Forget the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, not even one screaming diz-buster would care if that crappy movie didn‘t exist. No, the real event to celebrate in 2012 is the 40th anniversary of the debut of Blue Oyster Cult. Sony Legacy have done just that with the release of the two-disc-set The Essential Blue Oyster Cult. I must say, it is a nice to hear these bastards again.
And yes, I use the word “bastards” as Noah Webster originally intended it to be used. Blue Oyster Cult were the ultimate abandoned band. Purists will tell you that their first three studio albums plus the live On Your Feet Or On Your Knees were all that ever mattered by them.
Wrong, but I can understand the argument. For a minute, BOC represented the Long Island division of the New York/Detroit hipster milieu that sold no records, but had one hell of an influence. Critics not only loved them, they were practically a part of the group. Patti Smith and R. Meltzer are just two who are still receiving royalties for their work with Blue Oyster Cult.
Agents Of Fortune appeared in 1976, and it changed everything. Talk about an album that gets under your skin. I both love and hate the fact that “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” is now also known as “The Cowbell Song,” thanks to the SNL skit. You ever heard any of the rest of the album though? It is phenomenal all the way through. “E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence),” and “This Ain’t The Summer Of Love” are just a couple of examples of why this became BOC’s breakout record. I’m a little surprised Sony did not include “The Revenge of Vera Gemini,” which Patti Smith not only co-wrote, but also sang on.
Agents was the tipping point. Afterwards, Patti broke up with whatever member of the band she was going out with, and they were suddenly considered a viable commercial property. Blue Oyster Cult’s next album was Spectres, and it remains my favorite. Was it “commercial?” I suppose, although those paragons of integrity The Clash chose Agents and Spectres producer Sandy Pearlman to produce their second effort Give ‘Em Enough Rope, so what does that say? The evergreen track from Spectres is the hilarious “Godzilla,“ but for me the greatest tune BOC ever wrote was “I Love The Night.” Absolutely brilliant.
In his liner notes Lenny Kaye brings up Nosferatu in regards to “I Love The Night.” He also makes the comment that somewhere in the world at this very moment a radio station is probably playing “Burnin’ For You.“ For all intents and purposes, that was their last hit, back in 1981. The story does not end there though, as the group have forged on, to ever diminishing audiences.
The 31 tracks on The Essential Blue Oyster Cult are a great introduction to this influential band, and rock most convincingly. I have two minor complaints. The version of “E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)“ is the live version from Some Enchanted Evening rather than the superior studio version, and the title track from the 1979 album Mirrors is not included. Otherwise, this is a marvelous collection. And yes, more cowbell is always better.