"Mystery is a Magical Interview"

A conversation with Steve Smith

by Mark Hershberger

This interview took place on Monday night, June 16, 1997 and is transcribed virtually word for word! I found Steve to be a super guy who has thoroughly enjoyed his "15 minutes" of fame as it pertained to Klaatu. Enjoy!
MH: Steve....Mark Hershberger here....how are you doing tonight?

SS: Great! How are you....

MH: There are many folks from our Klaatu list that are looking forward to this interview, including myself!

SS: Ah...that's great! I'm looking forward to it too!

MH: The obvious question was "where did you find Steve Smith", and I said I found him in the obvious place.....The Providence Journal!

SS: Yes...that's where I've been all these years....

MH: So, what have you been doing with yourself for the 20 years or so since you started the "Klaatu could be The Beatles" rumor?

SS: Well, same thing I've always been doing...ah, working for the journal. I was never a reporter, I just happened across that album and, just did the story. They accepted it you know.

MH: So tell me how you came across 3:47 EST, and what prompted you to write the article that you did?

SS: I saw the album in a record grab at work one day. The music writers would get all these records and stuff, and if there were a bunch that they didn't want, they would have this thing called a "record grab", where whoever wants them, grabs them. So I saw that album (3:47 EST) and I said hey, this is neat, so I grabbed it. Then, when I listened to it, I said hmmm, and I looked and...well...you know. So I started making phone calls, and I convinced my boss to let me write an article. And that's how it happened.

MH: Right...

SS: And before we go any farther, alright, I want you to get one thing straight for me okay?

MH: Okay!

SS: You know, I've been called Johnny Yo Yo, I've been called "Deaf Reporter from The U.S." you know, all kinds of stuff, and that doesn't bother me at all. Call me whatever you want, I mean, Terry called me a dickhead so..(laughs)...

MH: I was going to ask you if you saw the Discoveries article...

SS: Oh yeah, I saw the article, and the apology too....(laughs)

MH: Well, I know Terry did not mean it in a bad way.....

SS: (Laughs) You said you know Terry right? Well, tell him I'm not a dickhead! I'm really not....

MH: Will do...

SS: So anyway, here's the thing I really want you to get correct for me, the title of the article that I did was "Could Klaatu Be The Beatles......Mystery is a Magical Tour" not "Mystery is a Magical Mystery Tour"! It was a play on the title, but people always misquote it. Everybody always gets that wrong. I was on the Klaatu Home Page today, and I think it was wrong on there as well...in the Beatles/Rumors/Clues section.

It is fixed now. Thanks for pointing it out Steve!

MH: Well, I'll pass that along to Dave Bradley, he'll get a kick out of that!

SS: Just get that part straight for me.

MH: So you listened to 3:47 EST, and it peaked your interest....

SS: Yeah, I listened to it, and it did peak my interest, so I started making some phone calls to, like, Capital Records, and I didn't get anywhere. Eventually, roads lead to Frank Davies and Ken Berry of Capital Records Canada. And I actually met Frank, Ken, and Terry Brown one time. But, when I got through to Ken, he had to put the phone down because he could not believe I had gotten as far as I did. I even talked to John Woloschuk's ex-girlfriend, who told me that had I called a few months earlier, she would have told me the whole story, but not now! And she was getting quite a laugh out of it.

MH: So, how frequently were you in contact with Frank Davies because Terry Draper still has letters from you to Frank written in the spring of 1977...

SS: I was in touch with Frank quite a bit. Frank and I talked a lot.

MH: So, you pretty much got nowhere as far as knowing who the band was...

SS: Ah.......I knew who the band was. I mean, I.....only did two articles.....about that....but I knew shortly afterwards who the band was. But I wasn't going to say....you know.

MH: Did anyone tell you not to say anything or .....

SS: Ah well, not in that many words (laughs)...it was like...well...one night I talked to Frank, and, I guess he was really getting off on it, the whole thing, and I guess I kind of was too. It was kind of an unwritten or unsaid thing you know, just don't say who it is. As it was, they wanted the music to speak for itself which, in the end, kind of backfired. And I talked to John Woloschuk on the phone, and I asked him some questions, and he said "Boy, you really dug into my shorts!"

MH: Now, did anyone outside of the Klaatu inner circle ever contact you thinking that you would know who they were?

SS: Oh I got calls from all over the world and I was even on Australian radio at midnight. I mean, I was on radio over here doing interviews, I was getting calls from everywhere! I was even getting calls from people that had clues!

MH: And you know that shortly after you wrote the article, sales of 3:47 EST skyrocketed. At what point did you realize the impact that your article had on this album/band?

SS: It was almost immediate. I mean, a couple of days after the article came out, I was just inundated with calls and letters at work. I just could not believe that this thing was going as far as it did! And especially when Capital Records put out that press release that contained my whole article...it just, like, mushroomed from there. It was amazing! But the funny thing about it was, I wasn't the first person who said that it could be The Beatles, you know, because Frank Davies had sent me a whole bunch of literature of all these articles that were written by these other people who said that it could be The Beatles...it was just that.....the took my article. I don't know why, you know, I was just the chosen Johnny Yo Yo!

MH: Did you ever think that the impact from the article was probably hurting the band?

SS: There was a point where I figured that it could probably backfire, but, I never really said that it was The Beatles. I never really said that. I said it was a possibility that it could be. I mean, I gave four possibilities, and the last one was that it was just four talented musicians you know. But everybody went to the first one, that it could possibly be The Beatles. So everybody said that I said that it was The Beatles. So yes, it probably did hurt the band, but they probably hurt themselves just as much by not coming out and saying we are not The Beatles. They wanted to go along with the mystique of the music.

MH: And, of course, once the rumor broke, Capital Records took full marketing advantage to play it up and sell a load of records. They really rode the rumor.

SS: Sure, that's right, they did.

MH: But, on the positive side, because of the rumor and the increased sales of the album, Klaatu's 2nd album "Hope" was put on hold, which enabled the band to do some more work on it and turn it into the masterpiece we know it as today.

SS: Yes, it is a masterpiece, and it was delayed because of the rumor and the sales of the first album.

MH: So maybe you should be in the credits for "Hope"!

SS: Yeah right...(laughs) but that album was so great. When I first heard that I was...like, WOW!

MH: I have been told that one of the members of Klaatu actually met you at some point.

SS: Really? Not that I know of. I mean, I was in Toronto one time, and I think it was at Frank Davies house, and I met a guy named John, but according to Frank, it wasn't John Woloschuk. It was just a guy named John. So, as far as I know, I didn't meet him. And I asked John about that on the phone later, and he said no it was not him. But, that could have been part of the whole thing too, you know, who knows! But I did meet a guy named John, and according to Frank Davies, it was not Woloschuk.

MH: So, you were actually a fan of the music?

SS: Oh yes, I thought the music was great! To this day they are still some of my favorite albums. I have all five of the albums, I mean, the first album I must have 10 copies of. I even have some singles....like "Hanus of Uranus".

MH: Your favorite Klaatu album would be.....

SS: It's a toss up between 3:47 EST and Hope. I mean, Hope is really, really out there. As a concept album, it's just excellent. Then Magentalane came and they were back doing what they were good at.

MH: You also told me that you have Terry's solo CD "Light Years Later"...any thoughts?

SS: It's a little different. It's not what I expected. It is really good though!

MH: Now that I think about it, we can probably call this article "It was 20 years ago today"!

SS: Ha....I think somebody has already used that line!

MH: Does the Klaatu subject come back to haunt you at all?

SS: Every once in a while people say something to me about it. The other day the music editor at work, who gave me Terry's CD, said you know, you did so much for those guys, they should give you royalties! Yeah right! I did not even get a raise or a promotion from work for all of this! In fact, in ended up costing me money! The Journal told me that they would no longer pay for my Klaatu related phone bills, which hit upwards of $200 per month at the peak!

MH: Steve, I appreciate the fact that you took some time to speak to me about your Klaatu involvement! Anything else that comes to mind?

SS: Well, it was great, it was a lot of fun! It was just that my article was the one that was selected, that's all. I had my 15 minutes of fame.

MH: Well, if you ever miss the hype, you can always find another band that sounds like somebody else, and tell them to remain anonymous so you can write an article!

SS: (Laughing)....Someone told me to do that with Kingdom Come...and say they were Zeppelin! Nobody's going to believe me anymore!!

I've got quite a bit of Klaatu memorabilia too....I think the best I ever got was, well, I got two gold records.

MH: Really? How did that come about?

SS: Well, Frank Davies presented them to me. When I went to Toronto that one time, he presented me with that gold album for Canadian sales. Then one day I received a notice in the mail that there was something waiting for me at this air freight company. So I go there, and it was a gold record for Australian sales! It was a wonderful bonus! I'll never part with them, although I don't know what my kids will do with them after I die! It never did go gold in the U.S. though, just fell short....or else I might have had another one! (Laughs)

I'm very happy with the way things went for me and I am sorry that the band never broke it real big, because they deserved it!

MH: Would you mind if we put a picture of you on the Home Page with this interview?

SS: What kind of picture? Should I wear one of those fake glasses with the big nose??

MH: That would be Klaasic Steve!! Thanks again!