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Benjy says...

Greetings ... a shortened newsletter this week as I am away until the 15th, I will resume my full volume, technicolour classic rock assault on the airwaves next Thursday when the special will be the 'Grim Reapers' of 70's stadium rock ... the Blue Öyster Cult ......

Blue Öyster Cult

...... The Blue Öyster Cult is an American psychedelic/heavy metal band formed in the late 1960s and active as of 2006. They are probably best known for two songs: their 1976 single "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" from the album Agents of Fortune (featured in the cult movie Halloween, and in the TV movie The Stand based on Stephen King's novel of the same name), and their 1981 single "Burnin' for You" from the album Fire of Unknown Origin. Their song "Veteran of the Psychic Wars," with lyrics penned by Michael Moorcock, appeared in the soundtrack of the movie Heavy Metal. Two other well-known songs are "Godzilla" (1977) from Spectres, and "Astronomy" (1974) from Secret Treaties; the latter was covered by Metallica on 1998's Garage Inc.The members of the band began to come together in the late 1960s, as a band called "Soft White Underbelly", in the vicinity of State University of New York at Stony Brook on Long Island, New York, at the prompting of critic Sandy Pearlman. Pearlman was very influential for the band, getting them gigs, their first record with Columbia, and using his poetry as the basis of many of their songs, including "Astronomy". For a while they played under the name of Oaxaca, a province in Mexico. The band changed its name to the Stalk-Forrest Group in 1968. One single was released on Elektra Records under this name in 1969, though over one album's worth of songs were recorded. The name again changed to the Blue Öyster Cult in 1970 (see "Band Name" section below for its origin).The self-titled debut album Blue Öyster Cult was released in January of 1972. Its striking monochrome cover, by artist Bill Gawlick, featured the now famous hook & cross symbol prominently which the band adopted as their logo. The album sold fairly well, and heavy touring started the growth of a country-wide fan base.

Because of their hectic touring schedule, the band had to complete most of the second record's songwriting on the road. Taking on a much heavier and ominous tone, the second record Tyranny and Mutation built on the first album and moved them towards fulfilling Columbia's wish to have a stateside Black Sabbath.By 1973, the days of the communal band house were over, and each member lived in his own place, which led to less collaborative songwriting. They still retained a "band house" for rehearsals, but rather than working out songs as a group, they began to come to rehearsal with songs more or less together, and only arrangement details to be hashed out with the group. The band aimed to make an album with more emotional impact for their third outing. When Secret Treaties hit the streets in 1974, it garnered great critical acclaim, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest heavy records of the 1970s, and is probably the most popular record with fans.Despite the punishing touring schedule & increasing proficiency in the studio Blue Öyster Cult still hadn't managed to attain commercial success. Their first live album On Your Feet or on Your Knees was not only a cheap album to produce (it was not overdubbed in any way) but also their most successful to date and paved the way for the follow up album.

Blue Öyster Cult

Agents of Fortune contained the Buck Dharma-penned hit single "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" which reached #12 on the Billboard charts, and Agents of Fortune became the band's first gold record. The crowds at the concerts grew, and shortly the band found themselves headlining coliseums.For the tour that promoted Agents of Fortune, the band decided to complement its stage show with a new cutting-edge entertainment technology: Lasers. This relatively new (for entertainment) technology offered the ability to enhance the songs with twirling, twisting shapes made from different colored light, a high-tech version of the old psychedelic oil and pigment projections done in the sixties.Although the laser show brought BÖC a lot of recognition and notoriety — many people still heavily associate "Blue Öyster Cult" with "Laser Show" — the band finally decided that the expense and troubles associated with hauling the staff and equipment around the country just wasn't worth it, and they happily sold off the laser equipment and its accompanying hassles.The success of Agents had the band on the road for extended periods of time, and the follow-up, Spectres took over a year to complete. Bolstered by the success of "(Don't Fear) The Reaper", the band worked very hard to try to come up with an even better record in Spectres. For a lot of hardcore fans, Agents was too "soft" and Spectres was even softer, with lush production and a very polished sound. Others, however, found the diversity of songwriting on Spectres a pleasant experience, as each band member contributed at least one song, and everyone except Allen Lanier contributing at least one lead vocal. Although Spectres sold very well, and generated a minor cult hit in "Godzilla," its sales and its promotion by Columbia were ultimately disappointing for the band.

At this time they chose to record another live album. Some Enchanted Evening, featuring what is to many the "definitive version" of BÖC opus "Astronomy" and a new version of "Reaper" went platinum in short order, and it also gave the band some time in which to work on material for a new studio release.For the next album Mirrors, the band decided to get some "new blood" in the studio, and chose not to work with producers Sandy Pearlman and Murray Krugman, who had worked with the band on every previous album. This time they chose Tom Werman, whose work included Cheap Trick and Ted Nugent. Unfortunately the pairing of Werman and BÖC was not optimal, and the resultant record was not only a disappointment to the band, but also to the fans, the majority of which felt the record was far too pop and commercial. Although the record does have some songs that many fans consider great, including "The Vigil" and "The Great Sun Jester," sales were bleak. It was apparent that the band was trying very very hard to write another hit, and both critics and fans took the band to task for it. Needless to say, Tom Werman would not be hired again, and the band realized they had to step back and reevaluate their next move in order to recover from the Mirrors debacle.During this time, Sandy Pearlman had become Black Sabbath's manager, and that association led to Heaven and Hell producer Martin Birch being hired for the next BÖC record. That, coupled with BÖC's decision to get back to "being BÖC" rather than trying to write with the commercial hit machine in mind, brought 1980's critically acclaimed Cultösaurus Erectus. Critics wrote that Birch brought out the best in the band, with clean, polished production that didn't obscure the harder edges of the band's sound. Sales were rather disappointing in the U.S., but the record was a hit in the UK, reaching #14 on the charts there.Birch was again in the producer's seat for the next record, Fire of Unknown Origin. This album included "Burnin' For You," a song Buck had written with a Richard Meltzer lyric and was intended for inclusion on his solo album, which he'd been wanting to do as an outlet for the music he'd written that didn't fit as a Blue Öyster Cult song. Although the "Burnin'" demo is the song that secured the deal for him to make his solo record, Pearlman convinced him to put the song on the Fire album, and it subsequently became the band's next hit single. The song reached the top 40.During the supporting tour for this record, founding member Albert Bouchard was dismissed forcing the band to go on with lighting designer Rick Downey filling in on drums.

Blue Öyster Cult

With Buck working on his solo album, and Albert's prolific pen absent, and an album contracturally due Columbia, the band recorded yet another live record, the double-LP Extraterrestrial Live. Albert, in the meantime, devoted himself to writing and recording Sandy Pearlman's late 1960s song cycle, "Imaginos." Gathering his long list of New York musical friends and associates, he spent the next 5-plus years working on what he hoped would be his debut solo album.BÖC was soon back in the studio to record their next record, and this time Bruce Fairbairn was brought on board as producer. In late 1983 The Revölution by Night was released. Although the band was satisfied with the work, it wasn't as successful as Fire of Unknown Origin, and the single, "Shooting Shark" only reached #83 on the charts.After the Revölution tour, Rick Downey decided to leave the band, and in 1985 the band found themselves with dates to play but no drummer. As it happened, they called upon Albert, who rejoined the band for a two week tour of the California coast. Things did not go well, the old differences came back, and the reunion of original members was over when the tour was.Shortly after this, Allen Lanier quit the band as well. In the meantime, with both the drum and keyboard positions vacant, and a new album in the future, the remaining members hired Jimmy Wilcox and Tommy Zvonchek and with them finished the Club Ninja album which is one of the least favored BÖC records, by both the band and fans.After the German leg of the tour behind Club Ninja, Joe Bouchard decided to leave the band. BÖC now only had two original members: Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma. Jon Rogers was hastily hired to replace the departed Joe, and this band finished out the 1986-87 tour.Shortly afterward, the band, for all practical purposes broke up.

This split was very short-lived, however, as they received an offer they couldn't refuse: to play in Greece. This was the impetus for Allen Lanier's rejoining the band.In the meantime, Albert had gotten a long way with his "Imaginos" project, but to his dismay found that the record company was no longer willing to support its release. Pearlman negotiated with Columbia executives to have it released under the Blue Öyster Cult moniker. The decision was made to turn the tapes over to Pearlman and Blue Öyster Cult. New vocals, guitars, edits and overdubs were added at Pearlman's San Francisco studio with the assistance of producer Daniel Levitin (credited as sound designer), and in 1988 Imaginos was released. The album was only half-heartedly promoted by Columbia and consequently sold poorly, yet many fans consider this one of the finest BOC albums. Notable is a remake of the hit "Astronomy". Shortly thereafter, Columbia records was sold to Sony Music and the new management terminated Columbia's almost 20-year relationship with Blue Öyster Cult.Aside from a couple of songs that appeared on the Bad Channels soundtrack, the band went 10 years before releasing another album. During these years, BÖC took to the clubs, hiring Ron Riddle for the drum position, and retaining Jon Rogers on bass. In 1991 Riddle quit the band, and over the years the drum position has been held by Chuck Bürgi, John Miceli, John O'Reilly, Bobby Rondinelli, and now Jules Radino. In 1995 Jon Rogers quit the band, and was briefly replaced by Greg Smith. Long Island bassman Danny Miranda held the post from 1995 until October 2004, when Richie Castellano took over on bass.In the late 1990s, BÖC secured a contract with CMC records and are continuing to perform into the 21st century. Two studio albums have been released, 1998's Heaven Forbid and Curse of the Hidden Mirror from 2001, with sixteen songs co-written by cyberpunk/horror novelist John Shirley, followed by another live record and DVD, both drawn from one epic show in Chicago. In the Summer of 2005, Blue Öyster Cult performed at Retrofest in Chilliwack, British Columbia, with Rick Derringer, Edgar Winter, Jefferson Starship, and It's A Beautiful Day.

Band name
The name "Blue Öyster Cult" came from a 1960s poem written by manager Sandy Pearlman. It was part of his "Imaginos" poetry, later used more extensively in their 1988 album Imaginos. Pearlman had also come up with the band's earlier name, "Soft White Underbelly", from a phrase used by Winston Churchill in describing Italy during World War II. In Pearlman's poetry, the "Blue Öyster Cult" was a collection of aliens who had collected to secretly guide Earth's history. Another myth is that one of the band members was doodling and playing around and eventually found that "Blue Öyster Cult" is an anagram of "Cully Stout Beer." The addition of the umlaut was suggested by either Allen Lanier or Richard Meltzer. Other bands later copied the practice of using umlauts or diacritic marks in their own band logos, such as Motörhead, Mötley Crüe, Queensr˙che, and the parody band Spinal Tap, which put an "umlaut" over the n (a symbol found only in the Jacaltec language of Guatemala and in some orthographies of Malagasy) .... courtesy Wikipedia / Blue Öyster Cult website at www.blueÖ

Selected recommended discography:

Blue Öyster Cult 1972
Tyranny & Mutation 1973
Secret Treaties 1974
On your feet or on your knees 1975

Rock of Ages's recommendations

Glenn Hughes

From his formative years fronting the vastly underrated Trapeze, through his glory years as bassist and co-vocalist in Deep Purple Mk 3, to a string of critically acclaimed solo albums Glenn Hughes has arguably earned the right to the monicker "The voice of rock". Certainly in the 21st Century there is no-one even close to possessing the sheer power and soulfulness of Hughes's vocal and songwriting.

1994's "Soul Mover" saw him hook up with guitarist JJ Marsh and Red Hot Chili Pepper tub pounder Chad Smith for one of the most impressive rock sets of that year ... Now Glenn's back with "Music for the divine" **** , 11 slices of muscular rock with funk overtones including stompers like "Steppin' on", "Valiant denial" and my fave "Monkey man". Other than a guest appearance by RHCP stringman John Frusciante it's the same band as the last album: this is shaping up to be one of my albums of 2006, the only low point being a rather pointless cover of "Nights in white satin"......

Jo Day

Jo Day

Great female rockers are as rare these days as peace in the Middle East and the ones fronting the current crop of modern 'rawk' bands, (Amy, Juliet, Avril, etc ... back to the Barbies) hardly qualify to wear the mantle of 'rock goddess' ... they just don't have the power, vocal chops or that essential 'f**k-you-china' live attitude that makes a truly great rock singer. Well let me tell you that Jo Day has all those things and more on what is probably her best album yet ... Roaring out of the speakers like a hellbound train, "Princess" **** is steeped in the timeless rock tradition of bonejarring guitars, shuddering drums and songs that have more hooks than a Paternoster fishing fleet. Crank the amp to 11 and leap around to "Going down", "Twilight Zone", the glammy metal of the title track and Benj's car toon of the moment, "Bitch" .... PS This is not a quiet record .... congrats to Jo and guitarist Jon Buckley for a brill rock production.

***** Volcanic....not to be missed.
**** Seismic....highly it!
*** Aftershock....solid effort.
** Xmas cracker...Pooof!
* Do I need to explain this?

Catch you every Thursday 8 to Midnight ...


Contact Rock of Ages

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The views, opinions, rants, raves and ramblings expressed on this website are the author's own and in no way reflect the views of Radio 2000 or the SABC.

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More rock on Radio 2000
Suffering from Rock withdrawal symptoms on a Tuesday night? Well then tune the dial el pronto to Barney Simon's show between 8 and midnight every Tuesday on Radio 2000 (or R2K as Barney calls it) for the best in South African rock plus gig guide,albums reviews,demos,new releases,news from around the country and much more ...... Unmissable!

Live Gigs
White Mountain Folk Festival
22-25 September Giants Castle Kwa Zulu Natal

Friday - Starplayer, Thirty Three, Movie55, SpoonFeedas
Saturday - Fox Fyre, Zoe, Fiona Tozer, Laurie Levine, Guy Buttery, Shomon, Nibs van der Spuy, Farryl Purkiss, Rory Eliot (Plush), Jim Neversink
Sunday - Krane, Jason Glover, Melody Kaye, Cubic Inch, Quark, Ménage à Trois, Sitter, Karen Zoid

Jack Hammer

24th Steak & Ale, Pretoria
25th August Café Barcelona, Pretoria
26th Blue Moon, Nelspruit
1st September Bertie's Mooring, Gordon's Bay
3rd Lord Nelson Hotel, Simonstown
6th Durbanville KunsKafee
7th Bohemia, Stellenbosch
11th Dorp Street, Stellenbosch
22nd Steak & Ale, Pretoria
23rd SinkShack, Bronkhorstspruit

Jim Neversink Tour

12 August - The Bohemian (Richmond)
19 August - Bourbon Street - Potchefstroom

Lancaster Band

2nd September Zula Bar, Long Street - new ep and DVD release.

Julian Laxton Band
"Legends in Rock"

18/19 August Welkom Civic Centre (tickets@Computicket)
Saluting Legends like Clapton, Hendrix, Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Status Quo, Bad Company, Santana, Rolling Stones, Freedoms Children, Hawk, Julian Laxton, etc

Rock Evolutions - V & A Waterfront's Theatre @ The Pavilion 21st July to 27th August (Thurs, Fri & Sat evenings only)
(Show chronicles the development of rock music in all shapes and forms... starting with the 50s' pioneering days of blues and 12-bar rock 'n roll and concluding with the current heavily-amplified nu-metal rock. There are visits along the way to the British Invasion & Psychedelic Rock of the 60s, the theatrical Stadium rock of the 70s, the glam and hard rock of the 80s and the 90s grunge & alternative revolution).
You say it's your birthday...
August 1
Jerry Garcia - Grateful Dead - 1942
Tim Bachman - Bachman Turner Overdrive - 1951
Rick Anderson - Tubes - 1947
Joe Elliot - Def Leppard - 1959
Rick Coonce - Grassroots - 1947
Boz Burrell - Bad Company - 1946
August 2
Garth Hudson - The Band - 1937
August 3
John Graham - Earth, Wind & Fire - 1951
August 5
Rick Derringer - Edgar Winter Group, McCoys - 1947
Greg Leskiw - Guess Who - 1947
August 7
Bruce Dickenson - Iron Maiden - 1958
August 8
The Edge (David Evans) - U2 - 1961
John David - Dr. Hook - 1942
Rikki Rocket - Poison - 1961
August 10
Ian Anderson - Jethro Tull - 1947

Courtesy of About ClassicRock

Birthday archives


"Benjy says..." Archive

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Your Host

Benjy Mudie
Benjy Mudie with Void in the late 70's Benjy Mudie 2004
Then Now

Of Scottish origin, Benjy Mudie started out in the music industry working in record shops. He later became the A&R man for WEA records, signing such luminaries as Lesley Rae Dowling, Baxtop and Falling Mirror. He has ventured briefly into the realms of songwriting, getting co-writing credit for Little Sister's song 'You Got My Heart', but it is mainly for his running of record labels, notably Tusk and more recently Fresh and Retro Fresh that he is honoured. With these labels he has tirelessly dedicated himself to putting South African music out there, showing an unshaking belief in the quality of SA music.


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