Blue Öyster Cult

  • Progressive/Hard rock group formed in 1967 from Stony Brook New York. The lineup for their most successful years was Eric Bloom (lead and backing vocals, keyboards, guitar), Buck Dharma (born Donald Roesner – lead guitar, lead and backing vocals), Joe Bouchard (bass guitar, rhythm guitar, keyboards, vocals), Allen Lanier (keyboards, rhythm guitar) and Albert Bouchard (drums, vocals). All members contributed to songwriting.
  • Roesner and Albert Bouchard started a rock band called Soft White Underbelly, based at a house near Stony Brook University on Long Island, where Roesner was a part time student. Another student at the university was poet Sandy Pearlman – Pearlman was interested in finding a rock band to use his poetry as lyrics in songs. Other members of the group were Lanier, bassist Andrew Winters and lead singer Les Braunstein. Pearlman became their manager, helping them get gigs and ultimately getting them signed to a recording contract. Pearlman gave each member of the band a stage name – each of them rejected their new names except Roesner, who liked his new name of Buck Dharma.
  • Bloom replaced Braunstein on vocals in 1969, and Winters left in 1970, replaced by Albert Bouchard’s brother Joe. A bad review of a performance in 1969 led to the band changing its name – first to Oaxaca, and then to the Stalk-Forrest Group. Albums were recorded in 1969 and 1970 but were not released, and only one single was made, titled What Is Quicksand – only 300 promo copies were made. The group was dropped by their label, and they concentrated on performing regional gigs.
  • In 1971, after several more name changes, they settled on the name Blue Öyster Cult. The name came from one of Pearlman’s poems – the Blue Öyster Cult was a group of aliens who had assembled to influence the history of Earth. The renamed band was seen at a concert by a music producer, and the producer brought them to his recording studio to make a demo. The demo led to an audition at another record label, and the band was signed.
  • Their debut album, the self-titled Blue Öyster Cult, was released in early 1972. It had a hard rock sound, with a element of psychedelic rock to it. Pearlman continued as producer and co-songwriter – his vision was that the band would be America’s version of Black Sabbath. Their first single was titled Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll. While the single did not chart and the album barely made the Billboard album charts, it sold well enough to lead to a second album released a year later – Tyranny and Mutation. It too was only modestly successful, and its only single, Hot Rails to Hell, did not chart.
  • They gained momentum with their third album, 1974’s Secret Treaties. By now they had developed a fan base with their constant touring, but their songs were more art rock and not radio friendly – singles from this album were titled Career of Evil and Flaming Telepaths. A live album released in 1975 – On Your Feet or On Your Knees – reached #22 on the Billboard album chart, their best performance to date. Its success gave them time to work on a follow-up studio album that would become their breakthrough.
  • In 1976, they released the Agents of Fortune album. It contained their breakthrough hit (Don’t Fear) The Reaper. The album was certified platinum, and the single reached #12 on the Hot 100. Rolling Stone named it the song of the year for 1976, and the latest version of the magazine’s list of the Greatest Songs of All Time put it at #449. The song was immortalized in 2000 in Saturday Night Live’s “More Cowbell” sketch, making it familiar to a new generation of music fans. It remains a staple of classic rock radio today.
  • BÖC released two more albums in the 70s – Spectres in 1977 and Mirrors in 1979. They were less successful, and none of the six singles from the albums became radio hits. However, Spectres included the song Godzilla, which received significant airplay on rock radio stations and became a staple of their concert performances.
  • Their record label stuck with them through the 80s, with five studio albums and a live album released. One major hit came from these albums. In 1981, their song Burnin’ For You topped the Mainstream Rock chart and it reached #40 on the Hot 100 chart. As the group’s popularity declined, the lineup changed. Albert Bouchard left in 1981, Lanier left in 1985 (and returned two years later), and Joe Bouchard left in 1986. After their 1988 album Imaginos album failed to sell, the band was dropped by its record label.
  • They toured for the next eleven years without releasing any new material. They managed to get a new recording contract in the late 90s, and albums were released in 1998 and 2001. Bloom, Dharma and Lanier were still with the group during this time. Throughout the 00s and 10s, they toured. Lanier retired from touring in 2007 and passed away in 2013. Bloom and Dharma continued to front the band as they performed in the 2020s, more than 50 years after the group formed. And in 2020, they released an album titled The Symbol Remains, which managed to touch the Billboard album chart, reaching #192.
  • BÖC earned their place on Classic Rock radio with (Don’t Fear) The Reaper, Godzilla and Burnin’ For You. Here’s a video of the iconic (Don’t Fear) The Reaper. And listen for the cowbell! I’ve also included the famous SNL skit – you HAVE to watch it, one of SNL’s funniest all time skits!

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