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 John Woloschuk.
        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 appearances.
        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 tomorrow."
        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 musicians.
        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 back.


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.  Fox, 1951.

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. Aug 1976.

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. Available: http:/www.klaatu.org

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.

 Return 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 Productions.
    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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