|Origin||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Years active||1973–1982, 1988, 2005|
|Labels||Daffodil, Capitol, Attic|
|Past members||John Woloschuk|
Klaatu (//) was a Canadian rock group formed in 1973 by the duo of John Woloschuk and Dee Long. They named themselves after an ambassador, Klaatu, from an extraterrestrial confederation who visits Earth with his companion robot Gort in the film The Day the Earth Stood Still. After recording two non-charting singles, the band added drummer Terry Draper to the line-up; this trio constituted 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" (1976) and "Knee Deep in Love" (1980). In the U.S. "Calling Occupants" backed with "Sub-Rosa Subway" was a minor double-sided hit and their only chart entry, peaking at No. 62 in 1977.
The band's combination of pop and progressive/art rock has often been compared to the Beatles, the guitar-rock of Queen, the electronic music of Wendy Carlos, the light pop sound of 10cc, and the orchestrated ballads of the Moody Blues. British music magazine Shindig! praised the band's "otherworldly brand of progressive pop". Publications such as Pitchfork have described the group as the "Canadian Beatles".
The band, initially a studio-only duo of Woloschuk and Long, released the singles "Anus 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 albums and Beatles rumours
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.
But then, in 1977 an article published in the Providence Journal written by journalist Steve Smith, speculated that 3:47 EST could actually be a release by a secretly reunited Beatles recording under a pseudonym, leading to widespread rumours. These rumours were fueled by a number of factors, including the fact that their album was released by Capitol Records (also the Beatles' label), the lack of artist and producer credits or photographs in the album packaging, Klaatu's avoidance of public performances, and the fact that the group's vocal and musical style was reminiscent of the Beatles. In addition, Ringo Starr's 1974 album Goodnight Vienna had featured cover art with Starr appearing in place of the character Klaatu from the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. The album as a whole had a Beatlesque sound, particularly in the song "Sub-Rosa Subway." Subsequent to the Beatles rumour, 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 worldwide.
While all this was happening, Klaatu were in England, recording their second album. They were somewhat aware of the situation with regard to the rumours, 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." Meanwhile, Capitol Records (who controlled the Beatles' music in the U.S.) tried to make as much of the rumours as possible, by issuing ambiguously worded statements that failed to make the band's identity entirely clear. The rumour 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 an animated music video of the song "A Routine Day". 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.
In 2005, the group permitted the film to be screened in its uncompleted state at the KlaatuKon convention in Toronto. The unfinished animations were later released as part of the 2013 Sir Army Suit bonus disc.
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, enlisting Gary McCracken (drums), Mike Gingrich (bass) and Gerald O'Brien (keyboards) 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 - with Terry Watkinson replacing a departing O'Brien and Marty Morin taking McCracken's chair - 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 as the song was written by someone outside of the band (Paul Vincent Gunia) for the German TV series Tatort. Initially Long had wanted to merely use the Klaatu name, but could not get the rest of the band's approval without their involvement. The single was released only in West Germany and did not chart, making it an extremely rare item in the Klaatu catalogue; Draper confirmed that the song was considered for a few rarities compilations, but all three band members had agreed to not include the track.
A second reunion had been attempted in 1991 to tie together with a proposed compilation release, but plans fell through after a disagreement with their distributor, BEI.
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," "All Good Things", and "Little Neutrino".
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 premiere 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.
- 3:47 EST (Named 'Klaatu' outside Canada) (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
Billboard Hot 100
|1973||"Hanus of Uranus"||–||–||–||–||Non-album single|
|"Doctor Marvello"||–||–||–||–||Non-album single|
|1974||"California Jam"||36||–||–||–||Non-album single|
|1975||"True Life Hero"||–||–||–||–||Non-album single|
|1976||"Calling Occupants"||45||–||62||–||3:47 EST|
|1977||"We're Off You Know"||–||–||–||–||Hope|
|"The Loneliest of Creatures"||–||–||–||–|
|1978||"Dear Christine"||74||–||–||–||Sir Army Suit|
|"A Routine Day"||84||–||–||44|
|1980||"Knee Deep in Love"||52||–||–||–||Endangered Species|
|"I Can't Help It"||–||–||–||–|
|1981||"The Love of a Woman"||45||28||–||–||Magentalane|
|"A Million Miles Away"||–||–||–||–|
- "A Dictionary by Rock Snobs, for Rock Snobs". NPR.org.
- "Klaatu/Hope - Klaatu - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved October 16, 2017.
- Robert Arnone, John (2021). Us and Them: Canada, Canadians and The Beatles. FriesenPress. p. 179. ISBN 9781039115729.
Klaatu's progressive rock sound was definitely Beatle-esque in a post-Revolver kind of way
- "North of America: The Sepultura EP". Pitchfork.com.
- Havers, Richard (October 8, 2020). "When The Carpenters Met Prog Rock". UDiscoverMusic.
- "6 Pitchfork Staffers on the Best Albums They Found Based on the Cover Art". Pitchfork. March 14, 2018.
- Strange History. Portable Press. 2016.
- "Shindig! - Issue 35 / from Piccadilly Records". Piccadillyrecords.com. Retrieved April 20, 2017.
- "Billboard's Top Album Picks — Pop" (PDF). Billboard. United States. September 24, 1977. Retrieved March 3, 2022 – via World Radio History.
- "Klaatu Identities and Beatles Rumors". Klaatu.org.
- Starr, Michael Seth (2015). Ringo: With a Little Help. Milwaukee: Backbeat Books. ISBN 9781617131202.
- Shannon, Bob (2009). Turn It Up! American Radio Tales 1946-1996 p.182. Austrianmonk Publishing. ISBN 978-1-6158-4545-3.
- "When The Carpenters Got Involved With 'Interplanetary' Crafts". udiscovermusic.com. October 8, 2020.
- Duncan, Graham (May 10, 2005). "Still waiting for aliens to call". The Globe and Mail – via www.theglobeandmail.com.
- Meyer, Bruce (April 19, 1977). "New 'Beatles' Unmasked". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco.
- "Cartoons Considered for an Academy Award – 1978 |". Cartoonresearch.com.
- "KlaatuKon 2005 by Mark Hershberger". Earcandymag.com.
- Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Klaatu - Behind The Scenes (Sir Army Suit Bonus DVD)". Youtube.com.
- "Klaatu is getting back together". CBC News.
- "Digital Downloads". Klaatutheband.com. Retrieved October 16, 2017.
- Peak positions for Klaatu's singles on the Canada Top Singles Chart:
- For "California Jam": "Top RPM Singles: Issue 3944a". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved January 14, 2022.
- For "Calling Occupants": "Top RPM Singles: Issue 5261a". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved January 14, 2022.
- For "Dear Christine": "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0037b". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved January 14, 2022.
- For "A Routine Day": "Top RPM Singles: Issue 4776b". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved January 14, 2022.
- For "Knee Deep In Love": "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0255b". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved January 14, 2022.
- For "The Love of a Woman": "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0423". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved January 14, 2022.
- Peak positions for Klaatu's singles on the Canada Adult Contemporary Chart:
- Whitburn, Joel (2015). The Comparison Book. Menonomee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 285. ISBN 978-0-89820-213-7.
- "Klaatu In Dutch Charts". DutchCharts. Retrieved January 14, 2022.