Sunday, November 1, 2009

New Wave for the New Week #34

[All throughout the month of November, all NW4NW entries will be based on requests made by you, dear readers. Because of the amount of requests coming in, there will often be more than one entry per week during this month - I recommend signing up for email alerts on the left-hand side of the screen so that you don't miss any of the fun! If you wish to make a request, you may do so either in the comments section of this post, or on Twitter by tweeting your request to @berutt. Don't be shy - tell me what band you want to see featured!]

Klark Kent album coverImage via Wikipedia

Ken Mueller (@kmueller62 on Twitter) was, quite inadvertently, the impetus for NW4NW All Request Month when he provided me with a list of suggestions for NW4NW entries - some I already planned to write up, and some I hadn't thought of, but good choices all. I asked him to select the one he wanted to choose as his "official" request, but he could not decide between two of his favorites. I flipped a coin, and we now kick off NW4NW All Request Month with Ken's request, the wonderfully goofy Klark, Klerk, well, let's see if I can explain:

"Klerk Kant", as appears to be his name, first came into my life as he was sitting next to me on the Concorde flight from Washington, D.C., to London. Speaking in what he claimed to be his native Sanskrit, he explained that he had been in Washington testifying before a congressional committee on church politics. His expertise in this subject had been attained while studying in a Moslem seminary in India. He underlined his religiosity (he claimed to be a "Sufi", a kind of Islamic mystic that is rarely seen on the Indian sub-continent) by saying his noonday prayers in the aisle of the jet airplane, jostling the stewardesses as they were trying to serve lunch, and annoying the passengers with his shouts of "Which way is Mecca? Which way is Mecca? Which way is Mecca?" while shifting his body to accommodate to the turns in the direction of the aircraft.

Later, he confessed, in sub-standard broken English, that he was "a mere computer programmer", currently out of work but living on the sum of one million four hundred thousand dollars which he had won from I.B.M. in a successful suit against the company for stealing his "invention". He was most secretive about the invention ("Do you want me to sue you?" he asked coyly when I questioned him about it), but he adumbrated the notion that it had to do with capturing radio signals from distant galaxies, systematizing them through computer analysis, and reducing them to simple melodies which he played on the various instruments on which he is proficient.

So sayeth the liner notes to the debut album by the artist known as Klark Kent, Music Madness From the Kinetic Kid, released on the I.R.S. label in 1980. Consisting of eight cuts of hyperkinetic lightweight New Wave bubblegum, the 10" record was pressed on green vinyl and released in a 12" sleeve die-cut to the shape of the letter K. Well, wait, I need to clarify: the album was released in the US and the UK by Klark Kent; in Japan, it was released with the artist credit going to Klerk Kant, as a full 12" record in a non-die-cut sleeve, and with two additional songs added. Seems there were some copyright issues to be dodged in Tokyo...

A single, "Don't Care," had appeared two years earlier and quickly shot up the UK charts, peaking at #28 there. Almost nothing beyond the bizarre bio retold in the album's liner notes was known about this Klark Kent/Klerk Kant fellow when he was invited onto the BBC's Top of the Pops program to lip-synch his hit, which he did in an odd green mask, supported by a band of masked mates. "You're probably wondering why I'm wearing this mask," he intoned toward the end of the performance. "Well, because underneath the mask, the true identity is revealed!" Indeed, something seemed awfully familiar about this guy...just what was going on here?

Further mucking up the waters, the I.R.S. label released a wonderful compilation album of their own artists, I.R.S.'s Greatest Hits Vols. II & III, which included two songs from this mysterious persona: one of which, "Office Girls," was only available on the Klerk Kant version of the Music Madness From the Kinetic Kid album but was now being credited to Klark Kent; the other, "Thrills," was on the original Klark Kent version but was now being credited to Klerk Kant - both variations of the name on the same compilation! No other artist had more than one track on the two-record set, so the label was clearly indicating that Klark Kent and Klerk Kant were not the same, even though they obviously were.

Of course, it was all hooey. The names, the bio, the supposed confusion and mystery - all a big loony joke perpetrated by Stewart Copeland, drummer for The Police. Looking for an outlet for songs he had written that didn't fit the ever more pretentious Sting's view of what The Police were as a band, Copeland created the whole Klark Kent identity with his brother, Miles Copeland, who just happened to be the head of I.R.S. Records. Word got out (was intentionally leaked?) that Mr. Kent was Mr. Copeland in disguise, and a second single, "Too Kool to Kalypso," which was not found on any version of the album, began getting all sorts of airplay. A third single, "Away from Home," was released, this one from the LP, but the goof was over. Or was it?

In 1995, all of the original Klark Kent/Klerk Kant tracks were compiled into a retrospective CD, Kollected Works, which nowadays goes for a pretty penny if you can find it. Around the same time, a new Klark Kent recording appeared, a Christmas song called "Yo Ho Ho." Will Copeland ever revive the Klark Kent name again? Who knows?

In the meantime, enjoy the first in a string of requested entries to the New Wave for the New Week series, Klark Kent performing "Don't Care" on Top of the Pops. My great thanks to Ken for this excellent request!

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