The Apollo Stars: The Rock Stars of Scientology’s Sea Org

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  1. CommunicatorIC

    CommunicatorIC @IndieScieNews on Twitter

    The Apollo Stars: The Rock Stars of Scientology’s Sea Org.

    Red Bull Music Academy: The Apollo Stars: The Rock Stars of Scientology’s Sea Org

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    March 30, 2016

    By Daniel Dylan Wray

    In 1974, the Apollo Stars released their only album, The Power of Source. Like many ’70s American rock bands, the Apollo Stars were young men with long hair, bushy moustaches, flapping flares and loud guitars. Unlike others, though, they were Scientologists and lived on a ship, the Apollo, with church founder L. Ron Hubbard, who was credited as the band’s producer and co-writer.

    On board the Apollo was the church’s Sea Organization, or Sea Org. It comprises Scientology’s most dedicated members, who are required to sign a symbolic (but not legally binding) one billion-year contract to demonstrate their commitment to the church. The Sea Org was established in 1967, the same year that Hubbard purchased a fleet of ships including the Apollo, which was once a British Royal Navy landing ship called HMS Royal Scotsman and had served in World War II.

    The purchase of these ships by Hubbard came at a legal crossroads for Scientology. In 1963, the church was raided by the United States Food and Drug Administration, with materials, books and E-Meters (used for displaying the ectodermal activity of a human being, an procedure known as ‘auditing’) being seized. The FDA believed that the church was making false medical claims through their practices and in 1967, when the church lost its tax-exempt status after an audit from the Inland Revenue Service, it moved its daily operations onto the water.

    Scientology’s official line on the purchase of the fleet is that Hubbard formed the Sea Org in order for the church to focus on advanced research operations and supervise the church’s global organizations. However, given such raids and audits, which resulted in enormous debts and clashes with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, it’s been suggested that Hubbard was using the ships to evade U.S. authorities.

    The truth is that there was no band, just individuals who happened to have their instruments.

    The remaining traceable few members of the Apollo Stars are split between those who have remained in the church, those who have left, and those who have no desire to talk about it from either side. In a rare instance, though, three members were willing to tell their stories: Craig Ferreira, guitar player, co-writer and current church member; Neil Sarfati, saxophone player and group director, who left the church in 1976; and Tom Rodriguez, bongo player, who prefers not to reveal his current status in regards to the church.

    The Power of Source is a disjointed album, weaving together rock, jazz, blues, soul and psychedelia. It’s also driven by a solid energy and experimental tendencies, the result of which is reminiscent of an African-indebted, acid jazz freak-out. A key reason for this is the social and ethnic construct of the group. The Apollo would sail primarily across the Mediterranean but often as far as Africa, picking up sounds and members along the way. Bongo player Rodriguez, for example, boarded the ship from Morocco in 1971.

    It would be a further two years before anything resembling a recording act would start, though – and even then it was by accident. When the Apollo docked in Madeira on the Christmas of 1973, the local mayor inquired if there were any musicians on board to play in the town square. “The truth is that there was no band, just individuals who happened to have their instruments,” says Rodriguez. “An announcement was made for any musicians to come directly to the PR lounge. About ten of us showed up. We were told to ‘put something together’ immediately. We asked each other, ‘What songs do you know?’ and we ended up with about three or four songs.” They performed in the square and despite Rodriguez thinking they were “terrible,” they went down well with the locals and were asked back again to play on New Year’s Eve.

    The Apollo Stars were born. The band as credited on The Power of Source consisted of Tamia Arbuckle (bass, guitar), Craig Ferreira (guitar), Luten Taylor (bass), Russ Meadows (bass, flute), Charlie Rush (drums), Kenny Campleman (flute), Bill Potter (saxophone), Neil Sarfati (saxophone) and Wayne Marple (trumpet). Ferreira claims to have put this lineup together, with Sarfati then positioning himself as a director of sorts. “I became the head of the whole troupe,” Sarfati says. “I guess I had the balls because I’m a New Yorker.”

    According to Sarfati, the band had some big hitters in tow. Taylor was one of the original composers for the Mission Impossible theme tune, Potter had played for Big Mama Thornton and Ferreira recalls fellow guitar player Arbuckle as being a “Japanese rock star,” referring to his time in the RCA-signed band the Lead in the late ’60s. As for the other members, “A lot of the folks just came from playing in garage bands,” says Ferreira. Various members joined the church at different times and for different reasons, but Sarfati’s story was a fairly common one. “At the time [1973] I was 23 years old and lost. I didn't know where to go. I was looking for answers, and I thought that [the church] was the answer.”

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    “We moved from the sea to land in ’75,” remembers Rodriguez. “I pretty much ceased being a band member then. Others continued to play together, when we had parties.” Sarfati left the Apollo Stars the following year. “I ‘woke up’ in ’76, when they put me in a prison camp and I escaped. The more I went through it [prison], the more it awoke me. It had the reverse effect on me. I was thinking, ‘Holy fuck, what am I doing here?’” The escape involved having to trick his former bandmate, drummer Charlie Rush, into thinking that he had explosive diarrhea in order to temporarily get out of a cell. Sarfati grabbed some money and clothes that he’d stashed behind a dumpster, hopped a prison wall, made his way to the airport and never looked back, not to Scientology nor the Apollo Stars.

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    Last edited: Mar 31, 2016
  2. HelluvaHoax!

    HelluvaHoax! Platinum Meritorious Sponsor with bells on


    Any band that turns out an album called "THE POWER OF SOURCE" is doomed from inception.

    What musical artist in their right mind would allow the album's producer to title their debut album as a vainglorious tribute to HIMSELF?

    Who does that?! LOL Who the f*ck hires musicians and then forces them to service his megalomaniacal lust for "admiration" by such a braggadocio, self-worshiping, status-craving, ridiculous name like "The Power of Source"?!

    Stupid-ass cult leader. I mean, just....fucking cringe!
  3. lotus

    lotus autonomous rebellous


    Is and has always been the only ''religion'' people are put in prison till they find a way to escape.

    It's so theta and up-tone!
  4. HelluvaHoax!

    HelluvaHoax! Platinum Meritorious Sponsor with bells on



    But, we have multiple affidavits and sworn testimony
    that your church imprisoned its own members!

    That is absolutely untrue! We would never imprison
    anyone, we believe in total freedom.

    Then why do your prisoners sleep in iron-barred trailers,
    watched 24 hours a day by armed guards. And security
    fencing with inward-facing razor sharp barbs?

    Yeah, well I know that looks bad, but we have an
    auditor's code with very high ethical standards. We
    promise always to run every process to full End Phenomena,
    so naturally we need to block people from blowing session
    before they have the huge wins.
  5. Gizmo

    Gizmo Rabble Rouser

    Re: The Apollo Stars: made PITIFUL SOUNDS

    Most garage bands on their first get together are smoother, more polished, tighter & do an infinitely better arrangement than the Apollo Crap EVERY managed.

    That POS "album" covered their noises very well, Piece of Shit. It really was.
  6. AnonyMary

    AnonyMary Formerly Fooled - Finally Free

    Kudos to Neil Sarfati for speaking up!:thumbsup:
  7. ILove2Lurk

    ILove2Lurk Lisbeth Salander

    . . .
    "Red sails in the sunset, way out on the sea
    Oh, carry my loved one home safely to me"


  8. Gizmo

    Gizmo Rabble Rouser

  9. afaceinthecrowd

    afaceinthecrowd Gold Meritorious Patron

    You shoulda been there! :eyeroll:
  10. Jump

    Jump Operating teatime

    :lol: You're right. Shooping could only detract from that gem.
  11. afaceinthecrowd

    afaceinthecrowd Gold Meritorious Patron

    Ya...But, IMHO, IL2K's Shoops on ESMB are most often World Class and all-time ESMB Classics. :thumbsup::clap::yes:

    In this in sooo many others...The CommodeDoor was so "Oat Tea" that El Ron "Shooped" Hisself before "Shooping" was invented. :coolwink:

  12. HelluvaHoax!

    HelluvaHoax! Platinum Meritorious Sponsor with bells on


    Burst Out Laughing On That One


  13. Operating DB

    Operating DB Truman Show Dropout

    Ewwww! I think I "boloted" in my pants hearing that awful Wurlitzer organ music.
  14. ILove2Lurk

    ILove2Lurk Lisbeth Salander

    . . .
    HH, perfect on finding that 50's-ish organ rendition of the song. Has that
    lovely Hammond/Wurlitzer sound that everyone was in love with back then.


    Here's my discovery after listening to the Power of Source vinyl album
    and digging through my extensive photo archives.

    It seems that unbeknownst to most people, L Don Hubbard was actually
    part of the band during the recording of POS. Now, L Don did not have a
    natural musical ear. In fact, he had NO musical ear to speak of really! He
    played sax but ALWAYS played off pitch . . . wrong key. Usually very sharp
    and screechy, which may totally account for the dissonant or discordant,
    drastically inharmonious sound of the album.

    And possibly, this was the beginning of the end of the brother relationship
    and why he eventually got beached, thrown off the Apollo.

    People may have a hard time believing all this, so I dug through my
    archives and found this previously unpublished photo of L Don playing,
    rather screeching, with the band. On the right, next to bearded
    Class 8 Russ Meadows, who is playing bass.

  15. Mimsey Borogrove

    Mimsey Borogrove Crusader

    Dig those striped bell bottoms. mimsey
  16. Orglodyte 2

    Orglodyte 2 Patron with Honors

  17. Orglodyte 2

    Orglodyte 2 Patron with Honors

    The whole saga of the Apollo Stars is extra-fascinating to me -- surreal, darkly funny, human and revelatory. The details are scattered all over the web, it would make a great book, starting with Shooting Stars, of course.

    The Red Bull article got me looking for more scraps, and I found this great tidbit from Bare Faced Messiah. Ron wanted the band to perform in every port of call, and:

    "Since he would be making appearances himself, he had a new uniform designed with a suitably theatrical flair. It featured a powder blue kepi with a lavishly gold-braided peak and a cloak in the same hue, lined with scarlet silk. He looked, Urquhart reported, 'most peculiar'."

    A kepi is that flat-topped French military hat with a visor. My kingdom for a photo of Ron in this getup.
  18. Bost_Bobby

    Bost_Bobby Patron with Honors

    Oh jeez. A few years back I drove up north and spent a weekend at my good friend and ex roommates place. A very sweet girl who is confined to a wheelchair. I sometimes go up and take her food shopping, do things to the apartment that are too high for her to reach, things like that. She's recently become more and more religious which is a very good thing for her. She participates many days of every week volunteering in some fashion for her church.

    I know I'm making this post longer than it has to be but oh well. Anyway, she would ask me things about scientology and I would tell her what I knew and she would either see a good side to it or shake her head and say WTF? So I got this bright Idea one night as we're sipping sake to go on YouTube and play the video, Thank You For Listening.

    We were both laughing so hard that she actually passed some sake through her nose. After it was over I of course had to repeat it quite a few times because, well you know, you have to keep going over it to desensitize the reaction, right?

    But old source himself, Ron Quixote, got his revenge. That night in bed I tossed and turned and had the hardest time sleeping because that God damn song kept going through my head over and over and over again. Isn't that what he called a circuit? Yeah, what a frigging circuit it was. I woke up with it in my head and for the next few days it would not leave me alone.

    I learned a hard lesson. For those of you who wish to listen (again) to it I say dont. Just turn and run for your damn lives!
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2016
  19. HelluvaHoax!

    HelluvaHoax! Platinum Meritorious Sponsor with bells on


    Hey, I just dug through my personal photo archives. . .

    Here is an original shot--before the COS 'disappeared' the Apollo Stars' kickass lead guitar player.

  20. afaceinthecrowd

    afaceinthecrowd Gold Meritorious Patron

    Holy Effen Ess! You just Outed IL2K! :ohmy: