The KLF - Stadium House Trilogy
When the KLF eventually became stars it was via their “Stadium House” trilogy of singles – “What Time Is Love?”, “3AM Eternal”, “Last Train To Transcentral” – and these are what they’re best remembered for now. All three are terrific: total pop, high-impact, hook-soaked spectacles, designed and unleashed as pure event. Here’s “What Time Is Love?”, the first of them.
In the context of 1990-1991 pop, these singles were both desperately needed and inevitable. The UK charts at this point were a battleground and the issue was the legitimacy of ‘dance music’ – house, techno, rave, and their (even then) brood of sub-genres. For its fans, this stuff was reinventing British pop culture – it was the most inventive, exciting, utopian thing to happen in their lifetime. For its detractors, dance music was destroying pop – the music was repetitive, content-free, faceless.
For Brit critics and media gatekeepers, dance music created a dilemma. This, clearly, was it, the Big One, the transformative “youth movement” a decade plus of mythologizing punk rock had left them trained and ready for. The ones who liked it fell into evangelical frenzy, some are still living off it now. But a lot of others felt alienated and left behind, and there was another problem, too. Dance music and the support structures of the UK pop establishment – the press, the charts, TV shows like Top Of The Pops – really weren’t adapting well to one another.
Dance fans – huge generalisation here – cared more about going out than about reading magazines, or dreaming about stars, or even buying records. But the rest of commercial pop was pitiably weak. For the 52 weeks of 1991, no fewer than 36 saw a film or TV tie-in top the UK charts. The best – “The Shoop Shoop Song” – had a bit of gusto but that could hardly disguise a moribund music scene.
Club culture was the only interesting game in town but it was turning off as many as it seduced. So press and TV latched onto anything which promised to translate dance music into terms they could relate to – playing up singers’ star quality, getting excited about fusions with indie, jumping onto hot concepts like a dog on a sausage. The KLF were absolutely beneficiaries of this.