With your mind you have ability to form
And transmit thought energy far beyond the norm
You close your eyes, you concentrate, together that's the way
To send a message we declare World Contact Day
People have been seeing things in the sky for millennia, but the modern flying saucer movement didn’t really get underway until 1947. On June 24, a pilot named Kenneth Arnold reported several crescent-shaped objects flying at high speeds, moving "like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water." The term flying saucers entered the English language, and it wasn't long before someone connected Arnold's craft with the enigmatic Feu Fighters reported at the end of World War II. Reports of Unidentified Flying Objects swarmed in. The Air Force launched Project Blue Book, confirmation that the government saw something serious in these reports. The notorious Roswell incident also played its part, though it was largely a non-starter until the 1970s, when people began circulating stories of alien bodies.
Were we under observation? Had Hiroshima and Nagasaki drawn the attention of extra-terrestrials? Would our nascent space programs bring us in contact with beings from other worlds?
Hollywood thought so. Cinematic saucers brought strange visitors to drive-ins throughout the 1950s. Most, like The Thing and The Man from Planet X, were obviously dangerous. The Day the Earth Stood Still took a different perspective. Its visitor brings a message of peace, backed by the threat of annihilation. His name is Klaatu. While in hiding, he takes the name Carpenter.
Flying saucers became a fact of life, at least in the media. Entire mythologies grew up around Betty and Barney Hill, big-eyed Greys, Men in Black, and Little Green Men. Some believed the aliens were dangerous, and warned that they were already here, tampering with human history. Others wanted them to come, and cults sprung up beseeching the visitors to save humanity from ourselves. One such group, the International Flying Saucer Bureau urged their members to send a simultaneous telepathic message on March 15, 1953, which would begin, "calling occupants of interplanetary craft."
And please come in peace we beseech you
(Only of love we will teach you)
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
In the early 70s, a band of Canadian session musicians formed under the name Klaatu. They gained notice in part due to a rumour that they were the Beatles secretly reunited, and they produced a handful of minor hits, writing about such things as a woman named Christine, Alfred Beach's ill-fated 1870 subway, the Anus of Uranus, and their signature song, a prayer to the aliens.
"Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" was the final track recorded for the band's debut album.1 It featured a lot of synthesizers and some sampled effects. The band took their inspiration from International Flying Saucer Bureau's '53 World Contact Day, but the mix of extra-terrestrial messianism and telepathy perfectly suited the 70s' flaky zeitgeist. The song proved a moderate success, Klaatu's biggest hit.
More successful was the Carpenters' 1977 cover, which incorporated an alien-sounding voice. The video (a fairly early example of the genre) has low-tech stars and saucers buzzing Karen who sings, accompanied by her brother and over 150 musicians. And the zeitgeist? That same year saw Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind make pop culture history.
Other covers include one by Babes in Toyland, recorded in 1994 for the Carpenters tribute album, If I were a Carpenter, and another by the Oohs, recorded for the 2004 Klaatu tribute album, Around the Universe in Eighty Minutes. The song was also covered by the notorious Langley Schools Music Project. 2
Thus far, the aliens have not replied.
1. It is, however, the first track on the album.
2. Thanks to Major General Panic and Two Sheds for that information.
Some information comes from:
John Woloschuk. "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft." Klaatu Track Facts. http://www.klaatu.org/trackfacts/track_facts_12.html