All our times have come
Here but now they're gone
Seasons don't fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain
We can be like they are...Blue Öyster Cult
—"(Don't Fear) The Reaper"
is an American Hard Rock
band. Their manager, Sandy Pearlman, formed the group as Soft White Underbelly in 1967. The group cut its teeth playing Country Music
in biker bars before, at Pearlman's urging, their musical style shifted in a harder, psychedelic direction inspired by Black Sabbath
. After some trials and tribulations, including the departure of lead singer Les Braunstein and his replacement with acoustic engineer Eric Bloom, the band eventually took the name Blue Öyster Cult (with a trope-making umlaut over the "O")
and released their self-titled album under Columbia Records
in 1972. The original lineup consisted of lead singer/guitarist Eric Bloom, lead guitarist Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser, guitarist/keyboardist Allen Lanier, and drummer Albert and bassist Joe Bouchard.
BÖC reached mainstream success in 1976 with the release of their first platinum album, Agents Of Fortune
, and its hit single "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," followed by Spectres
and the FM hit "Godzilla
In 1981, BÖC recorded Fire of Unknown Origin
. The band had written several songs on this platinum album for the upcoming animated film Heavy Metal
, but the producers chose "Veteran of the Psychic Wars," which wasn't done with the movie in mind. Albert Bouchard left the band after Fire
Between 1985 and 1987, Allen Lanier and Joe Bouchard quit the band, leaving Eric Bloom and Don Roeser as the only original members. The band took 1987 off, Lanier returned, and they resumed touring with Jon Rogers and Ron Riddle. The band has released several studio albums since then, but none since 2001's Curse of the Hidden Mirror
, and are now without a record deal. Their motto since the late '90s has been "On Tour Forever!", and they live up to it, continuously touring at fairs, clubs, festivals, casinos, and auditoriums across North America and Europe (often hitting the same venue more than once a year).
Founder member Allen Lanier sadly died in August 2013 after a long illness, which had already necessitated his retirement. His last public appearance with the group was at the fortieth anniversary celebration in December 2012.
Blue Öyster Cult's current lineup:
- Eric Bloom: Lead vocals, "stun guitar" (his style of rhythm guitar), keyboards
- Buck Dharma: Lead guitar, vocals on various songs
- Richie Castellano: Keyboards, guitar, bass, Backup vocals, lead vocals on "Hot Rails to Hell"
- Kasim Sulton: Bass guitar
- Jules Radino: Drums, percussion
- Chuck Burgi: Drums
- Albert Bouchard: Drums, lead vocals on various songs
- Joe Bouchard: Bass, lead vocals on various songs
- Les Braunstein: Lead vocals
- Allen Lanier (1946-2013): Keyboards, guitar, backing vocals
- Danny Miranda: Bass
- Al Pitrelli: Guitar
- Bobby Rondinelli: Drums
- Jon Rogers: Guitar, songwriting
- Ron Riddle: Drums
- Rudy Sarzo: Bass
- Patti Smith: Vocals on "The Revenge of Vera Gemini" from Agents of Fortune. Has written or co-written many songs for the group.
Studio album discography, with notable songs:
- St. Cecilia (1970, unreleased until 2001): "What Is Quicksand?", "Donovan's Monkey".
- Blue Öyster Cult (1972): "Transmaniacon M.C.", "Cities On Flame With Rock & Roll".
- Tyranny and Mutation (1973): "The Red and the Black", "Hot Rails To Hell", "Mistress of the Salmon Salt (Quicklime Girl)".
- Secret Treaties (1974): "Dominance and Submission", "M.E. 262", "Astronomy".
- Agents Of Fortune (1976): "(Don't Fear) The Reaper", "This Ain't the Summer of Love", "E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)".
- Spectres (1977): "Godzilla", "R.U. Ready 2 Rock".
- Mirrors (1979): "Dr. Music", "In Thee".
- Cultösaurus Erectus (1980): "Black Blade", "The Marshall Plan".
- Fire Of Unknown Origin (1981): "Burnin' For You", "Veteran of the Psychic Wars".
- The Revölution by Night (1983): "Take Me Away", "Shooting Shark".
- Club Ninja (1986): "Dancin' In The Ruins", "Perfect Water".
- Imaginos (1988): "Astronomy", "Blue Öyster Cult".
- Cult Classic (1994) (Re-recordings of the group's concert standards).
- Heaven Forbid (1998): "Harvest Moon", "See You In Black".
- Curse of the Forbidden Mirror (2001): "Pocket", "Dance On Stilts".
- On Your Feet Or On Your Knees (1975)
- Some Enchanted Evening (1978)
- Extraterrestrial Live (1982)
- Live 1976 (European import, 1994)
- A Long Day's Night (2002)
"I'm troping, I'm troping, I'm troping for you":
- Album Title Drop: The album Agents of Fortune is named after a lyric from the included song E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence).
- Alien Geometries: The LP sleeves for Blue Öyster Cult and Tyranny and Mutation.
- Anachronic Order: Imaginos is not presented according to the internal chronology of the album's storyline due to Executive Meddling. The album's story, which contains Time Travel, shapeshifting, the Cthulhu Mythos, and a number of other supernatural elements, would be confusing enough without the disjointed chronology; the meddling pushed it firmly into Mind Screw territory. A possible sequence of the album's events is presented under the Executive Meddling entry.
- Author Appeal: Joe Bouchard wrote a lot of songs about vampires.
- Not sure if this counts here, but the Radio Birdman album Radios Appear is named after a lyric from BÖC's Dominance and Submission.
- Much of the lyrics, as well as the band's name, are inspired by the works of HP Lovecraft.
Time everlasting / Time to play B-sides... ("Burnin' For You")
- Badass Beard: Bloom.
- Big Applesauce
- The Cameo: Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma make a cameo appearance at the end of The Stoned Age (a movie where one of the main characters was a hardcore BÖC fan), selling bootleg BÖC merchandise.
- Fun fact: originally all the Blue Öyster Cult references in the movie were going to be references to The Who. The band refused to allow their names or music to be featured in the movie due to its content (teenagers getting drunk and having sex) so all Who references became Blue Öyster Cult references, complete with the ending cameo.
- Canon Discontinuity: As a result of being critical and commercial failures, The Revolution By Night and Club Ninja (though "Perfect Water" still made it onto the group's 2002 live release A Long Day's Night). Nothing from Imaginos EVER makes it into their live shows, though.
- Card-Carrying Villain: The narrator of "Career of Evil".
- Catch Phrase: "On your feet... or on your knees! From New York City the amazing BLUE ÖYSTER CULT!"
- Catholic School Girls Rule: The otherwise impenetrable video for "Joan Crawford", in which quite a lot of the said Catholic Schoolgirls get up to shenanigans, aided and abetted by Allen Lanier looking extremely seedy. Also the track "Unknown Tongues" (off Cultösaurus Erectus), in which a devout Catholic schoolgirl called Margaret explores glossolalia and the mysteries of the holy Stigmata. (i.e., the voices in her head tell her to self-harm with a razor blade).
- Changed For The Video: The LP version of "The Marshall Plan" (about a hopeless dreamer with minimal musical talent trying to make it big) uses the heavy rock cliché of the opening bars of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" from Machine Head. It also homages an American TV rock show and its presenter Don Kirschner. Strangely enough, the video version omits both these items; it has been suggested so as to avoid paying royalties. The story told in the video still just about makes sense, but is disjointed without the jokes implicit in a hopeless loser who can only think to rehash "SOTW" and who dreams of appearing on what is assumed to be a very cheesy, corny, mainstream TV show.
- City Shout Outs: ''Atlanta, Georgia!", "Poughkeepsie, New York!"
- Their live cover version of The Animals' We Gotta Get Out Of This Place was recorded in Newcastle, England: Homage to the home town of Eric Burdon and Alan Price, and a City Shout Out by inference.
- Concept Album: Imaginos.
- And the whole thing was supposed to be an attempt at a Concept Band.
- Continuity Nod: Some of the fossils on the Cultösaurus Erectus cover are mentioned as having been found in Oaxaca and the Stalk Forrest, which are names of two early versions of the band.
- Cover Version: several on the live albums; their choices of covers give a pretty good idea of who their main influences were. On Your Feet Or On Your Knees includes The Yardbirds' "I Ain't Got You" from Five Live Yardbirds, while Some Enchanted Evening features The Animals' "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" and the MC5's Kick Out The Jams, while Extraterrestrial Live features a cover of "Roadhouse Blues" from L.A. Woman by The Doors, with Robbie Krieger himself guesting on guitar. "St. Cecilia", the group's unreleased album as the Stalk-Forrest Group, included a cover of Bobby Freeman's "Betty Lou Got A New Pair Of Shoes".
- Deal with the Devil: The live version of "7 Screaming Diz-Busters" includes an interlude where Eric Bloom describes how a slick-looking man in a shark-skin suit gave him a contract to sign in blood, and the very next day CBS Records called him up to offer the band a record deal.
- Don't Fear the Reaper: The Trope Namer.
- Downer Ending: "Veteran of the Psychic Wars", where the protagonist lies spent and defeated as he receives the news of victory.
- Dragon Lady: Their song provides the page quote.
- Drugs can be bad for your health: "Last Days of May", "Tenderloin", "Hungry Boys".
- Dungeon Masters Girlfriend: Allen Lanier's girlfriend, Patti Smith (who later achieved fame as a solo artist) wrote several songs for the group's early albums and provided backing vocals on Agents Of Fortune.
- Early Installment Weirdness: St. Cecilia is almost straight country music with some hard rock influences. Blue Öyster Cult is closer to heavy metal, but still has strong country influences on several tracks, particularly "I'm on the Lamb But I Ain't No Sheep" and "Redeemed".
- Eldritch Abomination: A favorite topic of the group, found in "Les Invisibles," "Harvest Moon," "The Old Gods Return," and numerous other songs.
- Epic Rocking: Especially prominent on Tyranny and Mutation.
- The live On Your Feet or On Your Knees has extended versions of several songs. Live 1976 has a version of "Buck's Boogie" that exceeds nineteen minutes in length, and a version of "This Ain't the Summer of Love" (which was a case of Miniscule Rocking on the original album, being barely over two minutes) that extends to almost twelve.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Cultosaurus Erectus.
- Evil Laugh: Stormbringer at the end of "Black Blade."
- Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: Morning Final on the Agents of Fortune album. The track ends on a paperboy calling the murder investigation in classic Extra! Extra! Read all about it! form.
- Gratuitous Japanese: The intermission of "Godzilla" has a Japanese newscaster talking about the beast's rampage in Tokyo and alerting listeners to run for shelter immediately. During live shows, Eric Bloom recites this part.
- Greatest Hits Album: 1998's Blue Öyster Cult: Super Hits.
- The earlier, 2-CD Workshop of the Telescopes compilation.
- Cult Classic is an unusual example; rather than just collecting the group's best songs, they went back into the studio and re-recorded them from scratch.
- Heävy Mëtal Ümlauts: The Trope Maker, and possibly the Ur Example.
- Heavy Meta: Cities on Flame with Rock'n'Roll, R.U.Ready To Rock, "Before the Kiss, a Redcap", and The Marshall Plan (which includes a spoken word interlude by Don Kirschner). They also did a cover of Kick Out The Jams, and in a way Heavy Metal: The Black and Silver counts as well.
- Heavy Mithril: Michael Moorcock wrote several songs for the group in the early '80s, including Black Blade, a heavy metal summary of The Elric Saga.
- As mentioned above, much of Fire of Unknown Origin was written with the intent of being a soundtrack for the film Heavy Metal. The song "Vengeance (The Pact)" is explicitly based on Taarna's story.
- "The Golden Age of Leather", an operatic piece about a gang of bikers who ride out into the desert and fight to the death after an all-night orgy and meth party, because they've realized they've grown too old to rock anymore.
- "X-Ray Eyes" is based on the film "The Man With The X-Ray Eyes", and name-drops Ray Milland in the lyrics.
- "Nosferatu" summarizes the plot of the classic silent film of that name.
- Humanoid Abomination: The eponymous Imaginos.
- Iconic Logo: The band's "hooked cross" logo, which appears on all their album covers and most of their merchandise, derived from the alchemical symbol for Saturn. It's also the symbol for lead a heavy metal.
- Incredibly Long Note: Eric Bloom on the last syllable of "risen" in the live performance of Joan Crawford. As it's a live performance there's no wiggle room for post-production what you hear is what he sang.
- I Kiss Your Foot: A sardonic example in "She's as Beautiful as a Foot".
- Ironic Echo: The band's collaboration with Patti Smith, Revenge of Vera Gemini is built around the ironic echo; Patti Smith's lines, coming in slightly behind Eric Bloom's, are sardonic echoes that subtly twist the meaning.
- Ironic Nursery Tune: The children's musical box deployed as a linking theme between tracks on Secret Treaties. Perhaps even the symbolism used in certain lyrics, such as the following from "Astronomy":
Come Suzy dear, let's take a walk,
Just down there along the beach;
I know you'll soon be married,
And you'll want to know where winds come from...
The nature of the innocent Suzy's relationship with her older nurse Carrie has oft been speculated upon. Les Yay...
- Instrumentals: Not on record, but a concert staple of the original lineup was a jam section where Lanier and Albert Bouchard would don guitars, resulting in a five-man guitar solo. This most commonly occurred during "ME 262", but also sometimes on "Golden Age of Leather" or a cover of The Doors' "The Wasp (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)".
- "Buck's Boogie" was a jamming instrumental which appeared on the live album On Your Feet or On Your Knees.
- Kaiju: Take a wild guess...
- Last Note Nightmare: The very faint, edge-of-hearing, last spoken line of Black Blade.
- Last of His Kind: "Sole Survivor".
- Listeners Are Geniuses: Piecing together the Myth Arc (see below) requires paying attention to the subtlest allusions in the lyrics.
- Sandy Pearlman actually described them as "The thinking man's heavy metal band."
- A lot of people called them that. This reputation is why they were critical darlings at a time when if a critic referred to any other band as playing heavy metal, it was intended as an insult.
- Long Title: "The Siege and Investiture of Baron Von Frankenstein's Castle at Weisseria"
- Looped Lyrics: "Seven seven seven" ad nauseam on "Les Invisibles" from Imaginos
- Also the repetition of the line "Lucifer the light" at the end of Seven Screaming Dizbusters - this line repeats thirty-two times in succession.
- Loves the Sound of Screaming: Doctor Music, your partner in the dance of death.
- Lucky Charms Title: The fancy "Ö".
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Harvester of Eyes", a bouncy, cheery song about...well, someone/something that kills people and takes their eyes. Sandy Pearlman claimed he came up with the idea after hearing Supreme Court justice Abe Fortas talk about his ocular tuberculosis during his confirmation hearings.
- A common trope with this band, given that so many of their lyrics are dark, and often in a tongue-in-cheek way. "Hot Rails to Hell" is another good Exactly What It Says on the Tin example - an up-tempo tune with surf guitar riffs and peppy vocals... about riding a subway train into Damnation.
- Also the Buck Dharma solo track "All Tied Up", a sweet ballad with Eagles-ish vocal harmonies. It turns out that the subject of the song is not tied up as in ''busy'', but as in Exactly What...oh, you know the drill by now.
- "Mistress of the Salmon Salt" drops some very dark lyrics in a tone so casual that it sounds like a garden tour. Which it actually is, but regular gardens don't use the type of fertilizer that the narrator is freely referring to.
- And of course "Golden Age of Leather" marries West Coast harmonies, surfer music and Beach Boys-style singing to the dark topic of old Hell's Angels going out with one last gang-bang of a ''wanton child, too dead to care, that each could find his pleasure as he might..." followed by a pitched battle to the death.
- The Men in Black: Since so many of their songs are sci-fi oriented, this was bound to show up at least once. Most notable in the songs Take Me Away (even featured in its music video) and "E.T.I."
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Most off their harder-rocking songs hover around the 5-6 range, with a few (VERY few) going up to a borderline 7. They have a number of lighter songs as well though- for example, "Don't Fear the Reaper" is a 3 or a 4 (the only "heavy" part is in the solo section).
- Motorcycle on the Coast Road: Feel The Thunder, Shadow of California.
- The Muse: A whole cycle of songs are about, or feature, a girl called Suzie who appears to have had a potent effect on the songwriter's life. If Suzie was for real, then her depiction in The Marshall Plan as feckless groupie, or in Dominance and Submission as an accomplice to man-on-man rape, becomes an example of Muse Abuse.
- Myth Arc: Most of their lyrics are part of a Lovecraftian Fiction-oriented mythology created by Sandy Pearlman, even those that don't appear to be at first glance.
- The songs written for the band by Michael Moorcock draw on Moorcock's own Eternal Champion mythos, particularly The Elric Saga. the Champion Eternal might dovetail quite neatly into the Immortal Desdinova, though.
- New Media Are Evil: The laser-light shows the band used in their late '70s shows were the subject of a Congressional hearing into the potential health hazards of lasers.
- New Sound Album: Mirrors was almost pop-rock relative to the group's earlier albums, with the sentimental guitar ballad "In Thee" as its lead single, and the Cars-inspired "You're Not The One I Was Looking For". It didn't gel, and the band returned to heavy metal for Cultosaurus Erectus.
- Mostly that's due to the production, though- get past that and two-thirds of the album still counts as Hard Rock or Heavy Metal. On the other hand, "Agents of Fortune" comes closer- more than half of the album can't be called either.
- No Ending: Employed on "Flaming Telepaths"
- and the joke's on you...and the joke's on you...and the joke's on you...and the jo-
- Obligatory Bondage Song: "Dominance and Submission".
- Our Vampires Are Different: "Tattoo Vampire," "I Love the Night"
- Parabombing: (Don't Fear) The Reaper; Joan Crawford (Has Risen From The Grave).
- Perspective Flip: Transmaniacon MC tells the story of the infamous Altamont Free Concert from the perspective of the Hell's Angels. Workshop of the Telescopes the rise of modern of science from the point-of-view of an astrologer (whose discipline was discredited); ME 262 is about the end of World War II as perceived by a German fighter ace; and "Joan Crawford" is partially Mommie Dearest as perceived by a zombified incarnation of the title actress.
- Protest Song: "Divine Wind", a song attacking Ayatollah Khomeini during the hostage crisis.
- Putting the Band Back Together: For the band's 40th anniversary show in November 2012, they brought back Albert and Joe Bouchard (left in 1981 and 1986 respectively), and Allen Lanier (left in 2007 due to health problems). This show ultimately ended up being the last ever performance of the original five members due to Allen's death in August 2013.
- Patti Smith also rejoined the band for this gig. There is extant footage of her performing Career of Evil with the group.
- Refuge in Audacity: There were so many hints of evil in their lyrics and Nazi images on their album covers that some writers began to suggest that they really were Nazis. This despite names like "Pearlman", "Bloom" and "Roeser" suggesting the sort of ethnicity that would be last to line up in support of the Nazis. Michael Moorcock describes them as a bunch of nice Jewish boys from upstate New York. You Have to Have Jews?
- Religion Rant Song: Divine Wind is a pop at militant extremist Islam.
- Unknown Tongues is a slap at religious mania, the Catholic sort especially.
- Repurposed Pop Song: Shiny Toy Guns did a cover of "Burnin' For You" for a commercial for the 2010 Lincoln MKS.
- Rhyming with Itself: The final verse of the otherwise sublime "Don't Fear The Reaper" does this...
Came the last night of sadness, and it was clear she couldn't go on;
And the door burst open and a wind appeared;
The candle blew and then disappeared;
The curtains flew and then He appeared...
(Sayin' "Don't be afraid)
- Rock Opera: Imaginos, a fragment of the above Myth Arc, tells the story of a 19th century adventurer imbued with magic powers by aliens, and whose efforts prove to be the cause of World War I.
- Rock Star Song: "The Marshall Plan"
- Sanity Slippage Song: "Veteran of the Psychic Wars"
- Shout-Out: The opening of "Burnin' For You" is an allusion to the lyrics at the beginning of Part Four, Chapter 2 of Jack Kerouac's On the Road.
- Both "E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)" and "The Old Gods Return" refer to the Cthulhu Mythos.
- "Godzilla," of course.
- The song "Revenge of Vera Gemini" namechecks Patti Smith's Horses album.
- It also inspired the whole "Vera Gemini" story arc in Marvel Comics' The Defenders, published some years after the song.
- Siamese Twin Songs: Nearly all of Secret Treaties.
- Sleeps with Everyone but You: "Eyes On Fire"
At the stroke of midnight, staring at the phone'
For the millionth time I'm all alone;
I'm the guy she turns to, when her lovers leave,
I'm the wild card she's got up her sleeve;
But she don't look at me with
Eyes on fire, glowing like coals in the night;
Hungry eyes, burning with love and desire...
- Stage Names: Sandy Pearlman envisioned the band having stage names and wrote some up, but Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser was the only taker.
- Stop and Go: "Career of Evil"
- Talking Weapon: "Black Blade"
- That's All, Folks!: "Shooting Shark" ends with, "First time round is the last time round; I have nothing else to say."
- Together in Death: "(Don't Fear) the Reaper".
- Trans Atlantic Equivalent: The band's style, lyrical content and preceived preoccupations were equated to those of Birmingham's most notorious Satanists, Black Sabbath. Aware that musical critics were directly comparing both bands, their managements bundled them together on a joint tour, dubbed The Black And Blue Tour. It was never repeated. After the BOC started to record Michael Moorcock songs, they attracted the label from British fans of America's Hawkwind. Indeed, the live version of the Moorcock-penned "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" has an eerie Hawkwind-like quality to it.
- Trauma Swing: The video for Joan Crawford Has Risen From the Grave uses imagery derived from Christina Crawford's autobiography about living with her allegedly psychotic mother, Mommie Dearest. The video ends on a teenage girl playing the Christina role, sitting crying and despondent by the swimming pool; the scene is shot in muted washed-out light with autumn leaves swirling around and landing in the water, conveying the idea that summer is gone, it is cold, she is alone, innocence is dead and symbolic of emotional and physical abuse: this visual image conveys exactly the mood of the Trauma Swing using a different analogy.
- Villain Protagonist: the setup for "Last Days of May" is a cross-border drug transaction, allegedly based on a true story.
- The title character of "Dr. Music" is a sadist who gets off by torturing his unwilling captives.
- "Showtime" is about a convict who's counting down the days until his release so he can hunt down and get revenge on his girlfriend who put him away and the man she's now with.
- Villain Song: Several, see Perspective Flip and Lyrical Dissonance above, but "Career of Evil" could easily be the poster-song for the trope.
- Word Salad Lyrics: Lots of them.