In their minds, they had ability to form
And transmit strange theories far beyond the norm
So read our blog, and learn about a band from yesterday
And how the airwaves gave them unexpected fame
The year is 1977. A revolutionary space opera, Star Wars, is laying waste to box office records. The Commodore PET computer is being slowly shuffled into affluent households (with cassette tape capabilities!). The space shuttle prototype “Enterprise” is taking its defiant first steps into the stratosphere. And amid all these events – brave steps toward a brave new world – a Rhode Island journalist began enticing his readers with a delicious rumor. The Beatles had reunited, and the most popular US single of their newly-named band reflected the spaceward-ho feel of the times: “Calling Occupants (Of Interplanetary Craft)”.
Of course, the radio sector writ large took this rumor and ran with it. Cleveland station M105 is largely responsible for propagating the rumor by actually playing the song, and when the first strains of music hit the airwaves, the public understood the connection immediately. With its swirling “Strawberry Fields Forever” mellotrons, the bridge from “A Day In the Life”, the nearly inhuman catchiness of its composition, and vocals that absolutely must be Paul… or John… or George… well, one of them, anyway… clearly it must be the work of none other than The Beatles!
Die-hard fans, conspiracy theorists and wishful thinkers across the nation began dissecting their newly bought albums for clues.
Meanwhile, a three-man band hailing from the pine-dense wonderland of Canada noticed a strange phenomenon. They had released their first album, entitled 3:47 EST, in September of the previous year. Though critical reaction was lukewarm to moderately positive, their diehard Canadian cult fanbase gave them motivation enough to continue with their (far more ambitious) second album and an excuse to party UK style while recording it in England. But to their shock, in the American Midwest, not only was their latest single 2nd on the Billboard chart, their album was selling like hotcakes to the tune of 300,000 (!) copies in two months. They’d even received a letter from Karen Carpenter, detailing how much she loved their music and that she’d very much like The Carpenters to cover their strange little ditty about space aliens (this actually happened)! Terry Draper, Dee Long, and John Woloschuk, collectively known by the moniker Klaatu*, were seeing their star rise in the strangest of ways.
Back in the states, fans noticed the “small” quirks in Klaatu’s writing style and (non-)image, citing these abnormalities as intentional clues left by the Fab Four to signal their return to only their truest fans. One would think that the “Paul Is Dead” conspiracy would have soured the fandom to such endeavors**, but then again, it was the seventies.
The clues commonly cited by fans were as follows:
First and foremost, the band sounds like the Beatles. Worth noting because no pop band in the mid seventies wanted to sound like the most influential band in history, of course.
Second, the album was released on Capitol Records, the same distribution company responsible for releasing the Beatles’ albums in the States. Capitol being one of the largest labels in the world at the time notwithstanding.
Third, the album’s sleeve gave no recording credit to specific band members, no band photos were included anywhere in the album packaging, and all songs and production were credited simply to “Klaatu”. Theorists asserted that if the Beatles had reunited, surely they’d want their new project to be recognized based on the merits of the music itself instead of riding on hype over its creators (And, for the record, this is probably the least far-fetched of these clues).
Fourth, Ringo Starr had just released his album Goodnight Vienna, featuring a parody of the film “The Day the Earth Stood Still” as the album’s cover. In the scene parodied, two aliens arrive to earth, Klaatu and his robot minion Gort, and in the place of Klaatu is… you know where this is going.
Fifth, a rumor stated that playing “Sub Rosa Subway” backwards revealed the line “Listen, listen, listen/It’s us!/It’s us!/It’s the Beatles!” … it doesn’t. Except, maybe, kind of…
Klaatu’s second album, entitled Hope, was released in ’77 and did little to dispel any rumors (though, being a high-concept prog rock album released during the Noah’s flood of high-concept prog rock albums released in the mid-70’s, sales had started to stagnate). By the release of Sir Army Suit, the band’s third album, the rumor was effectively killed. The band (and their label) included actual photos of the band in their promotional material for the first time, which finally gave the band faces but unfortunately was also the nail in the coffin of Klaatu’s mainstream success. They did carry on for a few more years, however, releasing two further albums before taking off to their home planet (of Toronto) and leaving us with a mostly stellar – if not somewhat puzzling – body of work.
The band broke up in the early eighties, with Dee Long going to work for EMI for a brief time (and even got to meet Paul McCartney, once) before finally moving to producing animation and working on music in his spare time (he even has a Bandcamp!). Terry Draper went back to his roofing business before also embarking on a solo career (more on that here). As for John Woloschuk, he became an accountant but evidently still has a great sense of pride over the band’s work.
To this day, fans debate whether the band’s “Beatle clone” hysteria was deserved and whether the band would have been able to gain popularity without the rumor. But the indisputable fact remains, Klaatu’s moment in the limelight is a fascinating – if a little misguided and frustrating – footnote in the history of rock. And perhaps, it’s a bit of a warning to those up-and-coming musicians out there. The next time someone says your band sounds like the Beatles, well… It could always be worse.
*Editor’s note #1: Klaatu were an absolutely rocking band. I highly recommend, their music is pure nerdy goodness.
** Editor’s note #2: Some theories were crazy enough to blend the two into one mega Beatles alternate universe, so there’s that too. The (massively paraphrased) theory was that Klaatu’s album was created from tapes left behind by “Real-Paul” era Beatles, and shelved until after the rumors about Paul’s death had died down. Also this, from Klaatu’s second album, Hope.
Some would say that this article has nothing to do with the paranormal, and therefore has no place on Paranormal Supplies' blog. I would assert that this article has everything to do with the paranormal, and therefore absolutely has a place on Paranormal Supplies' blog.