A half-woman, half-lizard crawls through the desert. A grinning sorcerer prepares a potion over a fire; a human head slowly emerges from the bubbling brew. A short, mustachioed man chases a woman in a bridal dress through the woods; he tackles her, only to discover she has transformed into a goat. He sees a light sail across the sky, and releases a snow-white dove. Through it all, a rock 'n' roll band plays at a seedy bar called the Shooting Shark.
Obviously, that band is Blue Öyster Cult. And obviously, it's 1983.
It would probably take Joseph Campbell -- or someone who has recently watched the 1994 hesher comedy The Stöned Age -- to fully explain the symbolism in this unintentionally hilarious music video. Suffice it to say, "Shooting Shark" is probably the only common ground between Patti Smith (who co-wrote it), American Idol's Randy Jackson (who played the awesome funk bass line), and people who go to rib-fests (who have likely seen BÖC play it on numerous occasions).
But it's not really that much more bizarre than BÖC's career (of evil): three decades of highs and lows, dominance and submission, tyranny and mutation.
Beginning in the late 1960s as Long Island band Soft White Underbelly, the group performed under a few different names -- and managed to get signed and dropped from a major label -- before settling upon "Blue Öyster Cult" and releasing the self-titled debut in 1972. That original, classic lineup featured guitarist Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser, vocalist Eric Bloom, drummer Albert Bouchard, bassist Joe Bouchard and multi-instrumentalist Allen Lanier. Since the beginning, the band farmed out much of its lyrics to writers outside the band -- first to manager Sandy Pearlman, but eventually a range of sci-fi writers, songwriters and other literati.
Somehow these people created the mixture of heavy metal and mysticism, shredding and sci-fi that yielded a large discography and the hits "Don't Fear the Reaper," "Godzilla" and, later on, "Burnin' for You." For the rest of the story, you should probably just watch This Is Spinal Tap, and look up the word "awesome" in your dictionary.
The band that's playing this Fri., July 18, at South Park Amphitheater -- and for free, mind you -- will likely be better termed "Two Öyster Cult." The only original members are Bloom and Roeser, with Lanier having phased out his involvement with the band over the last couple of years. Holding down the rhythm (since 2004) are bassist Richie Castellano and drummer Jules Radino.
Whether a huge eyeball will look down on you from space while you're at the concert ... well, that's between you and the universe.
Blue Öyster Cult. 7:30 p.m. Fri., July 18. South Park Amphitheater, Buffalo Drive, South Park. Free. All ages. 412-835-4810 or www.alleghenycounty.us/parks
- Still burnin': Blue yster Cult