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Music / Imaginos

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Imaginos approached the sun, in August in New Hampshire...

"Fresh from zones of moisture
And afterwards, the meat
With spangles on my long-tailed suits
And songs to haunt the one that's saved.
Just call me Desdinova, I'm sure to be the lucky one
When destiny assigns wisdom
Known to me, this starry wisdom!"

Imaginos is the eleventh studio album by the American rock band Blue Öyster Cult, released two years after Club Ninja in 1986. It is a Rock Opera telling part of the story of Imaginos, or Desdinova, a Humanoid Abomination that becomes an agent of chaos and evil for a group of extraterrestrial deities called “Les Invisibles”.

The Imaginos character, plotline, and concepts were created by the band’s producer Sandy Pearlman in the 1960s, who incorporated them into many of the band’s lyrics. It was not told in a specific order until the Imaginos album itself was released in 1988, leading to many scattered, cryptic references to the plot across the band’s discography. Imaginos itself, which covers the years of 1808 up to 1893, is only Act I of III of the storyline. Two other double albums were planned which would follow Imaginos’ story up until the modern day. These were to be called Act II: Germany Minus Zero and Counting and Act III: The Mutant Reformation. The full title of the entire narrative was, according to Pearlman, The Soft Doctrines of Imaginos: A Bedtime Story for the Children of the Damned.

The actual Imaginos album languished in Development Hell for years, with the original idea of it being a solo album for Albert Bouchard, then being quickly reworked as a full Blue Öyster Cult album. Although this did add more polish and orchestration, it resulted in huge portions of the album (including two full songs, "Gil Blanco County" and "The Girl Who Love Made Blind") being cut and the tracks rearranged in a narratively incoherent order. 16 years passed between Bouchard’s writing of the first pieces of music for the album and the full release. Albert Bouchard’s original demo tape of the album can be listened to here.

Due to the cryptic nature of the lyrics, which originated as poetry and are often veiled in multiple layers of metaphor, the exact plot of Imaginos and the Soft Doctrines in general is hard to deduce in much detail. However, the general plot points are mostly agreed upon and backed up by comments by the band, the album’s liner notes, and less ambiguous lyrical passages.

    Plot Summary 

Imaginos is a “modified child” born in New Hampshire in 1808 (beyond this, his exact nature is vague). He was born during an auspicious astronomical event where the Sirius star was especially bright and prominent. This star is somehow connected to the powers of Les Invisibles, a group of seven extraterrestrial deities who were worshipped in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and Haiti. The worshippers of Les Invisibles were massacred by the conquistadors, who also stole one of the two magical obsidian mirrors that acted as gateways to the beings’ realm and conduits of their power (“Les Invisibles”). This mirror (a real-life artifact) eventually made its way into the possession of John Dee, influencing Britain to crush Spain’s naval might. The other mirror, the Magna of Illusion, remained sealed in a chamber of jade.

Imaginos was created as a tool of Les Invisibles to alter the course of human history to their desires. He can shapeshift and has the ability to see the future, which he uses to wander the countryside of America on adventures, unaware of the true significance of his powers (“Imaginos”).

He goes to Gil Blanco County in Texas and catches a disease of some sort (“Gil Blanco County”), then travels to New Orleans to plan a journey for the jungles of Mexico to seek the Magna of Illusion that he has seen in his visions (“Del Rio’s Song”). The ship sails into a storm in the Gulf of Mexico that Imaginos’ visions did not warn him of. Most of the crew drowns, and Imaginos is left on a beach to die by the only other two survivors. At the moment of his death, he is approached by the “Oyster Boys” who come out of the bay and offer him a deal- he can die, or he can pledge his servitude to Les Invisibles and be resurrected as their servant (“Blue Öyster Cult”). He agrees, and is raised from the dead, gaining the additional sociopathic female persona of Desdinova, “the Eternal Light” (“Astronomy”). Desdinova is commanded to shapeshift into various guises and manipulate politicians, nobility, and other people of influence, mostly in Europe, to further Les Invisibles’ ends (“I Am the One You Warned Me Of”).

At some point Imaginos falls in love with a woman who he hides his powers from to some degree (“The Girl Who Love Made Blind”), and also develops the ability to travel through time and take different personas throughout history, greatly expanding the reach of his influence. One of these personas is Baron von Frankenstein, who may or may not be the same character from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Frankenstein is distributing a drug called “world-without-end” which has mysterious and possibly cosmic effects (“The Siege and Investiture of Baron von Frankenstein’s Castle at Weisseria”). With his/her great cosmic powers, Imaginos/Desdinova amasses huge amounts of power, money, and influence, and collects occult tomes and artifacts (“In the Presence of Another World”).

In 1892- a mirror of his first voyage in 1829- Imaginos sets out on his "charmed and armed" ship Plutonia on another voyage to retrieve the Magna of Illusion, and- much like a conquistador- ends up slaughtering anyone in the Yucatan who stands in the way of him trying to take it. He brings it back to Cornwall, England, where he now lives part of the time, and gives it to his granddaughter as a birthday present ("Magna of Illusion"). By “planting” the Magna of Illusion in Britain, Imaginos spreads the influence of Les Invisibles directly into the minds of the powers of Europe. The dark cosmic gods’ hatred and desire for vengeance influence the chain of events that lead to World War I- in Sandy Pearlman’s words, “a disease with a long incubation”.

Albert Bouchard, who has taken over the storyline and mythos after Sandy Pearlman’s death, has retconned a few points on his Re-Imaginos album, released in 2019. In Bouchard’s current continuity, Imaginos went to Europe before Texas, where he met “Frankenstein” and took “world-without-end”, which seemingly unlocked his shapeshifting powers. Also, instead of the entire ship being wrecked, Imaginos is thrown overboard by his friends who learn of the “sickness” he caught during “Gil Blanco County”. Bouchard is currently continuing the Imaginos saga, with Imaginos II: Bombs Over Germany (minus zero and counting) released in October 2021 and Imaginos III: Mutant Reformation, released in July 2023.


Side one
  1. "I Am the One You Warned Me Of" (5:04)
  2. "Les Invisibles" (5:33)
  3. "In the Presence of Another World" (6:26)
  4. "Del Rio's Song" (5:31)
  5. "The Siege and Investiture of Baron von Frankenstein's Castle at Weisseria" (6:43)

Side two

  1. "Astronomy" (6:47)
  2. "Magna of Illusion" (5:33)
  3. "Blue Öyster Cult" (7:18)
  4. "Imaginos" (5:46)

Principal members

  • Eric Bloom - Vocals
  • Albert Bouchard - guitar, percussion, vocals
  • Joe Bouchard - keyboards, backing vocals
  • Buck Dharma - guitars, vocals
  • Allen Lanier - keyboards

The Guitar Orchestra Of The State of Imaginos and Others:

  • No less than sixteen additional musicians worked on the recording of this album. On the sleeve, they are collectively credited as The Guitar Orchestra Of The State of Imaginos. They included:
  • Robbie Krieger
  • Aldo Nova - a band associate who contributed lyrics for The Revölution by Night
  • Jon Rogers (who replaced Joe Bouchard as BOC's bass player)
  • Joe Satriani (briefly a member of Deep Purple)
  • Tommy Zvoncheck - at the time the BOC's main keyboards player.


  • Alchemy Is Magic: Sandy Pearlman was fascinated with alchemy, and incorporated many references to it in the lyrics. Baron von Frankenstein seems to be an alchemist, and creates world-without-end, while in Re-Imaginos Imaginos describes his own experiments with alchemy and astronomy in the added song "Black Telescope".
  • Alternate History: Described as such by Sandy Pearlman and Albert Bouchard.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Les Invisibles are described as manipulating human history through the ages, using Imaginos as their primary agent.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Magna of Illusion, an ancient obsidian mirror that poisons the minds of those around it, causing them to become violent and destructive. Its presence in Britain is indirectly responsible for World War I.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The atmospheric cover art goes with the location of the action in Lovecraft Country in New England. Except that while this is a photograph of a real building, it was in Ocean Beach, California, facing a different ocean.
  • Aztec Mythology: The Magna of Illusion is an obsidian scrying mirror of the kind used by priests of the god Tezcatlipoca, who (among other domains) is the sometimes shapeshifting god of the night sky, divination, Ursa Major (which is referenced in "Les Invisibles"), and "change through conflict".
  • Been There, Shaped History: See Time Travel below.
  • Body Horror: "Eyes like bottles and hands in my hair..."
  • Brick Joke: A black-coloured brick. right at the beginning in October 1967, Eric Bloom and Donald Roeser started a group with manager Sandy Pearlman. In 1988, 21 years later and after many personnel changes, the last men standing (before the band went into hiatus and temporarily broke up completely) after this album was first conceived in 1967, were Bloom, Pearlman and Roeser.
  • Broad Strokes: There have been a number of large plot changes across the decades of the storyline's development, with Re-Imaginos contradicting several plot points established on the original Imaginos, which itself was changed significantly from the Soft Doctrines of Imaginos poem cycle. This might come with the territory of such a deliberately ambiguous narrative- after all, "the doctrines are soft".
  • Came Back Wrong: Imaginos was always a Humanoid Abomination, but there’s no indication he’s ever evil until he dies and is resurrected.
  • The Chessmaster: Imaginos, and (by extension) Les Invisibles.
  • Cool Boat: Plutonia is "charmed and armed" and used by Imaginos to sail around the world.
  • Cosmic Horror: The overarching theme is of Les Invisibles manipulating human history for their own incomprehensible purposes.
  • Dark Messiah: Imaginos can be seen as one (see Sins of Our Fathers below), including having Messianic Archetype features like being a vessel for the power of gods, and being killed and resurrected.
  • Deal with the Devil: Imaginos pledges his service to Les Invisibles in return for being brought back from the dead. Problem is, he's not exactly himself after that happens...
  • Demoted to Extra: The album marks Joe Bouchard's final appearance with the band, with him contributing only minor keyboard parts and backing vocals instead of his usual bass or any Step Up to the Microphone songs that were previously common for him. Keyboardist Allen Lanier, returing to the band after being absent on Club Ninja also only played a minor role.
  • Double Meaning: The lyrics are notoriously crammed with wordplay and double (and even triple) entendre phrases, common to Sandy Pearlman's writing. For example, "the tears of God flow as I bleed".
  • Eldritch Location: The front cover of the album depicts a real place, the Cliff Top Hotel and restaurant in Ocean Beach, California, as it would have looked in the early part of the twentieth century - a real-life example of American Gothic and a place where The Addams Family could have set up home. note 
  • Epic Rocking: None of the tracks are shorter than 5 minutes.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Two of Imaginos’ close friends abandon him as he lays dying on the beach. Shortly afterward, he agrees to become Les Invisibles’ agent manipulating humanity, and rejects his own humanity in the process.
  • Expy: Imaginos is rather similar to Nyarlathotep, being shapeshifting, chaos-causing emissaries of cosmic deities, and both being conduits of "starry wisdom" (a direct reference according to Pearlman).
  • Evil Gloating: "I Am The One You Warned Me Of" is five minutes of Desdinova being completely gleeful about her own evil accomplishments.
  • Face–Heel Turn: The album revolves around one.
  • Fantastic Drug: "World-without-end", the effects of which are vague, but in Bouchard's continuity appear to unlock some of Imaginos' latent powers as well as supposedly extending life.
  • Familiar: Desdinova has a dog from the stars as a familiar, accompanying her on her travels (including those as Imaginos).
  • Frame Story: "Astronomy" may be Desdinova talking to Suzy on a beach and metaphorically describing her death and resurrection earlier in the narrative.
  • Gender Bender: Imaginos' female persona is Desdinova, the "Queenly Flux" and "Eternal Light".
  • Humanoid Abomination: Emphasis on "humanoid" prior his death, emphasis on "abomination" afterwards.
  • Immortality Inducer: "World-without-end" is supposed to be a sort of immortality serum in the Re-Imaginos timeline.
  • In Medias Res: The narrative opens with "I Am The One You Warned Me Of", with Desdinova already in the middle of corrupting the world, before switching to a chronological telling of the narrative starting with "Imaginos". According to Albert Bouchard, this is because "every story starts in the middle".
  • Lady in a Power Suit: Desdinova wears long-tailed suits with spangles.
  • Large Ham: Imaginos in the spoken part of “Magna of Illusion”. "I’ve come a long way from Lost Christabel this night… to BLAST your RAFTERS with my surprise!" He’s somewhat more subdued in the demo tape, though.
  • Light Is Not Good: Desdinova calls herself “the Eternal Light”.
  • Looped Lyrics: Lots. "Seven seven seven seven seven seven seven", "carpe diem", "your master is a monster", "we understand"...
  • Meaningful Name: Desdinova is likely derived from the name "Desdemona", the literal meaning of which is "ill-starred".
  • Mind Screw: Try making sense of the plot at all without the liner notes.
  • Mood Whiplash: A deliberate example, when listening to the tracks in narrative order the jaunty and upbeat “Del Rio’s Song” is immediately followed by “Blue Öyster Cult”, where Imaginos lays dying on a beach and is abandoned by his friends.
  • Mystery Cult: The Blue Öyster Cult, who live beneath (and besides) a bay and worship Les Invisibles.
  • Myth Arc: Sandy Pearlman intended almost all of the lyrics he wrote for Blue Öyster Cult to take place within the Soft Doctrines of Imaginos universe. The Imaginos album is only a fragment of the overarching story, which was apparently supposed to end with the redemption of Imaginos (capped off by the song "Redeemed" from the band's first album).
  • Pronoun Trouble: Imaginos' alternate persona of Desdinova has been referred to as "he" in the past, but was recently clarified as officially female.
  • The Prophecy: Imaginos' granddaughter finds a cryptic prophecy written on the oldest scroll in Imaginos' house, which declares “when the riddle begins, the story will end”.
  • Protagonist Title: A half-example, since for most of the album he is using his persona of "Desdinova".
  • Reality Warper: “I’ve warped the stuff of ground/What seems to be is not
  • Seers: Imaginos receives visions of the future from Les Invisibles.
  • Shapeshifting Trickster: Imaginos is a particularly dark example, shapeshifting to take different personas and imitate important figures for the goal of causing chaos and ruin.
  • Shout-Out: The album is full of Shout Outs to H. P. Lovecraft. For example Desdinova refers to Les Invisibles’ “starry wisdom”, a Shout-Out to the Church of Starry Wisdom from "The Haunter Of The Dark".
  • Sins of Our Fathers: It is implied that on some level Imaginos' actions destabilizing Europe (particularly Spain) are in revenge for European colonialism and genocide of indigenous Americans.
  • Spoken Word in Music: "Del Rio's Song" and "Magna of Illusion" both contain pieces of spoken word narration.
  • Starfish Aliens: Bouchard describes the Blue Öyster Cult as "aliens who look like oysters", but whether this is a biological resemblance or due to some sort of illusion is unclear.
  • Stealth Pun/ Hurricane of Puns: A lot of the more cryptic lyrics are actually puns on some level. For example, “these gravely digs of mine will surely prove a sight/and don’t forget my dog, fixed and consequent”. Desdinova is a shapeshifter who has just come back from the dead, and is referring to her new form as “gravely digs” (digs being slang for clothes). The dog is the star Sirius, which is a “fixed” (non-moving) star in astrology.
  • Stock Sound Effects: The demo version of "Les Invisibles" has a stock "boing" sound effect before the second verse and first chorus for some reason.
  • Time Travel: Imaginos has the ability to travel through time and takes different personas across history. The mechanics of this are never specified.
  • Villain Protagonist: Imaginos' goals are to cause chaos, war and death.
  • Villain Song: Most tracks technically count, with the album's Villain Protagonist, but "I Am the One You Warned Me Of" is the most clear-cut and classic example.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Imaginos is an advanced shapeshifter, with examples given of him changing his sex and copying other humans, as well as turning into a buzzard, a pony, and a pinwheel.
  • Wild Mass Guessing: Any attempt to interpret to lyrics beyond the (somewhat vague and cryptic) liner notes ends up being this.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Subverted, the lyrics that seem to be Word Salad on the surface were usually encoded by Sandy Pearlman with specific symbolism.

"Don't you give up, my young, young friends!