Two years before Kiss roared out of Long Island with its self-titled debut, Blue Öyster Cult… issued its dark, eponymously-titled heavy rock monolith. [The album} rode the hot, hellbound rails of blistering hard rock as pioneered by Steppenwolf, fierce mutated biker blues, and a kind of dark psychedelia that could have only come out New York. – Allmusic.
As a general rule, I never buy an album unless A) I’ve heard it a few times and 2) it’s really good. I’ve broken the “heard it a few times” rule only rarely. I knew no one at the time who had heard of Blue Öyster Cult nor were they playing them on the radio.
I bought BOC’s first album entirely on the strength of a review in Rolling Stone, a review I now know (thanks to Wikpedia) was written by none other than the late gonzo madman rock critic, Lester Bangs. (So famous he’s name-checked in “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It.”) I think he indicated it was the thinking man’s heavy metal. Doubt that. More like the stoner teenager’s. But still.
Was I disappointed? Not even a little bit. Heavy metal is not my main musical meat and potatoes. But when I like it, I really like it. They used to introduce the band as The Amazing Blue Öyster Cult. Saw ’em once. With Slade. Loudest concert of all time. Every single guy in BOC came out at the end and played raucous guitar. Who does that? Nobody!
This album (which I think should have been called “Roaring Out from Hell”) kicks into gear with the guitar attack of “Transmaniacon MC,” MC being a motorcycle club, apparently on its way from the ill-fated Altamont concert. The evil permeates the air, the opening lick – nasty!
With satan’s hog no pig at all, and the weather getting dry
We’ll head south from Altamont in a cold-blooded traveled trance
So clear the road my bully boys and let some thunder pass
We’re pain, we’re steel, a plot of knives,
We’re transmaniacon MC
Even though all the guys play guitar, the band’s ace is guitarist Donald Roeser, AKA Buck Dharma. Their manager wanted the guys all to have cool stage names. Most of them resisted, Buck dug his. It stuck. He rocked. This was the era when guitar was king. (Please let it come back.)
Buck wrote a song called “Then Came The Last Days of May,” supposedly a true story about a drug deal gone horribly wrong. I find this song to be sad and at the same time, understated and beautifully evocative:
My favorite song on the album is a great tune called “Before the Kiss, a Redcap” about a real, now-defunct place called Conry’s bar where the band used to play. Sounds like a joint you probably wouldn’t want to hang out in unless you’re carrying a piece. I had always come to believe that a redcap was a bit of the old tongue. But apparently, it’s a way to pass barbituates to someone.
Anyway, love the way this song just hammers along, shifts gears, and goes into a jazzy thing, all the while spouting the world’s most outrageous lyrics. And the revved-up ending always gives me goosebumps:
And the owners’ boys act most cheerfully
Back home at Conry’s bar
When their patrons’ thoughts at last
Grow too big for their skulls
And awful things are happening
We’ve let this drama fold
And now the time has come at last
To crush the motif of the rose.
Whatever the fuck THAT means:
BOC started out life as a Long Island band called Soft White Underbelly. Their manager wanted them to be the “American answer to Black Sabbath.” I think that yeah, sometimes they were. Sabbath’s got nothin’ on “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll,” which has an even nastier riff than the first tune:
I bought BOC’s 2nd and maybe 3rd albums but never thought any of their hits (“Don’t Fear the Reaper,” “Burnin’ for You”) were as good as the best of this album. I hadn’t listened to Blue Öyster Cult all the way through for years and enjoyed it as much as I ever did. Blue Öyster Cult, the band, is still out there touring, including original members Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom.
PLAY. IT. LOUD