Monday, September 04, 2006

The Manual

In 1988, after the massive success of the song “Doctorin’ the Tardis” which they released as the Timelords, the KLF wrote a book called The Manual (how to have a number one the easy way).

The Manual is a witty read that aims to instruct you in how to get a song to number one without actually having any talent. You can read it in full here. Although a lot of it (particularly the stuff about recording studios and even the now-departed Top of the Pops) is clearly out-of-date, there is some excellent stuff that is clearly relevant to pop music today. The “golden rules” section is fascinating, and contains one of the most eloquent rebuttals to the argument “dance music is not real music, no-one plays any real instruments on it” that I have seen:

So why don't all songs sound the same? Why are some artists great, write dozens of classics that move you to tears, say it like it's never been said before, make you laugh, dance, blow your mind, fall in love, take to the streets and riot? Well, it's because although the chords, notes, harmonies, beats and words have all been used before their own soul shines through; their personality demands attention. This doesn't just come via the great vocalist or virtuoso instrumentalist. The Techno sound of Detroit, the most totally linear programmed music ever, lacking any human musicianship in its execution reeks of sweat, sex and desire. The creators of that music just press a few buttons and out comes - a million years of pain and lust.

We await the day with relish that somebody dares to make a dance record that consists of nothing more than an electronically programmed bass drum beat that continues playing the fours monotonously for eight minutes. Then, when somebody else brings one out using exactly the same bass drum sound and at the same beats per minute (B.P.M.), we will all be able to tell which is the best, which inspires the dance floor to fill the fastest, which has the most sex and the most soul. There is no doubt, one will be better than the other. What we are basically saying is, if you have anything in you, anything unique, what others might term as originality, it will come through whatever the component parts used in your future Number One are made up from.

The KLF are geniuses, by the way. Read the comprehensive Wikipedia entry on them for much more on their legendary exploits.


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