|It is the middle of winter, 1970. The peaceful, brotherly vibes of 1967's Summer of Love are little more than distant memories around Long Island's State University at Stony Brook. Allen Lanier, Albert Bouchard and Donald Roeser passed much of their time, as many Stony Brook students did, watching Star Trek, imbibing various herbs and spirits, and generally mucking around. For their further amusement, the three pooled their creative resources with Andrew Winter and Les Bronstein [sic] and started the Soft White Underbelly, a band which became one of New York's most beloved cult attractions.
A few select appearances around Long Island and New York stirred up enough interest to land the band a recording contract with Elektra Records. The Underbelly spent a good amount of time and money in the studio putting together an album which, for corporate reasons, was never released.
A major mutation in the band's personnel brought in Eric Bloom (the Rock King of the Finger Lakes) to take Bronstein's place on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, while Joe Bouchard (Albert's brother) replaced Andrew Winter on bass. As the Stalk Forrest Group, the band made the usual rounds of East Coast bars, clubs and dives. Many times trudging through more than six sets a night, Stalk Forrest, also known as Oaxaca, managed to squeeze a bit of their own unique material into the top forty sets that the clubs required. Although the bars could hardly be called an ideal creative environment, the group did sharpen their teeth and develop the quality musicianship that would later become their forté.
After a name change to Blue Öyster Cult (derived from a poem by manager Sandy Pearlman), the band recorded a demo of their own material which Sandy took to Columbia Records producer Murray Krugman. Being on the same cosmological plane as Pearlman, Murray took to the band immediately. Three weeks later, the Cult were signed to an exclusive Columbia Records contract, and their first album, Blue Öyster Cult, hit the racks.
For good reason, the Cult's first album turned out to be one of the most acclaimed debut albums in recent memory. The sound of BÖC was shattering, sinister and very distinctive. Lead guitarist Don (Buck Dharma) Roeser almost immediately established himself as one of he seventies' first superstar guitarists. His style--lightning fast with all the subtlety of a dentist's drill--punctuated the Cult's unearthly lyrics with icy precision. Likewise, Eric Bloom branded the band with his sinister voice which could easily breathe terror into an Ogden Nash limerick.
Tyranny and Mutation, released a year later, solidified the conceptual ideas hinted at on Blue Öyster Cult with cogent, eerie themes. Divided into sides "red" and "black," the Cult explored even stranger subjects: the Canadian Mounted Police, oil-slicked waterfowl, O.D.ing on life, diz-busters and wonderfully effective ways of going to hell. As with Blue Öyster Cult, the delivery was stunning. Fans and critics alike cooed over the searing guitar blitz spearheaded by Don Roeser and given ambiance by Eric, Allen and Joe. Soaring, molten metal with a mere modicum of subtle, melodic temper, Tyranny and Mutation entered the ranks of classic, definitive heavy metal albums.
Where rock 'n' roll on the whole often took its cue from varied forms of human experience, Blue Öyster Cult, both in form and function, took on the image of technology incarnate. Cut their veins with a knife and machine oil would flood the stage.
In this respect, BÖC offered themselves as a concept band, but that concept didn't prevent the Cult from getting a reputation as this country's premier heavy metal concert band. Climaxing in a metallic five-guitar blitz, their shows galvanized unsuspecting audiences, much to the dismay of headline acts.
Somewhere between the fervor of the live show and their icily calculated studio work was the Cult's approach to Secret Treaties, their third Columbia album, which marked the biggest developmental step toward a cognitive definition of their distinct style. To their credit, that style comes without sacrificing the versatility that drew them a huge amount of praise to begin with.
While the conceptualization and thematic statements of the Blue Öyster Cult's studio albums grabbed a good many listeners, the band's ultra-powerful blood 'n' guts live show alone went a long way in altering many heavy metal heads. The effect was captured nicely on the Cult's double record live set, On Your Feet Or On Your Knees. On this album their precise studio work melts into raw driving rock, the result of filtering five hellfire guitars and then some through walls of Marshall amplifiers.
But change was literally in Blue Öyster Cult's cards for 1976, and it surfaces on their fifth album, Agents of Fortune. Where the previous LPs lyrically embodied themes of corruption, evil and socio-political decay, Agents of Fortune takes root in more concrete urban images (off-center for sure) and images more tangible than the obtuse pictures the band had painted before. Tinged with a more commercial sound that preserves the band's heavy metal base while exploring new and varied musical forms, Agents of Fortune is the Cult's most ambitions album to date.
And the crowds come back for more--more astounding music, more incisive lyrics and the most technologically complex show in rock--just three reasons why people like Lester Bangs of Creem call Blue Öyster Cult "a monster band, one of the very best and most precision-tooled powerful (bands) on the current boards."