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By Jerome Boyd Maunsell (26 February, 2000, The Times)
45. By Bill Drummond. Little, Brown, Pounds 12.99 (Non-fiction). ISBN 0 31685385 2. Pounds 10.99 (free p&p) 0870 160 8080 It is usually a disaster when pop stars write books. Since Jim Morrison's addled attempts at verse, the annals of rock history have been littered with unfortunate tomes that do little more than embarrass their authors. But Bill Drummond was never your average rock star. Together with fellow prankster Jimmy Cauty, under a host of aliases (The Timelords, the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu and the KLF, among others), his pop career and activities surrounding it have been unorthodox in the extreme. As the arch media manipulators KLF, their activities have involved dead sheep, awarding the Turner Prize-winner Rachel Whiteread a Pounds 40,000 prize for the worst work of art of 1993 and, most notoriously, burning a million quid on a remote Scottish island. Drummond's experiments in writing have been equally unusual. After the success of Doctorin' the Tardis, The Timelords published a book called The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way), which told the aspiring pop star how to do exactly that. In 1996, Drummond co-authored Bad Wisdom with Mark Manning, documenting a trip from Helsinki to "as near the North Pole as we could get", accompanied by an icon of Elvis Presley to plant at the apex of the journey. Titled after the author's age at the time of writing, 45 has more humble ambitions. A series of loosely related vignettes forming the rambling diary of one year, it initially feels far removed from the scam-mongering stunts that we have come to expect. Drummond portrays himself as a shambling, absurd figure, saddled with the twin obsessions of pop music and art. He reflects on managing Echo and the Bunnymen in the early Eighties, making terrible records in Helsinki, buying art for no apparent reason and constantly drinking tea. All the while, he has to put up with his children kindly pointing out to him how stupid he looks as he gamely tries to amuse them. One particularly effective piece follows him around Aylesbury, loitering in Safeway and the municipal library. Other stories bristle with brilliantly insane schemes which often go awry, such as Gimpo's 25, an inspired plan to drive around the M25 for 25 hours non-stop (apart from a few rapid refuelling breaks), hoping to "see where it leads" and achieve nirvana. Or a publicity stunt involving 6,250 cans of Tennent's Super and a crowd of street drinkers. Another project, which is vividly recounted in the chapter Let's Grind or How K2 Plant Hire Went to Work, thankfully never even got off the ground. It entailed stringing up two dead cows from a pylon in a field in Essex, and then photographing the lurid scene for mass distribution. Drummond's narration of these doomed enterprises follows a similarly wayward path, digressing at every opportunity to tell more fantastic tales. But there is a method in his madness. The book's disparate follies all swoop around the same themes - music, myth-making, celebrity, art, the media. And you realise that, far from being foolish, Drummond has the inimitable wisdom of a true maverick.
Caption: MONEY TO BURN: The KLF have sought out notoriety. Photograph by SteveDouble/Retna
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