Tammy Wynette and the KLF
Is Tammy Wynette some kind of fogy? Hillary Clinton, wife of embattled Democratic presidential candidate Bill, seems to think so, since on their post-Super Bowl 60 Minutes appearance she said: ”I’m not sitting here, some little woman standing by her man like Tammy Wynette.” Wynette was furious (”How dare that bitch say that about me?” was her reply). And she has hardly been standing still lately. Tammy has widened her musical range, if nothing else, by reigning over a loony British dance-music video that’s all over MTV.
She began her odyssey by recording her twangy new version of ”Justified and Ancient,” a song by the KLF, a British duo (Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty) known for their fast-paced computerized techno songs, and for oddities that go far beyond music. The two hide their identities to enhance their mysterious image, drive about in an ice cream van, and sing of a dreamworld called MuMu Land. They even brought it to life this past summer, when they led members of the press on a journey from Scotland to Liverpool, where they dressed as druids and led a ritualized version of one of Britain’s underground all-night dance ”raves.”
”I fell for the track the moment I heard it,” Wynette says excitedly. ”It had a perfect melody, but I didn’t really understand what they were talking about.” So the rarely amenable pair — who listened to country music when they were growing up and list Wynette among their childhood idols — wrote new lyrics for her. ”Now I sing: ‘They called me up in Tennessee/They said, Tammy, stand by the Jamms.”’ (This is a double in-joke, a reference to Wynette’s classic ”Stand By Your Man” and also to another name the KLF call themselves: ”Justified and Ancients of MuMu,” or Jamms.)
Wynette then flew to London to film the song’s video, in which she looks poised and utterly American amid the KLF’s playfully exotic ritual. The filming took place in Pinewood Studios, where scenes from many James Bond movies were shot. ”There was a mini-submarine in the pool the whole time we were there,” Wynette remembers. ”I was perched 50 feet in the air dressed as a queen, with a bunch of Zulu dancers around me, Japanese girls with long blond wigs, and of course Bill and Jimmy. That platform really shook!”
But despite her sudden fear of heights, Wynette declares that she’d go through it all over again. ”It was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done outside of country music,” she says in a tone that makes you think she was sorry to see the project end. And she insists that the KLF — who wore hoods in the video to hide their faces — are ordinary guys. ”They’re real comfortable. They wear flannel shirts, backpacks, and jeans. Like my husband says, they seem to be doing everything wrong but it’s turning out right.”
Of course, she adds, there’s still this strange business with the ice cream vans, but even that’s okay. ”My twin granddaughters love it,” she says. ”They always ask for MuMu Land.”