60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #41


The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu – Shag Times (1989)

I really debated in my head whether this particular release was eligible for the rundown.   It was partly to do with the fact that it was a compilation, but the biggest concern was that it would have been maybe 18 months or so after its release before I picked up a copy, which sort of went against the grain that the album had to have bought at the time of its release to qualify for consideration.  But in the end, I can most certainly live with myself that it’s here.

I’ve mentioned on more than a few occasions that the period from mid 1987-mid 1989 was a time when I drifted away from music due to what was happening in my personal life.  Not only was buying next to nothing, but I no longer had any interest in reading the weekly music papers, and thus was totally out of the loop.  There are a few folk to thank for dragging me out of the tailspin, not least Rachel (Mrs VV) and my dear friend and then work colleague, Jacques The Kipper whose regular diet of C90 cassettes filled in many gaps in my knowledge.

I had missed all the fuss about The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu and the shenanigans around their efforts to make dance music that was based around sampling.  JtK had kept his eye on the ball and some of the JAMMs songs found their way onto the C90s, which looking back on it seems deliciously ironic.

Here’s a contemporary review of the Shag Times compilation, penned by Mat Snow for Q Magazine in February 1989:-

The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu are King Boy D. (Bill Drummond, doyen of the Liverpool scene that spawned the Bunnymen, Teardrop etc) and Rockman Rock (formerly of Brilliant), and Shag Times would be their greatest hits if the full force of the law hadn’t already decided they probably belonged to the original artists.

Indeed, the track Don’t Take Five (Take What You Want) last saw action on the album 1987 (What The Fuck’s Goin On?), so swiftly suppressed by the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society that rare copies now change hands at silly prices. Indeed, the queue of artists whose most memorable moments have been glued onto a beatbox backing-track stretches all the way back to the 19th century.

Apart from the usual sources-AC/DC, James Brown-this album of already released numbers (plus a remix companion disc) creates some unlikely bedfellows. Wagner and Pet Clarke? Jimi Hendrix and Dave Brubeck? Whitney Houston and so on, ad absurdum. Though hardly new as a technique-Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five’s Adventures On The Wheels Of Steel kicked off the ’80s with a bricolage of Queen, Blondie and Chic-JAMMs’ buccaneering attitude to the laws of creative ownership helped re-open the whole debate and, what often seems neglected in the furore, made a sequence of very amusing juxtapositions, of which The Timelords ‘Doctorin’ The Tardis (included here) is the tamest.

A great party album.

The review gives an indication that the furore around the JAMMs made it difficult to pick up any of their releases.  It was mid-1990 when I finally saw a second-hand copy in an Edinburgh shop, which I grabbed with indecent haste.  I think I paid £7 for it.

mp3: The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu – Candyman

The other great thing about the CD was that it came with an 8-page booklet containing various articles about the band that had appeared in the UK music press from March 1987 to April 1988, which was a huge help in me further filling in the gaps in my knowledge.

Oh, and in doing a bit of research for this post, I had a look at Discogs.  £85 is the asking price in the UK for a copy of this CD.  Utter madness.



Bill Drummond was/is part of The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu. And that’s justifiable enough in my book for this to appear today-

mp3 : The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu – Whitney Joins The J.A.Ms

Wiki does its best to describe it:-

The 7-minute song is progressive, funky house, and an early example of a mash-up. It opens with quiet synthesiser drones and cymbal percussion which are soon joined by the markedly louder Mission: Impossible theme. Drummond says “‘Mission impossible’ we were told, she’ll never join The JAMs”, a point answered by power chords sampled from Whitney’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”. Drummond then begs and pleads to Whitney for around ninety seconds before the first strains of her voice can be heard. Drummond sounds ecstatic, proclaiming “Whitney Houston joins The JAMs!” and “I’m yours!”.

The song develops to sample full sections of Houstons’s chorus, alternating these with increasingly pronounced guitar work taken from Isaac Hayes’ distinctive Shaft theme and portions of the Mission: Impossible theme complemented by piano work. Ultimately the track descends into an unrhythmic cacophony of samples.

I love it.  Not sure I’ve the courage to ever air it at a Simply Thrilled night mind you…..



The label says it’s The KLF but to all intent and purposes it really is a release from The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu ; the packaging and labelling are the same as their three previous singles and the biggest clue can be seen from a few words that were printed on the label – ‘THIS IS A TRANSITION RECORD’. There’s also the fact that the record, prior to it being issued as a single it had been a track on the LP Who Killed The JAMMs released in February 1988.

There’s no doubt that the wholly uptempo nature of the tune is in keeping with that much later KLF material which brought fame and fortune, not to mention infamy after the burning of £1,000,000.  But at the time, it was simply a way of drawing the ‘career’ of the JAMMs to an end and the next thing that Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty would go and do is record and release a novelty single as The Timelords that became a surprise #1 hit.

The subject matter of Burn The Bastards is the debut JAMMs LP 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?) which had been produced using extensive unauthorised samples in a very crude and elementary way – eventually a complaint from ABBA about the use of Dancing Queen led to an order from the bosses in the music industry for all remaining copies of the album to be firstly withdrawn and then destroyed.  Drummond and Cauty took legal advice but were told it would cost a minimum of £20,000 to defend in court and they had little chance of winning.

They complied but in ways that were often unorthodox such as throwing them into the sea off the coast of Sweden after a well-publicised but totally futile attempt to have ABBA’s management change their minds.  The records overboard event had come after they had illegally gone into a farmer’s field outside of Stockholm and set fire to copies of the record – only to be forcibly removed with the threat of arrest by the police (it’s even been suggested they were chased out of the field by the farmer brandishing a shotgun). An image of the bonfire was used on the sleeve of the second LP.

mp3 : The JAMMs – Burn The Bastards

Making great use of Dance to The Music by Sly and the Family Stone (along with a cheeky wee swipe of Bad by Michael Jackson), this single is an absolute hoot and infectiously danceable. If Bill’s rough Scottish brogue is too much for you, then get yourself moving to the instrumental b-side:-

mp3 : The JAMMs – Burn The Beat

The single vanished without a trace.



I’m taking a wee bit of a breather this week.

Today’s posting is one from the vaults while the next four days will see sundry guests step up to the plate, including a few superbly diverse ICAs.

I’m doing so as I’ve a couple of guest postings of my own over at S-WC and Badger’s place and I don’t want to hog things. If you haven’t been across to look at The WYCRA 200 then you really are missing out on some ridiculously good tunes long with some of the best writing you’ll find anywhere on the internet.

#65 on the rundown came courtesy of SWC’s dad, and it was the rather wonderful Downtown by Petula Clark. Reading it made me dig out this piece of my own from December 2009:-

“Just heard that the Cowell hit-making machine has been stopped, temporarily, in its tracks with the news that Rage Against The Machine are grabbing the Xmas #1.

If we’re going to manage to do the same next year, we need to get behind one track. There will be some out there who ask that it be The Pogues, others will want Slade…..we might even get behind the Sex Pistols in an effort to give them the #1 they were denied in Jubilee Year in 1977.

I’d like to suggest what I reckon is THE best Christmas single ever……

Here’s what the NME of 28 November 1987 had to say:-

From sample Wonderland to Get Down town, the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu power on. Here, the Kings of the Greengate Sampler have hired the talents of the London Community Gospel Choir, received permission to use Petula Clark’s classic, and fireballed the two, along with their own rap, into one massive hell-hating holler of a song.

Whereas ‘Whitney Joins The Jams’ was a tale of simple sample fantasy, ‘Down Town’s’ lyrics question the inadequacies and inconsistencies of society in the same demanding way ‘All You Need Is Love’ first fingered the confusion and hysteria surrounding AIDS.

Deep down in the mix amidst the sleigh bells, the church organ and the police sirens King Boy can be heard bouncing questions like rubber bricks off the walls of “Glory, what Glory? In a wine-bar world? In a tenement block? OK let’s hear it” crows the Clydeside MC.

The Jams may not be the hippest, sanest or sweetest band to stalk the earth this year, but they’re certainly the most imaginative…..firing a trail so shocking they couldn’t have kept you more on your toes if they stuffed a hand grenade up your ass and sent you to tap dance in a pair of stilettos!

mp3 : The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu – Downtown (12 inch version)

OK….there’s a real 80s feel to much of the production but it doesn’t detract from the fact that Bill Drummond was a genius then, is a genius now and will be a genius forever.


From the back of the 12″ single:-

Having stepped from the wreckage of their 1968 Ford Galaxy American police car Rockman Rock and Kingboy D (The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu) found their ice cream van. Heading east up over the Pennine-straddling M62, they pull their ice-cream van onto the hard shoulder. Behind them to the west, they can still make out the sprawling conurbation of Greater Manchester and those surrounding Lancashire towns, proud in their decline.

Further west, somewhere beyond where Liverpool used to be, a dirty sunset sinks into the Irish Sea. To the east the sky is already dark. The Yorkshire towns seeking solace in their Pennine valleys. But up here on this unhealing gash across the backbone of England the immediate landscape is a desolate moorland, with none of the grandeur of the Highlands or the classic English beauty of the Lakes.

Three bedraggled sheep huddle for shelter in a ditch. The drizzle toughens. Then climbs to a solid rain. Heavy goods vehicles plough by. Tacographs on overload. A leaded grime smears the verges. Sodden Silk Cut packets wonder whether they are biodegrading. A crow flies north.

Through the downpour and diesel roar, Rockman Rock and Kingboy D can feel a regular dull thud. Whether this is the eternal echo of a Victorian steam-driven revolution, or the turbo-driven kick of a distant Northern rave is irrelevant.

Thus inspired, the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu climb into the back of their ice cream van and work.

mp3 : The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu – It’s Grim Up North (Part 1)
mp3 : The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu – It’s Grim Up North (Part 2)

Wiki is good for the factual info.

“Part 1 is a 10-minute composition with two distinct segueing sections. The first 7-minute section is a heavy, pounding industrial techno track, over which Drummond gives a roll-call of Northern towns, through a CB microphone. Between verses, Drummond’s processed voice urgently alerts us that “It’s grim up North”. The instrumentation is in minor key and frequently discordant, featuring synthesised sounds reminiscent of passing heavy goods vehicles or train whistles. Although the underlying rhythm holds a 4/4 time signature, several instruments keep 3/16 and 3/4 time throughout the track, including a deep second drum line – the “regular dull thud” – which juxtaposes when the 4/4 instruments and percussion drop out.

The second section is a fully-orchestrated arrangement of Jerusalem, with the sounds of brass, strings, organs, drums and choir. The instrumentation and vocals of the first section gradually diminish to nothing over a period of nearly two minutes. Following the climax of the hymn, howling wind and crow calls are heard to fade out.

Part 2 is a 6-minute reprise of the techno themes from Part 1, without the vocals and orchestra.”

All locations are in the North of England. They are predominantly in Yorkshire and Lancashire. Scarborough is the furthest north in the list and the furthest south is Nantwich. The full list of locations in the lyrics follows:

First verse

Bolton, Barnsley, Nelson, Colne, Burnley, Bradford, Buxton, Crewe, Warrington, Widnes, Wigan, Leeds, Northwich, Nantwich, Knutsford, Hull, Sale, Salford, Southport, Leigh, Kirkby, Kearsley, Keighley, Maghull, Harrogate, Huddersfield, Oldham, Lancs, Grimsby, Glossop, Hebden Bridge.

Second verse

Brighouse, Bootle, Featherstone, Speke, Runcorn, Rotherham, Rochdale, Barrow, Morecambe, Macclesfield, Lytham St. Annes, Clitheroe, Cleethorpes, the M62.

Third verse

Pendlebury, Prestwich, Preston, York, Skipton, Scunthorpe, Scarborough-on-Sea, Chester, Chorley, Cheadle Hulme (could also be interpreted as the equally valid Cheadle, Hulme), Ormskirk, Accrington, Stanley (could also be interpreted as the football club, Accrington Stanley FC), Leigh, Ossett, Otley, Ilkley Moor, Sheffield, Manchester, Castleford, Skem, Doncaster, Dewsbury, Halifax, Bingley, Bramhall.

NB : The shortened version in the video omits the second verse.

So now you’re fully primed for any relevant questions in a pub quiz.

Incidentally, ‘Grim’ was released in October 1991 and while it reached #10 this was a little short of the chart success that had been enjoyed in earlier months by The KLF.



I’m a few thousand miles away at the moment and so am happy to drop a wee hand grenade into the blogosphere and not worry about the consequences.

Y’see, I think a lot of you will hate today’s song one which initially came out in 1987, but for ages wasn’t widely available due to a copyright ban being slapped on it.

mp3 : The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu – The Queen and I

It samples large portions of Dancing Queen and did so without credit as indeed did just about any example of the genre in those pioneering days. The recording inevitably came to the attention of Abba‘s management and, after a legal showdown, the JAMs‘ album, which was entitled 1987, What The Fuck’s Going On? was forcibly withdrawn from sale.

Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty travelled to Sweden in what was always of course a vain hope of meeting Abba and coming to some sort of agreement to enable a release. They of course took along an NME journalist and staff photographer with them to capture everything for posterity as well as all remaining copies of the LP. They failed in their quest and so ended up disposing of the copies by burning most of them in a field and then throwing the rest overboard on the North Sea ferry trip home. Allegedly.

I managed to find the track, and the others from 1987 WTF, thanks to the purchase of a CD released in 1992 which, according to Discogs is:-

A three-track bootleg with unconvincingly redrawn JAMs logo on front. Tracks 1 & 2 constitute the original 7 songs of the vinyl-only ‘1987’ album. Track 3 is labelled as bonus tracks (by The JAMs) but this is actually a live recording of a band called Big Black performing totally different songs!

I’d like to believe that Bill and Jimmy knew exactly what was going on with that CD, although of course being fine up-standing citizens who have full respect for the law and for the ruling that there should be no copies of the album ever made available then I have to accept it was a completely unauthorised release…..which just happened to have a catalogue number of KLFCD 007.

As I said, The Queen and I is a really early example of sampling and I’m of the view that it’s as much a unique and groundbreaking work of modern art as anything that you’ll find hanging overpriced in a gallery by the likes of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Douglas Gordon or any other eminent contemporary artist.

But then again Bill Drummond himself isn’t all that enamoured by it.

In 1987 he had said “We made [the album] not giving a shit for soul boy snob values or any other values, we just went in and made the noise we wanted to hear and the stuff that came out of our mouths…. Not a pleasant sound but it’s the noise we had. We pressed it up and stuck it out. A celebration of sorts.”

By 1991, he was saying “We didn’t listen to 1987 What The Fuck’s Going On for a long time, and when we did we were embarrassed by it because it was so badly recorded. But I still felt we were able to get a lot out of ourselves through it.”




The best summary of Pete Wylie that I’ve ever read appeared in a piece in The Guardian just over 12 months ago:-

Pete Wylie was one of John Peel’s pet projects. He’d been one of the legendary (and barely existent) Liverpool group the Crucial Three with Julian Cope and Ian McCulloch before those two formed the Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen respectively. Wylie formed Wah! Or rather, with a grasp of how to succeed in the music business that fell far short of his grandiose ambition, he formed Wah!, Wah! Heat, Shambeko Say! Wah!, Wah! The Mongrel, JF Wah! He got a major label, he released an album with the please-don’t-buy-this title Nah = Poo! – The Art of Bluff, he had a hit single with The Story of the Blues, he lost the major label deal. Through it all was a sense of a character who felt destined to be a star, and who had imagined the whole process from start to finish, with the possible exception of the bits in which he knuckled down and did what aspirant stars have to do: kissing label arses; doing the meet-and-greets; being a good boy.

The bio on the official website describes him as ‘part time rock star – full-time legend’ and reminds us that he has been behind some epic chart hits in our lifetime with the likes of Story of The Blues, Sinful and Come Back, the 12″ versions of which all have a place in the cupboard full of vinyl.

What I also think is well worth a read are the words of Wylie on how Story of The Blues became a hit:-

I started re-checking the Chilites doing this beautiful, very direct, emotional thing & around the same time saw Alan Bleasdale’s ‘BOYS FROM THE BLACKSTUFF’; it made powerful political points by connecting emotionally, by dealing with the human costs of the day + MOTOWN WALKER BROTHERS etc all kicked in like long-lost family – we brought in mike HEDGES as producer (I love and love his work with the Associates, who during the recording brought in the most ale I’d seen at that point, and we ‘watched’ Scotland v Brazil, 82 world cup – love ya Billy). I programmed drumbox, arranged, played guitar, piano even – WEA thought BIGTIME; PEELE & JENSEN hammered it on Radip 1, the world breathed a sigh of indifference. Then, months after release, dead on its feet, we got a call; Granada TV were doing a Christmas show, Duran or such has been collared doing something shady, they needed a replacement quick and we were the nearest group; we did the show (first WAH! TV goes pop); in the make-up (MAKE-UP!) room Bet Lynch took a look at my quiff and said ‘OOH I haven’t seen one that big for years” I worw a tux (Like when ELVIS sang with SINATRA). The show aired Christmas day, the shops opened soon after and we humbly took our place in the nation’s charts – 6 MONTHS OF DOOM THEN BOOM! And it all got very different

mp3 : Wah! – The Story of The Blues (Part 1)

A rather less polished version was later recorded on 22 August 1984 for the John Peel Show:-

mp3 : The Mighty Wah – Basement Blues/Story Of The Blues

One of my other favourite Pete Wylie things was written in 1989:-

mp3 : Big Hard Excellent Fish – Imperfect List

It’s a spoken-word track is a list of his most hated people and things read by Josie Jones. Fast forward to 2004 and that very track was used as the opening salvo in Morrissey’s gig at the Manchester Arena (which myself and Mrs Villain managed to pick up tickets for!) and subsequently can be found on the DVD Who Put the M in Manchester?

And finally, here’s a rare chance to listen to Pete’s vocal contribution in 1990 to the original hardcore near nine minute version of a track that would be re-recorded and become a hit single a year later :-

mp3 : The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (feat Pete Wylie) – It’s Grim Up North



In which I finally catch up with all the entries in this long-running series……


(66) Josef K – Chance Meeting b/w Pictures : Postcard Records 7″ (1981)

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you David Weddell, Malcolm Ross, Paul Haig and Ronnie Torrance.  Collectively known as Josef K.  All you need to know can be found in here. It’s a fantastic website.


(67) The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu – Whitney Joins The J.A.Ms : KLF Communications 12″ (1987)

OK. The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu are not completely Scottish. But one half of them is and as far as I’m concerned that’s good enough for this 1987 one sided single to be included in this long-running alphabetical series. Plenty more to come before we reach Zoey Van Goey ………..  Happy to accept that this track has not dated all that well but also willing to argue that it was ground-breaking in its day.


(68) Kid Canaveral – Couldn’t Dance b/w Teenage Fanclub Song : Straight To Video Records (2008)

Kid Canaveral are an alternative pop group based in Edinburgh, and the indiepop poster children of the Fence Records roster. The band – David MacGregor (Guitars & Voice), Kate Lazda (Guitars & Voice), Rose McConnachie (Bass Guitar & Voice) and Scott McMaster (Drumkit) – formed in St Andrews, and after releasing their debut 7″ single ‘Smash Hits’ on their own label Straight to Video Records in 2007, they self-released a further 4 singles, an EP and their debut album Shouting at Wildlife, before signing to Fence Records in 2011.

Tune in next week for Part 69.