No. 53: Blue Oyster Cult, ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ – Top 100 Classic Rock Songs
Released in 1976, Blue Oyster Cult’s classic ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ could be considered the summation of all they had done up to that point in their career condensed into a five minute song.
The first single, and centerpiece of their fourth studio album ‘Agents Of Fortune,’ it was an instant hit on FM radio, and to this day remains a daily favorite on classic rock radio. It is also the song most identified with BOC, solidifying its inclusion here on our list of the Top 100 Classic Rock Songs.
Formed in 1968 as Soft White Underbelly, the group soon changed their name to the Stalk Forest Group and signed with Elektra records. An album was recorded, but never released. They soon adopted the moniker of Blue Oyster Cult and signed with Columbia. The band’s first three albums are all stone cold classics of hard, yet at times very ethereal, rock and roll.
With ‘Agents Of Fortune’ the band fine tuned their sound and as a result connected with radio and record buyers, sending ‘Reaper’ to No.12, and the album into the top 30. The mood is set with a sinister yet inviting Byrds-inspired guitar riff. A driving rhythm and haunting vocals overtake the proceedings and then at the halfway point, the whole thing bursts wide open into guitar frenzy before the overall calm reclaims the terrain. A brilliant piece of rock and roll from start to end.
And yes, we know, the song was parodied on ‘Saturday Night Live’ with Christopher Walken playing a character that actually had nothing to do with the original recordings (Bruce Dickinson was the reissue producer and did not produce the original album, that was Sandy Pearlman). Of this, we can only say, as much as we love Will Farrell, the whole ‘more cowbell’ thing has got to go!
Watch Blue Oyster Cult Perform ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’