The World Was Their Öyster
Five Things About that Band that Wrote "(Don't Fear) the Reaper"
1. Despite what classic-rock radio stations might lead you to believe, Blue Öyster Cult recorded numbers that were not "(Don't Fear) the Reaper." If you were paying attention, you may have also heard "I'm Burnin' for You" ("Well I'm burning, I'm burning, I'm burning for you, I'm burning, I'm burning, I'm burning for you") and "Godzilla" ("Oh, no, they say he's got to go, go go Godzilla"). Those are all their songs. Real story: Brand-new Stranger music editor Emily Nokes once made a longboard and painted a Godzilla and some of the song's lyrics on it! ("NEVER TELL ANYONE!")
2. Before they settled on the name Blue Öyster Cult, the band played as Soft White Underbelly—supposedly referring to a famous remark in which Winston Churchill referred to Italy as the "soft underbelly of the Mediterranean." They also played as Oaxaca, Stalk-Forrest Group, and Santos Sisters, among other absolutely not-catchy handles. The final name came from then-manager Sandy Pearlman, who at the time was a budding poet and asked the band to play music over which his poetry could be sung. In said poetry, the Blue Oyster Cult was a reference to "a group of aliens who had assembled to secretly guide Earth's history." Band member Allen Lanier is often credited with adding the unnecessary umlaut above the "O," though rock critic Richard Meltzer claims he suggested it "because of the Wagnerian aspect of Metal." Either way, LOUD BULLSHIT DETECTOR SOUND. Later, Pearlman went on to be the founding vice-president of eMusic and presumably no longer writes poetry about space aliens.
3. Blue Öyster Cult are almost invariably referred to on the internet as "thinking man's heavy metal"—because other heavy metal is apparently for men who don't think. A Boolean search of "'Blue Oyster Cult' and 'thinking man's heavy metal'" over at Google.com yields "about 47,000" results!
4. "We got fired more than we got hired," singer Eric Bloom said of the band's formative years in a 1992 interview. Ignoring the seemingly unintentional literary paradox of this statement, let the record show that BÖC toiled in obscurity at the beginning of their career, being forced to learn and then play covers of other bands' hits in crappy bars throughout Long Island. If your band is in a similar predicament, do not fret (HAR HAR). Malcolm Gladwell posits in Outliers that a similar predicament in Hamburg helped the Beatles eventually achieve greatness.
5. If Patti Smith had become the band's singer, you would know that they had more than one song, and they wouldn't be playing the Emerald Queen Casino! Although Patti Smith contributed lyrics to several of BÖC's songs, she was only briefly considered for the lead singer position and instead just lived with then keyboard player Allen Lanier for a while. Good call, dudes. The end.
This article has been updated since its original publication.