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Part 7: Scientology Goes Gold

Scientology produces an album that goes gold, selling over 500,000 copies

There are four records produced by Scientology and they mostly consist of lyrics by founder L. Ron Hubbard. One of them, called Road to Freedom, went gold selling more than 500,000 copies. It’s feature singers were John Travolta and Frank Stallone, brother of Sylvester.

According to Scientology Hubbard had been a composer and musician since the 1930s, playing a wide range of instruments. He even had an entire music studio where he hid in seclusion during the 1980s, writing and creating music.

Hubbard’s first band was called The Apollo Stars. The band was formed on the Apollo ship, part of the Sea Org fleet that Hubbard had purchased. In the 1960s the IRS stripped Scientology of its tax-exempt status and they also got raided by the FDA for making false medical claims. So he set sail and became international, touring the Mediterranean and surrounding areas. On board were the most dedicated members who had signed a symbolic 1 billion year contract to Scientology.

Former Apollo Star saxophonist Neil Sarfati said the Apollo was merely “a rusty tug boat.” Because he was married he was one of the few that got a private room, the rest had to live in rooms with 100 people in them. And there weren’t enough beds for everyone so they had to take turns sleeping.

He said the members on the boat loved the band and they gave something for Hubbard to focus on. “The fact that we distracted Hubbard was more valuable than anything; people would get a break from his screaming and yelling,” Sarfati said.

In 1973 the vessel docked in Madeira and the mayor asked if there were any musicians on board. A group of musicians turned up, including Sarfati and The Apollo Stars was born. “We had some amazing players,” he said. “Billy Potter had played with Big Mama Thornton. Luten Taylor, on bass trombone, had played on the original Mission: Impossible theme.”

The group is described as “Pyschedelic” or  “Free” jazz bridging blues, rock, jazz and soul.

Sarfati said the band would play to crowds of 10,000 people and had “roadies, dancers and a PR team.” Hubbard recorded their album The Power of Source. “He’s credited as the producer on our album and he recorded it, but he didn’t know what he was doing: it was all for his ego,” said Sarfati. “The more I got to know him, the more I questioned things, but it was like a form of hypnosis so you rationalized his megalomania and narcissism. He was all fluff. But we bought into it.”

The Apollo Stars broke up in 1975 after the operations moved back on land. Sarfati left Scientology the following year. “I had been put into the Rehabilitation Project Force for members deemed to be underperforming or having evil thoughts against Scientology,” he said. There was a guard outside his room day and night but he managed to escape and never return.

HUBBARD WROTE THE LYRICS FOR his next bands album called Space Jazz, released in 1983. It was supposedly the first-ever soundtrack to a book; his 1,000 page Battlefield Earth, that was also turned into a movie in 2000 starring John Travolta. Hubbard boasted that the album used the new Fairlight CMI technology, a synthesizer that allowed him to play sampled sounds through the keyboard. It was ground-breaking for 1983 but it didn’t help the quality of the album which was filled with special effect noises and cheesy samples like horses neighing on the track “Windsplitter.” The record sounds like it was made with a children’s Casio keyboard.

In writing about Space Jazz, Slate magazine dubbed Hubbard as the “ultimate cult musician.” Manson may beg to differ, however. The “album alternates between canned uplift (“Jonnie”, “Golden Age of Sci-Fi”) and droning dirges, broken up with patches of comic-book dialogue, robot voices, and laser-gun sound effects,” Slate writes.

In total the album has 13 songs composed by Hubbard and it featured several well-known musicians.

Famous keyboardist Nicky Hopkins performs keyboards on the album. He became a Scientologist in 1980 and credited the organization with saving his life from drug addiction. He was the keyboardist for the Rolling Stones and also performed on John Lennon’s “Imagine,” The Beatles “Revolution” and numerous songs for The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, Donovan and many more. In 1974 he performed on George Harrison’s Dark Horse album, who was just about to sign the Maharaj-ji cult band Jiva. Hopkins is thought to be among the best studio pianists in rock music history.

Grammy-award winning Jazz musician Chick Corea plays keyboards on on the track “Earth, My Beautiful Home.” He was in Miles Davis’ prestigious band in 1966, helping to pioneer modern jazz. In the early 1970s he converted to Scientology and became a prominent spokesman, dedicating several albums to L. Ron Hubbard. Scientology was a major force in his life and shaped his music heavily. He’s reportedly done high level Scientology trainings many times.

Corea first introduced famous jazz bassist Stanley Clarke to Scientology, who also performs on Space Jazz. Like Hopkins, he was struggling with major drug addiction when he got involved. Clarke was featured on the cover of the Scientology magazine Celebrity in 2018.

HUBBARD RECRUITED FAMOUS SINGER EDGAR Winter for his next album Mission Earth also based on his novel of the same name. Hubbard passed away in 1986 but left detailed instructions and audio recordings to create the album. Winter, who was legally blind, recorded the album in the late 1980s. The Church estimated it would sell 800,000 copies but it was a flop, unlike his other records.

Winter had a previous #1 hit called “Frankenstein” that sold over 1 million records. His album They Only Come Out at Night reached #3 on the charts in 1972. His band The Edgar Winter Group featured former Van Halen guitarist Ronnie Montrose and other accomplished performers.

The synth-pop album Mission Earth that he recorded for L. Ron Hubbard blended 80s sounds with a sci-fi feel. Winter described it as, “both a return to rock's primal roots and yet highly experimental."

“When Edgar first came into Scientology it was a huge milestone,” says the Scientology Celebrity Center.

The father of current president David Miscavige, Ron, performed on Hubbards album Road to Freedom, playing trumpet. Ron escaped the church in 2017 and became one of it’s most vocal critics.

Scientology’s album the Road to Freedom was released in 1986 and went gold selling over 500,000 copies. The album featured John Travolta and Frank Stallone and included Chick Corea, and Karen Black. The Road to Freedom further features a vocal performance by Mr. Hubbard himself on a final song, very appropriately entitled “Thank You for Listening.” The title Road to Freedom is a reference to the phrase The Bridge to Total Freedom on the book What is Scientology.

John Travolta & Frank Stallone: The Road to Freedom

“Take the route of auditing and once again be free,” one of the songs goes. “Get on the road to freedom, help us free all mankind.”

Other notable Scientologists who played on their albums include rapper Doug E. Fresh and Isaac Hayes.

“Though designed as proselytizing tools, these albums instead function as fascinating sociological and anthropological artifacts chronicling the secretive and insular world of Scientology at a strange, uncertain time,” writes Slate.

“Music is indeed the Universal Language,” Hubbard would often say.


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