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40 Years Ago: Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Tyranny and Mutation’ Released

Columbia Records

The second month of 1973 was a month of dire deeds and dark omens, ranging from the unanimous congressional vote establishing the Watergate Investigation Committee to the second musical tome crafted by the enigmatic Blue Oyster Cult, an album prophesying ‘Tyranny and Mutation,’ which was released on Feb. 11, 1973.

Needless to say, few bands in rock and roll history have so willingly wrapped themselves in mystery and misdirection like BOC did, to the extent that their music frequently took a backseat to their perplexing words of intrigue. Whether these were totally imagined or truly rescued from some arcane repository of planetary secrets, one can only guess. But whatever the answer, in retrospect, this approach ensured that the band’s discography possessed the qualities of conspiracy theories, only propagated in musical form, naturally.

Having said all that, from a structural standpoint, many songs found on ‘Tyranny and Mutation’ were still essentially rooted in all-too-obvious blues-rock fundamentals, which BOC proceeded to invigorate either with manic intensity (‘The Red and The Black,’ ‘Hot Rails to Hell’) or minor-key shadings powered by roaring guitars and malicious melodies (‘O.D.’ed on Life Itself’).

As had been the case with the previous year’s debut, the band’s manager and de facto propaganda director, Sandy Pearlman, was deeply involved with the songwriting process; but BOC also looked elsewhere for collaborators, working with Pearlman’s fellow Crawdaddy! Magazine contributor, caustic rock critic Richard Meltzer, on ‘Teen Archer,’ and emerging punk poetess Patti Smith on ‘Baby Ice Dog.’ Both of these showcased broader dynamic experiments leading to utmost melodic fruition on the revealing ‘Wings Wetted Down’ – a glimpse of things to come.

As for BOC’s famously abstruse lyrics, it could be argued that the band was never more cryptic than on ‘Tyranny and Mutation.’ Heck, to this day no one seems to know for sure what “7 Screaming Diz-busters” is all about (though the song’s harrowing references to Lucifer suggest a minor caste of demons), and we frankly don’t WANT to know what ‘Mistress of the Salmon Salt (Quicklime Girl)’ is referring to, unless its an inoffensive chemistry experiment.

In sum: all of these musical ingredients helped further establish Blue Oyster Cult as the ultimate thinking man’s metal band. And over the course of their ensuing “career of evil,” the Long Island natives would keep fans and detractors alike thinking…thinking…and thinking – often in a vain attempt to decipher these ambiguous messages, surely as intended by the group.

Blue Oyster Cult: band or conspiracy theory? The truth is out there.

Next: Blue Oyster Cult - Top 100 Classic Rock Songs

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