One of the most interesting things that I ran across after Ray Manzarek passed away recently, was the discussion about Jim Morrison of The Doors supposedly singing in a band called “Phantom”–after he was dead and reincarnated. Although the lead singer is a good imitation of Morrison, it’s very obvious that it’s not him. Rather than recount the story, I am pasting a couple of Amazon.com reviews about this 1974 oddity. Please note that these opinions and details are those of the reviewers. You can read the complete versions on Amazon or purchase your own copy and add your review to the bunch.
The truth has finally come out!
By John “MovieAddict”
This review is from: Phantom’s Divine Comedy, Part 1 (Audio CD)
One of the album’s producers, Gary Gawinek, has finally come forward with the truth on this mysterious album. He contacted at least two websites, and one of the websites can be found here with a brief summary of bandmembers and recording info: http://thefreedomman.com/related/phantom.html
He credits the lead singer as “Arthur Pendragon.” This is in fact an alias of Tom Carson, a Michigan resident who passed away a few years ago (Googling him won’t bring anything up except articles written by another Tom Carson who is NOT the same guy). Tom was a bit of an eccentric who used various characters on his albums. He was discovered by Gawinek, who took demo tapes to Bob Seger‘s manager, Ed “Punch” Andrews. Ed hated Tom Carson after having dealt with him in the past, so Gawinek didn’t mention who was in the band. Punch took interest in the demos because of the Doors similarities, and that is in fact how he sold the album to Capitol Records when they eventually signed a contract.
Anyway, back to Tom Carson. Like much of the material on the album, the alias of Arthur Pendragon is really obvious if you understand it. Legend dictates that “Pendragon” was the last name of King Arthur of Camelot. The album is all about wizards and mysticism and even has a song called “Merlin,” so the alias is pretty self-explanatory. Tom’s lyrics are pretty laughable but in an endearing sort of way. His imagery is very obvious (“Spiders Will Dance On Your Face While You Sleep”) but so was Jim Morrison’s.
The band lineup – or, at least, the majority of the lineup – reformed for another album in 1978 under a _new_ moniker, “Happy Dragon Band.” (This was NOT released on Capitol because of poor sales of Phantom’s DC, and the independent label that put it out isn’t in business anymore from what I gather.)
Interestingly, for this new incarnation as Happy Dragon Band, Tom decided to once again choose a new alias – this time picking the name Tommy “The Happy Dragon” Court. Get it? Court? Like, a king’s court? To say he was still clinging to mysticism and immature fake IDs is putting it lightly. Info on this album can be found here: http://mutant-sounds.blogspot.com/2008/01/happy-dragon-band-stlp1978usa.html
Please note that the author of that blog entry lists Tom Carson as being a different person than Tommy Court. This is a mistake. Just as on Phantom’s album the whole Arthur Pendragon thing was an alias of an alias (since the liner notes of the album listed merely “Phantom” as the singer/lyricist, NOT Pendragon), it’s worth assuming that the same was done on the follow-up album, and once again Tom decided to use two false names to cover his tracks. People who dug deep and discovered one name still weren’t finding the *real* one.
Ray Manzarek (The Doors) claims to have once performed with “Phantom” at a 1970s Morrison benefit. He told a British magazine in 1991 that Phantom (he refers to him as this, not Tom or Arthur) showed up in all black and wore silver jewelry. Apparently photos exist from this benefit featuring Tom(my) and Ray posing with Iggy Pop, who was a friend of Jim’s – and, for a long time, was rumored to have in fact been the singer on Phantom’s Divine Comedy.
You’ll find a comment by “X” (the drummer of the band) listed on the UK Import listing of this album on Amazon (type the name of the album into Google and it’s the second page that comes up). He tries to perpetuate the myth of the album, refuses to give out his real name – and in fact even states he is considering writing a book about the mystery behind it all.
I stumbled across another comment of his written almost two years later on a random blog entry about this album on another website. He gave the same “I’ll write a book one day” tease, and simply signed off as “X.” Apparently this guy is trying to cling to whatever shred of artistic credibility he once had. I guess once you get older and people don’t know your name, you hope to reignite interest in your past 15 minutes of fame. I hate to ruin his little mystery games, but this fellow known as “X” is in fact a man named Russell Klatt. He still lives in Michigan and runs a business now (you can find info through Google’s business listings: http://maps.google.com/maps?client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=s&hl=en&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=russ+klatt&near=Birmingham,+MI&fb=1&view=text&latlng=42536102,-83203577,794643381713382227).
Apparently Mr. Klatt had charges brought against him in 2007: http://dockets.justia.com/docket/court-miedce/case_no-2:2007×50813/case_id-224316/
So, I hope that explains this all once and for all. I’ve pieced together various information from various websites, all of it directly from people who worked on the album (mainly Gawinek). I think “X’s” attempts at furthering the myth here and on other websites is kind of cute, but really, it’s been almost forty years and I think it’s about time to get the truth out.
As for the album itself – it’s simultaneously awful and highly enjoyable. It’s inconsistent mainly, and it’s hard to tell whether the Doors imitation was purposeful or not (I’m assuming so despite what has been said from people involved). Middle tracks are the worst, but “Tales of a Wizard” sounds like something Morrison may have written if he had been less interested in Rimbaud and more enthralled by Tolkien. That’s basically what this album is: The Doors on a Tolkien binge. There are a handful of cool, catchy songs – then some that just meander on into silly mysticism. If you enjoy psychedelic retro music, you’ll find something of interest here. I’m glad I heard it after all this time. I’ve been interested in this “myth” for a few years now.
From a former Band Mate
By C. Ruetenik “Chris Flynn”
I knew Tom Carson as well, having played in a band with him with 2 other mates of mine, Howard Wells and Russ Wells (rest in peace). My name is Chris Flynn aka Chris Ruetenik. I believe this was about 1 year before the record came out. I don’t know who Tom Carson is and I knew him as Ted Pearson..
I do know Gary Gawinek (Gary also managed our band “Father, later to become the band: “Art in America” on Sony Records), and Gary introduced us to Ted (Pendragon/Phantom). BTW, Thomas Weschler who is a photographer based in Birmingham Michigan, was also part of the management team for this artist.
Ted was quite the ladies man and a hell of a softball hitter. Man, could that guy hit the ball. He would hit one home run after another.
Anyway, I do remember all these songs and we had worked up our own versions of these tunes for our version of the Phantom band. We only lasted about 6 months, but I think of Ted often.
Art in America
(By the way, Art in America is another forgotten band worthy of their own posting–Phil Maq)