Why didn’t Blue Oyster Cult become a mega band like Black Sabbath, Journey, Aerosmith, and other groups with similar talent? Were they just too science fictiony?
Written by [email protected] on December 3, 2020
Blue Oyster Cult is a criminally underrated band. I can count on one hand the songs that i dislike, their catalog is full of interesting, edgy well crafted songs that span across the entire genre of rock. They are more than Don’t Fear the Reaper and Burning for You, which accounts for 95 percent of the BOC the average classic rock station will play. Those songs are awesome, I consider Reaper a masterpiece, but there’s so much more to hear. They are excellent live, even to this day. I first saw them in 1983 on the Revolution by Night Tour, and I’ve seen them maybe 8 or nine times since. In the 70s, they were the pioneers of true laser light technology as a part of their shows. They also had a giant fire breathing Godzilla and predated Rob Halford with riding a motorcycle on stage. They were highly influential to future rockers and bands like Metallica and Iced Earth have covered their songs. Bonnie Tyler had a hit with a BOC cover, Goin Through the Motions. Buck Dharma is one of the greatest lead guitarists in rock. His leads are fluid and intricate, yet they don’t just blather fast notes. He can shred, but only if it serves the song. I personally loved Joe Bouchards bass lines. The Bouchards were also excellent musicians and songwriters. Like other great bands, they had multiple lead vocalists, it’s hard to get bored with that variety. In my opinion, BOC should be in the Hall of Fame
However, there are reasons why BOC did not get their due. Sometimes strengths are double edged swords. One is the interesting lyrics. Sandy Pearlman and Richard Meltzer did a lot of lyrics for the band (Sandy was there manager for a long time too), and their style was definitely highbrow, so they didn’t always connect with the masses. There were more sci-fi and fantasy themes, less get the girl stuff. It’s almost a hard rock Steely Dan (another personal favorite). Not everyone gets it. The 4 lead vocals are also in that category, I love it, but some like to hang their hats on one. Eric Bloom is the main vocalist, but Buck has the hits Reaper, Burning and a lot of the deeper radio hits Dancing in the Ruins, Shooting Shark and the later Harvest Moon. Joe Bouchard sang and Albert Bouchard sang a lot of the quirkier tunes from behind the drums. I think singing drummers are fab, but it is harder to connect with audiences.
I tend to really like the Post-Al Bouchard albums, but any true fan knows that the band wasn’t really the same after he left during the Fire of Unknown Origin tour. The songwriting wasn’t the same. The sound was not the same. TRBN had those dated electronic drums, Club Ninja used some outside the circle songwriters which probably didn’t fit as well. Personnel issues started, a little too much partying, Al gone, Joe in and out,Al back then out, Allen Lanier needed rehab, and then back before passing away.
BOC also wasn’t a great MTV band, their videos were pretty cheesy (I love em, but that’s me). Take Me Away is such a great song, but the video is just silly. Same for Shooting Shark and Dancing in the Ruins.
Finally, they didn’t get a lot of label support, there was mismanagement at one point Pearlman managed Sabbath and BOC which resulted in the famed Black and Blue tour, but caused rifts. Lack of label support meant less exposure and radio support, which was a shame.
BOC should have been bigger. They were highly influential, listen to Ghost and note some parallels. Metallica cites them as an influence and Cliff Burton sometimes gigged in a BOC tshirt. They may have been too cool. My advice, listen to Secret Treaties, Agents of Fortune, and Fire of Unknown Origin. Then check out the rest, you won’t be disappointed.
They still tour, its Eric and Buck leading BOC, Al and Joe teaming up with Dennis Dunaway of Alice Cooper in Blue Coupe, as well as solo stuff. Check it out!
BOC just released The Symbol Remains, their first studio album in 20 years! It really rocks… Eric really shines and Buck has many highlights too. Their “new” guitarist, Richie Castellano absolutely rocks and does lead vocals on a few tracks. It’s such an amazing meld of modern and classic hard rock. Check THAT out!