The Ministry of Truth
— Things we find interesting from our collections
It all started when…
a Canadian rock group formed in 1973 by the duo of John Woloschuk and Dee Long 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.
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.
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."
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 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 worldwide.
While all this was happening, Klaatu were 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.
Ringo Starr’s cover for Goodnight Vienna album has Ringo dressed as the character Klaatu in a scene from the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still. Is this a tribute to the Beatles-as-Klaatu phenomenom from the past? It's fun, but it's all a bit silly, really, simply proving that if you look hard enough for evidence you will end up manufacturing it.
In truth, 3:47 E.S.T. is an excellent, largely forgotten album. Stop by and check it out.