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Klaatu Barada Nikto
No wait, while I am a big fan of The Day The Earth Stood Still, with Michael Rennie as our man Klaatu himself (Keanu who?) (Quick, what was the robot’s name? If it took you more than a nanosecond to think of it, well, no bonus points for you…).
Hail to the king baby…
And while I love Bruce Campbell as Ash, the hero of all three of Sam Rami’s brilliant Evil Dead movies, it isn’t that Klaatu Barada Nikto of which I wish to speak.
Rather, I am here today (well, tonight technically) to speak of the Canadian Prog Rock band who took their name from Michael Rennie’s iconic character.
The first I heard of Klaatu was following the August 1976 release of their debut LP release, 3:47 EST. I would have been hanging out at Star Records… the record store I grew up in, downtown Oshawa, when the proprietor Mike played it for me. Well, probably my best friend and I. While, at the time, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper and Deep Purple were more our usual musical fare, there was, nonetheless, something very unique and fetching about this new band.
From the opening strains of Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft (The Recognized Anthem of World Contact Day) to the decaying last notes of Little Neutrino (well, until the mouse squeak at the very least) the whole album struck a very powerfull chord. And we weren’t the only ones that noticed. While Klaatu never really blossomed much outside of their, as it turned out, native Canada, enough people were intrigued by their musical supplications to analyze the album further.
At some point, not long after the release, rumours surfaced that Klaatu were, in fact, the reformed Beatles, recording in annonimity; not a bad feat for a rumour in a day and an age when the concept of the world wide web was still just a wet dream of one computer nerd or another.
In point of fact, Klaatu were Canucks John Woloschuk (vocals, bass, acoustic guitar, keyboards), Dee Long (guitars, keyboards, vocals) and Terry Draper (drums, percussion, vocals). The Beatles rumours were something that the band members chaffed at and always denied.
Part of the mystique that allowed these rumours to flourish in the first place had alot to do with the fact Klaatu never played live. They were a studio band; a concept which The Beatles, in their later days, had, if not invented, perfected. Lack of any real liner notes regarding personelle on their albums only helped to fan the flames.
Their second album, Hope, was considered by many fans to be equal or, in some ways, superiour to their debut release. Hope was a concept album recorded with The London Symphony Orchestra, about, as Wikipedia states “the sole survivor of an arrogant race of beings, who warns space travellers of hazards in the last days or his life”
For me this second album didn’t quite resonate as strongly with me as their first. That being said, there were still some pretty strong tracks and, as a whole, acquitted itself most admirably.
Songs like Madman, The Lonliest of Creatures, So Said the Lighthouse Keeper and Hope were more than worthy successors to the first album.
Klaatu releaed three more albums; Sir Army Suit (1978), Endangered Species (1980) and Magentalane (1981), but none of them ever managed to match their first two releases.
Here then are my picks for some of Klaatu’s best works. If you have already known of the band, I hope this serves as some kind of reminder of a bright, young band… If you haven’t, then I hope this serves as a sufficient introduction.
Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft (The Recognized Anthem of World Contact Day) (3:47 EST)
Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III (3:47 EST)
Anus of Uranus (3:47 EST)
A friend of mine, by the name of Steve Douglas, asked after the song Sub-Rosa Subway from Klaatu’s first album in no small part due to the fact it, of all the songs on the album, sparked the whole Klaatu are The Beatles kerfufel. Or Are Klaatu The Beatles? kerfufel, depending upon how you look at it. The song was left out by way of a brain fart I had. This is a great tune and, even after all these years, I’ll be damned if they don’t sound, at least a little, like that long ago band from Liverpool.
Sub-Rosa Subway (3:47 EST)
True Life Hero (3:47 EST)
We’re Off You Know (Hope)
So Said The Lighthouse Keeper (Hope)
By the by… in answer to the above mentioned question… the name of Klaatu’s bright and shinny friend is… Gort.
Gort, Klaatu Barada Nikto…
And now you know.