Chapter 1 : LITERAL
In parts of this manual we will patronise you, but you already know what “literally” means and we will not define it. When Private Eye quotes football commentators saying stuff like “his legs were literally on fire”, you get the joke.
There has been talk amongst the various factions of the KLFRS, and some of it dismissive, of literal re-enactments. The urge to preserve, restore and recreate in fine detail, it is implied, is unbecoming of a true disciple of Mu. Far better, claim the lateralists, to destroy, deconstruct and reimagine.
But perhaps some of these words uttered in haste might now be, well if not taken back, then at least reappraised, or reconsidered.
The literal re-enactments commissioned by director Chris Atkins, (still unseen when first documented by the KLFRS, but at last visible in the film Who Killed the KLF) may be considered a case in point.
These original copies in Atkins’ film demonstrate that an authentic replica, like a genuine imitation, may be a contradiction in terms to embrace at last, even if at first reluctantly.
Perhaps there is something to be said for the purity of essence of a literal re-enactment. Accurately reproducing content from the source lends an air of legitimacy to your conceit. Taking the angst-ridden,“I’m above all this” outsider stance only gets you so far.
Literal Re-Enactors, in the years since the great deletion, have for many been the only source of recordings and information. The KLF Restoration Society is a hardcore “real” or “continuity” faction of literalists who have recovered, remastered, reissued or similarly made available numerous recordings that are otherwise unavailable.
But how far will you go to achieve your pristine, literal re-enactment?
Will you be ready to totally split the infinitives?
Of course there are those literal re-enactors who have worked long and hard; they have quarried by hand from grey forgotten hills. Rolled on logs across the high plains of the imagination. Their finished works satisfying, even to the most disgruntled of purists.
Rick Astley may serve as an unlikely and diversionary example here. Because Rick Astley is a man who has learned to love the platform that matters the most. As previously discussed, in the late 1980s that was a UK number one hit single.
But pop fame is a fickle hen, and random are her eggs. After splitting with his original producers the hits soon dried up. For a while, if he was remembered at all, it was merely as a one hit wonder; oh yeah, that guy who had that song, how did it go now…
Yet, for no obvious reason, with the dawning of the internet age and the rise of the memes, Astley was unexpectedly Rick-rolled back into the public consciousness. But how times had changed since Rick last trod the boards.
In this brave new world, achieving a UK number one is no longer the crowning glory it once was. For Rick Astley in 2023, a Glastonbury appearance proved to be the route back to the top. But it was not his MainStage performance, padding out an hour to build up to the one song of his that anyone really cared about, that concerns us here.
Here we are concerned with the matter of literal re-enactments, and Rick Astley’s literal re-enactment of the Smiths’ back catalogue at Glastonbury 2023 is the thing that guaranteed a talking point much more interesting than a mere ‘unlikely comeback’ story arc.
As soon as Rick Astley hit the first line of the chorus on the Smiths’ debut single it was all over - trending, going viral, multiple likes and shares guaranteed. The near rapturous singalong reaction to those songs demonstrates the potential power of a literal re-enactment.
In years to come, people may stagger home down lonely streets with visions of your literal re-enactment haunting their cracked imagination, while they attempt to sing a half-remembered hymn, with all memory of who was behind it lost.
But it will have been you, who will be responsible for bringing back those lost tastes, smells, pangs, forgotten aisles and missed chances. So, enjoy what you can while your re-enactment is liked and shared.
Because a literal re-enactment is not an attempt at obvious irony, it is for real.