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Blue Öyster Cult

Background information
Origin Long Island, New York, United States
Genres Hard rock, psychedelic rock, heavy metal
Years active 1967 – present
Labels Columbia, CMC
Eric Bloom
Buck Dharma
Richie Castellano
Jules Radino
Rudy Sarzo
Former members
See: Former members

Blue Öyster Cult is an American rock band formed in New York in 1967 and still active in 2010. The group is especially well known for songs including "(Don't Fear) The Reaper", "Astronomy", "Godzilla", "Burnin' for You" and "Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll." They have sold over 14 million albums worldwide,[1] including 7 million in the US alone.[2]



The band originated as a band called Soft White Underbelly (a name the band would later occasionally use in the 1970s and 1980s to play small club gigs around the U.S.) in 1967 in the vicinity of Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York, at the prompting of critic and manager Sandy Pearlman.[3] Pearlman wanted the group to be the American answer to Black Sabbath.[4] Pearlman was very important to the band—he was able to get them gigs, recording contracts with Elektra and Columbia, and he provided them with his poetry for use as lyrics for many of their songs, including "Astronomy". Writer Richard Meltzer also provided the band with lyrics from their early days up through their most recent studio album. The band (with original lead vocalist Les Braunstein and bassist Andrew Winters) recorded an album's worth of material for Elektra Records in 1968. When Braunstein departed in early 1969, Elektra shelved the album.

Eric Bloom (formerly the band's acoustic engineer) replaced Braunstein, and the band continued to perform as Soft White Underbelly. However, a bad review of a 1969 Fillmore East show caused Pearlman to change the name of the band - first to Oaxaca, then to the Stalk-Forrest Group. The band recorded yet another album's worth of material for Elektra, but only one single ("What Is Quicksand?" b/w "Arthur Comics") was released (and only in a promo edition of 300 copies) on Elektra Records. (This album was eventually released, with additional outtakes, by Rhino Handmade Records as St. Cecilia: The Elektra Recordings in 2001). After a few more temporary band names, including the Santos Sisters, the band settled on Blue Öyster Cult in 1971. (see "band name" section below for its origin).

Pearlman was able to get the renamed band another audition with Columbia Records. Clive Davis liked what he heard, and signed the band to the label.

The black and white years

Their debut album Blue Öyster Cult was released in January 1972, with a black and white cover designed by artist Bill Gawlik. The album featured the songs "Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll," "Stairway to the Stars," and "Then Came the Last Days of May". The album sold well, and Blue Öyster Cult toured with artists such as the Byrds, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Alice Cooper.[5]

Their next album Tyranny and Mutation, released in 1973, was written while the band was on tour for their first LP. It contained songs such as "The Red and The Black" (an ode to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and basically a sped-up rewrite of "I'm On The Lamb", from the debut album), "Hot Rails To Hell", and "Baby Ice Dog", the first of the band's many collaborations with Patti Smith.

The band's third album, Secret Treaties (1974) received positive reviews, featuring songs such as "Career of Evil" (also co-written by Patti Smith), "Dominance and Submission" and "Astronomy." As a result of constant touring, the band was now capable of headlining arenas.

Commercial success

The band's first live album On Your Feet or on Your Knees (1975) achieved greater success and went gold, and was followed up by their first platinum album, Agents of Fortune (1976). It contained the hit single "(Don't Fear) The Reaper", which reached #12 on the Billboard charts. Other major songs on the album were "(This Ain't) The Summer of Love," "E.T.I. (Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence)," and "The Revenge of Vera Gemini." For the tour, the band added lasers to their light show, for which they became known.[6]

Their next album, Spectres (1977), had the FM radio hit "Godzilla", but its sales were not as strong as those for the previous album.

The band then released another live album, Some Enchanted Evening (1978). Though it was intended as another double-live album in the vein of On Your Feet Or On Your Knees, Columbia insisted that it be edited down to single-album length. It became Blue Öyster Cult's most popular album, eventually selling over 2 million copies.

It was followed by the studio album Mirrors (1979). For Mirrors, instead of working with previous producers Pearlman (who instead went on to manage Black Sabbath) and Krugman, Blue Öyster Cult chose Tom Werman, who had worked with acts such as Cheap Trick and Ted Nugent. However, the resulting album sales were disappointing.

Pearlman's association with Black Sabbath was tapped for the next Blue Öyster Cult album, which resulted in Sabbath's Heaven and Hell producer Martin Birch being hired for the next Blue Öyster Cult record. The result was positive, with Cultösaurus Erectus (1980) receiving good reviews. The album went to #14 in the UK, but did not do as well in the U.S. One of the notable songs on the album was the song "Black Blade," which was written by Bloom with lyrics by sci-fi and fantasy author Michael Moorcock. The song is a kind of retelling of Moorcock's famous Elric of Melniboné-Saga. The band also did a co-headlining tour with Black Sabbath in support of the album, calling the tour "Black and Blue."

Birch produced the band's next album as well, Fire of Unknown Origin (1981). The biggest hit on this album was the Top 40 hit "Burnin' for You," a song Dharma had written with a Richard Meltzer lyric. He had intended to use it on his 1982 solo album, Flat Out, but he was convinced to use it on the Blue Öyster Cult album instead. The album went platinum, and contained other fan favorites such as "Joan Crawford" (inspired by the book and film Mommie Dearest) and "Veteran of the Psychic Wars", another song co-written by Moorcock. Several of the songs had been written for the animated film Heavy Metal, but only "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" (which, ironically, was not written for Heavy Metal) was actually used in the movie. After this album, Albert Bouchard had a falling out with the others and left the band, and Rick Downey (formerly the band's lighting designer) replaced him on drums.

Decline and fall

After leaving the band, Albert Bouchard spent five years working on a solo album based on Sandy Pearlman's poem "Imaginos." Blue Öyster Cult released a live album Extraterrestrial Live, then went to the studio for the next album, with Bruce Fairbairn as producer, the 1983 release The Revölution by Night. Its highest-charting single was "Shooting Shark," co-written by Patti Smith, which reached #83 on the charts. Shooting Shark also featured Randy Jackson on bass. After Revölution, Rick Downey left, leaving Blue Öyster Cult without a drummer. The band re-united with Albert Bouchard for a California tour in February 1985, infamously known as the "Albert Returns" Tour. This arrangement was only temporary, and caused more tensions between the band and Bouchard, as he had thought he would be staying on permanently, which was not the case. The band had only intended to use him as a last-minute fill-in until another drummer could come on board, which resulted in Bouchard's leaving after the tour. Allen Lanier also quit the band shortly thereafter, leaving the band without a keyboardist.

Blue Öyster Cult hired drummer Jimmy Wilcox and keyboardist Tommy Zvoncheck to finish the Club Ninja album, which was poorly received, with only "Dancing In The Ruins" -- one of several songs on the record written entirely by outside songwriters—enjoying minimal success on radio and MTV. The highlight of the album was "Perfect Water" written by Dharma and Jim Carroll (noted author of The Basketball Diaries).

The band toured in Germany, after which bassist Joe Bouchard left, leaving only two original members, Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma -- some referred to the band as "Two Öyster Cult" during this period. Jon Rogers was hired to replace Joe, and this version of the band finished out the 1986 tour. After the tour wound up that year, the band took a temporary break from recording and touring, its future uncertain.

Imaginos and continued touring

Blue Öyster Cult performing at the Sweden Rock Festival, 2008.

When Blue Öyster Cult received an offer to tour in Greece in the early summer of 1987, the band sprang back into action. The new line-up contained founding members Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma and Allen Lanier, with Jon Rogers returning on bass, and Ron Riddle on drums. Columbia Records was not interested in releasing the Imaginos project as an Albert Bouchard solo album, so Pearlman arranged for it to be released in 1988 by Columbia as a Blue Öyster Cult album, with some new vocal and instrumental overdubs from Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma. The album did not sell very well (despite a positive review in Rolling Stone magazine), and though Blue Öyster Cult did tour to promote Imaginos, promotion by the label was virtually non-existent. When Columbia Records' parent company CBS Records was purchased by Sony, Blue Öyster Cult were dropped from the label.

The band spent the next 11 years touring without releasing an album, though they did contribute two new songs to the Bad Channels movie soundtrack, released in 1992. Riddle quit in 1991, and was followed by a series of other drummers including Chuck Burgi (1991–1995, 1996–1997) John Miceli (1992 European Tour & filled in gigs in 1995 - 1996) John O'Reilly (1995–1996) and Bobby Rondinelli (1997–2004). Jules Radino joined in 2004, and is the band's current drummer. Rogers left in 1995, and was replaced by Danny Miranda. Miranda left in 2004 - he is now the bassist for Queen + Paul Rodgers - and Richie Castellano replaced him.

Blue Oyster Cult live in 2006

Allen Lanier retired from live performances in 2007, after not appearing with the band since late 2006. He has not been replaced. Castellano has switched to rhythm guitar and keyboards (Castellano also filled in on lead guitar and vocals for an ailing Buck Dharma in two shows in 2005), and the band has employed three "guest bassists" on a rotating basis: Danny Miranda, Jon Rogers and Rudy Sarzo (ex-Quiet Riot, ex-Ozzy Osbourne, ex-Whitesnake, currently of Dio).

In December 2008, BOC management announced that Buck Dharma had fallen down a staircase in his Florida home and injured his shoulder. As a result, several tour dates in December 2008 and January 2009 were canceled or postponed. The band continued touring by the fall of 2009.

CMC/Sanctuary years

In the late 1990s, Blue Öyster Cult secured a recording contract with CMC Records (later purchased by Sanctuary Records), and continued to tour frequently. Two studio albums were released, 1998's Heaven Forbid and Curse of the Hidden Mirror from 2001. Both albums featured songs co-written by cyberpunk/horror novelist John Shirley. Another live record, A Long Day's Night and DVD (same title), followed in 2002, both drawn from one concert in Chicago.

Blue Öyster Cult have since had a falling out with Sanctuary Records, and has no record deal.

Sony Legacy remasters

In 2001, Sony/Columbia's reissue arm, Legacy Records issued expanded versions of the first four Blue Öyster Cult studio albums, including some previously unreleased demos and outtakes from album sessions, live recordings (from the Live 72 ep), and post-St. Cecilia tunes from the Stalk-Forrest Group era.

In February 2007, the Sony Legacy remaster series continued, releasing expanded versions of studio album Spectres and live album Some Enchanted Evening (album), leaving the first live album On Your Feet Or On Your Knees still without the treatment. However, the liner notes for the second round of remasters differ from the photos and in-depth analysis of the first four releases, and did not include lyrics as the earlier releases had.

Band name

The hook-and-cross logo

The name "Blue Öyster Cult" came from a 1960s poem written by manager Sandy Pearlman. It was part of his "Imaginos" poetry, later used more extensively in their 1988 album Imaginos. Pearlman had also come up with the band's earlier name, "Soft White Underbelly", from a phrase used by Winston Churchill in describing Italy during World War II. In Pearlman's poetry, the "Blue Oyster Cult" was a group of aliens who had assembled to secretly guide Earth's history. "Initially, the band was not happy with the name, but settled for it, and went to work preparing to record their first release..."[7]

In an interview published in the U.K. music magazine Zig Zag in 1976, Pearlman told the story explaining the origin of the band's name was an anagram of 'Cully Stout Beer'.

The addition of the umlaut was suggested by Allen Lanier, but rock critic Richard Meltzer claims to have suggested it just after Pearlman came up with the name, reportedly "because of the Wagnerian aspect of Metal." [8] "From a linguistic viewpoint, this might be regarded as a diaeresis, rather than as an umlaut,"[citation needed][7] Other bands later copied the practice of using umlauts or diacritic marks in their own band logos (see Heavy metal umlaut), such as Motörhead, Mötley Crüe, Queensrÿche, and the parody band Spın̈al Tap.[9]

The hook-and-cross logo was designed by Bill Gawlik[3] in January 1972[10], and appears on all of the band's albums.[9] Reports that the logo is made from three exclamation marks and a backwards question mark are false. In Greek mythology, "...the hook-and-cross symbol is that of Kronos (Cronus), the king of the Titans and father of Zeus...and is the alchemical symbol for lead (a heavy metal), one of the heaviest of metals."[11] Sandy Pearlman considered this, combined with the heavy and distorted guitar sound of the band and decided the description "heavy metal"[12] would be aptly applied to Blue Öyster Cult's musical sound. In Roman mythology, the hook-and-cross symbol represents Saturn, the God of agriculture and fertility.[13] The hook and cross symbol also resembles the Sickle, which is associated with both Kronos (Cronus) and Saturn (both the Planet and the Roman God).[14] The logo's "...metaphysical, alchemical and mythological connotations, combined with its similarity to some religious symbols gave it a flair of decadence and mystery..." [10]

The band was billed, for the only time, as The Blue Öyster Cult on the cover and label of their second album, Tyranny And Mutation.

Current lineup

Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma performing in 2008

Original lineup

Lead vocal duties

While Eric Bloom has always been the band's official lead singer, other members of the band have contributed lead vocals throughout its history.

  • Donald (Buck Dharma) Roeser

"Then Came the Last Days of May," "Before the Kiss, a Redcap," "Teen Archer," "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," "Golden Age of Leather," "I Love the Night," "In Thee," "Mirrors," "The Vigil," "Lonely Teardrops," "Deadline," "Burnin' for You," "Don't Turn Your Back," "Shooting Shark," "Veins," "Dragon Lady," "Dancin' in the Ruins," "Perfect Water," "Spy in the House of the Night," "Madness to the Method," "Astronomy (Imaginos version)," "Les Invisibles," "Magna of Illusion," "Harvest Moon," "X-Ray Eyes," "Damaged," "Real World," "Live for Me," "Still Burnin'," "Dance on Stilts," "Pocket," "Here Comes That Feeling" and "Stone of Love"

  • Joe Bouchard

"Screams," "Hot Rails to Hell," "Wings Wetted Down," "Morning Final," "Celestial The Queen," "Nosferatu," "Moon Crazy," "Fallen Angel," "Vengeance (The Pact)," "Light Years of Love," "When the War Comes"

  • Albert Bouchard

"You're Not the One (I Was Looking For),"Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll," "Dominance and Submission," "The Revenge of Vera Gemini," "Sinful Love," "Debbie Denise," "Death Valley Nights," "Cagey Cretins" (Trades off with Eric Bloom) "Fireworks," " "Hungry Boys" and "Blue Öyster Cult" (Trades off with Buck Dharma)

  • Allen Lanier

"True Confessions"

  • Jon Rogers


  • Joey Cerisano

"The Siege and Investiture of Baron Von Frankenstein's Castle at Weisseria" (additional vocal part)

Former members


  • Les Braunstein (1967–1969)


  • Andrew Winters (1967–1970)
  • Joe Bouchard (1970–1986)
  • Jon Rogers (1987–1995; some shows in 2007 & 2008)
  • Greg Smith (1995)
  • Danny Miranda (1995–2004; some shows in 2007, 2008 & 2009)


  • Albert Bouchard (1967–1981, 1985 – California tour)
  • Rick Downey (1981–1984)
  • Thommy Price (1985)
  • Jimmy Wilcox (1985–1987)
  • Ron Riddle (1987–1991)
  • Chuck Burgi (1991–1992, 1992–1995, 1996–1997)
  • John Miceli (1992, 1995, a few shows in 2008)
  • John O'Reilly (1995–1996)
  • Bobby Rondinelli (1997–2004, a few shows in 2008)


  • Allen Lanier (1967–1985, 1987–2006)
  • Tommy Zvoncheck (1985–1987; some shows in 2008 & 2009)



Due to their unique sound and diversity, Blue Öyster Cult have been very influential to many modern bands that span many genres, and are often viewed as important pioneers of several different styles of rock music that came to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s. Many heavy metal bands have cited them as a major influence, and bands such as Metallica, HIM, and Iced Earth have covered their songs on studio recordings and during live performances. The song "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" has also been covered by many diverse artists, notably Evanescence, The Goo Goo Dolls, The Beautiful South, Wilco, Big Country, and deceased singer-songwriter Elliott Smith. The bands The Minutemen and fIREHOSE, featuring bassist Mike Watt, frequently performed versions of "The Red & The Black" during their career. They were also quite influential to several early punk rock bands. They are seen as one of the main influences by rock noir bands such as the genre originators Belladonna. The Australian punk band Radio Birdman named their debut album Radios Appear after a Blue Öyster Cult lyric from the song "Dominance and Submission".

Blue Öyster Cult have also been an influence on many of the harder-edged, psychedelic bands in the modern jam band scene because of their intimate live shows and extended improvisations. Out of these bands, fellow New Yorkers moe. have cited Blue Öyster Cult as one of their primary influences. They have been greatly influenced by Blue Öyster Cult in their style of guitar-driven jamming, their elaborate light shows, slightly tongue-in-cheek and eclectic songwriting, and the intimate atmosphere of their live performances. moe. also frequently covers Blue Öyster Cult classics in their sets, and members of Blue Öyster Cult have appeared on-stage with the band several times in the past few years, including the 2002 Jammy Awards. A photo of the performance can be seen here.

The un-authored Allmusic page for stoner metal states: '"Stoner metal bands updated the long, mind-bending jams and ultra-heavy riffs of bands like Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Blue Oyster Cult, and Hawkwind by filtering their psychedelia-tinged metal and acid rock through the buzzing sound of early Sub Pop-style grunge."[15].

Album certifications

  • Secret Treaties: RIAA (USA) Gold 500,000+
  • On Your Feet or on Your Knees: RIAA (USA) Gold 500,000+
  • Agents of Fortune: RIAA (USA) Platinum 1,000,000+; CRIA (Canada) Gold 50,000+
  • Spectres: RIAA (USA) Gold 500,000+
  • Some Enchanted Evening: RIAA (USA) Platinum 1,000,000+
  • Fire of Unknown Origin: RIAA (USA) Gold 500,000+; CRIA (Canada) Gold 50,000+


Year Title US US MS UK
Studio albums
1972 Blue Öyster Cult 172 - -
1973 Tyranny and Mutation 122 - -
1974 Secret Treaties - - -
1976 Agents of Fortune 29 - 26
1977 Spectres 43 - 60
1979 Mirrors 44 - 46
1980 Cultösaurus Erectus 34 - 12
1981 Fire of Unknown Origin 24 - 29
1983 The Revölution by Night 93 - 95
1986 Club Ninja 63 - -
1988 Imaginos 122 - -
1994 Cult Classic - - -
1998 Heaven Forbid - - -
2001 Curse of the Hidden Mirror - - -
2001 St. Cecilia: The Elektra Recordings - - -
Live albums
1975 On Your Feet or on Your Knees 22 - -
1978 Some Enchanted Evening 44 - 18
1982 Extraterrestrial Live 29 - 39
1994 Live 1976 - - -
2002 A Long Day's Night - - -
1987 Career of Evil: The Metal Years - - -
1990 On Flame with Rock and Roll - - -
1995 Workshop of the Telescopes (2-disc set) - - -
1998 Super Hits - - -
2000 Don't Fear the Reaper: The Best of Blue Öyster Cult - - -
2003 The Essential Blue Öyster Cult - - -
Charted Singles
1976 "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" 12 - 16
1979 "In Thee" 74 - -
1981 "Burnin' for You" 40 1 -
1981 "Joan Crawford" - 49 -
1982 "Roadhouse Blues" - 24 -
1983 "Shooting Shark" 83 16 -
1983 "Take Me Away" - 11 -
1986 "Dancin' In The Ruins" - 9[16] -
1988 "Astronomy" - - -

Other Features

Year Title
Movie Soundtracks
1981 Heavy Metal
1992 Bad Channels Soundtrack
1994 "The Stoned Age"
1999 Detroit Rock City
2007 "Halloween"
Video Game Soundtracks
1996 Ripper
2005 Guitar Hero
2006 Prey
2006 True Crime: New York City
2007 Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
2007 Rock Band
2008 Shaun White Snowboarding
2009 Guitar Hero: Smash Hits
2009 Rock Band: Metal Track Pack


External links

Members websites

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