WATCH: Klaatu- “Sub-Rosa Subway” – 1976 – People thought it was the Beatles

Who remembers the band Klaatu? Their 1976 album burst on the scene and got lots of attention for one simple reason: there was a rumor that it was actually done by a re-united Beatles, recording under a fake name to fool everyone. I remember thinking at the time that this song, “Sub-Rosa Subway” had kind of a Beatles sound, but didn’t really think it was them.

Here’s more background on the whole episode from Wikipedia:

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.” (Note that this collective writing credit covered songs earlier credited solely to Long or to the team of Woloschuk and Tome – even though Tome was not actually a member of Klaatu.) The album was met with moderately positive reviews but by Christmas of that year, sales had stalled.

Rumours were started, in 1976, that the Beatles had recorded and released a new album under the pseudonym of “Klaatu”. These rumors were fueled by a number of factors, including the fact that their album was released under Capitol Records, the mystery of missing artist and producer credits, and the fact that Klaatu’s vocal style and musical creativity could be considered similar to The Beatles.

The album had a Beatlesque sound, however, 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.

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