Klaatu performing live in 2005 (l-r John Woloschuk, Dee Long, Terry Draper)
|Origin||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Years active||1973–82, 1988, 2005|
|Past members||John Woloschuk
Klaatu was a Canadian progressive rock group formed in 1973 by the duo of John Woloschuk and Dee Long. They named themselves after the extraterrestrial character Klaatu in the film The Day the Earth Stood Still. After recording two non-charting singles, drummer Terry Draper was added to the line-up; this trio would comprise Klaatu throughout the rest of the band's recording career.
In Canada, the band is remembered for several hits, including "California Jam" (1974), "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" (1977) and "Knee Deep In Love" (1980). In the U.S. "Calling Occupants" b/w "Sub-Rosa Subway" was a minor double-sided hit and their only chart entry, peaking at No. 62 in 1977.
The band is also remembered internationally for rumors that they were the Beatles recording under a pseudonym. Klaatu themselves did not start these rumors and always flatly denied them, and indeed no Beatle was ever involved in the writing, recording or production of any Klaatu material.
Klaatu's combination of pop, progressive rock, art/symphonic rock, and other genres has often been compared to the Beatles, and sometimes to the guitar-rock of Queen, and the electronic music of Wendy Carlos. British music magazine Shindig! praised the band's ability to combine up-beat pop music with complex progressive rock, forming an "otherworldly brand of progressive pop".
The band, initially a studio-only duo of Woloschuk and Long, released the singles "Hanus of Uranus/Sub-Rosa Subway" and "Dr. Marvello/For You Girl" on GRT Records in 1973, before being taken under the wing of Daffodil Records and its president Frank Davies. With Terry Draper added to the line-up, the singles "California Jam" and "True Life Hero" followed. These early singles credited Dee Long as a writer of several tunes; the others (including "Sub-Rosa Subway", "Dr. Marvello" and the hit single "California Jam") were credited to "Chip Dale," a collective pseudonym for Woloschuk and frequent co-writer Dino Tome. "California Jam" hit the Canadian Top 40, peaking at No. 36, and Klaatu, though they played no live dates, promoted their music by making a television appearance in Canada on the Keith Hampshire-hosted show Music Machine. By 1975, Davies, along with producer Terry Brown, landed the band a deal with Capitol Records in the United States.
First three LPs
Their first album, 3:47 EST (named Klaatu in the US as Capitol Records' executives found the original title too obscure), was released in September 1976, in North America. The band elected to include no photos, no individual musician credits, and no biographical information in the album package; all songs were simply listed as being written and published by "Klaatu." (Note that this collective writing credit covered songs earlier credited solely to Long or to the team of Woloschuk and Tome — even though Tome was not actually a member of Klaatu.) The album was met with moderately positive reviews but by Christmas of that year, sales had stalled.
The album had a Beatlesque sound, however, particularly in the song "Sub-Rosa Subway." This, coupled with the lack of biographical details offered up by Klaatu, helped inspire a rumor concocted by Providence Journal reviewer Steve Smith in February 1977, that the album might be an anonymous project by the Beatles themselves. The rumor turned into a global phenomenon with Beatles fans being fed "clues" by radio stations and print media alike. Subsequent to the Beatles rumor, the songs "Sub-Rosa Subway" and "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" became minor hits for Klaatu in 1977. "Calling Occupants" was covered by the Carpenters that same year, becoming a Top 40 hit world wide.
While all this was happening, Klaatu was in England, recording their second album. They were somewhat aware of the situation with regards to the rumors, but did not take them entirely seriously – possibly because the UK's New Musical Express famously published an article on the Beatles-as-Klaatu theory under the title "Deaf Idiot Journalist Starts Beatle Rumour." Capitol Records (who controlled the Beatles' music in the U.S.), meanwhile, tried to make as much of the rumors as possible, by issuing ambiguously-worded statements that failed to make the band's identity entirely clear. The rumor was disproved when Dwight Douglas, program director at WWDC in Washington, D.C., checked the records at the U.S. Copyright Office and uncovered the band members' real names.
The band's second album Hope, released in 1977, included orchestral contributions by the London Symphony Orchestra. Sir Army Suit, their third album, is notable for the track "Silly Boys", which contains the entire lyrical portion of their single "Hanus of Uranus" – a song later re-recorded as "Anus of Uranus" for their first album – backwards-masked interspersed between the "Silly Boys" lyrics. For both these releases, the band continued their policy of not including any individual names of band members in the credits, nor did they play any live shows or make any public appearances to promote these albums.
Animated film project
In 1977, Al Guest and Jean Mathieson of Rainbow Animation were commissioned by Capitol Records to create the first animated rock video of the Klaatu song "A Routine Day". They shot the band members but obscured their identities by rotoscoping them and turning them into drawings. This video ran on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert and subsequently played as a short in Los Angeles on the same bill as Animal House.
Following that, Guest and Mathieson got permission from Capitol Records to create a vehicle for Klaatu's songs. They wrote and directed a half-hour television special they titled Happy New Year Planet Earth, hoping that it would get yearly broadcasts as an alternative to Christmas specials. New Year's Eve was Mathieson's birthday. Again the group Klaatu was photographed and rotoscoped, with an astronaut wraparound created to connect the six Klaatu songs. Although the project was completed, Guest and Mathieson were dropped by their Canadian film investment group and wound up financing it themselves. They never released it.
The only example of the project that has ever seen the light of day is the video for "A Routine Day", which was the original broadcast rock video. However, in 2005, the group permitted the film to be screened in its uncompleted state at the KlaatuKon convention in Toronto.
Upon the release of their fourth studio album, Endangered Species, in 1980, the band for the first time included their individual names in the album package, and the songs were now credited to their individual writers. (Subsequent re-issues of earlier Klaatu material, as well as newly published Klaatu sheet music, also gave credit to the actual songwriters of each track, rather than a collective credit.)
Although forced by Capitol to record Endangered Species in Los Angeles using established studio musicians to shore up the group's commercial chances, the album was a critical and commercial flop. The album's poor showing resulted in Capitol Records dropping the group. Now lacking a record label, Long and Draper temporarily formed a classic rock cover band with Freddy Coutts, John Jones, and John Bojicic, called FUNN, who played extensively around Toronto.
Klaatu was eventually signed by Capitol's Canadian division, EMI Canada, and released their final album, Magentalane, in 1981. This album saw the group returning to their brand of Beatles-influenced pop/rock. As a contractual obligation to Capitol-EMI in Canada, the band was forced to play their first-ever live dates and tour most of Canada to promote Magentalane. From November 1981, the group expanded to a sextet, using members of Max Webster and Nightwinds, Gary McCracken and Gerald O'Brien for live performances. However, in April 1982 Dee Long – never fond of performing live, by most accounts – quit the group. Although Woloschuk and Draper carried on performing for a few more months, Klaatu officially disbanded in August of the same year.
The trio very briefly reunited in 1988, at George Martin's Air Studios in London with John Jones to record a single, "Woman", though no one was particularly happy with the results, since the song was written by someone outside of the band (Paul Vincent Gunia) for the German TV series Tatort. The single was released only in West Germany and did not chart, making it an extremely rare item in the Klaatu catalogue, particularly since it was not included on the two later rarities collections.
The three former members of Klaatu reunited on May 7, 2005, for a brief – and mostly acoustic – performance at Toronto's KlaatuKon. The set list consisted of "At the End of the Rainbow," "I Don't Wanna Go Home," "Cherie," "Magentalane," "Little Neutrino," and "All Good Things."
Klaatu's albums were released on CD format rather late, and up until the 2000s several companies, including Capitol Records, released the albums with incorrect track orders. Finally, Bullseye Records, with the help of the band itself, released the albums in their original track listings. Bullseye also released a tribute album to Klaatu, Around the Universe In Eighty Minutes.
In 2005, Bullseye Records released a 2-CD collection entitled Sun Set, which compiled a number of rarities, demos, rare early singles, and other odds and ends recorded during the group's career. Perhaps most interesting was the original version of Hope which had been delivered to Capitol Records, including the complete contributions made by the London Symphony Orchestra, which had largely been removed from the version which was eventually released. The set also included a 40-page booklet including interviews with all of the former members of the band.
Bullseye Records of Canada also released Raarities in 2005; oddly enough, this collection was originally released only in a vinyl LP format. A CD version, titled Solology, including the Raarities LP as well as concert recordings, was released in March, 2009. Raarities probably appeals more to the group's hardcore fans since most of the material on the record consists of alternate mixes and single versions, as opposed to Sun Set, which focused on unreleased material and the alternate version of Hope.
On March 15, 2011, Klaatu announced the creation of their new record label, Klaatunes Records. The band also created an official website to go along with the new label. The label's premier was a re-release of 2009's Solology. The band has so far remastered their first three albums 3:47 EST, Hope and Sir Army Suit.
Original studio albums
- 3:47 E.S.T. (1976 Canada No.40, US No.32)
- Hope (1977 Canada No.49, US No.83)
- Sir Army Suit (1978)
- Endangered Species (1980 Canada No.55)
- Magentalane (1981 Canada No.26)
- Klaatu Sampler (1981)
- Klaasic Klaatu (1982)
- Peaks (1993)
- Sun Set (2005)
- Raarities (2005)
- Solology (2009)
RPM TOP 100
RPM A/C CHARTS
|1973||"Hanus Of Uranus"||Non album singles, later
re-recorded for 3:47 EST
|1975||"True Life Hero"|
|1976||"Calling Occupants"||45||62||3:47 EST|
|1977||"We're Off You Know"||Hope|
|1978||"Dear Christine"||68||Sir Army Suit|
|1979||"A Routine Day"||84|
|1980||"Knee Deep In Love"||52||Endangered Species|
|1980||"I Can't Help It"|
|1981||"The Love Of A Woman"||45||27||Magentalane|
|1981||"A Million Miles Away"|
- "Shindig! - Issue 35 / from Piccadilly Records". www.piccadillyrecords.com. Retrieved 2017-04-20.