Bill Drummond was a leading light in the music industry for many years. He was never afraid to try new things. Here we will take a brief and introductory look at the story of Bill Drummond.
Bill Drummond was born in Butterworth, South Africa but soon found himself in Scotland and grew up first in Newton Stewart, Galloway and then Clydebank. He was to become one of the most influential men in the music business both in front of the mic and behind the scenes.
As a teenager Bill Drummond was an archetypal runaway and after tasting his first experience of work as a fisherman off Scotland’s North East he soon set off for pastures new and found himself down south in Liverpool where he was to study art. It wasn’t long before he formed a music band.
(Bill Drummond – Image via Wikipedia)
Punk was all the rage and in 1977 Bill Drummond formed ‘Big In Japan’ alongside Holly Johnson and Ian Broudie. Holly Johnson would find fame as part of ‘Frankie Goes To Hollywood’ and Ian Broudie would find fame as part of the ‘Lightning Seeds'; Drummond himself would go on to bigger and better things also, but as it was’Big In Japan’ was a start. They only lasted a single year and a couple of singles before they split. Holly Johnson and Ian Broudie would stay for now on the performing side of music but Drummond crossed over to the other side.
Along with future ‘Food’ man Dave Balfe, Bill Drummond co-founded the very influential ‘Zoo’ label. It was the label that was to be instrumental in the early careers of both ‘Teardrop Explodes’ and ‘Echo and the Bunnymen’but Bill Drummond soon parted company on acrimonious terms before embarking on an A&R job at ‘WEA’.
Having worked with ‘Zodiac Mindwarp’ and ‘the Proclaimers’, Bill Drummond signed the band ‘Brilliant’ who, as it turned out, were anything but! When ‘Brilliant’ failed to make the break through Bill Drummond recorded a ‘retiral’ solo album on the ‘Creation’ label called ‘The Manager’. Perhaps at the time he had had enough of the music business but, on the other hand, perhaps now being back in front of the mic inspired Bill Drummond, for six months after his ‘retiral’ he was back with a vengeance.
Bill Drummond, along with Jimmy Cauty (member of the ill-fated Brilliant), formed the ‘JAMMS’. It was an ironic pop project that used the medium of the then current house craze to pass along its subversive message. The’JAMMS’ (‘Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu’ in full) were soon to become dance pioneers in their own right. All it took was a change of name and a little bit of help from an elder country star.
A one off single was released by the duo in 1988 under the name ‘Timelords’, it was called ‘Doctorin’ The Tardis’and it rocketed straight to number one in the UK charts. If there had been any previous doubt as to whether the world was ready for their kind of music it had just been blown out the water.
They soon became the KLF and music was never the same again. With major hits such as ‘What Time Is Love’, ‘3 A.M Eternal’ and ‘Last Train To Transcentral’ they had hit the big time. The release of those three songs had all taken place between August 1990 and May 1991 and had hit number 5, number 1 and number 2 in the UK charts respectively. For their next single they really did surprise the public.
Image via Wikipedia
In late 1991 the KLF released their fourth single ‘Justified and Ancient’ and it featured Tammy Wynette on vocals. The American country and western singer-songwriter had not really been popular for many years and it would be fair comment to say that the youth of Britain had very little interest or knowledge of who she was at the time. The last chart hit Tammy Wynette had had in the UK was as far back as 1976! But there she was featured on a KLF song and there was a resurgence of popularity in the music of Tammy Wynette off the back of what was a dance song.
Justified and Ancient – The KLF featuring Tammy Wynette
How the KLF managed to get Tammy Wynette to sing their song I have no idea and I have no idea what made them think of even asking. A country star singing on a dance song is surely preposterous, but not only was it not, it worked very well and a number 2 hit was the result. (It was kept off the top spot by the re-release of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody).
The KLF soon deliberately sabotaged their own success. They deleted their own back catalogue and performed a ‘noise’ version of ‘What Time Is Love’ at the Brit awards. After disbanding the KLF, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty turned their attentions to the art world and set up the ‘K Foundation’. They once put on exhibition a million pounds in cash and then took it to a remote Scottish island and burned it all. The reason for burning a million pounds? Because they could!
In more recent years Bill Drummond has left the music world behind him and instead turned his hand to writing and has written a series of pocket books. He certainly is an eccentric person who has never quite followed the rules, but one thing is sure, he took the music world by surprise on many different occasions and yet remains an often over-looked figure.
P.S. This article was originally published by the same author on Triond on the 14th of October 2010 and can be found by clicking HERE.