More Cowbell

Snurched from Wired.com

START/Zeitgeist

Five years ago, Saturday Night Live spoofed the making of Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.” The laugh line: Guest host Christopher Walken, playing a superproducer, tells the band, “I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is … more cowbell!” But unlike other SNL one-liners – “You look mahvelous!” “Isn’t that special?” – “more cowbell” didn’t catch on instantly. It incubated online for years, only recently reaching the mainstream as the ultimate universal inside joke. Here are the memorable moments in the catchphrase’s rise.

MAY 2000
The editors at Geek Speak Weekly start the Cowbell Project, dedicated to listing all rock songs that feature a cowbell.

FEB 2003
A band in Rochester begins calling itself More Cowbell after seeing the skit online.

AUG 2003
Saturday Night Live: The Best of Will Ferrell, including the Blue Öyster Cult skit, is released on DVD.

JUL 2004
“More cowbell” is entered into the Urban Dictionary. Definition: 1) something everybody needs more of. 2) a remedy.

JUL 2004
The Sports Guy – aka ESPN’s Bill Simmons – adds the phrase as the tagline for his online column.

AUG 2004
Busted Tees rolls out one of the first More Cowbell T-shirts. It becomes a best-seller.

OCT 2004
“I hear about it everywhere I go,” Walken tells the Orlando Sentinel.

OCT 2004
Wilco covers “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” for the first of many times.

JAN 2005
The New Yorker mentions the phrase in an article about CollegeHumor.com.

JAN 2005
“I’ve seen [the skit] 20 times and I’m still not tired of it,” BÖC guitarist “Buck Dharma” Roeser tells The Washington Post.

MAY 2005
Queens of the Stone Age performs on SNL – with Will Ferrell on cowbell.

– David Goldenberg

As proclaimed previously, the BÖC’s Eric Bloom is my uncle and it’s sorta cool that they’re involved in something that has entered our pop cultural lexicon.

2 comments

  • That has easily got to be one of the best skits on the Will Farrell dvd. A little ironic that it’s actually Walken who makes it hilarious. Always fun to quote.

    Plus, the song’s pretty good to begin with.

  • gormuu

    I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the best skits of all SNL. Every word is perfect- even the ones the audience doesn’t laugh at. (Like when Walken bursts out with “I’m the cock of the walk, baby!” That falls dead on the audience, but it sets up his mannerisms so wonderfully.)

    Watching the skit again reminds me, though, of how much I don’t like Jimmy Fallon. His amateurishness and cavalier attitude works on a precious few of the skits he’s been in. Watching this one, you can’t help but notice the real pros at work- Ferrell, Chris Parnell, Walken. Those guys have a job to do, and they do it. Look at the way Ferrell modulates his character through each take of the song. That’s a comedian, folks!

    And Fallon, who only (thankfully) has a few seconds input in the scene, almost blows it by dropping character. Fortunately he was obscured from view pretty well, so he didn’t eff up a perfectly executed scene by taking us out of the moment.

    I get tears every time I watch that skit. Just too good…