I've been listening to Blue Oyster Cult with great enthusiasm since I first heard "Don't Fear The Reaper" and witnessed one of the greatest live nights of my concert going life, when Thin Lizzy opened for BOC at NYC's Palladium in 1978, and still, I couldn't begin to tell you just what kind of band they are.
The All Music Guide calls them a "thinking man's heavy metal group," and only because of my inability to come up with something better, I'll accept it...for now. But, if you judge a book by its cover, or in BOC's case, the obvious representation (read: the classic radio and MTV hits), you might just miss out on what else this amazing band has offered since their first Columbia release almost 50 years ago. Most of it really isn't heavy metal at all. And anyway, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the hits.
You may know "Godzilla," from their best selling 1977 release "Spectres." But have you heard the big, pop perfection of their Phil Spector homage "Goin' Through The Motions" from that same album? Ian Hunter co-wrote that one by the way, giving the band their own type of "Honaloochie Boogie." Or, how about the beautifully ominous melody and harmonies of the ballad, "I Love The Night" from that same album? Or, the almost California pop feel of "Fireworks," from that same album? "Spectres" is a big time winner.
While I'm at it, have you ever heard the haunting, mini-epic "Morning Final" from "Agents Of Fortune?" It's stunning. Or, the 60's rock and roll pastiche "True Confessions" from that same album? And then there is "Tenderloin" from that same album. Words fail me with "Tenderloin," though the guitar playing is enough to make me say "Wow" out loud every time I hear it. Yeah, "Agents Of Fortune" is a big time winner, too. Don't even get me started on "Secret Treaties!" This gem somehow manages to be everything from punk to pop to psychedelia and back again.
The point is, each of their releases from the 1972 debut through 1981's "Fire Of Unknown Origin" boasts more than just big ball riffage suited for MTV and smoked-filled hockey barns. These guys could not only write the guitar hooks that teenage boys with sad moustaches would die for, they could also write the melodies that every pop nerd with a crush on Ronnie Spector would plotz over.
Eric Bloom, Allen Lanier, Joe & Albert Bouchard, and one of the most underrated guitar players of all time, Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser, as Blue Oyster Cult, had an impressive run from 1972-1982. The MTV hits? Yeah, that's good stuff. But, the great stuff is living comfortably on 16 sides of the best rock and roll albums of the 70's.
The live version of "Astronomy" above features one of my favorite guitar solos of all time.
The song below, "You're Not The One," from 1979's follow-up to "Spectres," "Mirrors," is a brilliant Rutles-esque nod to The Cars.
Blue Oyster Cult, from one extreme to the other.
If any of this interests you at all, here is a BOC six pack to get you started. Listen to it and decide if "thinking man's heavy metal" is accurate. Come to think of it, I don't believe there is one truly heavy metal song on any of their first eight records.
Goin' Through the Motions
I Love The Night
And here's a full Spotify playlist, if your interest is piqued.