Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The BOC Challenge!

So, I have been listening to my Blue Oyster Cult box set for about a month, and during this time, I hatched an idea. As you know, my compadre Kabuki Katze shares my love of BOC. It's how we met! So I came to her with what I dubbed "The BOC Challenge" - each of us names 10 favorite Blue Oyster Cult songs and posts them to our blogs. Discussion and (possibly) hilarity ensues.

Of course, to do this, we needed some rules. Don't worry, they aren't terribly oppressive.

1) Songs did not have to be ranked in any particular order. I can't speak for KK here, but I'm pretty sure I'd spend the rest of the year trying to arrange them from my most favorite to least favorite, and then being dissatisfied as soon as I finished. It's hard enough picking out 10 favorites, especially with Rule 2.

2) Omitted from these lists will be the most famous BOC songs: "(Don't Fear) The Reaper", "Burnin' For You", "Godzilla" and "Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll". Not because we don't like them; rather, those are the easy choices to make. This exercise is about delving a little deeper into the BOC catalog.

3) There was another song I considered omitting, but after discussing it with Kabu, it's instead going to be listed separately. No peeking!

And now, my picks!

10 Favorite Blue Öyster Cult Songs

  • "Workshop of the Telescopes" - From BOC's titular first album, "Workshop of the Telescopes" is an early portent of the darker and more mysterious side of BOC's music. I am so taken by it that I once named a spaceship in a story after a key lyric.

  • "Career of Evil" - Oooh, scandalous! It's a catchy song that manages to fully play up all the nervous misgivings about heavy metal. And it's co-written by a woman!

  • "Subhuman" - This one doesn't usually get as much attention, but it almost serves as an after-the-fact rationalization of the band's unusual name. In fact, a heavily reworked version of it appears later under the title "Blue Öyster Cult".

  • "Dominance and Submission" - Some days, this driving rock and roller is my favorite BOC song, bar none. It's a concert classic with its call and response chorus.

  • "ME 262" - This song about a World War II German fighter plane (seriously!) manages to be the aural equivalent of an aerial dogfight. Live in concert, it's punctuated by guitar and drums mimicking a machine gun firing.

  • "E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)" - Possibly the best of BOC's "alien encounters" tunes, and yes, they have more than two. "E.T.I." is loaded with esoteric references sure to get the attention of even casual Ufology buffs, and some distinctly otherworldly musical flourishes.

  • "In Thee" - I mentioned "In Thee" during my tribute to the late Allen Lanier, and it's a very atypical sound for the band. It even works as a purely acoustic piece, and is a favorite despite debuting on one of BOC's less reputable albums.

  • "Black Blade" - Co-written by lead singer Eric Bloom and author Michael Moorcock, "Black Blade" is the story of Moorcock's character Elric and the sword Stormbringer. It's pretty damn ominous and moody, in addition to being metal as hell.

  • "Take Me Away" - This one also got some coverage here recently, as it is the uncanny marriage of Blue Oyster Cult and Aldo Nova. It manages to preserve the BOC "feel" than some of their other mid-80s efforts, and is another song about hanging with aliens.

  • "Harvest Moon" - A later-period (1998) BOC song, and one of their strongest to my mind. Certainly, it has been a concert staple, and never seems out of place. It can stand with the band's output from their heyday.

And there you go! But what of this mysterious "Number 11" in the Top Ten? Well, that would "Astronomy". I've already discussed that it is my absolute favorite, and so considered excluding it from consideration. Kabuki would have none of this, so it gets to be a supplemental pick.

In our discussions, Kabuki mentioned having her list ready by approximately this time. I have no idea when hers will exactly be going live, but you can find her blog here when it does. I am eagerly anticipating it, and will hopefully do a follow-up comparing and contrasting our two lists.


  1. back in the old days, my youth pastor mentioned "Dominance and Submission" in our weekly discussion group. He wasn't knocking band or song, just pointing out the psychology behind it. The band sings "Dominance" and the audience replies "submission"... that was fascinating to me, and realizing most fans never even thought of it, they just liked the song and sang the parts they were supposed to. It's still fascinating.

  2. You may find this even more fascinating - it's actually the reverse of that. The crowd says "Dominance" and the band replies "Submission." That's the way we did it in 2001, and I've never heard a live version that wasn't done that way.

    Of course, BOC's first live album was called On Your Feet or On Your Knees, so I hope the implications of that weren't lost on too many people, haha.

  3. My story... well, it was over 30 years ago when he told us, so perhaps I misremember it. Wouldn't surprise me at all.

  4. I don't know, it might have been the exact way you remember it. After all, reversing it changes the context somewhat. I just found it interesting (and not something I would expect a non-hardcore BOC fan to even know in the first place).

  5. Huh! I did not expect us to overlap on "Black Blade." Oddly enough, it was that song that first got me looking seriously at Blue Oyster cult. I ran across mention of it on an old Moorcock fansite and my fragile mind could not get over the confluence of Michael Moorcock and a rock band.

  6. Hell yes! I am definitely gonna have to sit down and listen to the songs yours and Kabukikatze's lists that I haven't heard. I am sad to say that my knowledge of them is far smaller than you guys, but I am happy to see one of my three favorites on your list (Them being Black Blade, Flaming Telepaths, and Veteran of the Psychic Wars.) and stoked to hear the ones I hadn't heard before.

  7. @Kabuki - "Black Blade" is wonderful because you really don't even need to know a thing about Elric to understand it. Plus, it manages to be completely sinister without invoking the usual rock tropes.

    Oddly, my experience was similar, except it was "Godzilla" (and its use in a bumper for a TBS/TNT Godzilla movie marathon).

  8. @Sean - I'm glad this little exercise is proving useful to you! And I wouldn't worry about not knowing that much - everybody has to start somewhere! For the longest time, my BOC "collection" was a single cassette tape with six songs.