Klaatu – “3:47 EST” (1976)

January 4, 2012 at 5:54 pm (Music, Reviews & Articles, The Beatles)

Klaatu’s debut album 3:47 EST (aka Klaatu).
This infamous review by Steve Smith in the Feb. 13, 1977 issue of The Providence Sunday Journal is the one that got the whole world thinking for a brief moment back in 1977 that The Beatles had returned disguised as a band called Klaatu. How anyone actually could have believed this (despite some of the songs having a Beatlesque feel to them) is quite unbelievable. Due to the idenities of the bandmembers remaining a secret, though, it did become another mystery like the whole “Paul is Dead” rumor that circulated around the globe back in 1969…

Could Klaatu Be Beatles? Mystery Is a Magical Tour

Just before Christmas I listened to a refreshing new album that sounded incredibly “Beatlish.” I checked the album, entitled Klaatu, for names or pictures of the musicians but there were none. All credits were given to Klaatu. Curious, I called Capitol Records and was told it was a “mystery group.”

Who are Klaatu? That is the mystery. Their names are being kept secret by Capitol Records and Frank Davies, who handles the group’s so-far clandestine affairs. The band will not submit to any publicity pictures (Capitol press release says that “they want to be known for their music and not for whom they are”). They are rumored to be independently wealthy. Capitol claims to have no knowledge of the identities of the band members, but this raises a question: Why would Capitol invest in an “unknown”?

Klaatu’s album brings back memories of the Beatles on every song, especially “Sub Rosa Subway,” a song about the building of the New York subway system, and “Doctor Marvello,” about a man with mystical powers.

Sub Rosa Subwaysounds like 1968-1969 Beatles. The vocals are exactly like Paul McCartney’s, the drumming like Ringo Starr’s, and the guitar work like George Harrison’s and John Lennon’s.

“Doctor Marvello” sounds like George Harrison a la “Blue Jay Way” with the rest of the Beatles backing, complete with sitar and reverse tape effects.

Other songs have digs from the Beatles’ past such as singing through fuzztones, “Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs” and unmistakable harmonies.

Capitol’s stonewallers did disclose that the word Klaatu was taken from a 1951 science fiction movie. The Day the Earth Stood Still. In it Michael Rennie played a peace emissary from outer space named Klaatu. In Canada the name of the album is called 3:47 EST which is the time Klaatu arrived on Earth in the movie. (On the cover of Ringo Starr’s album, Goodnight Vienna Ringo is standing in the doorway of the spaceship next to the robot from that same movie).

According to Klaatoons, the band’s publishing company, Klaatu can also mean “been here before” (return?).

Looking up many words from the lyrics, I discovered they concerned secrecy, underground, renewal and revival.

A song on the album, “Bodsworth Rugglesby III” is misspelled on the back of the album cover so that it says Rubblesby. Defining bods, worth, rubbles, and by, Bodsworth Rubblesby could mean: persons of importance born of quarrying.” The Beatles were first known as the Quarrymen.

In “Sub Rosa Subway” there is mention of, first, New York City and then, Washington. The Beatles first arrived in the United States in New York City and played The Ed Sullivan Show and Carnegie Hall, then they played the Washington Coliseum.

The whole album is about magic, mystery and touring, and true Beatles freaks know that Magical Mystery Tour was the only album the Beatles considered a failure. Could Klaatu be their answer to that?

I finally reached Frank Davies, Klaatu’s “sort of manager,” in Toronto. He said he could not tell me who was in the band. I asked him if it was the Beatles or whether they had anything to do with Klaatu. First, he gave me a flat “No” and said that the only Beatle connection was “inspirational.” But when asked if any of the Beatles played on the album, he hesitated, laughed quietly, hesitated again and then said that “everything you’ve summarized is really pretty accurate all the way around” and that “everything that is there, can and will be identified even without, perhaps them, the people, being seen.”

To add a final note of intrigue, Davies said there are many clues on the album about the band’s identity, the biggest clue being a morse code message at the end of “Sub Rosa Subway” telling a lot about the band, the album and that song. (Davies has offered to give a Klaatu album and/or posters and buttons to the first person who can decode that message. Entries can be sent to Steve Smith in care of this newspaper). Davies said that “when it is finally let known as to whom they are, your story will be interesting to look back on.”

The album’s musical and lyrical clues left four possibilities as to whom this mystery band could be:

1. The Beatles.
2. A couple of the Beatles with other people.
3. A Beatle-backed band.
4. A completely unknown but ingenious and talented band.

A single by the band was scheduled for release this week. The “A” side is “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” backed with “Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III.” Also, their second album is due out in April. Their first album is hard to find, but may be ordered from record stores. WBRU-FM is the only radio station giving it any airplay so far. Whoever Klaatu is, their album was well worth waiting for.

Is it the Beatles? You are welcome to draw your own conclusions — and if “Yesterday” is here, “Let it Be.” 

Steve Smith



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