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|Origin||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Genres||Progressive rock, Space rock, Psychedelic pop, Baroque pop, Powerpop|
|Years active||1973–1982, 1988, 2005|
Capitol Records (US)
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 Klaatu portrayed by Michael Rennie 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 #62 in 1977.
The band is also remembered internationally for rumours that they were actually The Beatles recording under a pseudonym. Klaatu themselves did not start these rumours and always flatly denied them, and indeed no Beatle was ever involved in the writing, recording or production of any Klaatu material.
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. Adding Terry Draper 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 #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, managed to land the band a deal with Capitol Records in the United States.
Their first album, 3:47 EST (named Klaatu in the US as Capitol Records' execs felt the original title was 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 wasn't actually a member of Klaatu.) The album was met with moderately positive reviews, but found itself stalled, sales-wise, by Christmas of that year.
However, the album had a Beatlesque sound, particularly in the song "Sub-Rosa Subway". This, coupled with the lack of biographical details offered up by Klaatu, helped inspire a rumour concocted by Providence Journal reviewer Steve Smith in February 1977 that the album might be an anonymous project by The Beatles themselves. The rumour turned into a global phenomenon with Beatle fans being fed "clues" by radio stations and print media alike.
Subsequent to the Beatles rumours, the song "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft (the Recognized Anthem of World Contact Day)" became a minor hit for Klaatu in 1977. The track 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 rumours, but didn't 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, meanwhile, tried to make as much capital out of the rumours as possible, by issuing ambiguously worded statements that failed to make the band's identity entirely clear.
The rumour was soon 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, and is considered by most fans to be equal, if not superior, to the first album. Sir Army Suit, their third album, is notable for the track "Silly Boys," which contains the entire lyrical portion of "Anus of Uranus" – a song from 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.
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 Kirschner's Midnight Express 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 Hew 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 burned 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, making it clear that there was no musical connection to any former Beatle. As well, songs were now credited to their individual writers, rather than the "All songs written by Klaatu" credit of old. (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 top 40 cover band, called FUNN, as a way to make ends meet. Eventually signed by Capitol's Canadian division, Klaatu released their final album, Magentalane, in Canada 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 were forced to play their first ever live dates and tour most of Canada to promote the Magentalane album. From November 1981, the group expanded to a sextet, using members of Max Webster and Nightwind for live performances. However, in April 1982 Dee Long – never all that fond of performing live in the first place 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 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 only released 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."
A full-blown Klaatu reunion – apart from occasional fan club performances such as those in 2005 – is extremely unlikely at this point due to Woloschuk's work commitments. However, Woloschuk has also been quoted as regarding the idea of a Klaatu reunion with orchestral backing as "tantalizing."
Klaatu's albums were released on CD format rather late, and up until the 2000s several companies including Capitol Records released the albums, in some cases 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.
2005 also saw Raarities, also from Bullseye Records Of Canada. Oddly enough, this collection was originally only released 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 release of their own record label, Klaatunes Record. The label will be releasing all five of the band's original studio albums on CD with the possibility of vinyl. The first release by the label was 2005's Solology, with the first Klaatu album soon to follow. The band is currently on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and YouTube, with a new official site. They also have their five studio albums, along with Sun Set and Solology for sale on iTunes.
Today Dee Long is a producer who has also written a drum loop program called the DeeSampler. He has released several solo albums and has recently begun performing live again. Terry Draper worked in Toronto as a roofer for a number of years following Klaatu's breakup, and now manages a bar in Woodbridge, Ontario. He has also worked as a producer (often with Dee Long), and has also released two solo albums both featuring the ex-members of Klaatu, as well as a live album with a short-lived band called The Twilight Zone. Following Klaatu's breakup John Woloschuk recorded a now-rare children's album called Robotman, but soon afterwards retired from music altogether and is today a music industry accountant in Toronto. Though Woloschuk was the group's primary songwriter, he has sometimes been regarded by fans as something of an enigma and a recluse. However, interviews with Woloschuk have shown him to be quite affable and perfectly willing to discuss Klaatu, stating that the only reason he retired from music was because he felt he could be a good musician, or a good accountant, but not both at the same time. Woloschuk has said he gets together with friends occasionally to play for the fun of it, but that's the extent of his interest in playing music at this point.
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"|
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