2012 was the 40th anniversary of the release of the first album by Blue Öyster Cult.
Blue Öyster Cult: a band who (importantly) pioneered the use of superfluous umlauts above rock bands’ names (see Mötorhead, Mötley Crüe, Queensryche) – hold a prominent and much loved place (not that they know it) in my Beginner’s Guide to Hard Rock.
The Long Island, New York band were formed by manager Sandy Pearlman, who wanted a stateside version of Black Sabbath and who provided the band with his poetry to use as lyrics. Signed to Columbia by Clive Davis (who also signed Aerosmith and Whitney Houston), the band proved a creative hub for writers as diverse as Patti Smith (who dated keyboard player Allen Lanier), sci-fi author Michael Moorcock and Richard Meltzer (author of the pioneering critique of rock music The Aesthetics of Rock) , all of whom, in addition to Pearlman and the band themselves, contributed lyrics to the band’s songs.
What sets Blue Öyster Cult apart is the literate and intelligent scene of people who were making quirky and interesting records in a genre (heavy rock) that was (and is) widely derided.
I do a bit of deriding here and there (you may have noticed) – there is much to giggle quietly at in heavy rock – but it comes from a good place. Blue Öyster Cult are heavy rock for people who don’t like heavy rock. And also (thankfully) for those that do.
Don’t just take my word for it. Lester Bangs thought so too, waxing lyrical about the band’s first album. The NME made Secret Treaties #13 in their albums of 1974.
I first heard of BÖC, as with many others, when Don’t Fear The Reaper was played on the radio – which wasn’t until 1978 in the UK. It enjoyed a new lease of life on 1984’s American Heartbeat compilation LP which reached #4 in the UK album charts and which lumped BÖC in with Foreigner, Chicago, Toto, Journey, Styx and Wang Chung. These bands formed that peculiar genre of AOR, (or should that be AÖR?) which was massively popular in its own country but which proved less of a hit outside its own borders in all but a small number of cases. In that respect AOR was like K-pop, or Racial Segregation.
In the case of BÖC however, the radio edit of Don’t Feat The Reaper rips the guts out of the original song (somewhat ironically given the title of the song) and is entirely unrepresentative of the band’s output as a whole. A cowbell-infested red herring.
It is only when I looked at BÖC’s back catalogue that I realised, like a musical version of David and Victoria Beckham, (imagine a musical Victoria Beckham – not easy is it?) BÖC give their songs the daftest names of any band, ever. Zanier than Zappa, Pottier than Pink Floyd, Flowerier than The Flaming Lips…
So in celebration of Blue Öyster Cult’s 40th anniversary, here’s a Top Ten list of their most Barmy song titles:
(These are all genuine song titles except one. Which is the fake?)
- She’s As Beautiful As A Foot, (what?)
- Cagey Cretins, (really?)
- Harvester of Eyes, (who cultivates eyes? And on what sort of weird nightmarish farm is this?)
- I’m on the Lamb but I Ain’t No Sheep, (a song about The Canadian Mounted Police?)
- Mistress of the Salmon Salt (Quicklime Girl), (wibble)
- Before The Kiss, A Redcap. (A redcap is a small finch isn’t it? A goblin? What are they thinking? Eh? It’s a pill? Ah!)
- Baby Ice Dog (huh? Patti Smith wrote this?)
- The Siege And Investiture of Baron von Frankenstein’s Castle At Weisseria (oh come off it)
- Transmaniacon MC (transmawhat?)
- The Revenge of Vera Gemini (who’s called Vera nowadays?)
Did you guess which one was fake? Actually it was a trick question. They’re all real.
And I haven’t even mentioned the lyrics to Joan Crawford Has Risen From The Grave...
These aren’t slightly rubbish throwaway songs put at the end of an album as an in-joke like the ones Jack White tossed off at the end of every White Stripes album. These are great songs. And there’s twice as many that are equally as bizarre. If anyone wanted to do a Revolution in the Head style analysis of their songs they’d probably need a couple of week’s respite in The Priory…
Perhaps that’s the problem with the Beckhams – at least BÖC had an outlet for their insanity. Maybe if The Spice Girls had called one of their records The Siege And Investiture of Baron von Frankenstein’s Castle At Weisseria then Victoria Beckham’s kids would be called Peter, Andrew and Sarah. None of which explains Bob Geldof’s kids’ names, but there you go…
Coming next: Two Blue Öyster Cult songs you will love…
Record #127: Blue Oyster Cult – She’s As Beautiful As A Foot
..and here’s a snippet of THAT making-of video:
Categories: Hard Rock