Top 10 Blue Oyster Cult Songs
Blue Oyster Cult rose from the ashes of the Stalk Forest Group to become of the nation’s all-time greatest hard-rock ensembles. They had an incredible run of classic albums from the mid ’70 through the early ’80s, combining street-level rock ‘n’ roll with more cerebral elements of poetry and literature. Avoiding cliches whenever possible, Blue Oyster Cult rode hard and loud, and kicked out the jams at every opportunity. For that reason, we salute them with our list of the Top 10 Blue Oyster Cult Songs.
‘Burnin’ for You’
Blue Oyster Cult hit the jackpot with this riff-driven melodic rocker from their 1981 album ‘Fire of Unknown Origin.’ Co-written by guitarist Donald Roeser (better known as Buck Dharma) and author Richard Meltzer, ‘Burnin’ for You’ gave the band its first radio hit since ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ (see No. 1 on our list of the Top 10 Blue Oyster Cult Songs). The song is more polished than usual, bordering on power pop at times, and features some dynamic lead breaks by Dharma. It barely made the Top 40, but it remains one of the band’s most beloved songs.
‘I Love the Night’
The haunting ‘I Love the Night’ oozes with after-dark moodiness. Chiming guitars and sweet harmonies add to the track’s inherent beauty. “The day is OK, and the sun can be fun, but I live to see those rays slip away” captures it perfectly, right before Buck Dharma lets loose a salty solo. It’s one of the band’s most all-time gorgeous songs.
‘Then Came the Last Days of May’
This moody tune from the band’s debut album — supposedly based on a true story involving friends of the group — tells the tale of a drug deal gone wrong. Psych-rock elements left over from their previous incarnation as the Stalk Forrest Group are present and used to great effect. A tasty solo and some flavorful backing vocals add icing to the sweet, sweet cake.
‘Cities on Flame With Rock and Roll’
‘Cities on Flame With Rock and Roll’ is a powerhouse riff-heavy monster, punctuated with lines like “Three-thousand guitars, they seem to cry / My ears will melt and then my eyes.” Toss in a typically brilliant Buck Dharma guitar solo, and watch as cities burn to the ground behind the ferociousness of this cut from the band’s debut album.
‘Hot Rails to Hell’
‘Hot Rails to Hell’ includes everything a great hard-rock song requires. Kick-ass riff? Check. Powerhouse rhythm section? Check. Cool lyrics? Yes, indeed! Written and sung by bassist Joe Bouchard, this one cooks from the start and never lets up. Buck Dharma even manages to work in some surf guitar-style riffing near the end of the song.
‘Career of Evil’
‘Career of Evil’ kicks off Blue Oyster Cult’s third LP in supreme fashion. Co-written by drummer Albert Bouchard and punk priestess Patti Smith (who was dating keyboardist Allen Lanier at the time), the song is a highlight of ‘Secret Treaties,’ which adds a certain amount of polish — to great effect — to the band’s mix. The lyrics are awesome too: “I’d like your blue-eyed horseshoe, I’d like your emerald horny toad, I’d like to do it to your daughter on a dirt road.” ‘Career of Evil’ sets the tone for the entire album, and it’s killer.
‘This Ain’t the Summer of Love’
By the time of 1975’s double live album, ‘On Your Feet or on Your Knees,’ the band was super-close to reaching the Top 20. ‘Agents of Fortune,’ released the following year, would do the trick. The LP’s lead track reveals the band’s tighter and more direct sonic punch. With another dynamic riff at the core, ‘This Ain’t the Summer of Love’ signals a call to arms, somewhat in tandem with the forthcoming punk movement, in just a little more than two minutes.
Blue Oyster Cult’s self-titled debut album is a near-perfect mix of all the things that would shape the band’s monster sound over the years. They weren’t afraid to kick out the jams while exploring various lyrical paths. They certainly weren’t going to fall into the cliches of groin-thrust poetry or seek out some Tolkien-style wordplay. With references to the Altamont tragedy, ‘Transmaniacon MC’ tells the dark story of a fictitious motorcycle club: “We’ll head south from Altamont in a cold-blooded traveled trance / So clear the road, my bully boys, and let some thunder pass.”
“Goering’s on the phone from Freiburg / Said ‘Willie’s done quite a job’ / Hitler’s on the phone from Berlin / Says ‘I’m gonna make you a star’.” So begins Blue Oyster Cult’s song about the German fighter plane used in World War II, which was capable of flying 120 miles per hour faster than the U.S.’ top aircraft. It’s one of the most fiercely rocking songs in the band’s catalog, boasting almost as much firepower as the track’s subject.
‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’
‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ is not only Blue Oyster Cult’s biggest hit (it reached No. 12 in 1976), it also helped push the terrific ‘Agents of Fortune’ album into platinum territory. Even though ‘Saturday Night Live”s ‘More Cowbell’ sketch turned the song into a punch line over the years, the classic song has lost none of its power over the past 35-plus years.The Byrds-inspired guitar riff and ghostly vocals carry the load before a mid-song guitar explosion shoots through like a glorious meteor shower.