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Blue Oyster’s cult classic still is reaping rewards.
“Don't Fear the Reaper" turned 45 last month, and the catchy but heavy classic is timeless. The biggest hit in the Blue Oyster Cult canon is deep and macabre.
No wonder it's been featured in a number of horror films, including one of the most influential of the creepy genre, “Halloween.”
“I thought the song was just incredible,” John Carpenter, the film’s director, said while calling from his Los Angeles home. “It was perfect for ‘Halloween.’ It's such a cinematic song. Just listen to what it's about.”
The ethereal tune with gorgeous Byrds-influenced harmonies waxes about eternal love that can exist after death. The earnest lyrics touch on accepting death. Vocalist-guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser wrote the song during his late 20s after discovering that he has an erratic heartbeat.
“The song is about mortality,” Roeser said. “I wrote a love song about couples that are able to transcend this life.”
Roeser, 73, still is standing, and Blue Oyster Cult, which will perform Aug. 13 at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse in Cedar Rapids, has sold more than 25 million albums.
“Burnin' For You” and “Godzilla” are among the band's hits. They’re ambitious, clever and surprising, which enabled the band to stick out in the world of heavy metal.
“I'm not sure why our songs resonated with so many people but I'm grateful that our albums connected with people,” Roeser said.
Blue Oyster Cult surprised fans by crafting 2020's “The Symbol Remains,” the band's first album since 2001. Nearly 20 years is an eternity to go between records.
Guitarist-keyboardist Allen Lanier passed away in 2013 and producer-lyricist Sandy Pearlman died three years later. Roeser and vocalist-guitarist keyboardist Eric Bloom are the lone remaining original members.
“The Symbol Remains” is a surprisingly solid project for a band that has been lying creatively dormant and has survived some major personnel changes. The new tunes range from potent hard rock and buoyant pop to visceral garage rockers.
The fresh material adds to the case why Blue Oyster Cult should be enshrined into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's curious why deserving bands like Blue Oyster Cult, The Smiths and Sonic Youth have yet to be inducted into the hallowed halls.
“Who knows why we're not in,” Roeser said. “Apparently, whoever makes the decision isn't a fan. But the bottom line isn't whether we're in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but that our songs still stand up and the fans keep coming back to see us.”
Part of the reason to catch Blue Oyster Cult is to experience the trippy “Don't Fear the Reaper,” which features one of the greatest guitar lines of all time. “There really is no song that sounds like it,” Carpenter said. “I'm not surprised that so many films and television shows used the song.”
Stephen King has stated that “Don't Fear the Reaper ” inspired arguably his greatest work, "The Stand,“ and opened his 1994 mini-series based on the book. It also can be heard in 2009's ”Zombieland,“ 2014's ”Gone Girl“ and 1991's ”Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey.“
“I'm surprised by how many films have used ‘Don't Fear the Reaper,’“ Roeser said. ”But I appreciate it. The more people that hear ‘Don't Fear the Reaper’ and any of our songs, the better it is.“