It’s pretty easy to hoax people. We all want to be deceived, but only up to a point. Some hoaxes are fun and pleasant, others malicious and unpleasant. We’d like a way to tell the difference (Robert Carroll).

Jul 10, 2010

The Masked Marauders Hoax

Really, this is a two-part hoax. The whole thing began in 1969, when Rolling Stone editor Greil Marcus penned a review of a fictional double-bootleg album, supposedly recorded by Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon and McCartney (who may or may not have been dead at the time).

Many readers, however, took the review seriously, despite its obvious jokes:
  • "Produced by Al Kooper, the album was recorded with impeccable secrecy in a small town near the site of the original Hudson Bay Colony in Canada."
  • "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."
  • "Dylan shines on Side Three, displaying his new deep bass voice, with 'Duke of Earl'."
  • "Paul showcases his favorite song, 'Mammy,' and while his performance is virtually indistinguishable from Eddie Fisher's version, it is still very powerful, evocative, and indeed, stunning. And they say a white boy can’t sing the blues!"
  • "It can truly be said that this album is more than a way of life; it is life."

Inquiries began pouring into Rolling Stone regarding the album’s availability, not only from fans and retailers, but also reportedly from the artists' managers, Allen Klein (Beatles and Rolling Stones) and Albert Grossman (Dylan).  The response sparked part two of the put-on: the album itself. Marcus and Rolling Stone editor Langdon Winner recruited the Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band, a Berkeley, California, group which had an album the previous year on Vanguard Records and played frequently at San Francisco’s Fillmore and Avalon ballrooms. The group initially recorded three of the songs cited in the review: the Nashville Skyline-inspired instrumental "Cow Pie", Jagger doing "I Can’t Get No Nookie" (deemed "an instant classic"), and Dylan’s "Duke of Earl".

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After the songs aired on San Francisco and Los Angeles radio stations – from tapes Marcus supplied – the pranksters began looking for a major label to produce an album. Several recording companies expressed an interest, but Warner Bros. won the production rights, offering a $15,000 advance plus its considerable promotional power.  In November 1969, Warner released The Masked Marauders as a single LP on its newly-created Deity label. The album, which sold more than 100,000 copies, spent twelve weeks on the Billboard charts, peaking at #114. "Cow Pie", actually released as the B-side of "I Can't Get No Nookie", managed to dent the Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart at #134, for a single week on November 29, 1969.

Here’s a track list:

· I Can't get No Nookie (The Masked Marauders)
· Duke of Earl (Williams, Edwards, Dixon)
· Cow Pie (The Masked Marauders)
· I Am the Japanese Sandman (Rang Tang Ding Dong) (A.Williams)
· The Book Of Love (W.Davis, C.Patrick, G.Malone)
· Later (W.Davis, C.Patrick, G.Malone)
· More or Less Hudson's Bay Again (The Masked Marauders)
· Season of the Witch (Donovan Leich)
· Saturday Night at the Cow Place (The Masked Marauders)

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In 2003, Rhino Records, under its Handmade label, remastered the album, releasing a numbered edition of 2,000 copies under the title The Masked Marauders - The Complete Deity Recordings. They’re sold out!

Sources and Additional Information:

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