Analog Adventures: Klaatu

Klaatu

Klaatu

(1976)

About the Artist

Klaatu is best known for NOT being the Beatles. A rumor began when the Providence Journal ran an article by Steve Smith that postulated that they could be the Beatles. The similarities are there with the instrumentation and singing style. Fans took all the images on the album to heart, theorizing that the sun on the cover represented the Sun King from Abbey Road. The fact that the album is under the Capitol label, which distributed the Beatles’ music in North America, fed into the rumors. Eventually these fan theories became larger than life.

The entire origin of the album circles around the rumor that Klaatu is the Beatles; specifically the recording sessions between Revolver and Sgt. Pepper. The story says that the master tapes are missing shortly after these sessions. Having lost these tapes, the band did not desire another recording session and wrote Sgt. Pepper instead. The album was forgot until the tapes were rediscovered in 1975. This theory ties into the idea that Paul McCartney is dead and is a rabbit hole one could fall into by themselves. The truth is that the band simply wanted their music to speak for itself. Klaatu credits all songs on the album to the collective band. They did not even include promotional pictures of the band to take away from the music.

The Record Itself

In a sense, this record is an example of hyperreality. Hyperreality is a postmodern theory originally coined by French sociologist Jean Baudrillard to explain current cultural conditions, particularly consumerism. People in 1976 truly wanted to believe that the Beatles were back and attached value to Klaatu that were not necessarily there. Everything from the Sun King, the sound of insects (beetles) on the first track, to the vocal similarities were ascribed value based on their proximity to the Beatles. Without this invented connection, the album would have probably faded into obscurity. According to Daniel J. Boorstin, “individuals may observe and accept hyperreal images as role models when the images don’t necessarily represent real physical people.” Klaatu’s hope was that their music would represent themselves, but instead people desired them to be the Beatles.

Apart from momentary instances of obvious Beatles influence, this album has more in common with Pink Floyd and King Crimson. The guitar work is in line with 1970s conventions of tonality. Present are the big Marshall stacks with a red hot Les Paul. The drums are bright and punchy, and cut brilliantly through the mix. The bass does a solid job of holding together the band, but it lacks a distinct voice. The structure of the album begins with a long jam Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft. The six tracks in the middle are significantly shorter but are all entirely enjoyable. Sub-Rosa Subway is perhaps the most compelling evidence that the Beatles could have written this album. The eight-minute epic Little Neutrino finishes the album and sandwiches it all together.

Physically Speaking

The album art immediately stands out. Like most rock art from this era, the predominant influence of Art Nouveau is front and center. The smiling astrological sun is welcoming the listener to the world of Klaatu. The inhabitants of this cover are akin to Beatrix Potter’s work. The disc is the standard 140 grams and sounds full and punchy due to the excellent mixing.

The back cover of the album.

Is it Worth It?

Copies of Klaatu are abundant and easy to find. This copy was obtained for $5 while sifting through the bargain crates at Hollow Bone Records in Akron, Ohio. As a stand-alone work of art, this is a great time capsule of 1970s psychedelia. If one listens to this while expecting a pure Beatles experience, they are missing out. Finding a copy for less than $10 is a great excuse to dive into the conspiracy theories surrounding the band, but above all a great record for any collection.

Outstanding Tracks

  • Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft
  • Sub-Rosa Subway
  • True Life Hero

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Jose Diaz

Collector of analog media.

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