Klaatu - an Introduction
Klaatu is the central character
of the 1951 science fiction film The Day The Earth Stood Still, but KIaatu
is also the name of a Canadian rock group. "We felt the movie carried a
strong message and we identified with the central character. He was an
individual who brought a message of intelligence to the people of Earth,
in a sense, that's what we've tried to do with our albums," said band member
The film The Day The Earth
Stood Still has been called, "...one of the best American science fiction
films of the fifties." In this highly allegorical film, Klaatu, a
peace emissary from outer space, accompanied by Gort, a robot, lands in
Washington D.C. where he is immediately shot. Klaatu is a quick healer
and after he finds it impossible to deliver his message simultaneously
to all nations through diplomatic channels, he escapes from the military
hospital where he is being held and steps out to see the town.
After several plot complications,
Klaatu decides that Earthlings might listen if they knew what was at stake,
if they just stopped for a while and thought about it. He so decides
to stop all energy (electric, kinetic, etc.) around the world, with the
exceptions of hospital equipment, planes in flight, and other instances
where a shutdown would cause destruction .
In the movie, Klaatu thought
that peace and silence were eloquent enough to speak for themselves.
In the music world, the rock group, Klaatu, was naive enough to think that
their music would speak for itself so they remained anonymous. No writing
credits, other than "Klaatu" were given on their early recordings.
No biographical information was furnished to the record company that signed
them (probably the only time this has happened). The group made no public
The band's first album,
self-titled in the United States, but titled 3:47 EST in Canada (after
the exact time the spaceship in The Day The Earth Stood Still landed in
Washington) begins with the song, "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary
Craft (The Recognized Anthem of World Contact Day)." As the recording
begins, we hear someone walking in a forest. We hear leaves rustling,
a bullfrog croaking, and birds singing. Then we hear a record start
(in 1976, we were still playing vinyl). Are we told there is someone out
there? We are told, "In your mind, you have capacity, you know, to telepath
messages through the vast unknown." We are asked to concentrate and
call our friends in outer space. Tell them we mean no harm.
We won't shoot them this time. We are ready for peace.
The music that accompanies
this is well-crafted, multi-layered, rock It is a very emotional song with
Beatle-esque harmonies, a McCartney-type bass line, and a strong, Ringo-like,
boom-pa-pa-boom beat. The Beatle comparisons are not unique to my
ears. A journalist in the United States noticed that many songs on
the album sounded much like late-year Beatle recordings.
Since the group provided
no biographical information either to the record company or the public,
(they were very secretive about their identities), and rock fans wanted
a Beatles' reunion, the rumor began that Klaatu was, in fact, the Beatles.
Because of this rumor (and its subsequent debunking), in 1977, Rolling
Stone Magazine dubbed Klaatu,"Hype of the Year." Also because
of the Beatle rumor, album sales rose high enough to gain for Klaatu the
number 32 spot on the Billboard chart for the week of April 30, 1977, where
they remained for three weeks.
In the movie, the character,
Klaatu, is killed before he is able to communicate his message to his intended
audience. In the music world, Klaatu, the rock group, was abandoned by
many listeners who felt they had been deceived by a group of unknown musicians
pretending to be the Beatles. When the rumor about the Beatles declined
in popularity, so did Klaatu's album sales.
In the film, Klaatu is resurrected
via technology and the world is granted another chance to hear his message.
In September of 1977, the rock group, KIaatu, released their second album,
Hope. Hope, recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra, won a Juno
award in 1977 for best engineered album. The album is a concept
album based on a science fiction story idea inspired by the asteroid belt
that orbits between Jupiter and Mars. Klaatu imagined that the asteroids
had once been a planet that had been destroyed in a catastrophic conflict
between nationalistic societies. Perhaps in an effort to make amends for
the selfishness and arrogance of his race, the lone survivor of this conflict
operates a lighthouse on one of the asteroids. The lighthouse keeper
warns passing spaceships to stay clear of the asteroid belt. With
his last breath, the lighthouse keeper utters what he perceives to be the
perfect prayer, what all creatures live for: hope.
Intricately crafted and
produced by Klaatu with longtime friend and collaborator, Terry Brown (who
produced many recordings for the rock band, Rush), Hope is a blending of
musical styles achieved with taste and virtuosity. The album incorporates
jazz, rock, pop, classical, and romantic musical genres to paint a colorful,
interesting and pleasant picture in sound. The colorful album art
(printed on textured cardstock) is very intricate and creative and should
also be mentioned. The cover is the work of artist, Ted Jones.
KIaatu, in the film finally
delivers the speech he had traveled 250 million miles to give. Speaking
to a body of scientists from around the world, Klaatu's message is much
like the lighthouse keeper's on the Hope album, 'be warned or be mourned
In the film, Klaatu explains
that, before nuclear weapons and rockets were an issue, Earth's wars and
nationalistic squabbling were her own affair. However, now that Earth
is venturing into a more advanced technology, Earth's neighbors in space
are concerned. If Earthlings do not behave themselves, warns Klaatu,
the alien, Earth will have to be destroyed. Klaatu then returns to
his spacecraft and departs.
The cover to the third album
by Klaatu, the rock group, titled Sir Armv Suit, features drawings
of the band members and the artist responsible for the previous album covers,
but still no names or credits to accompany the faces. This time,
the drawing was done by Hugh Symes and the album was, both visually and
musically, less conceptual than its predecessors.
The album is more of a collection
of single songs than Klaatu's previous albums had been, less of a collective
opus. The first song is of a pop-style musically, and bemoans the
mundane existence of a working-class life. This song is titled,
"Routine Day" and sets the tone for the rest of the album.
One song of particular interest
is titled, "Silly Boys." This song sounds as though it is backwards.
Yet, the lyrics seem coherent. They make as much sense as many other
rock songs. This song is, in fact, backwards. The majority of the
song is a song from Klaatu's first album played backwards. The band
just happened upon it by accident and said, "Hey, that's weird. Let's
put it on the album." It took a bit more work than that and it had
to be re-worked some, but that's basically what happened.
On Klaatu's next album,
Endangered Species, we finally discover who these "Silly Boys" are. Klaatu
was formed by three studio musicians who lived in Toronto, Canada.
These musicians are John Woloschuk, Dee Long and Terry Draper. Pictures
along with writing credits were included with this release. When
asked in an interview if Klaatu's emergence into the media's spotlight
might dilute their message, John Woloschuk replied with a laugh, and then
said, "Not really. In the film, Michael Renee [the actor who portrayed
Klaatu] showed his face when addressing the Earth. Even without his mask
he had a lot of important things to say."
Although the album, Endangered
Species includes some up-beat songs, the overall feel is one of anger and
negativity. One example of this feeling is the song "Sell Out, Sell
Out," in which Capitol Records president, Rupert Perry, is heard to say,
"Peddle yourself". The primary goal of Endangered Species was to
create a product that could be effectively reproduced on stage by live
Endangered Species was the
last new material that the United States heard from KIaatu. In October
of 1981, Magentalane, the group's fifth album was released in Canada,
but not in the U.S. (it was finally issued in the U.S. on CD by Permanent
Press). That's a shame, I think, because I feel it is a better album
than either Sir Army Suit or Endangered Species. The album, Magentalane,
is more positive, emotionally, and it has a heavier, fuller, sound, like
that found on Klaatu's first album.
KIaatu played a tour in
Canada during November of 1981 and disbanded afterward. The former members
are on very good terms with each other. They have been involved in
various and numerous projects, musical and non-musical, together and individually,
since that time. There are plans being formulated to release an album
of alternate mixes and rare recordings by Klaatu. Like the character
in the film, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Klaatu is away, but may be
Bradley, David Webmaster of' "The
Official Klaatu Home Page" Phone interview. 17 Sept 1996.
Day The Earth Stood Still. The. Dir. Robert Wise. With Michael
Renee, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Billy Gray, Sam Jaffe, and Lock Martin.
Draper, Terry. Interview. WVUM Florida June 16, 1980 (6:00pm, actually).
Interview conducted by Brad Fitzgerald,
a.k.a., Brad Frehley (on the air).
Hardy, Phil. The Film Encyclopedia Science fiction New York: William
Morrow and Company, Inc. 1984.
Kearney, Mark and Randy Ray. 'Blasts From The Past" Toronto Sun
Klaatu "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft," 3:47 EST Daffodil.
Klaatu Endangered Species. Daffodil. June 1980.
Klaatu Hope. Daffodil. Sept 1977.
Klaatu Magentalane. Capitol. Oct 1981.
Klaatu Peaks booklet Attic. 1993.
Klaatu "Silly Boys;' Sir Army Suit Daffodil. Aug 1978.
Klaatu Sir Army Suit Daffodil. Aug 1978.
KIaatu "So Said The Lighthouse Keeper," Hope. Daffodil. Sept 1977.
Klaatu 3:47 EST Daffodil. ~. 1977
Larkin, Colin Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Vol.3. New
York: Stockton Press, 1995.
O'Leary, Bill. 'Interview with Dee Long" Nov. 1995. N. pag.
The Official KIaatu Home Page. Online. World Wide Web. 6 Sept 1996.
Whitburn, Joel. The Billboard Book of Top 40 Albums. New York:
Billboard Publications. 1087.
This article is several years old. For
more current information on the group, its former members and pop music
in general, or to hear samples of Klaatu's music, I strongly urge you to
visit The Official Klaatu Home Page.
to the Richard LeBlanc Index
The illustration is the Klaatu
album cover for "3:47EST" and was painted by Ted Jones circa 1976.
The song playing is Klaatu's,
"Hope". It was written by John Woloschuk, 1977 Magentalane Music
and was found at Kwest
The running mouse is from Animation
Library, the mouse at the finish of the article is from Zena's
Clipart Collection, and the UFO is from AQ
Art & Design and was made by Andrew Qvickers.
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