The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu ‘returned’ in August, drove an Ice Kream Van and generally baffled an expectant public all over again. But what the fuuk actually happened? One of the 400 – who can only be identified as Page 117 – offers an internal perspective the Dark Ages experience. In 2,023 words.
We’re mixing a choir of our WAVs and AIFFs, we’re selling homemade merch. We brewed a beer, made a map of badgers, plan funerals for our first fallen and talk about always. We do things. This is the afterlife of a dark age, or perhaps the main deal. Its filling feeds while you pause on this, which is old money.
There are 2,023 words here, squandered in hope of flyposting over what you’ve seen. You’ve watched bricks lobbed from out of range; read dimensions of those bricks, omitting mortar or plans to construct a whole; you’ve been told where to stand by people from inside stepping out, becoming conscious and waking. Inside looking out – inside looking IN – was the normal, sensible, democratised place to be, and was serious or not as lives. We paid £100 for a bit-part in [something] and a glimpse of what’ll happen when we die, which we seem up for. We 400 had become the band. It trumps that bit, which is just entertainment, where the singer makes you yell you’re having a good time to obscure the emptiness, or the paying volunteers sing the hit.
The 400 here had hired themselves to knead 2023: A Trilogy by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu into a live dough of whatever, a page each, to be collated into another book. Chapter 8’s page 117 would also become a 23-year revisionist prologue on pink paper about less than 1/400th of why two guys did that thing that time – by way of a wave from a lull of repetitive nothing, flashing, daring, bluffing you to get it as your eyes lurch by. Like a horoscope or something holy, 117 pooled arbitrary elements you could rearrange into chaos, convenience or theft. If you find 399 more of these – variously Situationist, emotive, surrealist, comedic and all/none of the above – you might have a review.
Chapter 8 pageholders met and made recordings and recordings of recordings, then splintered – some said for work, but they didn’t mean dayjobs. That’s for them to tell. 117 joined a mission to order coffees for Yoko Ono; lost the rest of his chapter; worked alone; was late back; had regrets. 117 in a nutshell. He sent a parcel to Marcia Zuckerberg of California. He’d been slow on the uptake there. He formed a tribute act whose hallmarks were religious, geographic and just entertainment.
In a week spanning 23rd August 23 years before, Page 117 had learnt out of the blue his mum was terminally ill, and coincidentally the greatest album of all time was released. He recalled this not to deal with it, not because anyone needed to know, but because he knew exactly where he was when two guys, Bill and Jimmy, were on Jura to do something big, how badly he thought he needed a million, the sacrifices he hadn’t made, what his religions were. That week he had also appeared in a video of a school-era band, claiming behind shades they were “just entertainment”, which he didn’t believe then and doesn’t believe now. The opposite of what was felt fell out. It was an age of grief about belief: Kurt died, Bernard left and Richey left/died, and he never got over it. If a load of strangers were to spend three hours debating why he’d not realised this for 23 years, 117’s response might be: “Whatever.”
This kid approached 4/400 as they developed a conspiracy theory over lunch. He was 20, about the only of the 400 they saw under the customary K age of 36+. Page 117 thought he was a paid moderator or free radical. He’d come alone, with shit unnervingly together, like you expect to have by K age but don’t. At his age, 117 had worked cleaning carpets. The plant-hire guy called him The Kid and paid him extra to get rid of dosh for some non-art reason, in wads of notes 117 burnt on a synth. 117 drove the machinery on a milk float and dug all this. So, this guy in 2017, The Kid – who subsisted on McDonald’s and curiously was allocated a page inciting him to chant “Big Mac with fries” – knew all the B-sides on guitar (knew all the K-signs on books). He went on to propose that Bill and Jimmy might, at that night’s hearing about burning £1 million, hand out 2.5 grand each of a still-intact million as a kind of end-times return-on-investment or golden handshake. He and 117 then noticed Page 75, walking silently alongside, was lugging a red suitcase, and double-took, for K-symbolic reasons. Instantly, they had mentally allocated their windfalls: it had them. They were to be had again before these 2,023 words were out.
Days later over a needlessly nice meal, choosing others’ sacrifice from a menu, Someone Who Wasn’t There scoffed at white men playing with money – like only they are arrogant enough to say it’s that or their lives. Page 117, claiming bravely not to give one about money while possessing none, raged to himself that to price art aligned SWWT with ministers who slash arts funding, in a utilitarian world you’d call cautionary in… art. Yet 117 was the more discredited, by his conduct recently and 23 years prior. 117 retired to consider his anger thing.
Page 117 rang his dad, who like Bill had been raised in a council house and could be better off than a post-millional Bill. “What’ve you been up to?” Is it worth it… remember The KLF? “Oh, Tammy Wynette? She drove an ice cream van?” Yeah, got it! And then [cartoon biog we had all resorted to lately] in a move garnering mucho notoriety. “What?! Couldn’t they have given it to [blah]?” No, don’t got it! “Bloody weirdos.” Polite men in their 60s, actually. “[Some shouting.] Any other news?” What – APART from the death and art and memory and meaning? 117 edited out his cremation update on the fly, and bade farewell. He recalled hearing Jimmy utter to Bill some days earlier, “But we need to tell people what’s happening,” and Bill making something up on the spot for a dozen ravenous pallbearers and Page 74 and 117. These 60-something dads, whose shit might not be quite together. Who stuff happened to.
Yes, 117 did have the thought in ’94: if we acquired a million – and the National Lottery launched that autumn – maybe we’d save her. 117 bought tickets weekly; the machines rightly determined no one owed him a damn thing.
Bricks arrived for The 400 to put their ashes in. Page 117 and The Kid went for a walk to mutter about secreting one. Because these guys burn stuff, pour paint, incite traffic cone upcycling. This was what they wanted! Pranked were those paying £99 for what’s free. The Kid spotted one of his chapter – call him Hooded Claw, even if that could mean anyone – queuing for his funeral. Age: 36 if a day. The Kid tabled his motion. HC looked dismayed. The Kid retired to take advice from senior tribesfolk. He kept his counsel for a time.
Why did you do that thing yesterday? Why did you have the world on a string, why did you sabotage our dreams while all certainties of chance called amnesty, while all gods stepped aside, while time stood suspended and you alone had all of them and us and the world on a string?
Off 117 had gone from this week of ’94 to life and the benign clutches of a professor who taught organisational behaviour and, naturally, had authored the only book about it. A huge book few would finish, with no doubt the answer to everything waving from a lull of repetitive nothing, flashing, daring, bluffing you to get it as your eyes lurched by. If you weren’t torn out one page and told to enact it, you were at least supposed to annotate and not buy it second-hand. It retailed at loads and this was how they got you.
Plenty of dramatic stuff occurred to or by The 400 that 117 had neither the angle nor need to explain. 117 did ask Jimmy what he and Bill did with a raffle winner, Page 24, who they took away in a bed in their ice cream van. He’d seen them return, minus guy, in a different vehicle. Is that what you get for winning lotteries? Jimmy told 117. No record of this conversation survives. No one need spend 117’s £100 any more than the K Foundation’s £1 million or Hooded Claw’s £99.
It was that mistake of describing bricks – “this happened, that happened” – that had prompted scorn from SWWT. The debate about the million was just entertainment, though. The Kid and 117 abstained, pocketing their monetary ballot papers, so judge them as you must. Pre-verdict, 117 had got lost and found Bill in a corridor pacing nervously, from which no conclusion was drawn. Post-verdict, the ‘winner’ of the debate was found to have published the principal text about the gist of her argument, so The Kid and 117 felt they were beating the bookmaker – until, that is, they saw Hooded Claw after graduation. He’d taken ‘his’ brick free. The Kid and 117 felt outmanoeuvred. They reflected for a time.
Also 23 summers ago, Page 117 plus bezzie decided to become millionaires. They used that phrase. Stage one: steal pheasants from woods. Their Illuminatus! was Dahlian. They discussed Hessian sacks but set off with binliners. The terrain was not unlike the sleeve of Chill Out. Beasts rumbled in the dark; they scarpered; million quid gone – get rich or run from cows to suburban cowardice tryin’. Not worth the sacrifice.
To go through with anything merits respect, not demands for more or why. The Kid’s been camping on Jura on his own. He’ll have had his reasons. Page 117 asked Jimmy what they’d done with The 400’s book of the book. Jimmy said some things. No record of it exists. Page 117 regretted floating an incinerative remix. Yet that new book contained contributions that had been burnt if not made of banknotes. Was the book fair game? Some sculptures are made of fire; others cost a million to build. Few would sustain an argument that you shalt not sculpt.
Self-justifications for ‘harmless’ steals proliferated. Posters inside 23 Roscoe Lane retailed at loads – how they got you. Page 74 fancied one from the wall outside. 309 and 160 posited on FaceLife that the lo-res logo and off-black signalled hoaxes. “Posters by B&J have never had white on black with untrimmed edges,” 334 stated. “Unless perpetrating a Discordian double-bluff.” What is a hoax? Hadn’t we experienced Rapture? The Kid reappeared, detailing plans to return at night and liberate a brick. We knew The Kid had willpower. Who knows if he’d cut off his hand, say, for an audience of sloshed record company execs? The 400 were to rage daily about internet auctions of artefacts earned or nicked. Someone planned to deface books in shops. That’s not nice, it was countered. Yet we’d signed a 1/400’s copies for him to plant on a train and in a bookshop. And was it nice for Bill and Jimmy to cover in white paint the replica Ford Timelord brought by Page [no page because removing paint]? Yes, felt 117. It’s being vandalised by someone you love.
Expect The 400 to exhibit all stages of revolution before this Kopyright Liberation Front is through. Expect friendships for life, friendships for death. 117 sank beer with Page 96 some days after graduation to defragment and grab 74 a poster, but the 23:19 last train to [St Helens] Central waits for no suburban coward, so posters went the way of the pheasants. Understand though: he’s never (not) stolen for real – only for art. And nobody’s covetous fantasies were acted on, besides inadvertently double-bluffing Hooded Claw.
In 400 land, Page 72 was gathering cyber intel, 19 was producing badgercore and 78 announcing plans to sell ice cream. That, soon, would be old money.
And that’s 2,023 gone.