What Time Is Love?"What Time Is Love?" is a song released, in different mixes, as a series of singles by the band The KLF. It featured prominently and repeatedly in their output from 1988 to 1992 and, under the moniker of 2K, in 1997. In its original form, the track was an instrumental electronic dance anthem; subsequent reworkings, with vocals and additional instrumentation, yielded the international hit singles "What Time Is Love? (Live at Trancentral)" (1990) and "America: What Time Is Love?" (1991), which respectively reached number 5 and number 4 in the UK Singles Chart and introduced The KLF to a mainstream international audience.
HistoryThe KLF co-founders Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond began releasing music in March 1987, under the pseudonym The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (The JAMs), named after a cultish organisation from The Illuminatus! Trilogy novels. The JAMs' output was created from plagiarised samples of popular music grafted together to form new songs, with beatbox rhythms and Drummond's often political raps. Their second album, Who Killed The JAMs?, was followed by a newsletter which expressed regret that people believed The JAMs were leading "a crusade for sampling", and suggested "We might put out a couple of 12-inch records under the name The K.L.F., these will be rap free just pure dance music, so don't expect to see them reviewed in the music papers." The first incarnation of "What Time Is Love?" followed.
"What Time Is Love?" became one of The KLF's central tracks, dubbed their "three-note warhorse of a signature tune" by Bill Drummond, in reference to the three-note bassline which, together with a high-pitched refrain on two notes (B bending to F#) characterises the song. The bassline is very similar to the one used by Anne Clark the electronic musician in her 1984 song Our Darkness and to the guitar introduction to the song Heaven On Their Minds from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
In common with the singles "3 a.m. Eternal", "Last Train to Trancentral" and "Justified and Ancient", "What Time Is Love?" evolved through substantial reworkings, each new version taking elements of its predecessors and placing them in the context of a different musical genre. There were three main versions, released in 1988, 1990 and 1991, shifting The KLF's sound from acid house through pop into heavy rock-oriented electronica, and a remake under a different moniker in 1997.
Pure Trance OriginalThe original 1988 12" single release launched The KLF's minimalist "Pure Trance" series of singles.
The "Pure Trance" version is a synthesiser composition based around an acid house riff on three low-pitched notes and one minor chord (B minor). The subtle progression of the piece occurs through the modulation of the main loops, the dub-like dropping of particular loops, and a recurring high-pitched refrain on two notes (B bending to F#). An Oberheim OB-8 synthesiser provided the instrumentation.
Two discs of different "Pure Trance" mixes, numbered KLF 004T (green writing on a black sleeve) and KLF 004R (yellow writing on a black sleeve, and a cover sticker), were given low-key releases on 24 November 1988 and 24 July 1989 respectively. The cumulative popularity of KLF 004T in continental European clubs prompted The KLF to release a compilation album of selected cover versions and sound-alikes, entitled The "What Time Is Love?" Story.
As Drummond had predicted, the "Pure Trance" release received little attention from the music press. However, upon the release of The "What Time Is Love?" Story, Q Magazine hailed the track as "a whirling house stomper ... not so much of a tune but a good beat".
Live at TrancentralA 1990 version subtitled "Live at Trancentral" was the first of The KLF's upbeat "Stadium House Trilogy" and the single that introduced The KLF to an international mainstream audience, reaching No. 5 in the UK Singles Chart. It is a pop-house reworking of the Pure Trance Original, adding vocal samples, a new bassline, a new house rhythm and a self-proclaiming rap (performed by Isaac Bello). The "Trancentral" in the subtitle refers to The KLF's recording studio. Although crowd noise features on the mix, it is in fact a purely studio-based creation and a characteristic of the "Stadium House" recordings. An LP version of this mix appears on the album The White Room.
A remix 12", "What Time Is Love? (Remodelled & Remixed)" was released a month after the "Stadium House" version. It contains remixes by Echo & the Bunnymen—for whom The KLF co-founder Bill Drummond had previously been manager—and The Moody Boys. Both "Live at Trancentral" and "Remodelled & Remixed" were declared 'Single of the Week' at different times by New Musical Express (NME), where "Live at Trancentral" was described as a collision of "energy, humour and violence". The magazine also ranked "Live at Trancentral" as the 47th best single of 1990. Q Magazine noted the "awesome vitality" of the LP version. A retrospective review of the LP version by Splendid Magazine found the song to be "extraordinary". "It throbs and pulses in a still-riveting manner that transcends the dated beatdrops. Fusing the siren-wailing urgency of rave anthemry with the drunk-on-its-own-riff brilliance of the stupidest, simplest pop music, it's the kind of song that sends electrifying impulses through the drunken brain."
America: What Time Is Love?
The single release "America: What Time Is Love?" constituted a major reworking of the anthem and was The KLF's final UK retail musical offering. It was released in February 1992 in the UK, four months after it was first made available in the US. The KLF's notorious BRIT Awards performance, with death metal band Extreme Noise Terror staged in the week prior to "America"'s UK release, concluded with the announcement of their departure from the music industry. This was later confirmed by a full-page press announcement that used images from the set of the "America: What Time Is Love?" music video.
"America" has a markedly different tone to previous incarnations of the song: harder, heavier and more guitar-laden (featuring the riff from Motörhead's Ace of Spades). It opens with a protracted narration by The KLF's regular narrator Scott Piering, about The JAMs' odyssey of 992 to discover America. Like "It's Grim Up North", it features a climactic orchestral section and a spoken list of towns and cities. However, in common with the "Stadium House" tracks, the mood of the song is one of jubilation. Between verses, a male chorus chants the word "America" to the tune of the song "Aquarius" from Hair. Isaac Bello again provided rap, and Glenn Hughes (formerly of Deep Purple) provided vocals – a turning point for Hughes which he said helped "saved his life" from drug abuse.
In contrast, the B-side "America No More" is a sombre anti-war statement focussing on US foreign policy. With ambient overtones, it features forlorn guitars, austere brass and a pipe band, set against the backdrop of artillery noise and the recorded words of US politicians, commentators and evangelists speaking either about or during major 20th century US military conflicts. According to Drummond, it was the final track to be recorded by The KLF. Evangelists feature elsewhere in The KLF's music (Chill Out, "What Time Is Love? (Remodelled & Remixed)" and "Fuck the Millennium"), as does gunfire (in the three "Stadium House" singles).
Reviewing "America: What Time Is Love?", Melody Maker found that "the whole bizarre concoction's brilliantly bonkers", but questioned The KLF's strategy of recycling their songs. "America No More" was described by The Wire in 1997 as "a devastating protest-montage of helicopters, bagpipes and carpet-bombs". NME declined to make "America: What Time Is Love?" 'Single of the Week', declaring it instead to be 'Single of the Millennium'.
Fuck the Millennium
In 1997, "What Time Is Love?" was covered by the Williams Fairey Band, a brass band which under the stewardship of British artist Jeremy Deller pioneered the Acid Brass concept. Inspired by an Acid Brass concert, Drummond and Cauty collaborated with Deller and Acid Brass on a new version of "What Time Is Love?" called "Fuck the Millennium" under the moniker "2K".
Critical receptionLarry Flick from Billboard described the song as a "refreshing rave that combines elements of hip-hop, techno, and pop." Dave Sholin from the Gavin Report wrote, "Carving a distinctive sound in any musical genre is difficult, but especially so in rap. The KLF is an outfit whose signature is totally unique and compelling. Top five across Europe and top three in England, here's a powerful followup to "3 A.M. Eternal"." Music & Media commented, "As soon as you've decided - it's soul, they change into a hiphouse act. Sometimes they even manage to combine both on one particular track, as on What Time Is Love?. They use samples like schoolkids clear out glue-pots: right to the bottom."
LegacyDuring the Pure Trance version's underground success, various cover versions and tributes appeared (some which were collected on The "What Time Is Love?" Story). The most-well known is Dr. Felix's "Relax Your Body".
Ragga Twins' 1991 track Wipe the Needle opens with the iconic synthesizer riff from What Time Is Love?.
In 1993 "What Time Is Love?" was covered by U.K. based American Noise/Art Rock band The God Machine. The track appeared as a B- side on their limited silver vinyl "Home" single and a promo CD.
:zoviet*France: side-project Horizon 222 on their 1993 piece Liberation (Om-Pa-Na-Da) (released on the 1994 album The Three Of Swans) carefully work around the melodic and harmonic structure of What Time Is Love?, ultimately revealing its source in a short appearance of a reverberated sample from the original.
In 1997 a trance cover-version was released by German producer Talla 2XLC and in 1998 Choci and Mark Sinclair released their own hard trance reworking entitled What is Love?.
Reviewing Drummond's book 45 for The Observer in 2000, Steven Poole labelled "What Time Is Love?" an "epic pop masterpiece". The Observer also described the "Pure Trance Original" as a "juddering rave anthem".
On 14 July 2002, the "Pure Trance Original" was incorporated into DJ John Digweed's set at Fatboy Slim's free Brighton beach show, where it was played to a live audience of approximately 150,000 people and relayed to viewers of television channel E4. Digweed's set showcased the origins of trance music, with "What Time Is Love?" used alongside Underworld's "Dark & Long" and Paul Oakenfold's "Perfecto Mix" of U2's "Even Better Than the Real Thing".
British band Kaiser Chiefs covered "What Time Is Love?" on 14 February 2006 on BBC Radio 1. At the end of the performance, presenter Jo Whiley said "The Kaiser Chiefs have now left the building" in reference to the phrase used more than once by The KLF (and previously in reference to Elvis Presley).
German eurodance group Scooter sampled the music of the Trancentral version and the introductory lyrics of "America: What Time Is Love?" on their single "Behind the Cow", taken from the 2007 album The Ultimate Aural Orgasm. They had previously sampled the Trancentral version in 2001 on the song "Posse (I Need You on the Floor)" from the album We Bring the Noise!. In 2012 the group covered the song on their sixteenth album Music for a Big Night Out.
In 2006, English electronic musician Max Tundra released a single as that included a recording from 1989 doing a cover of "What Time Is Love?"
PersonnelThe three reworkings of the track were written and produced by Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty. Cauty also receives credit for playing electric guitar, bass, drums and keyboards on "America...", and Drummond for playing Gibson 330 on that version. Additional contributors to "What Time Is Love? (Live at Trancentral)" and "America: What Time Is Love?" included:
Formats and track listingsAs a central track in The KLF's canon, "What Time Is Love?" was given international commercial releases on many occasions and in many forms between 1988 and 1992. The following lists detail most of these, but are not exhaustive.
Pure Trance 1"What Time Is Love? (Pure Trance Original)" (catalogue number KLF 004T) was first released on 17 October 1988, and deleted following initially low UK media interest and sales. The reaction from continental Europe's clubbers and DJs led to further European releases in 1989 and 1990. In late 1989, a US edition of "Pure Trance 1" (sea-green writing on a black sleeve, and slightly different typography) was issued on the TVT label, including a live version taken from The "What Time is Love?" Story. The KLF's "Pure Trance" series was originally envisaged as comprising five "Original" 12" singles and five "Remix" 12"s. The "Pure Trance Remix" single of "What Time Is Love?" was released on 24 July 1989. KLF 004T was re-released in the UK on 15 July 1991, during the peak of The KLF's chart success, along with both "Pure Trance" mixes of 3 a.m. Eternal.Key
Live at Trancentral"What Time Is Love? (Live from Trancentral)" was released on 30 July 1990, and the single of remixes "(Remodelled & Remixed)" followed on 20 August 1990. The main B-side accompaniment of "What Time Is Love? (Live at Trancentral)" was the "Techno Gate Mix" of the track, which retained the title track's rhythm and bass as a backdrop to extensive samples of Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)". Another UK 12" featured instead the "Wandaful Mix", which sampled from Wanda Dee's "To the Bone".Key
America: What Time Is Love?"America: What Time Is Love?" was released in the US during October 1991, four months before its release in the UK and elsewhere (24 February 1992). The B-side "America No More", which featured anti-war sentiments directed at US foreign policy and included samples of contemporary Gulf War dialogue, was not included on the US releases. Unlike previous single releases of "What Time Is Love?", no commercial remixes of "America" were released, although five edits of different lengths were distributed.Key
Weekly charts"What Time Is Love?" (live at the Trancentral) by The KLF featuring The Children of the Revolution
"America: What Time Is Love" by The KLF