This picture doesn’t do much to buttress my case in favor of the BÖC. That’s guitar hero Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser, resplendent in whitesuit, on the right.
Lately I’ve been deriving a lot of pleasure from listening to the music of the Blue Öyster Cult. I say this willingly and in public, despite knowing that the government is going to put me on some kind of list.
The BÖC doesn’t get a lot of respect — it cost me next to nothing to pick up a copy of their 2-CD collection Workshop of the Telescopes. And to be honest, the first disc is a waste of time, filled with early-period sludge like “Flaming Telepaths” and “Harvester of Eyes.” But the second disc is a whole different story. It leads off with “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” an FM staple for 30-some years now, and recently further immortalized by the Christopher Walken “More Cowbell” sketch. With its chiming, insistent riff, eerie harmonies, and ample cowbell, “The Reaper” is every bit as pointless to resist as the Reaper himself.
From there the hits just keep coming: “Godzilla” and “E.T.I.” are all-time air-guitar classics. “Veteran of the Psychic Wars,” co-written by unfortunately named science fiction author Michael Moorcock, is a landmark in the history of nerd-rock. Unlike a lot of 70s bands, the Cult didn’t go all to hell in the 80s, producing brilliant singles like “Take Me Away” and “Burnin’ for You,” which was in heavy rotation in the early days of MTV and still sounds great. My only complaint: whoever put together this compilation inexplicably left off “Joan Crawford Has Risen from the Grave,” quite possibly the BÖC’s finest moment.
So don’t hate on the Blue Öyster Cult. Not only did they influence everyone from Spinal Tap to the Sisters of Mercy, they were self-consciously ironic in the 70s, two full decades before it became fashionable. If only they’d been smart enough to get Brian Eno to produce some of their albums, they could have been the Talking Heads of heavy metal. But there probably would have been less cowbell.