Burnin' for You - My Life With the B.O. Cult

(First appeared in The Rocket magazine, 3/10/99) (reporduced w/out permission cuz the webpage is down)

During the 15 years I avoided them, I usually gave FOUR REASONS why I wanted no part of the Blue Oyster Clot, excuse me, Cult, a band I once lived with and wrote lyrics for (heck, I was their "muse").

First and foremost, their manager had cheated me out of money-lots of it-more than once.... But he's gone now.

Second was the memory of an original band member, after I'd sent him a copy of a book I wrote, responding that it was just "fine," see, but that it wasn't informed by the miracle of heroin addiction like the writing of his dear friend Jim Carroll (fuck you, Al). So when I learned that this bandmember was not on the current tour but ensconced in a rehab tank somewhere, I thought, "Hey, maybe it wouldn't hurt to go see the muhfuhs. Life is short and perhaps I'll not get the chance again."

I go see Blue Oyster Cult play the Roseland Theatre in Portland Feb. 20, and right off, first tune, "Burnin' for You" (yup, I wrote it-fuck me), I'm blasted with a dose of reason number three (how had it slipped my mind?): I never enjoyed the SOUND of the band after they went metal. Everything got too contained-structured to fit what it didn't fit-too stilted and skewed.

Oh yes, there was a before.

For my money, the last good Cult record-well, they weren't called the Cult then-was a 1970 single ("Arthur Comics" b/w "What Is Quicksand?") that Elektra put out under the name Stalk-Forrest Group. It was just kind of goofy, quirky, late-'60s rock: psychedelic, mind-manifesting, free-form and improv-driven, that sort of shit.

But really, Blue Oyster Cult were never a real metal band, even if they pretended, and people, at times, liked believing they were. In '74, a self-professed Satanist asked me: "Are they into any cults?"


"Yeah, c'mon, you can tell me." Ha ha ha. An English rock mag once classed them not as metal but as "heavy pomp," which seems about right.

So here BOC were at Roseland being NO DIFFERENT from what they were in their prime (the '70s)-minus, of course, the inflatable Godzilla, the laser show and the silver lederhosen.

Reduced to scale and standing naked as...good-time music(!) Oldies-rotation mainstream rock, which probably won't cause cancer (although you never know).

A full house of people enjoyed themselves: fat people, skinny people, bikers, loggers, guys looking like retired hippy pro basketball star Bill Walton in '78. Couples dancing and kissing (making out!); median age: 45. Any yuppies? Well, there was a dork in an $80 sweatsuit doing the twist and holding a beer who looks like he lives with his mother (and maybe an aunt). He gets home, they smell his breath. "Where were you?" Can such a person be classed a yuppie? (I would class him.)

In such a good-timey milieu, I chose to be entertained as well. As ever, the best thing about the band was guitarist Don, excuse me, Buck Dharma. Buck's playing was identical to what it was in '76-note for fucking note, grin for fucking grin.

This brings me to the fourth reason: my uncouth behavior at Buck's wedding back in '73-breaking a window, feeling up his mom, calling his wife "NAZI!" (her last name was Nasci). At the time, he claimed I'd "destroyed" the wedding. Hey, isn't that what you're supposed to do with weddings? But for the last 15 years or so, since I discovered compassion and such, my past behavior had been plaguing me. So when Buck told me after BOC's show that he's looking forward to divorce after 26 years, I felt, "Hey, that's sure a load off my mind."