3 a.m. Eternal
|"3 a.m. Eternal"|
Pure Trance Original (005T) cover
|Single by The KLF|
|from the album The White Room|
|Released||May 1989 (Pure Trance 2)|
7 January 1991 (Live at the S.S.L.)
January 1992 (The KLF vs ENT version)
|Format||12" (Pure Trance Original)|
Cassette, 7", 12" and CD (Live at the S.S.L.)
7" (The KLF vs ENT version)
|Length||5:55 (Pure Trance Original)|
5:50 (Live at the S.S.L.)
2:43 (The KLF vs ENT version)
|Label||KLF Communications (UK)|
|Songwriter(s)||Jimmy Cauty, Bill Drummond|
|The song features Maxine Harvey on vocals|
|Drummond & Cauty singles chronology|
"Live at the S.S.L." cover
"3 a.m. Eternal" is a song by the British acid house group The KLF. Numerous versions of the song were released as singles between 1989 and 1992. In January 1991, an acid house pop version of the song became an international top ten hit single, reaching number-one on the UK Singles Chart and number five on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and leading to The KLF becoming the internationally biggest-selling singles band of 1991. When, the following year, The KLF accepted an invitation to perform at the 1992 BRIT Awards ceremony, they caused controversy with a succession of anti-establishment gestures that included a duet performance of "3 a.m. Eternal" with the crust punk band Extreme Noise Terror, during which The KLF co-founder Bill Drummond fired machine-gun blanks over the audience of music industry luminaries. A studio-produced version of this song was issued as a limited edition mail order 7" single, the final release by The KLF and their independent record label, KLF Communications.
The original 1989 12" single release constituted the second of The KLF's "Pure Trance" series. There were two issues, numbered 005T (pink writing on a black sleeve, with two KLF mixes) and 005R (black writing on a pink sleeve, with four more mixes, including remixes by The Orb and The Moody Boys).
Stadium House version
A version heavily reworked for a mainstream audience, "3 a.m. Eternal (Live at the S.S.L.)", was issued in January 1991 and reached number one on the UK singles chart and number five on the US Billboard Hot 100. This version had a rap by Ricardo da Force. Although a lot of crowd noise appears on the mix, it is in fact a purely studio-based creation. The "S.S.L." in the subtitle refers to a Solid State Logic mixing desk. The seven inch version of this mix appears on the album The White Room. The main B-side was a dub-based version of the same song, "3 a.m. Eternal (Guns of Mu Mu)", featuring the bassline from The Clash's "Guns of Brixton". Concurrent with the chart-topping version, yet another 12" was released, with resolutely underground remixes by The Moody Boys.
The Gavin Report wrote about the song: "Production wizardry from these techno-talents earns three stars for a highly original effort. A #1 track in their native England, it's won over audiences throughout Europe and stands to do the same in North America. Strengthened by a video that is nothing short of exceptional, it's getting major exposure on MTV with five plays a day in "Buzz Bin" rotation."
There are two video versions for the SSL video. The American version includes an opening with a travel through the mythical "Land of Mu Mu" where the KLF are performing inside a pyramid scenery with singers in a stadium. The European version shows the KLF vehicle (the police cruiser used in their Timelords incarnation) voyage around London with rapper Ricardo da Force singing in the backseat and a rave showing in the background.
The KLF vs Extreme Noise Terror
In 1992, The KLF released a limited edition mail order only single containing a new version of "3 a.m." featuring the grindcore/crust punk band Extreme Noise Terror. The two bands also performed a live version of the song at that year's BRIT Awards ceremony. The Brits performance included by a limping, kilted, cigar-chomping Drummond firing blanks from an automatic weapon over the heads of the crowd. After viewing the rehearsals, the NME writer Danny Kelly said: "Compared to what's preceded it, this is a turbo-powered metallic wolf breaking into a coop full of particularly sick doves... And the noise? Well, the noise is hardcore punk thrash through a disco Techno hit played by crusties. All bases covered, brilliantly. Clever, clever bastards." At the end of the performance, Scott Piering announced to a stunned crowd that "The KLF have now left the music business". Within a few months, they did just that - their records were deleted and The KLF retired from the industry.
Danny Kelly later described the Brits performance as The KLF's "self-destruction in an orgy of punk rock..., mock outrage ... and real bad taste".
The "Pure Trance Original" was described by Record Mirror as a "euro-flavoured deep house pulser" with atmospheric chanting and a "cathedral-like resonance". In a January 1991 feature on The KLF, NME writer Roger Morton described the "Pure Trance Original" as a "classic club track" and the "Live at the S.S.L." version as "murderously powerful". As Record Mirror 's "Single of the Week", the "Live at the S.S.L." version was regarded as "a magnificent pulsating beast combining bleeps and body heat". Appraising the track retrospectively in 2000, The Guardian referred to the "Live at the S.S.L." version as an "epic pop masterpiece".
References and usage in popular culture
In 2012, the British disco-pop group Saint Etienne made reference to the song in the lyrics of "Popular" on their Words And Music album, a song themed on getting number one single titles into conversation.
Formats and track listings
"3 a.m. Eternal (Pure Trance Original)" was aired as a UK 12" single in May 1989. "3 a.m. Eternal (Live from the S.S.L.)" was given an international release as a single on 7 January 1991. A single of remixes by The Moody Boys was given a limited release a week later. In January 1992, a one-sided 7" single of The KLF's collaboration with Extreme Noise Terror was released via mail order only, from a limited pressing of 1000 copies.
|Format (and countries)||Track number|
|Pure Trance Original|
|12" (KLF Communications KLF 005T)||P||B|
|12" (KLF Communications KLF 005R)||p||O||M||E|
|Live at the S.S.L.|
|7" single, cassette single||l||g|
|12" single (US)||L||G2||K||W|
|12" single (elsewhere)||L||G|
|CD single (Japan)||l||G||B||W|
|CD single (elsewhere)||l||G||B|
|KLF Present the Moody Boys Selection|
|12" single, CD single||W||R||K|
|The KLF vs ENT version|
|7" single (limited edition of 1000 copies)||T|
|p - "3 a.m. Eternal (Pure Trance Original)" (edit) (3:38)||g - "3 a.m. Eternal (Guns of Mu Mu)" (edit) (3:30)|
|P - "3 a.m. Eternal (Pure Trance Original)" (5:55)||G - "3 a.m. Eternal (Guns of Mu Mu)" (5:09)|
|B - "3 a.m. Eternal (Break for Love)" (5:39)||G2 - "3 a.m. Eternal (Guns of Mu Mu)" (12" version) (5:20)|
|O - "3 a.m. Eternal (Blue Danube Orbital)" (7:35)||W - "3 a.m. Eternal (Wayward Dub Version)" (6:54)|
|M - "3 a.m. Eternal (Moody Boy)" (6:50)||R - "3 a.m. Eternal (Rankin' Club Version)" (4:34)|
|E - "3 p.m. Electro" (5:58)||K - "3 a.m. Eternal (Klonk Blip Every Trip)" (5:48)|
|l - "3 a.m. Eternal (Live at the S.S.L.)" (edit) (3:42)||T - "3 a.m. Eternal (The KLF vs Extreme Noise Terror: TOTP version)" (2:43)|
|L - "3 a.m. Eternal (Live at the S.S.L.)" (5:50)|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Silver||200,000^|
^shipments figures based on certification alone
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- Sholin, Dave (31 May 1991). "Gavin Picks > Singles" (PDF). Gavin Report. No. 1858. p. 60. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
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- Morton, R. "One Coronation Under A Groove", New Musical Express, 12 January 1991 ()
- Review of "3 a.m. Eternal (Live at the S.S.L.)", Record Mirror, 12 January 1991.
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