Monday, February 3, 2020

My Decennial Appreciation of Blue Oyster Cult Post

(Portions of this post were written in 2010)

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
In Thee
I Love The Night
Flaming Telepaths
Morning Final


And here's a full Spotify playlist, if your interest is piqued.


Anything Should Happen said...


Plus the Goin' Through The Motions co-write with Ian Hunter.

Rob said...

BOC have long been one of those guilty pleasures that truth be told I don't feel guilty about at all. 'Thinking man's heavy metal' is a lazy categorisation, simultaneously patronising and inaccurate. In their pomp they were a band of great power, intelligence and subtlety. As you say, very hard to pin down but oh so easy to enjoy. Couple of songs that you don't mention that I like a lot are Vera Gemini from Agents and Golden Age of Leather and Death Valley Nights from Spectres. And On Your Feet is probably my favourite live album ever - I'm just a sucker for the Five Guitars.

Anonymous said...

I got locked into Tyranny & Mutation as a teenager back in the '70's due to a Rolling Stone review name checking Led Zeppelin. Took me a little while to get into it, but to this day, it remains in consistent rotation on the turntable.


Softshoebanana said...

Sal...It give's me great pleasure to agree with you, Blue Oyster Cult are still one of my faves.
I first came across them when Whisperin' Bob Harris played a live video of them..lasers abounding, seriously impressed this 14/15 year old youth, on the OGWT..about 77/78 if memory serves me correctly. I then spent my hard earned cash on their albums, none disappointed.
My fave track of their's is Last Days Of May, though i do agree with you about ETI from the live album. Other faves include Harvester Of Eyes and Subhuman..have you heard Buck's solo album, it's well worth a listen.

FD13NYC said...

Never really a big fan of BOC, but I like some choice cuts, singles and albums.
By the way, great Song Of The Day!

Sal Nunziato said...

Maybe the Spotify playlist will change your minnd on BOC. As for the Song Of The Day, be sure to check tomorrow's SOTD. I think it's a rewrite of today's SOTD, and a good one!

neal t said...

With your recommendation I will load up a shuffle and give it a whirl. Always turn up the hit just for some reason never heard anything else (that I am aware of anyway). Thanks

A walk in the woods said...

Another in an embarrassingly long list of bands (Thin Lizzy, Kiss, Queen and more) that I frankly never listened to closely at all, growing up in the 70s when these records were coming out. Indeed, I thought they were just "heavy, man, heavy" and that wasn't really my thing.

But like those other bands I mentioned, which you've included often in various SOTW and other mixes, dang, I was missing out! All of them - especially Queen, Kiss and BOC - have songs that are way more pop and melodic than I expected, based on tunes in your mixes.

Thanks for another "find"........ 40-somethin' years later!

steve simels said...

I'm not a fan other than a couple of the hits. And they're real assholes personally (we opened for them in 1969 when they were still the Soft White Underbelly, so I know) and then years later we did a gig at the Lone Star with some crappy band that featured the drummer, and they were assholes too (and the drummer played appallingly)

That said, when I was a baby rock critic writing for my college paper, I got a copy of their first album, which I gave a listen too because of Richard Meltzer blah blah blah, and while I thought they were ridiculously pretentious, this song got under my skin. Where it has resided till this day.

Sal Nunziato said...

Thanks Steve!

Crab Devil said...

I don't believe I've ever commented here before, but this particular extravaganza has gotten me all excited. I love BOC and agree with everything the original post had to say -- about the hooks, harmonies, and melodies, about the underrated guitar playing, about "Spectres," about all of it. Now, I do remember reading an interview, decades ago, in which Jim "Dandy" Mangrum was complaining about a run-in he'd had with Blue Oyster C*nt. Still, it's safe to say that Black Oak Arkansas will not, after all, be remembered as the more accomplished of the two outfits. ‌In any case, BOC strike me less as the thinking man's heavy metal than as the, um, shadowy character's power pop.

jonder said...

Recently listened to the original recording of "This Ain't The Summer Of Love" and gained a new appreciation of what BOC did to tighten up that song into the dark anthem that we know and love.

Here's a fan compilation of deep cuts from another blog:

Anonymous said...

Blue Oyster Cult flat out rocks, and anyone who doesn't think so can (as Jerry Lee Lewis used to say) "Use my dick for a walkin' stick." Great post! Great blog! - Stinky

RichardR said...

Saw these guys in the mid-90's at a small club in Springfield Oregon. My neighbor talked me into going and I wasn't expecting much. Grey haired guys playing on past glories was what I was expecting. Lo and behold, these guys blew the roof off the place! Every bit as good as when I saw them a couple of times in their glory days in the 1970's. Allen Lanier, Buck Dharma, and Eric Bloom were the original guys still playing. I don't think the Bouchard Brothers were there but didn't really matter. Still love em. Even today they make an appearance on my turntable. That's right got their early albums on vinyl.

Whattawino said...

TENDERLOIN!!! One of favorites, for sure. I’ve pulled that song on unsuspecting visitors in my home and it always solicits a “Wow!, who the fuck IS this?” reaction. Great post, Sal. Seems that BOC is kinda underrated in a weird way, not counting the “Reaper Madness” effect, of course. Putting the needle on the record, now!