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Music / Agents of Fortune

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We can be like they are... Come on, baby, don't fear this album!

Agents of Fortune is Blue Öyster Cult's fourth studio album, released in 1976. It was also the band's most commercially-successful release, going platinum and spawning the hits "(Don't Fear) The Reaper", "This Ain't the Summer of Love", and "E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)".

While it's now regarded as BÖC's Signature Song, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" was actually somewhat of a Black Sheep Hit for the band, as it's sung by Buck Dharma rather than regular lead singer Eric Bloom. The song is also Lighter and Softer than their usual hard rock style. To make matters worse, it was (and still is) widely misinterpreted as being a romanticization of suicide, while the band intended it to be a Pep-Talk Song against fear of death. Regardless, it's notorious enough to have named a trope on our site: Don't Fear the Reaper.


The LP was preceded by Secret Treaties and followed by Spectres.


Side One
  1. "This Ain't the Summer of Love" (2:21)
  2. "True Confessions" (2:57)
  3. "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" (5:08)
  4. "E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)" (3:43)
  5. "The Revenge of Vera Gemini" (3:52)

Side Two

  1. "Sinful Love" (3:29)
  2. "Tattoo Vampire" (2:41)
  3. "Morning Final" (4:30)
  4. "Tenderloin" (3:40)
  5. "Debbie Denise" (4:13)


  • Eric Bloom: vocals, guitar, percussion
  • Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser: vocals, guitar, percussion, synthesizer
  • Allen Lanier: vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards
  • Joe Bouchard: vocals, bass, piano
  • Albert Bouchard: vocals, drums, acoustic guitar, percussion, harmonica
  • Patti Smith: vocals during "The Revenge Of Vera Gemini".
  • Randy & Michael Brecker: horns
  • David Lucas: vocals, keyboards, percussion


Don't Fear The Troper!

  • Album Title Drop: The album "Agents of Fortune" is named after a lyric from the included song "E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)".
  • Alliterative Name and Alliterative Title: "Debbie Denise".
  • Anti-Love Song: "Sinful Love"
    I love you like sin, but I won't be your pigeon
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: Patti Smith wrote the poem "Debbie Denise" was based on about a lesbian relationship she had been involved in. Albert Bouchard tweaked the lyrics to make it a heterosexual relationship instead.
  • Darker and Edgier: Implied in "This Ain't The Summer Of Love".
    This ain't the garden of eden
    There ain't no angels above
    And things ain't like what they used to be
    And this ain't the summer of love
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: Trope Namer.
  • Downer Ending: A bit ambiguous in "(Don't Fear) The Reaper", where the protagonist is taken away by the Grim Reaper, but it's implied to be a happy occasion.
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: "Morning Final". The track ends on a paperboy calling the murder investigation in classic Extra! Extra! Read all about it! form.
  • Grim Reaper: Appears as a character in "(Don't Fear) The Reaper".
  • Heavy Meta: "True Confessions"
    True, true confessions, we tried
    Naked, exposed like fine rock 'n' roll
  • 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 Albert Bouchard's, are sardonic echoes that subtly twist the meaning.
  • I Will Wait for You: "Debbie Denise"
    She kept the light open, all night long
    For me to come home, and sing her my song
    Oh Debbie Denise was true to me
    She'd wait by the window, so patiently
  • Lighter and Softer: Well, softer, anyways- the album as a whole is less heavy and more atmospheric and textured than their previous work. The lyrics certainly aren't any lighter than previous work, though.
  • The Men in Black: There is one on the album cover and three of them in "E.T.I"
    All praise
    He's found the awful truth, Balthazar
    He's found the saucer news
    Dead leaves always give up motion
    I no longer feel the motion
    Where prophecy fails, the falling motion
    "Don't report this, agents of fortune"
  • Murder Ballad: "Morning Final"
    Motiveless murder, the papers scream
    The cops all said the crowd was iced by the sight
  • New Sound Album: To some extent - while not completely without riff-heavy early Metal and Hard Rock songs, it downplays them in favor of musically lighter Psychedelic Rock and Progressive Rock songs. Notably, this did not make it a bad album by any means, and it's still a well-recieved album, too.
  • Not Afraid to Die: The central message of "(Don't Fear) The Reaper".
  • One-Woman Song: "Debbie Denise", "The Revenge Of Vera Gemini".
  • One-Word Title: "Tenderloin"
  • Our Vampires Are Different: "Tattoo Vampire", where a vampire visits a tattoo madame.
  • Pep-Talk Song: "(Don''t Fear) The Reaper" was intended as a song against fear of death. As lead singer Buck Dharma explained:
    "I was actually kind of appalled when I first realized that some people were seeing it as an advertisement for suicide or something that was not my intention at all. It is, like, not to be afraid of it (as opposed to actively bring it about). It's basically a love song where the love transcends the actual physical existence of the partners."
  • Record Producer: Murray Krugman, Sandy Pearlman and David Lucas.
  • Rule of Three: "E.T.I."
    Three men in black said: "Don't report this."
  • 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 candles blew and then disappeared
    The curtains flew and then He appeared
    (Sayin' "Don't be afraid")
    • The final verse of "E.T.I." rhymes "motion" with "motion", "motion", and "fortune".
  • Shout-Out:
    • Romeo and Juliet are referenced in "(Don't Fear) The Reaper".
      • "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" was famously used in the 1978 slasher film classic Halloween.
      • Stephen King was inspired to write The Stand by "(Don't Fear) The Reaper", and quotes the song's final verse in the novel. It's also memorably featured in the 1994 miniseries adaptation.
      • In 2000 the song got even more pop culture notoriety when Saturday Night Live performed a sketch where the band performs the song and are advised by their producer (played by Christopher Walken) to put "more cowbell" in it.
    • "E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)" refer to the Cthulhu Mythos.
    • The song "Revenge of Vera Gemini" namechecks Patti Smith's Horses album. Not surprising since she sings backing vocals to it.
    Oh no more horses horses
    We're gonna swim like a fish
    • It also inspired the whole "Vera Gemini" story arc in Marvel Comics' The Defenders, published some years after the song.
    • Gleefully picked up by Terry Pratchett as the family motto for the Death family in the Discworld - Non Timetus Messor (Have no timidity towards He who collects the harvest.) When Terry became Sir Terry Pratchett, his official coat of arms as a knight adopted the more correct Latin motto Noli Timere Messorum - Don't Fear The Reaper.
    • Christopher Walken: Yes. There is cowbell in the mix of Don't Fear the Reaper. You have to listen hard for it, though. But you don't forget it once you've clocked it.
  • Special Guest: Patti Smith provides backing vocals during "The Revenge of Vera Gemini".
  • Spoken Word in Music: Near the end of "Morning Final" we hear a paper boy trying to sell newspapers.
  • Subdued Section: "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" inverts it — it's a mostly subdued song with a single "loud" section in the middle with a heavy riff, spooky keyboards and some intense soloing.
  • Tarot Cards: Displayed by a dapper-looking croupier on the cover art.
  • Together in Death: "(Don't Fear) The Reaper".
    Romeo and Juliet are together in eternity
    (...) We can be like they are