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the Complete Review
the complete review - music/pop culture



The Manual

by

Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond


general information | our review | links | about the authors

To purchase The Manual



Title: The Manual
Author: Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond
Genre: Manual
Written: 1988
Length: 157 pages
Availability: The Manual - US
The Manual - UK
The Manual - Canada
Das Handbuch - Deutschland
  • How to Have a Number One the Easy Way
  • The new (1998) ellipsis edition also contains:
    • An Introduction (Planning an Accident) by Jon Savage
    • An Afterword (In Praise of Council Homes) by Bill Drummond (which can also be found in his memoir, 45 (see our review))
  • The book comes with a money-back guarantee: a full refund of the purchase price if, after following the instructions in the book exactly, you do not achieve a number one hit on the UK charts within three months.
  • The Timelord's own number one hit, available at Amazon.com, Doctorin' the Tardis
  • Classic sounds from the KLF, available at Amazon.com, The White Room

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Our Assessment:

B+ : a classic of modern pop culture

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       Authors Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond, in one of their many incarnations, The Timelords, famously conquered the British pop singles charts with their tune, "Doctorin' the Tardis" (check it out at Amazon.com). A clever though banal song it had all the ingredients for a hit -- because that is exactly what it was cooked up to be. The Manual is a guide to how you too can top the charts, and it comes complete with a money back guarantee: if you follow their instructions to the letter and don't have a number one hit within three months, they'll refund you the purchase price. (In his 1998 afterword Drummond says that no one ever put in a claim -- though he also admits that, as far as he knew, no one got a number one hit using the manual either.)
       A product of a specific era -- Thatcherite Great Britain, ca. 1988 -- The Manual is a fascinating document of those times. Acknowledging the primacy of vacuous pop and the longing for a touch of fame, Cauty and Drummond show how they did it -- and how anyone can. They are upfront in what readers will get:

Other than achieving a Number One hit single we offer you nothing. There will be no endless wealth. Fame will flicker and fade and sex will still be a problem.
       They are realists, but they know that the dream lives on, beating in many a heart in a council home bedroom. Their advice is straightforward and simple as they go through the creating of a hit single step by step. They draw up a simple schedule and lead you step by step through it. They provide tips on booking a studio, getting a bank account (and getting friendly with the bank manager), as well as working with recording, publicity, and sales people, and lawyers and accountants. It is all very sensible and good advice.
       The essentials of the song creating process are also described. Development begins with the groove, continues with the chorus ("the bit ... that you can't but help sing along with"), the title, the bass line, and then the intro, plus a few odds and ends to tie up later.
       Cauty and Drummond lead the reader through the actual recording process, describing the highs and lows that will be experienced, and then the final steps that need to be taken to reach number one.
       Is it realistic ? Can it be done ? Possibly -- or even probably, though it takes some nerve. But the value of the book lies in its being a perfect reflection of the pop world. Cauty and Drummond were too clever by half to get away with all they tried with their own hit -- it topped the charts, but it didn't stay there. They tried to say and do too much with it and even the omnivorous pop-world doesn't take to being undermined from within.
       The Manual lays bare the pop world, at least that of the late eighties in Britain, a culture that apparently defies attack. The book presents an interesting picture of that world, from within -- what it takes to make it, in one small area (singles being very different from albums, etc.). Bill Drummond's excellent afterword, written ten years after the book was originally published, also offers a fine reassessment of what he and Cauty were trying to do with the book.
       Entertainingly written, there is, however, much that might not be of interest to those not intent on making their own single: Cauty and Drummond spell out a lot of the details of the recording process. Still, the book is worthwhile reading for anyone interested in pop culture or Thatcherite England, a significant document of the times. Not great literature, but insightful and interesting. Recommended.

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Links:

Reviews: Bill Drummond:
  • Interview, with useful overview of his career.
  • Penkiln Burn site, with information about various Drummond projects and books.
KLF (The Timelords): K Foundation: Music by The Timelords and The KLF, at Amazon.com: Other books under review that might be of interest

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About the Authors:

       Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond are the minds and voices behind The KLF, The Justified and Ancients of MuMu, and The Timelords. As The Timelords they had a number one hit with Doctorin' the Tardis. As The KLF and The JAMs they have been sued by ABBA, tried to recruit Whitney Houston to sing with them, and convinced Tammy Wynette to do so (on the brilliant "Justified and Ancient"). As trustees of the K Foundation they have burned a million quid. Clearly people one can learn from.

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© 1999-2008 the complete review

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