One million British pounds or 2 million British pounds (or 2.3 million Euro, 2.8 million USD or 18 million Chinese Yuan) in 2021 money. This is how much the electronic band known as the KLF took to a remote Scottish island and burned on a bonfire.
Why Did the KLF Burn a Million pounds? Was it a piece of performance art? Bill Drummond (alias King Boy D) and Jimmy Cauty (alias Rockman Rock) had no convincing explanation for what they had done and hoped other people could provide one.
Whatever it was, it backfired horribly. Their subsequent tour was a disaster and people were angry. How could they have done something so reckless, so morally indefensible? They eventually resolved not to speak about it, and imposed a self-imposed moratorium of 23 years on the matter.
Few bands since have been able to rival their anarchic career in the late 1980s and 90s. There was their shameless sampling of pop songs, which led to objections from Abba for the unauthorized use of Dancing Queen. The pair traveled to Sweden to convince Abba to endorse the record. Abba refused, so they gave the gold disc to a Swedish sex worker and burned the rest of the records in the woods.
Was the burning of 1 million pounds a radical critique of the finance industry or an attempt to show the inherent meaningless of money or maybe both?
A satisfying answer was never provided by the KLF. That is, until a poster released in 2017, when the KLF launched a novel, 2023: A Trilogy, gave some brutally honest insight from a group that never worried about controversy.
It reads: “Why? Because we’re fuuking stupid and ran out of ideas. Now we need the money back“.