Saturday, November 29, 2008

"Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft"

Kind of looks like a Green Sun rising over Masonic Manhattan

As we sit and wait for the Malthusian remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still (with Keanu Reeves as Klaatu and one-time Secret Sun siren Jennifer Connelly as Helen), I was reminded of a very strange episode in pop history, when the squarest musical combo to walk the face of the planet spent a king's ransom recording a telepathic invocation to authoritarian space messiahs. A tune which itself had originally been written by a mysterious band with a strange, conspiratorial history and a penchant for top-tapping ditties like "Anus from Uranus," "Dog Star," and "Mister Manson."

First, a little deep background:

To many in the 60s counterculture, brother/sister act the Carpenters was living proof that the revolution was dead and buried, and that the "Silent Majority" now ruled unchallenged. The siblings hailed from Connecticut (traditionally seen as the WASP-iest state in the union) and broke through to superstardom on the backs of a rejiggered bank commercial jingle. Their music was seen as so completely toothless and un-threatening that Richard Nixon invited them to the White House to perform for the visiting German chancellor.

The horror the Carpenters instilled in the hearts of hippies belied their extraordinary, nearly preternatural musical gifts. Not only did Karen Carpenter have one of the richest and most resonant voices in pop history, she was also an accomplished drummer (a traditionally male occupation). And today Richard Carpenter is widely seen as one of the great arrangers of his generation. The Carpenters used these gifts and songs by masters like Burt Bachrach and Paul Williams to score hit after hit in the early 70s.

However, the counterculture began to regroup and mutate in the mid 70s, and stoner soft rock bands like Fleetwood Mac and gay/urban-influenced disco groups like KC and the Sunshine Band began their takeover of the charts in the mid 70s. Richard Carpenter struggled with a prescription drug habit and Karen would struggle with anorexia (and probably some other issues as well). With their squeaky-clean style out of fashion and their records falling off the charts, the Carpenters took a strange left turn into the world of high weirdness...

When I first heard "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft," I assumed that the Carpenters had recorded it to cash in on the success of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But in fact the song had been recorded several months before the film's premiere and released 9/9/77, more than two months before the Spielberg film. Truth to tell, they probably didn't know Close Encounters existed back in those pre-Internet days.

Richard Carpenter recalls the recording process:
I heard this song on the debut album of Klaatu*, a talented group of Canadian studio musicians who were heavily inspired by The Beatles, and named after the purposeful alien in the sci-fi thriller, The Day The Earth Stood Still. Always looking for something novel, we decided on it for Passage and ended up immersing ourselves – and 160 musicians and singers – in the biggest “single” recording we ever attempted.

Initially I did not think of this track as a single, but coincidentally, Star Wars had been released, and was all the rage, not long after we recorded “Occupants.” ....It did moderately well in the U.S., (but) went Top 10 in the U.K., and stayed there for two months.
And it was number one in Ireland, I might add. Now, the song's lyrics start off with a distinctly mystical air, suggesting to the listener that the aliens can be reached telepatically:

In your mind you have abilities you know
To telepath messages through the vast unknown
Please close your eyes and concentrate
With every thought you think
Upon the recitation we're about to sing

The song is insidiously catchy, and if you give it a few spins you'll find yourself humming it. Which may well be the whole point. The other night it was cycling over and over in my head as I was falling asleep. But the lyrics take a somewhat ominous, authoritarian tone in the song's refrain, which brings me back to the new Keanu/Klaatu film.

Please come in peace we beseech you
Only a landing will teach them
Our earth may never survive
So do come we beg you
Please interstellar policemen
Won't you give us a sign
Give us a sign that we've reached you


Klaatu's debut, which was linked to a mythical Beatles LP called Sun

As Carpenter notes, "Calling Occupants" was originally recorded by a Canadian studio group called Klaatu, in honor of the messiah figure in The Day the Earth Stood Still. And the story goes that the anonymous nature and familiar sound of the band soon gave rise to rumors that Klaatu were the Beatles, reformed under a pseudonym.
They remained an obscure group until 1977, when Charlie Parker, a DJ on WDRC in Providence, Rhode Island, played one of the tracks on his show. Hundreds of listeners phoned, convinced he had played a new Beatle record.

An article by Steve Smith in the 'Providence Journal' soon followed claiming that Klaatu was the Beatles. He suggested there were some 150 clues and pieces of evidence which pointed to a 'Klaatu Konspiracy'...

There was no biographical info on the cover, while the group's manager, Frank Davis, when asked directly if Klaatu were the Beatles, refused to confirm or deny the rumour. Likewise, Capitol, far from denying the allegations, went so far as to circulate the 'Providence Journal' article, and within 8 weeks, the album had sold 300,000 copies.- The Internet Beatles Album

These suspicions weren't totally unfounded either:
On the cover of his Goodnight Vienna album, Ringo Starr's head was shown superimposed on the body of a character from the film The Day The Earth Stood Still. The character's name? Klaatu. The connection was strenthened by Apple promotional material for Goodnight Vienna, which said 'Don't Forget - Klaatu Barada Nikto'
My feeling on all of this? Well, obviously Capitol wanted to sell some records, but I have a very strong feeling someone wanted this song to be heard by as large an audience as possible, which is why it was handed off from obscure band Klaatu (albeit a band marketed as the Beatles incognito) to supergroup, the Carpenters.

And, of course, Klaatu took on the name Carpenter as he went about his mission incognito on Earth.

The song would again resurface in a dreadful cover by Babes in Toyland for the altrock comp If I Were a Carpenter, and again when recordings of the The Langley (!) Schools Music Project became a cult hit.

Just to bring it all full circle, here the Langley kids do their cover of "Space Oddity" by David Bowie, probably unaware of the fact at the time that Bowie was a coke-addicted, occult-obsessed, trannie-chasing, bisexual Nazi. They may have been dimly aware of The Man Who Fell to Earth, but probably didn't make the connection of alien-endowed high tech in that film to 2001: A Space Odyssey, which gave the song its name.

* Note the "AA" in Klaatu, bringing us back to 11 and other twin/binary symbolism.


  1. The opening minute of this song was memorably sampled in the Hour of Slack concerning the Heaven's Gate mass suicide -- that's how I first heard it.

  2. This is a very interesting perspective on this song, and, I, too, am looking fwd to the movie's release. I hadn't thought of this song vis a vis the new film, but as a big Carpenters fan, I tend to listen to it (blush) fairly often. The 'coincidence' of the alien who comes to earth is calling himself Carpenter had never occurred to me! Food for thought. Thanks for this post!


  3. What was the name of the band Keanu Reeves played bass in...? Oh, Dogstar.

  4. Oh! Don't forget Keanu Reeves' band was DOG STAR

  5. Fascinating post. Klaatu's debut album was originally released in Canada with the title "3:47 EST" 3X(4+7)=33. It was released on August 11, 1976 (the bicentennial year of the US/Illuminati). According to the Old Farmer's Almanac the traditional timing of the Dog Days is the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11, coinciding with the ancient helical (at sunrise) rising of the Dog Star, Sirius. This could all be coincidence of course if you believe in that kind of thing. Calling Occupants is beyond catchy, it's downright trance inducing. Though the original track is much more powerful than the version by the Carpenters (Masons).

  6. Great investigative work Chris!

    Wonder what kind of energetic disturbance we can expect on 12/12 this year? ;) One the Jedi's will feel for sure.

    I've heard the word Klaatu in the early video game genre' before too...

    I've a theory that some songs could contain rituals [that get stuck in our heads Hmmm]much like movies or television shows. I know I cannot stand it when I get one stuck in my head and just can't get it out...which is why I've listened to a lot of symphony music and soundtracks without lyrics lately.

    Be well bro, thanks for the scoop!

  7. I'll tell you, Skaggsie, that Earth remake is giving me a bad vibe. I'll hold out judgment until I see it, but I'm not down with the whole genocide vibe we're seeing in the trailer.

  8. Z great work.
    Even the release date syncs with the title/time!
    8+1+1+1+9+7+6 = 33

    8+11+1976 = 1995 = 24

    12+12 = 24


    There are 24 letters in the title:

    and 24 is also the number of the current solar cycle we're in.
    Google solar cycle 24 for more info.

    Doesn't that ship look like a big dark or green Sun?

    Also, the original release date of TDTESS was to be
    May 9, 2008 = 5+9+2+8= 24

    According to Wikipedia the filming was from
    12.12.2007 to 3.19.2008

  9. Hey Chris,

    So their playing with the Genocide vibe?? I haven't seen the trailer yet. Wow anonymous was playing with some interesting numbers...

    ...and a green Sun, green energy? That like Green Fire? Weirder and weirder. Going to have to go see the trailer I guess.

    Be well all.

  10. listen carefully to this carpenters song...

    the sun motif reminds me of the obama campaign insigna.

  11. I think your take on the vibe is warranted Christopher...I remember seeing the trailer for it before the first day screening of The Dark set and ugly tone. Killing mankind for it's own good kind of garbage...

    Sad really, because the original is one of my favorite Sci-Fi films.

    Also important to keep in mind that Jesus was also credited with being a "Carpenter"...ET = End Times in the wacko Christian mythos & Scientology.

  12. Great stuff.

    I belong to a discussion group called Nothing Is Real, and there's a pretty informative thread on Klaatu.

    Here's a link, in case you're interested.

  13. As Greg noted, I just realized that Carpenter was the name used in the original film.

    Then it occurs to me that carpenter as in Jesus the carpenter or architect.

    What's with all the S-O-S symbolism? Is our planet in trouble? I mean Al Gore's Big Bash a couple years back sent out an S-O-S too.

    Of course, sending an S-O-S implies that there is someone out there to hear it and respond, right?

  14. The color emanating from the movie poster looks green but it also looks blue.

    "According to esoteric philosophy, blue is the true and sacred color of
    the sun. The apparent orange-yellow shade of this orb is the result of its rays being immersed in the
    substances of the illusionary world."
    MPH, Secret Teachings

  15. 24 can also mean
    "two fours" as in 44.

    Through 44 we find many many interesting syncs, including the
    strange one playing out with Barack Obama and 44 (the 44th president-elect to name just one)
    and the name 44 series 864,962 given to the young Satan character in Mark Twain's Mysterious Stranger.

  16. David Bowie, David Bowman. What's the difference?

    More weird Richard Strauss connections with that, too. Bowie actually cites Strauss as an influence on some of his albums, including Buddha of Suburbia and Heathen.

    You also might have a field day with Strauss' Frau Ohne Schatten...


  17. I leave for a few days of R&R and I miss the KC thread! Great stuff. Been thinking about that song for a while. This latest Day the Earth Stood Still seems like it was written by Al Gore.

    Cheers, Michael

  18. It may be nothing but... I can't stop thinking about the multiple meanings of the word "craft." It can mean skill or guile... In German, the word "kraft" means raw power. Just something to think about...

  19. It may be nothing, but... What about the multiple meanings of the word "craft." It can also mean guile, or skill... In German the word "kraft" means raw power.

    Think about the extraterrestrial culture heroes who taught allegedly taught humankind a variety of crafts.

  20. "Craft" also refers to Freemasonry.

  21. In the Sunset cover, the placement of the two "A's" in Klaatu vaguely reminds me of Aubrey Beardsley's Woman in the Moon illustration for Oscar Wilde's Salome.

    And then there's Sunset Boulevard, with Norma Desmond's "comeback" scheme to play you-know-who...


  22. High Weirdness just got really very funny. Thought you'd enjoy this:

    (Remixed video using Star Trek footage..."fascinating")

    Carpenters - Calling Occupants Of Enterprise

  23. I am not the Fourth Reich.

    Pitch Jesus to Jew elders as revenge for Temple? They didn't know about the god's intent for xtianity to spread to Europe, ruining cultures throughout the continent, enabling revenge known as the Holocaust.

    Abortion is part of the decay inflicted by the gods in the latter half of the 20th century as we approach the Apocalypse::::
    - Free sex
    - Explosion in gay sex
    - Abortion
    - Legalized greed/immorality
    - The internet. Whereas TV was a phenominally destructive new temptation on the landscape it doesn't hold a candle to the internet. Some people will waste their whole lives. And its timing was deliberate.

    "It's too late to pray." Sign of Woodbridge Church Kansas. And it may be true. Examine pimps who prostitute 10 year old girls in the ghetto.
    Of course, if you want even a shred of a chance to save yourself, on that rare occassion the Buffalo Bills did experience the Fourth Reich and realized a comeback.
    I am failing. But it is because of the god's defense tactics. Fuck absolute power. I hate losing.

    Budget problems. Cut the military. Bring them home and end the wars. Let these countries experience self-determination and decide their own future. Didn't we learn this lesson in Vietnam???
    Unfortunnately, the gods use the United States as one of their tools, and using the spread of capitalism under the guide of democracy to level the playing field and prepare the planet for a global event.

    So many people don't care about global warming. They don't care about the Federal deficit/debt (outside of partisanship) and they don't care earning $400k for an $80,000/year job will eventually bankrupt the country. They have awarded themselves $400k pay and retirement packages, loading up their friends on the payroll during the boom 90s through the real estate bust while all services which the program were intended to fund now get cut to pay for it.
    These people are often common public university labor. Not Ivy League, not private university.
    This labor isn't good enough to command the salaries they are earning. And they understood this when they applied to the public university they settled on.
    You can't expect a top-tier salary with a second-rate education.
    They think they are going sometime during/at the end of this life, and disregard the poor souls who are left behind.
    These are the people who will be here in the United States when bankruptcy is declared and society deteriorates into chaos. And they will deserve the anarchy which ensues.

    Continuing the push for privatization, reinforced and supported recently with enormous public sector salaries and retirement packages.
    Once achieved the gods will utilize the corruptive predisposition of the private sector economy, as seen with the sub-prime/bailout fiasco, to initiate economic catastrophy and initiate the bankruptcy proceedings of the United States.
    Whether the cure for cancer/diseases or the permanant resolution of economic misery, before the gods remove these motivations to pray we will experience an inordinate deluge of each element, with economic misery being perhaps the dissallusion of the united States with bankruptcy.

    The gods used the Italians to ruin life in the 20th century.
    The gods used the Italians to ruin life in A.D. with The Church.
    The Church controlled Western Civilization. As the largest land owner in Europe they controlled the monarchies. They were responsbile for slavery, revenge for African invasion and rape of Italy. They created religious discontent, ultimately leading to the disfavored dumping ground known as the United States.

    ONE THING. Deliver ONE THING you promised.
    All these people did everything you told them for DECADES. You have strung them all along.
    The gods are liars, and you're all going to be CHEATED.

    It is as if I am little more than an indentured servant.

  24. Calling occupants of interplanetary craft.
    We've been observing your earth, and one night we'll make a contact with you.