Here’s one from the weird albums department.
Howard Menger was either a lunatic, an alien contactee, or a first-class grifter, or maybe all three, whatever you prefer. UFO contact is a bit like religion and politics: Everybody is entitled to their belief, and I don’t really want to argue about it.
With that being said, the 1950s were really the heyday for UFO sightings. Why the aliens picked that particular decade to make themselves known is anybody’s guess, but my hunch is that had something to do with Little Richard. And while Menger claimed that his first alien contact happened when he was ten, which would’ve been in 1932, he somehow didn’t get around to mentioning it until the ’50s UFO boom, when Howard released the album Authentic Music From Another Planet in 1957 and followed that with his book, From Outer Space To You, in 1959.
Or maybe that wasn’t his first publicity: The liner notes from Authentic Music From Another Planet note that Menger appeared on “the Steve Allen TV show in October of 1946.” The only problems with that date are: A) Steve Allen didn’t get started in television until 1949, and B) The Steve Allen Show debuted in 1956. But let’s give Menger the benefit of the doubt and say that the liner notes include a typo, and that his Steve Allen appearance happened in 1956.
That first encounter was with a hot blond in a ski suit, by the way, which if I was ten and dreaming up an alien would probably be just about what I came up with. Menger grew up and went to war, serving in a tank batallion in the Pacific during World War II. I’m guessing that Howard saw some awful shit, so it’s no surprise that the space ski bunny revisited him after the war and told him that “he and many other people would be instrumental in reaching an awareness of the truth of their existance [sic] in the infinite Creator’s Universe of many mansions.”
Menger was a regular guest on Long John Nebel’s late night radio show. Nebel was sort of Art Bell’s prototype, taking the midnight to 5:30 shift at New York’s WOR to interview alien abductees and other believers in and experiencers of the paranormal. I can’t help but wonder if another World War II veteran and New York resident, writer Kurt Vonnegut, may have caught one of Menger’s appearances, as “army veteran abducted by space aliens” became the axis around which the novel Slaughterhouse-Five turns.
In the following clip, Menger describes the encounter that led to Authentic Music From Another Planet. In brief, he was drawn to a cabin in New York’s Catskill mountains where he met ABBA and they taught him how to play piano, but here’s Howard’s version:
The liner notes of Authentic Music… state that Menger was gifted his awesome piano playing by a dude from Saturn, and while Howard had never played piano before nor had any musical background, after his encounter he “played for hours without rest, while his friends listened in appreciative silence and awe.” Either that or they couldn’t figure out how to politely leave the party, am I right?
Why there were pianos (or piano-like instruments) on Saturn remains a mystery, as does the fact that Saturnians apparently make music using Western modalities in a mid-twentieth century style. Menger’s “The Song From Saturn” sounds a lot like something one might have heard on The Liberace Show, a popular television show at the time. Don’t skip this clip: It includes Menger’s new agey intro.
Again, if you believe in alien contact in general and Menger’s story in particular I don’t want to dissuade you, but my wild ass guess is that Menger was either a sign painter who saw an opportunity to cash in on the UFO craze, or another damaged war veteran who created a happy place for himself–a place where the strangers are nice and generous and just want us to get along.
This is just one of the great all-time weird records, and as a result you’re going to have to be ready to pay to pick up a copy. Expect prices around $50, depending on condition. Happy hunting.