Blue Öyster Cult

Transmaniacon MCBlue Öyster Cult
Mistress Of The Salmon Salt
(Quicklime Girl)
Tyranny And Mutation
Dominance And SubmissionSecret Treaties
(Don’t Fear) The ReaperAgents Of Fortune
Golden Age Of LeatherSpectres
The Great Sun JesterMirrors
Lips In The HillsCultösaurus Erectus
Joan CrawfordFire Of Unknown Origin
The Siege And Investiture Of Baron
von Frankenstein's Castle At Weisseria
DamagedHeaven Forbid



BÖC playlist


Contributor: Alan Measures

January 1972 sees the release of Blue Öyster Cult’s self titled debut album. I was 12 and my musical tastes focused on the New Seekers (settle down, how was I to know Pinball Wizard was a Who song, I was 12) and the Osmonds (Crazy Horses is a banging album, I don’t care what anyone else says). Two years later I discovered BÖC on a compilation album called The Guitars That Destroyed The World. Within a year I celebrated a double first – my first gig at BÖC’s UK debut gig in London in 1975. A mere 50 years on from that initial release I saw BÖC play the first three albums on consecutive nights to an ecstatic crowd at the Sony Hall in New York. I’m still not over it, and BÖC are still going.

How I chose the songs … no more than one song from each album and no live tracks – and their live work is considered at the end. Only being able to choose ten meant some difficult choices and a few albums being overlooked completely.


The Five Eras of Blue Öyster Cult

The Black and the White (1972-1974)
Laserquest (1975-1979)
Feel The Thunder (1980-1988)
The Symbol Sustains (1989-2006)
The Amazing Two Öyster Cult (2007 to date)


BOC photo 1


The band

(left to right above)
Allen Lanier – rhythm guitar, keyboards
Eric Bloom – vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards
Albert Bouchard – drums, vocals
Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser – lead guitar, vocals
Joe Bouchard – bass, vocals

The line up in this 1977 CBS promo photo by Eric Meola remained constant until 1981 (I’ve noted below where people left/joined).


Other voices

Sandy Pearlman – BÖC’s manager, co-producer, giver of nicknames, lyricist, poet, journalist, general all-round Svengali, H.P. Lovecraft fan and creator of his own occult history and mythology of the two World Wars (“The Soft Doctrines of Imaginos”). He also found time to manage and/or produce for the Dictators, the Clash, Pavlov’s Dog, Shaking Street, Dream Syndicate, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Black Sabbath.

Murray Krugman – co producer with Pearlman of seven of the band’s albums and one of three people to claim that they put the umlaut over the O in Öyster. Columbia Records inhouse producer of Johnny Winter, the Dictators, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Ruby Starr (where else would you see those acts grouped together). A man without a Wikipedia page.

Richard Meltzer – journalist, performer and BÖC lyricist. Possibly the inventor of ‘rock criticism’.

Patti Smith – musician, poet, BÖC lyricist and sometime partner of Allen Lanier. In attendance when BÖC auditioned for Clive Davis, head of Columbia/Epic along with Harry Nilsson and Bobby Colomby from Blood, Sweat & Tears. Briefly considered as BÖC lead vocalist.

David Lucas – composer, producer, jingle writer, producer of BÖC’s first demo and one of three people who claim they played the cowbell on that song.

Helen (Robbins) Wheels – poet, BÖC lyricist, snake wrangler, costume designer, punk, bodybuilder and sometime partner of A. Bouchard.

Michael Moorcock – science fiction writer, anarchist, musician and lyric writer with BÖC and Hawkwind amongst others.

John Shirley – writer of science fiction, horror, cyberpunk and western fiction, TV and film screenwriter, BÖC lyric writer and performer with the Screaming Geezers.



The Black and The White albums (1972-1974)

Blue Öyster Cult (1972)
Tyranny And Mutation (1973)
Secret Treaties (1974)

Three albums in three years, infused with mysticism, threatening undertones and barely a nod to rock n roll normalcy. Obscure occult references, World War II/Nazi themes mingled with songs about biker gangs and fatal drug deals, with a side order of black humour that would routinely be overlooked. Monochrome art work where a hook and cross symbol took precedence over pictures of the actual band members (of which there were none).

Manager Sandy Pearlman and producer Murray Krugman were looking to create the ‘new’ Black Sabbath, but BÖC itself always had broader ambitions. Pearlman gave each band member a stage name, (I can’t help but think of John Belushi as Bluto in Animal House handing out fraternity names like Pinto and Flounder) which is why Don Roeser is also referred to as “Buck Dharma”. Inexplicably, Eric Bloom was less keen on being called “Jesse Python”, and Allen Lanier declined “La Verne”, although Albert Bouchard maintains he was fine with being anointed “Prince Omega” and remains mystified that it didn’t stick.

BÖC’s self-titled debut standout track is the proto-metal, Altamont-inspired, biker anthem Transmaniacon MC showcasing Bloom’s menacing vocal and Roeser’s fluid guitar.

Cities On Flame inches closer to Black Sabbath – it’s clearly a cousin of Sabbath’s The Wizard but Albert Bouchard really gives it a groove. The heavy vibe is offset by the psychedelic and ethereal Screams and the almost country style, reverb drenched She’s As Beautiful As A Foot, revealing influences that nod at the Doors, the Byrds or Quicksilver Messenger Service more than Osborne and Iommi.

Second release Tyranny And Mutation was divided into a ‘red’ side for the thunder of Hot Rails To Hell and 7 Screaming Diz-Busters and a ‘black’ side for the more atmospheric melodies of Teen Archer and Baby Ice Dog. The album has a harder sound, albeit a little short on bass, continuing the musical diversity of its predecessor. It sneakily repeats a song – opener The Red & The Black returning as an almost speed metal reworking I’m On The Lamb But I Ain’t No Sheep from the debut album. Closing track Mistress Of The Salmon Salt (Quicklime Girl) is quintessential BÖC, heavy riffs juxtaposed with Byrds style harmonies, flipping between light and the darkest of shades.

It finally all came together on Secret Treaties, the album most BÖC fans regard as the motherlode. The production gives full reign to a sinister, visceral, almost claustrophobic vibe with Bloom’s singing and songwriting to the fore. It’s the only BÖC album without a Roeser vocal, with lyrics exclusively from Pearlman, Richard Meltzer and Patti Smith and the majority of the music written by Bloom and Albert Bouchard. There’s still a psychedelic vibe; Lanier’s organ still references Ray Manzarek, but the songs punch hard and low, perfectly matching Pearlman’s occult-infused lyrics.

The band only take their foot off the gas for closing track Astronomy, a song which slowly builds from melancholy to a chanted chorus overlayed with Roeser’s striking guitar. It’s been a consistent fan favourite across the years and something that Albert Bouchard has returned to again on later recordings. It has also been covered by Metallica, which would have put a smile into Albert’s bank balance if nothing else. Prior to this there’s Career Of Evil, where Bloom never sounded more threatening, and the flat out riffing of ME 262. Also included are long term live staples; the creepy Subhuman and the pounding, freewheeling Harvester Of Eyes with its utterly bonkers break down at the end. Limiting myself to just one track per album, I’ve had to leave out the majestic Flaming Telepaths, a swirling anthem with a one note piano riff that when played live was synched with some mind-altering strobe lighting. Murray Krugman claims the chorus is a direct lift from the Hollies’ Bus Stop but the strobes must have shrunk my ears, as I can’t see (hear) that at all.


But best of all, better than Flaming Telepaths is Dominance And Submission. A driving riff, the lyrics simultaneously intriguing, unsettling and at times incomprehensible – although it’s clear that “Charles the grinning boy” is in for quite a night out. The tension builds through the clipped and controlled call of “Dominance” and Bloom’s increasingly deranged answer of “Submission”. The song finally erupts, with Roeser laying down a solo that manages to be both muscular and melodic, driving the band to a thundering conclusion. It’s my all time favourite track by any band. It’s also earned me a wide berth at parties when I’m asked for my favourite song.


Laserquest (1975-1981)

Agents Of Fortune (1976)
Spectres (1977)
Mirrors (1979)

1975 saw BÖC tour Europe for the first time and garner an unexpected chart hit off the back of two gold albums (Secret Treaties and the 1975 live double On Your Feet Or On Your Knees).

Released in May 1976, Agents Of Fortune was boosted by two significant changes. Firstly, the home studios that the band had acquired flush with new funds from two gold albums. Secondly, the extra year to write new material. Collectively, BÖC had a pool of far more well-developed songs for Agents than had been the case previously, and the confidence to move on from the menace and thunder that had made Secret Treaties such a success, writing now in their own voice. As a consequence, Agents has songs written by all of the band members, and yes, that single.

The opener, This Ain’t The Summer Of Love, and Tattoo Vampire and E.T.I are still out and out rockers but Allen Lanier’s two synth/keyboard driven contributions Tenderloin and True Confessions have a much lighter, almost pop vibe. The latter also has Lanier’s first vocal (even if it was allegedly recorded a few words at a time). Sinful Love and Morning Final are strong songs (there’s a phenomenal Roeser solo on the former). The only turkey in the shop is the twee A. Bouchard/Smith co-write Debbie Denise which closes the album.

The album was BÖCs first platinum seller, but often in the shade of the platinum selling hit single (Don’t Fear) The Reaper, a song frequently thought to be about a suicide pact but according to writer Roeser is actually a reflection on mortality. Forever to be included on dadrock compilation CDs, a majestic shimmering ballad that calls back to the Byrds, particularly in its edited form without the guitar crescendo. Like the Police’s Message In A Bottle it has a guitar riff that mesmerizes and seemingly has no end.

For many, (Don’t Fear) The Reaper is also forever associated with the pioneering laser light show that BÖC toured with across the USA and Europe, first in support of Agents Of Fortune then the follow up albums Spectres (lasers featured in the cover art) and Mirrors. It generated a lot of attention (including from US safety authorities) as well as providing a very effective way of burning huge amounts of money, and was retired by the end of the Mirrors tour although it lingers on in the memories of those of us that saw it.

The chart success of ‘Reaper’ and Agents Of Fortune inevitably encouraged the band to create another platinum seller. Pearlman was unapologetic in an NME interview: “Spectres is a deliberate attempt to make an album that would sell 3 million units and beat Fleetwood Mac”.

Unfortunately, it sold less than Agents. Released late in 1997, Spectres yielded several long-term live staples. The desire to find further commercial radio-friendly success meant more accessible songs and greater emphasis on harmonies. The band saw this as just getting ‘better’ – more professional and step by step less dependent on Pearlman. The opener Godzilla is one of the heaviest rockers BÖC have ever recorded, really coming into its own live through a monster PA and a chorus – Oh no, there goes Tokyo – that you just have to sing along with. R.U. Ready 2 Rock (Pearlman’s only contribution to the album) is the only other out and out rocker but a touch too simple with syndrums that haven’t aged well. Going Through The Motions invites the obvious joke, unfairly really given it’s a relatively simple piece of pop rock, hand claps and all.

Although not written by Roeser, both Death Valley Nights and Fireworks have a similar vibe to ‘Reaper’ and Roeser’s I Love The Night is a close relative, but whilst all have really grown on me over time, none quite had the magic of ‘Reaper’. These tracks, along with the more mystical Nosferatu lend the album a very humid, noir atmosphere and although it was a close call, for me the stand out track is Golden Age Of Leather because of the tight harmonies (produced to this day note for note live) in combination with the foot stomping guitar hooks as well as the added bonus of the Newark Boys Choir.

Having failed to dethrone Fleetwood Mac, BÖC cut the chord to the Pearlman/ Krugman/ Lucas production team for 1979’s Mirrors. It’s regarded by many BÖC fans as their worst album, and in particular by Eric Bloom. Tom Werman was brought in to produce having had success with Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent and Mötley Crüe but quickly fell out with Bloom and Albert Bouchard, unmoved by Werman’s demands for non-complex songs and preference for Roeser’s vocals.

The quest for radio play meant a much more polished sound and simpler songs like Dr Music that eschewed the darker imagery that the band had previously embraced. Werman thought Don Roeser’s voice was the one that would get BÖC more plays on FM/AOR rock stations, which saw him sing on four tracks with Bloom reduced to just two and only one songwriting co-credit.

I’ve always thought the album holds up fairly well. Dr Music and Mirrors are accessible, ready for radio rockers that stand up fine 25 years later (well, maybe not the syndrums …) and the smoothness of Roeser’s vocal plays well against his more muscular guitar riffs. Allen Lanier’s Lonely Teardrops and In Thee are lighter in touch and whilst the latter is the least substantial it’s a song BÖC have returned to a number of times, as an unplugged encore and in tribute to Lanier after his passing in 2013. The stronger songs remain those closer to BÖCs original canon, both sung by Bloom. The Great Sun Jester builds from acoustic finger picking into an anthem that sees Bloom deliver one of his best vocal performances wrapped around Roeser’s nimble guitar. I Am The Storm has Bloom front and centre again over a strong riff, with Roeser let loose at the end to remind people of BÖCs harder edge.


Feel The Thunder (1980-1988)

Cultösaurus Erectus (1980)
Fire Of Unknown Origin (1981)
The Revölution By Night (1983)
Club Ninja (1985)
Imaginos (1988)

Mirrors failed to go gold and was regarded as something of a failure by band and record label. For Cultösaurus Erectus, Martin Birch was drafted in to produce this release and its follow up. Birch had strong credentials as he had been the engineer and sometimes co-producer of every Deep Purple album between 1969 and 1977, and had since worked with Wishbone Ash, Rainbow and Whitesnake. He went on to work almost exclusively with Iron Maiden. The band gave up seeking radio-friendly hits and brought back more harder-edged material, with Bloom restored to singing two thirds of it. Black Blade sees the band stretching out over changing dynamics and time signatures, a pounding rocker with anthemic aspirations. It only failed to make my top 10 because Lips In The Hills is BÖC at their most flat out heavy metal bonkers, one of the few times since Secret Treaties that the band had gone full tilt in the studio.

The rest of the album was more mixed. Fallen Angel is bouncy power pop, whilst Monsters features the time changes and twists. There’s even a jazz-tinged sax break. Divine Wind has a loping, restrained beat that has you wondering when the punch will come (sadly it doesn’t) while Deadline gives Roeser his only vocal over another of his melodic Byrds style compositions. The Marshall Plan is the only full band composition, telling the story of how Johnny’s ascent to rock n roll stardom doesn’t get him the girl, despite a cameo from Don Kirshner and a few bars of Smoke On The Water.

Fire Of Unknown Origin, released in 1981, saw the long hoped for resurgence in sales and a top 40 single. The title track had originally missed the cut having first been recorded during the Agents Of Fortune sessions – if you track down the original (found among the bonus tracks on the remastered Agents Of Fortune) you’ll understand why. The reworked version here is punchier and much improved. Vengeance, an atmospheric rocker, was one of a number of songs on the album written for the animated sci-fi film Heavy Metal that the producers opted not to use, taking Veteran Of The Psychic Wars instead, which wasn’t. “Veteran” has an immediately memorable drum beat and hand clap that evolves in to a snare drum led militaristic vibe. Heavy Metal: The Black & Silver opens to screeches of feedback and a pounding riff. It remains largely forgotten although I think it’s almost up there with Godzilla and E.T.I.

BÖC finally found singles chart success again with another song sung by Don Roeser composed in conjunction with Richard Meltzer (Roeser used lyrics that Meltzer had left with him some years before) called Burning For You showcasing Roeser’s trademark melodic muscle overlayed with harmony. It nearly didn’t make the album as Roeser had it pencilled in for his Flat Out solo album, but was persuaded by Sandy Pearlman to make it a BÖC release where it’s since clocked up nearly 130 million streams on Spotify. For me, however, the standout track is Joan Crawford, based on co-writers David Roter and Jack Rigg watching Albert Bouchard’s soon to be ex-wife bawling him out. A classical piano intro makes way for a rocking tune with some memorable lyrics, Catholic school girls have thrown away their mascara, they chain themselves to the axles of Big Mack trucks, and a chorus, Joan Crawford has risen from the grave, that guarantees audience participation.

The tour to support the album turned out to be the end of the road for the original line up and Albert Bouchard in particular. BÖC were in the UK for the Monsters of Rock Festival at Donington and booked four warm-up gigs as The Soft White Underbelly – one of a number of names the band used before they were signed to Columbia. The whole run of dates went badly. A gig in Reading was cancelled because the promoter broke the clause that forbade BÖCs name being used to promote the gig. Albert’s relationship with the rest of the band had become so fraught that he was travelling separately. While the gig I attended at The Venue in London seemed to go without incident, Albert had been late for the gigs immediately before and after, forcing BÖCs crew chief and lighting designer Rick Downey to step in (he had originally been Albert’s drum tech). Albert was given his cards after a gig in the distinctly un-rock n roll town of Dunstable after arriving too late for the first four songs. Two days later, Rick Downey played a full set to 60,000 fans at a motor racing circuit in the Midlands in pissing rain, where the debate about who sabotaged the PA continues to this day.

The Revölution By Night was intended to build on the momentum that Fire had built, but missed the mark. There’s a promising start with the storming rock of Take Me Away which Bloom co-wrote with Italian rocker Aldo Nova but across the rest of the album Bruce Fairbairn’s rather flat production favours the lighter AOR friendly ground that BÖC had flirted with before without much success. Let Go is toe tapping power pop. Shooting Shark found radio success via another Roeser sung composition (this time using a Patti Smith poem for lyrics) but it’s so light it’s almost lounge.

Sales of Revölution fell short of gold status and Downey quit as drummer. Albert rejoined for a Canadian tour which Bouchard thought was permanent but the rest of the band didn’t. BÖC became 3ÖC when Allen Lanier quit, unhappy with the music and the newly-hired keyboardist Tommy Zvoncheck (BÖC also hired drummer Jimmy Wilcox). Whilst the absence of Albert Bouchard’s writing may not have ben noticeable on Revölution, it was hard to ignore on 1985 release Club Ninja. Roeser had a hand in 4 of the 9 tracks but another 4 came entirely from outside the band, and although Bloom and Roeser shared the vocals, Bloom was a co-write on just one track. Pearlman and Lucas returned to produce the material which isn’t just strong enough, although Roeser came close to his previous highs on the shimmering Perfect Water.

The band continued to tour. 3ÖC became 2 Öyster Cult when Joe Bouchard quit shortly after Ninja was released. For around nine months it looked like BÖC were done, but Pearlman and band manager Steve Schenk put together a European tour that brought Lanier back on board, with Jon Rogers playing bass alongside new drummer Ron Riddle. This incarnation of the band started gigging in the US despite having no album to promote.

The final BÖC release in this era has a complicated history. By 1988, Columbia were looking to recoup an advance they’d given Albert Bouchard for his Imaginos project, something he’d been working on with Sandy Pearlman as a solo album since the early 1970s. All of the original BÖC line up had participated in demos which were complete by the time the band recorded Spectres. As Pearlman’s influence decreased and his other management interests expanded, the band members (other than Albert) lost interest as they were all now writing and pitching songs and a few Imaginos songs – most notably Astronomy – appeared on BÖC albums. Bouchard’s sacking in 1981 saw him return to the project with renewed vigour (but insufficient cash) for what he and Pearlman now saw as a trilogy of double albums. You certainly couldn’t fault them for a lack of ambition. Roeser, Lanier and brother Joe all contributed vocal and instrumental parts whilst Albert sang all the songs and handled all the guitar but by 1984 Columbia decided it lacked potential not least because of Bouchard’s vocals. They had a point – Alberts’s demos can be heard in full on YouTube.

Resolution unexpectedly appeared when Pearlman pitched the idea to Columbia that Bouchard’s project could be turned into a BÖC album. Pearlman set to work without Bouchard, bringing in a number of people to help finish the album including Roeser and Bloom. Less well known is that he also hired Joe Satriani who took studio time in lieu of a fee to record Surfing With The Alien, one of seven non-BÖC guitarists who made the final cut (others include the Doors’ Robbie Krieger and Aldo Nova).

The final tracks were culled from what would have been the first album in the trilogy. It’s easily the band’s heaviest album and, in lots of ways, the natural successor to Secret Treaties based on Pearlman’s “Soft Doctrines”, an occult reading of how the two World Wars were started. Les Invisibles would have easily sat amongst any of the post-Mirrors releases but, sadly, the album suffers from an uneven Pearlman mix and arrangement, at times both too flat and too busy. Astronomy and Subhuman from Secret Treaties resurface (the latter retitled Blue Öyster Cult). A stand out track is the absurdly titled The Siege And Investiture Of Baron von Frankenstein’s Castle At Weisseria which has the trademark epic, multi-part BÖC feel as well as Satriani’s guitar and BÖC’s first guest lead vocal – and what a belter it is – from a Meatloafesque Joe Cerisano.

Hopes that the original BÖC would regroup and promote the album came to nothing, and record company support was non-existent. Joe Bouchard was adamant he was out, and stories vary as to whether it was Albert or the remaining BÖC that nixed any chance of a reunion tour. Instead, the newly constituted 3ÖC line up added a few of the songs to their touring set before quietly dropping them. Sony then did the same with BÖC’s recording contract having acquired Columbia and deeming the preceding record sales underwhelming. Having been shut out of the final release, Bouchard sued Pearlman and the band and an out of court settlement was reached. Albert finally got a version he was happy with released in 2020 as Re Imaginos with Imaginos 2 following in 2021.


The Symbol Sustains (1989–2006)

Cult Classic (1994)
Heaven Forbid (1998)
Curse Of The Hidden Mirror (2001)

Since the mid-80s, BÖC earned a living gigging, now free of the friction with Albert Bouchard, and looked for a new deal. Bloom has mentioned being signed to Atlantic but released again before a record was made. The band contributed two songs to the Bad Channels movie soundtrack (the most positive review of the film I’ve seen described it as “cheesy”). The 3ÖC core of the band remained stable, but Danny Miranda replaced Jon Rogers on bass whilst Chuck Burgi, John Miceli, John O’Reilly and Bobby Rondinelli took over the drumming stool (but not at the same time). In 1994, 3ÖC, having recovered their publishing rights, plus Rogers and Burgi, recorded a BÖC 12-track best of album Cult Classic, including a studio version of Buck’s Boogie plus instrumental versions of Godzilla and The Reaper. It’s an underrated album with E.T.I. benefiting in particular from a punchier recording.

A whole decade after Imaginos, BÖC released Heaven Forbid in 1998, via a deal with Sanctuary, a label that was tapping into what were now ‘heritage’ acts – a euphemism for artists reaching their fifties, just ahead of their fanbase. The 3ÖC core feature along with (mostly) Danny Miranda and Chuck Burgi, while sci-fi/horror writer and BÖC fan John Shirley provides lyrics on all but three of the album songs. Production now sat wholly within the band with Bloom and Roeser in the chair along with manager Steve Schenck. For me it’s one of BÖCs strongest albums, and one of the reasons is (finally) a crystal clear hard-hitting sound across some of the most energetic tracks they’d ever recorded, suggesting the band were one of the few that improved with age. The opener See You In Black is one of their heaviest songs, opening with Roeser’s wailing guitar over thundering drums and crash cymbals before accelerating into a menacing charge with a uneven time signature. A real tour de force for Chuck Burgi’s drums while Bloom tells “Ann” how he longs to see her wife-beating husband dead. An archetypal BÖC love song. X-Ray Eyes is another showcase for Roeser and Burgi with a descending chorus guaranteed to become a long-term ear worm. Hammer Back is another out and out rocker, but is topped by Damaged with Roeser really at the top of his pop metal game. His labyrinth-like solos are all over this track while Miranda and Burgi ensure it gallops along.

The album closes with Lanier’s In Thee performed unplugged in a way that would come to be a regular encore live.

Heaven Forbid didn’t chart but CMC didn’t expect it to, and sales were encouraging enough for a second album in 2001. Curse Of The Hidden Mirror found Shirley again writing the majority of the lyrics whilst Bobby Rondinelli had taken over as drummer and Roeser as producer (Bloom is credited as associate producer). The idea was to build on the momentum of Forbid and overall it was another good effort if not quite as strong as Forbid. Dance On Stilts opens, a punchy pop rocker with Miranda’s bass to the fore although it would have benefited from dropping the vocal harmonies that take over after about four minutes. The following track Showtime is stronger and might have been a better opener, building from a medium paced groove before switching up a gear and then turning hard left into a reggae twist. One Step Ahead Of The Devil has more than a touch of Zeppelin about it whilst Pocket is another portion of high quality Roeser pop metal. Overall Curse is as good if not better than much of BÖC’s earlier albums but it tuned out to be the last one for quite some time.


The Amazing Two Öyster Cult (2007 to date)

The 3ÖC touring band came to an end in 2006 when Allen Lanier retired. Jules Radino replaced Bobby Rondelli as drummer and Richie Castellano, having initially filled in for Danny Miranda on bass, moved stage right and replaced Lanier, whilst Rudy Sarzo and Kasim Sulton both undertook five-year stints on bass before Miranda returned, having had leave of absence to play with Queen/Paul Rodgers. Both Radino and Castellano have now been in BÖC for longer than both Bouchard brothers, and the Bloom/ Roeser/ Castellano/ Radino/ Miranda format has now been in place for six years.

Bloom and Roeser would routinely be asked if they planned any further albums and neither seemed optimistic citing how difficult it had become to make enough money from CD sales to cover the costs of recording. Instead, the band racked up thousands of miles of travel each year, crisscrossing the US (with occasional forays to Europe), becoming air mile millionaires, joining the legacy acts circuit of weekend gigs at state fairs and casinos mixed with a few gigs aimed more at hardcore fans where the deeper cuts come out.

Sony released remastered versions of the first five albums, each supplemented by bonus tracks that included some recorded in 1969 as the Soft White Underbelly, studio versions of live staples Buck’s Boogie and Born To Be Wild plus unused songs and demos from Agents and Spectres.

2012 proved to be an important year as it marked the bands 40th anniversary and Sony’s release of a 17 disc box set which remastered the balance of their releases plus some radio shows and rarities like the 1972 promo only set recorded live in Rochester NY. All five original band members reunited for an anniversary concert in New York which sadly proved to be the last time they played together as Allen Lanier died of COPD in August 2013.

In 2016 the band staged shows in New York, LA, Dublin and London for the 40th anniversary of Agents Of Fortune, playing the album in its entirety with an ebullient Albert Bouchard guesting on guitar and vocals. The gigs took place just a month after Sandy Pearlman died, aged 72. By 2018, Eric Bloom acknowledged that he and Roeser were considering offers for a new album and The Symbol Remains finally saw daylight at the end of 2020.

The album is the first in BÖC’s name without Allen Lanier but with Radino and Castellano. I want to take a moment to call out the significant impact Castellano has had on the band both onstage and off. Born the same year as Cultösaurus Erectus was released, his multi-instrumental virtuosity has given the band an additional dimension live, able to go note for note on guitar with Roeser but also contributing outstanding vocals and keyboards. He has shared or sole writing credits on half the album’s songs, and provides the lead vocal on three, co-produced with Bloom and Roeser and was chief engineer, providing the band with the means to keep on recording as the COVID pandemic shut everything down. As if that’s not enough, he’s also touring with Jon Anderson of Yes, playing bass.

Albert Bouchard returned to provide backing vocals, percussion and yes – cowbell – on opening track That Was Me. Across the rest of the album there are contributions from Richie’s dad, his uncle (both accomplished musicians), his multi-instrumentalist friend Andy Ascolese on keyboards (although he’ll be playing drums with Jon Anderson), backing vocals from David Lucas and Kasim Sulton, lyrics from John Shirley and Richard Meltzer and songwriting from Roeser’s son Zeke.

Yes, but what about the album I hear you ask. Well, it was worth the wait. That Was Me is a pounding metal rocker with Bloom’s vocals as menacing as ever, and is topped only by a trademark multi part BÖC opus, The Alchemist. Roeser’s pop rock chops haven’t deserted him as he demonstrates on Box in My Head and Nightmare Epiphany, although Castellano’s Edge Of The World and The Return Of St Cecilia suggest he now has some real competition. The Bloom and Castellano collaboration Stand And Fight show that Metallica have also become an influence.

2022 saw BÖC out on the road finally able to promote the album, supporting Deep Purple on a UK tour as well as staging a 50th anniversary celebration where, across three nights, they played each of their first three albums in full (with Albert guesting once again) followed by a mix of deep cuts and hits that amounted to 53 different songs in all. It also marks my recording debut with the band, as all three nights were recorded for future release and I’m there on every track.
At the time of writing, Eric Bloom is 78, Don Roeser a mere 75. There’s no sign that their schedule of live work is lessening – I’d get out and see them if you can, while you can, as often as you can.


The Live Albums

I deliberately chose the top 10 tracks from studio albums to reference the originals, rather than the live interpretations. This is despite the fact that my early exposure to the band was from live cuts. The track that introduced me to the band – Buck’s Boogie – was on a Columbia compilation (remember compilations?) called The Guitars That Destroyed The World. A mate of mine had splurged a large sum of money on an import. He was keen to share the Latin rhythms of Santana and the spiritual peaks of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. But what spoke to me more, even more than the blues boogie of Johnny Winter or the slightly sludgy riffing of Mountain was this galloping instrumental, five minutes of Don doing what he does best lifted from their 1972 promo recorded in Rochester NY.

It prompted me to buy the live double On Your Feet Or On Your Knees which was released at the end of the black and white era ahead of Agents. Despite a mix that’s flat as a pancake (the band maintain it was little better on stage), I played it to death and I saw them touring to support it on their debut in the UK. At this point I still hadn’t heard any of the black and white era albums the live tracks were taken from. It’s still a CD I’m hugely fond of, although it did introduce me to BÖC’s practice of including less than inspiring cover versions – on here Born To Be Wild although the Yardbirds’ I Ain’t Got You is pretty good if oddly retitled as Maserati GT. Seeing them live also meant I saw the 5-guitar jam that would usually occur during ME 262.

In 1978, the band paused between Spectres and Mirrors to release Some Enchanted Evening which packaged together live cuts of the more recent higher profile songs like (Don’t Fear) The Reaper and Godzilla. This time the cover versions were the MC5’s Kick Out The Jams and the Animals’ We Gotta Get Out Of This Place. Despite the underwhelming choice of covers, it ended up being the band’s biggest selling album ever. Intended as a live double, it was edited down to a single album although in 2007 it was reissued as a double, adding live staples ME 262, Hot Rails and Harvester Of Eyes. Two more covers surfaced: Born To Be Wild (again) and a different cut of We Gotta Get Out Of This Place as if the world really needed another one. It’s like the band hadn’t listened to the radio since around 1970.

As the original BÖC came to an end with Albert Bouchard’s departure, a final live double was issued called Extraterrestrial Live. Godzilla, The Reaper, Hot Rails and E.T.I. are included again, but Dominance finally got an airing as did Joan Crawford and Black Blade. One cover version was included – nine minutes of Roadhouse Blues with Robby Krieger guesting. Another opportunity wasted.

In 2002 the 3ÖC band with Rondelli and Miranda released a joint DVD and CD called a A Long Day’s Night which was recorded from a single gig in Chicago. The usual live faithfuls were mixed with several deeper cuts that included Dance On Stilts, Mistress Of The Salmon Salt, Perfect Water and Lips In The Hills. And, finally, no duff cover versions.

In the years since, numerous live sets have ben released although many only in streaming format. The Agents anniversary was released in 2020 and separately a live performance of the first album recorded in London, with accompanying DVDs. A quick review of Spotify finds entire sets from pretty much every year from 1977 through to 1981, as well as several recordings made by the 2ÖC band between 2012 and 2016.

And we still have the 2022 50th anniversary shows CD and DVDs to come!


Maserati GT live in Detroit 1976


Rehearsal for the 40th anniversary gig with Patti Smith and Allen Lanier


Dominance & Submission – New York 50th Anniversary gig


Allen Lanier (1946-2013)


Blue Öyster Cult official website

Albert Bouchard official website

Joe Bouchard official website

Hot Rails To Hull – invaluable BÖC resource

List of band members

BÖC discography (Prog Archives)

“Agents Of Fortune” by Martin Popoff (Wymer 2016)

“On Track – BÖC” by Jacob Holm-Lupo (Sonic Bond 2019)

The 50th Anniversary Concerts in New York – reviews at The Afterword

Blue Öyster Cult biography (AllMusic)

Alan has forged a career tinkering with bonus plans and share schemes whilst secretly harbouring a dream to open a guitar shop called “Spank That Plank”. He posts reviews of CDs, books and gigs over at The Afterword (take a peek here, it’s a friendly crowd).

TopperPost #1,057

1 Comment

  1. Glenn Michael Raucher
    Feb 9, 2023

    This was SO great to go through!
    I grew up on Long Island, so BÖC was omnipresent. Got to see them several times, and they were a superb live act.
    The version of “(Then Came) The Last Days of May” off of OYFOOYK has as much power as a lot of full-length films.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.