If the title of this blog rings even a small little hand bell with you, then consider me your friend for life. We are bonded like two humans can only be bonded through their DNA. We are kin. If it doesn’t ring a bell with you, then join the other 7.045 billion people in the world that have no idea what I’m talking about.
There are some music groups in the world that just work for you. Either they hit you at exactly the right time in your life, when you’re in need of it most in your life, when you’re in exactly the right mood, or you just happen to come upon them by accident. That band for me was Klaatu. I’m sure 99.9999% of you have never heard of them. But they babysat me for 3-4 years of my life when I was finding it the hardest to cope with the world until my current babysitter – The Ramones – came along. From 1976 to about 1979 they were my go-to when I needed a place of familiarity. So who were they and why should I (or more importantly – YOU?) care about them?
Klaatu was a Canadian rock group that in 1976 decided to release an album that “let the music speak for itself”, according to their website. It included no names or photographs of the band. So the world, as the world is want to do, decided that this group was actually a comeback by the Beatles. If you listen to the music you can definitely at times get a Beatles-like vibe, and people started going crazy for them. Apparently, even their record label – Capitol Records in Los Angeles – didn’t know their names. With songs such as ‘Anus from Uranus’, ‘Sub-Rosa Subway’ and ‘Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III’ they were in my craw good and tight.
Their song “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” was based on the true story of World Contact Day which was an attempt on March 15, 1953 by the International Flying Saucer Bureau to make contact with anyone out in space. I guess that’s why I became interested in them – the UFO angle (having seen a genuine UFO growing up – but that’s another blog). I bought the album with my hard-earned lawn mowing money and proceeded to wear it out.
In 1977 my family and I were uprooted from our only home that we knew – and moved across the country away from all my friends. Klaatu came with me and continued calling all occupants every night. In 1978 when I was at my loneliest they came out with a second album. This album was every bit as good as the first one – with classics like ‘The Loneliest of Creatures’ and ‘Hope’ – and it spoke to me and helped me through the hard times. I’m sure my brother and my parents got tired of my cranking these two albums non-stop, but it’s what got me through. From the first beautiful strains of the Politzania National Anthem to the final chords of ‘Hope’, this album would take me away from the real world for just a few minutes – and sometimes that’s all the time I needed.
So why is this coming up now? I swear to you that I haven’t heard a Klaatu song in 30 years. I was thinking the other day however that I wanted to hear what they sounded like again. So I fired up iTunes (turning the crank on the iPad) and was surprised that I could get a package set of these two albums for the low, low cost of just $9.99. Boom. Downloaded them and got ready for my next commute to work. Yes, my commute can be so crappy that on some days I can listen to two complete albums.
This morning was the big morning. Hooked up the iPad to the car stereo and hit play. Everything, and I mean everything, flooded back immediately. For those of you who know me, you know that I can’t remember the words to any song ever. But for some reason, after 30 years of non-listening and honestly non-thinking about non-listening, I could still remember every single chord, every single word and every single key change that came out of the stereo for the next 90 minutes. It was bizarre. I knew what song was next without looking at the list. I remembered every single little thing about it. It was the best commute ever.
I had forgotten what listening to an entire album (or rock opera, if you will) was like where every single song meant something. Sure, there are good albums out there – but most of the time you buy a single song and the rest of the stuff is “eh….” In these first two albums, Klaatu flowed one song into the next and transported me into outer space, to the top of a lighthouse, to a mythical country, or just anywhere but where I was currently standing on the Earth.
So what happened to Klaatu? They’re actually still around – releasing re-mastered copies and putting out solo albums. But they will never top those two in my mind. I have to admit that I grew out of them in 1978/1979 when I started growing my hair longer, not showering, and not caring about my appearance. I found the Ramones (not that they were lost), who are still my #1 band of all time who spoke to me just as much. But for those few years in the late 70’s, Klaatu was my escape. And now, it’s nice to have them back.
So give them a listen if you haven’t. I’m sure it won’t have the same impact on you that it did on me, but give it a try – hit up YouTube and see what magic you can feel. Believe me, I can see your little scrunched up faces already, and it doesn’t bother me one single little iota of a speck of dust. They’re mine.