debut album, '1987 (What the F** Is Going On?)', originally released under the band name Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (The JAMs), will be added to the institution's existing KLF Kollection, credited to Ice Kream Van. All surviving master tapes will also be added. 

Collectively referred to as 'The Acetate', this work will be available to hear upon request in the institution's Reading Rooms from 30th August, following a single-day listening event earlier this week. Widely regarded as a benchmark of the early years of British rave culture, the LP caused controversy at the time due to the use of unauthorised samples, plagiarising a range of other acts including ABBA.

After a complaint was upheld, all unsold copies were ordered to be destroyed, with The KLF opting to set a number of copies on fire in a field outside Gothenburg, Sweden. A photograph of the blaze then formed the cover of 1988's follow up LP, 'Who Killed the JAMs?' Remaining stock was thrown overboard on the ferry journey from Scandinavia back to the United Kingdom, with the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society also requesting that all master tapes and "other parts commensurate with manufacture of the record" should be surrendered. 

"As a lifetime, card-carrying and founding member of the KLF Re-enactment Society, I felt it my duty to not only ‘re-enact’ the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu’s album 1987 (Blah, Blah, Blah?)' but present it to the world in a way far superior than their original version," The KLF said in a stamenet about the British Library agreement. “That said, I am very aware, even if they are not aware that I am aware, that my ageing Ice Kream Men have ‘pirated’ a copy of my re-enactment and have had an acetate cut of it and have ‘donated’ their pirated copy to the British Library for those that visit such places.”

In other KLF news, BFI is preparing to release '23 Seconds to Eternity', the first DVD and Blu-ray collection of films by The JAMs, the KLF, and The Timelords. These include the surreal road movie 'The White Room', and 'The Rites of Mu', a 29-minute documentary narrated by Martin Sheen about a Summer Solstice event the band hosted on the Scottish island of Jura in 1991.

Videos for the so-called Stadium House Trilogy of singles — '3AM Eternal', 'Last Train to Trancentral', and 'What Time Is Love' — also feature. A public screening will take place at BFI Southbank on 6th November, and pre-orders are already being taken. 

In 2021, The KLF's output again made headlines, decades on from original release, after appearing on streaming services for the first time. This coincided with a new documentary, 'Welcome To The Dark Ages', looking at the group's return, which was announced four years earlier, and a dispute with director Chris Atkins. According to the band, his film, 'Who Killed The KLF?', used without permission, amounting to copyright infringement.