Blue Öyster Cult are one of America’s most successful hard rock acts. With a career stretching back to the late 1960’s, they’ve garnered a host of noted admirers, including horror writer Stephen King, comedian Will Ferrell and heavy metal heroes Metallica. Best known for classic rock staple ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’, they’ve sold over 24 million albums, and played countless gigs. The band are back in the U.K. this week and play their first ever Irish date on 29th July, so to celebrate, here's a look back on a chat we had with founder member Eric Bloom at 2015's Ramblin’ Man Fair. Agent of fortune: Eamon O'Neill.
How have you enjoyed playing at Ramblin’ Man Fair today?
I thought it was great. We had a great time. I wish we could have played longer.
The show is the only one in the U.K. this year. You’re rare visitors to these shores.
Oh, you never can tell. Something in the Fall might happen, you never know. Something might happen off of this show and the manager might call me and say we’ve had an offer. You never know.
The band has been in existence since the late 1960s. Does it seem that long?
There are some who’ve been on the road longer, but it’s all I’ve ever done really. I went to college and I’ve had a few other jobs, but this has certainly been the longest. *laughing* It’s the only one I’ve made a living at.
You’re no strangers to UK festivals. You performed at Donington in 1981 at the Monsters Of Rock festival. What do you remember about that day?
Well, you can’t trust everything you read on the internet; my dick is not that long! That’s an infamous show. I guess you’ve read all the hype. The sound system was sabotaged. We don’t know who did it, but it was a bad day for us. Our sound man told us through the talkback system that we should get off the stage because the audience couldn’t hear us. Also we fired our drummer the day before.
Your most famous song is arguably ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’. Is it still a set highlight for you?
We usually close the show with it. We didn’t today because we only had forty-five minutes and we wanted to give the show a little extra punch. We sometimes encore with ‘Cities On Flame’ - and I write the set list myself - so I said, instead of doing that, let’s put the encore in the show and sort of punch up the ending a little more.
Today you dedicated the song to Amy Winehouse. Why was that?
I loved her; it was everything about her. She was just a tragic character. I never dedicated a show to her before. I did it because it was here in the U.K.
Have you seen the documentary about her life: ‘Amy – The Girl Behind The Name’?
Yeah, and it brought a tear to my eye. You wanted to reach into the film and say: “Stop - somebody stop her”. When you go into the movie, you know how it’s going to end. There’s no stopping it - it’s over - but you go anyway because she had such high points in her life, and there’s a fascination in learning more about her. I learned a lot about her life that I didn’t know, because America really didn’t discover her until late in her career actually. Her career was so short and American’s really didn’t know that much about her compared to over here [in the UK].
Was she one of the last true stars in the same league as Lennon and Cobain and the like?
She just was so full of stardom, and I think she could have been in that league because she certainly had ‘it’; she sang, she wrote, she played - she was the complete star package. As I was watching the movie I was thinking about - and this might be a terrible analogy – but, Taylor Swift. She had bad boyfriends, and she wrote about them, but she didn’t go crazy, and she didn’t take drugs, and she didn’t drink herself to death; she just wrote pop songs about it. Unfortunately Amy Winehouse, she took the bad parts of the boyfriend and started going downhill from it. Taylor Swift stayed on the high side and told the boyfriends f**k you in the songs, and made millions of dollar from it!
And now Taylor Swift is on top.
Yes, she’s on top, and Amy unfortunately had that dark side, and she made love to that dark side. I mean if you look at that video that she made for the title song from the album ‘Back To Black’ – that was a funeral. Taylor Swift I don’t think would do a song or a video about a funeral. There was something in the background, something dark that Taylor Swift just doesn’t have. She doesn’t have that in her, and she took those relationships and made fun out of them. Maybe she didn’t fall that hard for them. Amy gave her heart to those guys, especially that guy she married, and he was bad news. But the documentary kills you. If you were a fan of hers it kills you.
‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ was used to great effect in the TV adaptation of Steven King’s ‘The Stand’.
I don’t know how much it influenced him, but he quoted the song in the prologue to the book. I got in touch with him and said let’s do a record together, because he’s a musician - he has a garage band. I said, why don’t we do a theme album, like a rock opera or something? but he wasn’t interested.
Where’s the strangest place you’ve heard or seen ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ used?
Well, I just got this today from a friend of mine. There’s a ‘Play The Cowbell’ contest in Michigan this weekend, where you play along with ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’. They want to see how many people they can get. That skit from 2000, that ‘More Cowbell’ thing on Saturday Night Live with Will Ferrell helped the song to live on. It’s fifteen years ago already, but that certainly gave the song some extra punch.
I wanted to ask you about the legendary ‘Black and Blue’ tour that you did with Black Sabbath in the early 1980’s.
I was just talking to the Saxon guys who were on a bit of that tour. It wasn’t really Black Sabbath, because to me, Black Sabbath is Ozzy. But I’m a huge Ronnie Dio fan, and he was a friend of mine. I knew Ronnie from the sixties from all his earlier bands. We were in upstate New York together in competing bands. We don’t have enough time to talk, but the whole interview could be about Ronnie James Dio. I saw him play in little bars in upstate New York before he was in Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Elf, and even before the Electric Elves. I saw him in Ronnie Dio and the Profits, so I knew him that far back. He was a fantastic guy. He was a singer’s singer. There was only a few of them; Paul Rogers, Freddy Mercury, Ian Gillan, they are the guys that we all look up to.
So what’s next for Blue Öyster Cult?
Well we only flew over here yesterday and we’re going back to the States tomorrow. We’re playing in California on Wednesday. Look on blueoystercult.com and see where we’re going – it’s more of the same!
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