BLUE OYSTER CULT: Why didn’t they become a mega band like Black Sabbath, Journey, Aerosmith, and other groups with similar talent? Were they just too science fictiony?

Ramakrishnan Parthasarathy answers here:

No garage punk, proto-punk or punk rock band (or, to take it even further: no rock band) wrote better and more memorable riffs than Blue Oyster Cult. No one had a more intriguing sound that was dirty when required and deliciously evil at will. In fact, the best of Blue Oyster Cult constitutes a distilled lesson in the dark depths of the “alternative.”

Of course, there was much more to them with the dripping psychedelia, boogie, the jazzy drumming, the encircling keyboards and so on. No weird band rocked more and was more tuneful.

The problem with Blue Oyster Cult is that the talents in the initial lineup were spread across the entirety of the personnel. It looked like everyone had a stab at writing songs, with no autocratic leader to do things only his/her way. Buck Dharma, despite all his guitar talents, had no gift of writing songs of intrigue, so this was left to the Crawdaddy critic Richard Meltzer and the conceptualizer that was Sandy Pearlman.

Eric Bloom was more of a simpleton and the Bouchard brothers had voices that added to things along with their instrumental talents. The communal approach to the writing (and rewriting) in the early albums had an unstructured feel to it, save for genius occasions like the one-two punch that is “Flaming Telepaths” transitioning into “Astronomy.” Band members could be added and excluded at will in this merry-go-round.

Allen Lanier brought in colour and Patti Smith sort of practiced her early vision with the band. The critics also wanted Blue Oyster Cult to be popular. The musical chair precluded any coherent vision for being popular and the band took the ill-advised route of playing arena rock with endless boring guitar solos (save a few that were great testaments to Buck’s playing): a la Aerosmith, Journey, Kansas, REO Speedwagon et al. Blue Oyster Cult were far more talented than these other mediocrities. And the sci-fi got worse and velveeta with the 80s. The target audience was just wrong, and the band could easily be out-cheesed or out-manoeuvred by corporate organization in rock music.

No rock band has tunes matching the biker-greatness that is “Transmaniacon MC” or the maundering boogie of “Before the Kiss, A Redcap” and lyrics that even out-weirded serious madcaps of the times. I just wish that Richard Meltzer, Sandy Pearlman and the Bouchard brothers had continued to maintain the singular cultdom and not have this apathy of seeing collective genius go to rack and ruin.

The best of Blue Oyster Cult deserves to be classified among unique stuff like the 1967–70 era Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band or The Residents. The polish got them Agents of Fortune right, but it was more like a B-grade version of the much later Roxy Music’s Avalon than the fascinating For Your Pleasure, if such a comparison could be afforded.

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