moseleymoles on Blue Oyster Cult
One of the joys of the old place (both of them now) was the threads in which a slightly less celebrated act was given a thorough airing in a thread dedicated to them. In that spirit here’s my take on an act that if they ever had their due, have now slipped well off the radar. So welcome to the Blue Oyster Cult thread and if you’ve never heard anything by the Cult beyond Don’t Fear The Reaper don’t be afraid..
BOC started in the late sixties as an American answer to the emerging heavy metal/hard rock acts from the UK, particularly Black Sabbath. Their first three albums: BOC, Tyranny and Mutation, and Secret Treaties, mine a fairly conventional rock sound – enlivened by Donald ‘Buck’ Dharma’s guitar and lyrics that mined mysticism, World War Two and arcane mythology amongst others.
After building up their reputation as a hot live act, their phase as top-notch album-sellers started with the live album On Your Feet or On Your Knees, and two subsequent studio albums, Agents of Fortune and Spectres. These albums saw their sound coming into focus and the airing of a slew of their best-know songs,including Godzilla, ETI and of course Don’t Fear The Reaper – most of which are collected on the live album Some Enchanted Evening.
Like many metal acts the eighties saw a shift in sound, first heard on the wonderfully named Cultosaurus Erectus (great sleeve too). My first introduction to them beyond Reaper came from their 1981 album, Fire of Unknown Origin.This married their hard rock background to poppier song structures and, with videos that worked on MTV, lifted them to another level. Joan Crawford, Veteran of the Psychic Wars, Burnin for You – the album’s got barely a weak link. I had this on a cassette with the second Def Leppard album on the other side – and played Fire.. to death
It couldn’t last – and The Revolution by Night (1983) sees a disastrous tipping of the scales in favour of the pop and soft rock sound that was dominating FM radio. There’s syndrums, swathes of keyboards, multitracked backing vocals, slap bass and even the odd sax break. That new producer Bruce Fairbairn is best known for Bon Jovi says most of what needs to be said. It’s all a far cry from the megastomping rock sound of live album Some Enchanted Evening that had sold millions five years previously.
And there I part company. I’ve never heard Club Ninja (85) or anything later or (sadly) seen them live. But their run of albums from Agents…through to Unknown Origin is as good as many more heralded acts. Never lookers, and without a charismatic lead vocal sound, their lack of visual and vocal presence perhaps partly explains their low profile in rock history. Other thoughts welcome.
In addition to one of the great rock logos – seen alongside AC/DC, Rainbow, Motorhead etc on the bags of heavy metal lads at school, they have used a starry roster of guest lyric writers from Patti Smith (kid you not) to authors such as Michael Moorcock (who wrote the lyrics to the track below) and John Shirley.
The 5-album classics set containing live lps On Your Feet… (summarises their early albums), Some Enchanted Evening (the next two), with studio sets Cultosaurs and Fire of Unknown Origin and Revolutions By Night – was what rekindled my connection with the Cult and is a good place to start.
And while Don’t Fear The Reaper will keep the writers in coinage, there’s much more from the Cult than this radio staple. So let’s have your BOC memories, anyone seen them live? favourite albums/tracks etc. Anyone going to argue for the post – Fire of… oeuvre. Over to you.