An elaborate prank in 1969 once sent the world of music into disarray as, for a moment in time, it was believed that Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon and Paul McCartney had joined forces to create the biggest supergroup of all time.
The bizarre joke that surprisingly had people believing it left, right and centre began in October 1969 when the Rolling Stones decided to run a genius parody review of a non-existent album called The Masked Marauders. With the aforementioned band members in tow, it seemed highly unlikely that the four stars could get together to record an album without everybody knowing it, but still, the report suggested it may well have gone down.
The review claimed the record captured a ‘supersession’ which featured the likes of Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, George Harrison, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney who the magazine claimed couldn’t be credited on the album because of contractual agreements.
Those behind the prank then decided to take the joke one step further after the furore around the report had an incredible demand to hear the non-existent record. The magazine decided to extend the joke by hiring Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band, an obscure Californian band to record three songs which would eventually lead to a major label full-length album. The record even ending up charting at 114 in the Billboard’s album chart which showed just how many thought it was real.
The review was initially intended to be a parody of the supergroup trend, something which had gathered more and more pace as band members flitted around the swinging scene—but then became something much bigger than they ever intended started as the review gained huge popularity. Some of the finest moments from the original review include: “The LP opens with an eighteen-minute version of ‘Season of the Witch’ (lead vocal by Dylan, on which he does a superb imitation of early Donovan). The cut is highlighted by an amazing jam between bass and piano, both played by Paul McCartney.” Or perhaps, “It can truly be said that this album is more than a way of life; it is life.”
The band who went on to record the actual album were quite well known in the San Francisco region and they even had an album released the year previous on Vanguard Records—but little did they know that this would become their legacy.
The songs soon started receiving airplay on radio stations across the West Coast in San Francisco and Los Angeles. This then led to several major labels sniffing around The Masked Marauders with Warner’s eventually winning production rights, offering a $15,000 advance.
In November 1969, Warner released The Masked Marauders as a single LP on its newly created Deity imprint and remarkably it sold more than 100,000 copies. In total it spent a staggering 12 weeks in the Billboard album chart, peaking at 114. The single ‘Cow Pie’ even popped up appeared on the Bubbling Under the Hot 100 chart at No. 123 for one week only.
The playful stunt was all a bit of lighthearted fun and will undoubtedly have disappointed people who had spent their hard-earned money on the record to quickly realise they had been duped but at the end of the day, that’s the price you pay for being gullible.