Remembering the day Gay asked Bill to explain the burning million

He was once worth a million quid; have a look, he'll tell you what he did ...

 

In 1995, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, aka the KLF, went on The Late Late Show to discuss why they burned a million quid. They explained themselves before Gay Byrne, an annoyed studio audience (it’d be a few years before the Irish public got into the money burning business), and, for some reason, Joe Elliott from Def Leppard.

The burning took place on the island of Jura in the name of art. Their pal Gimpo filmed it and they were touring the film (K Foundation Burn a Million Quid) with an air of defiance and regretful melancholy. It was their only million pounds and they weren’t exactly sure why they did it. It’s my favourite Late Late Show interview.

“Why are you here?” Gay Byrne asked after a while.

“I think we were invited,” said Cauty, looking a bit sad.

All of the KLF’s art stunts came with some very British doubt embedded. Their book on how to write a hit song, The Manual, ends suddenly when they get sick of writing it. Drummond’s collection of essays, 45, has him frequently wondering if they’ve “gone too far”.

Currently, Drummond has an artistic to-do list, titled The 25 Paintings World Tour, that includes: “dance on tables”, “grow old” and “run away”.

He’s in Dublin on Saturday (Marsh’s Library 2pm) as part of the No Idle Day Festival, for which he will “do some things”. He’s an international treasure, albeit worth a little less now than he might have been.

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