Don’t Fear the Song

Milford is about twenty minutes north of us and every year they have their Oyster Festival. In addition to oysters by the ton, there’s a load of other attractions. Headlining the music this year is the Blue Oyster Cult, veteran heavy metal band from the 1970s.

The BOC put on a great live show in the ’70s, was one of the first bands to use lasers as part of the showmanship, had some great guitar riffs and solid songs. Why didn’t they ever break out? I gather it had a lot to do with never cracking the Top 40 in New York City. Back then, Top 40 airplay drove record sales much more than it does today. When they’re biggest hit, “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” was reaching the charts, AM powerhouse stations WNBC and WABC in NYC never played it.

The song, though, has become a standard on classic rock stations, usually alternating with “Burning for You” and “Godzilla” when they want their BOC quota for the week. Too bad, there’s plenty of other greats to choose from.

(OK, I’m prejudiced. Their lead singer, Eric Bloom, is my uncle. I grew up with the band’s music and shows.)

“Don’t Fear the Reaper” was a hit circa 1976. It’s been 28 years. Still, religious leaders in Milford have complained to the press that they feel the song glorifies suicide and the music (and by extension the band) is inappropriate for a family event.

In Wednesday’s Connecticut Post, the Reverend Joe Mixie opined, “I don’t think the band is representative of the Milford Community.” A “moral activist” named Tom Huebner said, “It is a shock factor. It sells. Suicide is never a good option. It is a sin.” Where was he when the theme to M*A*S*H gained popularity?

What I find interesting is the fact that the article does not take into account the 28 year old vintage of the music or the 30+ year vintage of the band. The song has never been blamed for someone taking their life. The band has rarely been at a concert where their anctics have caused local police problems (they have played too many multi-act all-day venues for me to absolve them of all such actions).

I remain amazed that people are making such a big deal out of one song, that is open to interpretation, and are ready to condemn the band without considering their current image. After all, the BOC members are mostly over, gasp, 50. They have wives and kids and unlike Ozzy Osborne, have never bitten the heads off chickens while performing.

I also suspect we have much larger things to worry about these days. November 2, for example.

7 comments

  • Bob

    Back in the mid-70s the gulf between Top 40 radio and FM “free form” was pretty wide. I don’t think Black Sabbath even got airplay, let alone Blue Oyster Cult!

  • Mike E.

    It’s funny you bring up Ozzy Osbourne, as he was actually sued by the family of a teenage boy who killed himself. The parents alleged that their son was inspired by Ozzy’s song “Suicide Solution,” which they felt urged kids to kill themselves. However, Ozzy claims the song is actually about his friend, AC/DC lead singer Bonn Scott who officially “drunk himself to death,” i.e. Ozzy feels Scott killed himself with alcohol.

    Also, Ozzy never bit the head off of a chicken on stage. What happened was that Ozzy stumbled into a meeting between record executives and his wife Sharon and bit the head off of a live dove.

    Then, after that story started circulating, a fan at a concert threw a dead bat on stage. Thinking it was a plastic toy (this is what Ozzy claims), Ozzy bit the head off the bat, only to discover that it was real.

    Oh, and “Don’t Fear the Reaper” can be heard in the movie Halloween. Jamie Lee Curtis and Nancy Loomis are listening to the song while getting high en route to their babysitting gigs. It’s the only non-scored song in the film.

  • Blotto’s brilliant parody of metal in general (so good that MTV used the visuals from the video behind other music and voice-overs to promote a weekly heavy metal show) features a wonderful parody of a totally pointless metal guitar solo played by Don “Buck Dharma” Roeser.

    And four (or maybe five) false endings.

  • O.K. A weird disconnect that didn’t register there for some time. You live in Connecticut. Currently, at least for another two weeks, I’m working full time at the Unos in the Danbury Mall as a bartender. I’ve been there for nearly two years. I live in Brewster. Weird. You ever eat at the Unos in Fairfield or Milford or for that matter, Danbury?

  • Mike Brisbois

    From NEWSDAY, Wednesday, August 25, 2004 (p.A10):

    “Eddie Money, BLUE OYSTER CULT [emphasis is mine – mb] and Twisted Sister’s Dee Snyder will be the first recipients of the Long Island Hall of Fame’s ‘Long Island Sound’ award, reports Newsday’s Glenn Gamboa. The honors will be handed out Sept. 4 at the Brookhaven Cares benefit at the Brookhaven Amphitheatre in Farmingville. All three honorees will be at the event, with Money and Blue Oyster Cult also performing. Tickets for the benefit are $30 threough Ticketmasterm 631-888-9000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com.”

    Hi, Bob

  • Kathleen David

    Wow. I loved BOC when I was in high school. I still really enjoy their music. I used “Godzilla” for a costume in a masquerade years ago. The world gets a little smaller again

    From what I remember reading about the band years ago compared to most of the bands of the time these guys were almost the straight arrows of the heavy metal industry.

  • J. Alexander

    I have been a big fan of BOC over the years. I even got their last few albums. What I like about the band is that they have a good sense of humor. I have seen them perform in various clubs over the years and they do not come off as pompous. One of their better songs live is “Joan Crawford has risen from the Grave”. You will never hear that song regularly on the radio.