Eric Bloom of Blue Öyster Cult: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview

Eric Bloom of Blue Oyster Cult Interview

Eric Bloom photo by Rockposer.com

If you’re a fan of classic rock, hard rock, or heavy metal, or just from Long Island and have had your finger on the pulse of what’s hot in rock dating back to the ’70s, surely, you’ve heard of Blue Öyster Cult.

The Long Island thing is especially important… for those of us who live here, as, along with acts like Zebra, Twisted Sister, The Rascals, and a little-known piano player named Billy Joel, Blue Öyster Cult is about as good as it gets. To that end, Blue Öyster Cult has sold 25 million albums worldwide on the strength of songs like “Godzilla,” “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” and “Burnin’ For You.”

But you don’t have to be from Long Island to dig on BÖC. All you’ve got to do is crank your radio dial (remember those?), or should we say, shuffle your iPod over to their latest Apple or Spotify “Essentials” playlist, and you’ll be able to stuff yourself with so much ever-loving BÖC rock and riffage that you might explode.

Anyway, there’s another option now. Well, actually, said option doesn’t drop until April 12, 2024, to be exact. And that’s BÖC’s latest effort, Ghost Stories, which will be out via Frontiers Records and features lost but not forgotten tracks from BÖC’s finest, aka its most classic era: 1973 through 1983.

That sounds pretty tasty, yeah? We think so, too, as does BÖC’s founding member, vocalist, co-guitarist, keyboardist, and sometimes (though not often) bassist, Eric Bloom. According to Bloom, the process of reviving old outtakes and vaulted tracks wasn’t without its trials. “To tell the truth, we had to, like, call each other and say, ‘Do you know who wrote this?’,” Bloom tells ClassicRockHistory.com. “I had to scratch my head a little bit, like, ‘Who gets writing credit on this song? I don’t remember who did what.’ Because very often, they’re cooperative writing credits.”

He continues, “And sometimes, the songs got changed during rehearsals, so we had to bounce that around a little bit and remember which particular song I added ideas to. Sometimes, writing credits had to be credited to me that I didn’t remember myself. So, it’s very interesting, and it really brought back a flood of memories that I almost completely forgot.”

Ghost Stories aside, BÖC’s most recent album of all-new material was 2020’s The Symbol That Remains. And according to Bloom, there’s no plans for another. “We really, you know, we have a touring schedule,” he says. “And so, we never say never, but currently, there are no plans for it.”

When pressed if that means he’s pondering hanging it up rather than rocking ’til he drops, Bloom is tight-lipped, if not slightly cryptic, saying, “I’d say we’re somewhere in-between those two statements.”

And so, aside from live dates set for 2024, Blue Öyster Cult’s future may or may not be up in the air. And, truly, that’s fair given that Bloom is closing in on 80, and his longtime partner in crime, guitarist Buck Dharma, is nearly 77. When asked what Blue Öyster Cult’s legacy means to him, Bloom is hardly wistful, if not laconic, saying, “It’s really not for me to say; it’s more in the eyes of the listener. We always just wanted to play music and get by doing that. We’ve succeeded in that.”

“We started in Great Neck in a band house in Thomaston,” he continues. “And then, we moved from there to Dix Hills and moved from there to Eaton’s Neck. We started on the Island and used to rent trucks from Huntington; that area was our base.”

He concludes, “We’re very satisfied with our beginnings, and there’s no endings in sight. We still plan to have somewhere between 30 and 40 gigs this year in 2024. As for what 2025 holds, that we haven’t discussed yet.”

Give me the rundown on how Ghost Stories came to be.

These songs are from 1978 to ’83. We were rehearsing at [soundman] George Geranios’s by the Brooklyn Bridge [in New York City]. We made a few different albums at that time, and these songs were not included on the albums made during that period. He [George] was running reel-to-reel tape as we were rehearsing, both for the live shows and for the albums we made during that time period.

So, when our label, Frontiers, wanted a new album, for now, we were not really prepared to go into the studio; we had to work live. So, our manager proposed this, and Frontiers accepted the idea of taking these George Geranios tapes from the ’78 to ’83 time period, which were not completed and were leftover songs from back in the day. And that’s where these songs came from.

What did the process of polishing up the unfinished songs look like?

Well, there’s a video about that with Steve Schenk and Richie Castellano, which you can see, I believe, on the Blue Öyster Cult Facebook page. So, that might answer that question. Basically, the producers at the time of those records were working with us, and when you hire a producer, usually, they have the final say of what songs make it and what songs don’t.

Also, we were working with vinyl, and there’s only a certain amount of time you can put on a vinyl record. So, some songs just didn’t make the final cut. And I believe that… I’m trying to remember, back then, it was only 38 minutes or 41 minutes that were allowed to be on a vinyl record because of time constraints. That limited how many cuts you could put on a vinyl record.

So, for the above two reasons, some of the songs just didn’t make it. And some of those songs were left unfinished; the producer said, “Stop working on that song. Let’s work on these other songs. For example, with “So Supernatural,” the first “single” on the album, the vocals were finished back in the day. But the tape deteriorated, which does happen; they oxidize over because this is acetate tape from going back, you know, 40 years or so ago.

So, bassist Joe Bouchard, who sang the vocal on “So Supernatural,” came back in the current day, you know, three or four months ago, and we sang the song. And some of the other songs did not have some guitar work on it, or maybe a little keyboard work. So, Richie Castellano filled in some empty spots. But in general, what you’re hearing is what was back in the day, save for a few little parts.

These songs are a time capsule of the amazing chemistry that Blue Öyster Cult shared around the time. 

Well, during that time period, of course, we had keyboardist Allen Lanier in the band. And so, I think that’s part of the chemistry that I think the real hardcore Blue Öyster Cult fans will enjoy. Because obviously, we don’t have him anymore, so I think this is probably the last chance people will get to hear Allen in the mix.

For your part, what was the key to locking in alongside Buck Dharma on guitar?

You know, that’s a hard question because very often I played keyboard on some of these songs. So, like, for instance, I play keyboards on “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” So, if you go listen to that, that’s me on the keys. Take, for example, “Heavy Metal: The Black and Silver,” which is a Blue Öyster Cult song that we don’t play live, but it’s an album cut.

When we started working on that song, you know, we were in a rehearsal place, and all our instruments were lying around the room. So, people would just pick up whatever, and they’d start jamming a little bit. And I picked up the bass, and just for fun, I played it just the way that song starts. And so, when it came time to record the song, everybody picked up their own instruments, and we started recording.

And so, the producer says, “This doesn’t sound right.” And the guys in the band said, “Well, you know, Bloom was playing the bass when we worked the song up. So, the producer said, “Well, why isn’t Bloom playing the bass now?” You know, I’m not really a great bass player, but it sounded better because I started the song playing bass. So, I play bass on that recording of “Heavy Metal: The Black and Silver.”

It’s just that some things just sound right with a certain or different chemistry. It’s just weird, you know, sometimes the way things work. But you know, I’m not the world’s best keyboard player, either. But just somehow, because we started off with me playing keyboard in the rehearsals to start with, I wound up playing keyboard on the final mix of “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” for example.

When you reflect on Blue Öyster Cult’s catalog, which album is your favorite?

Oh, gosh, I don’t think I have a favorite. But you know, I do lean towards Secret Treaties. I like that one, which is what people call the last record in the “Black and White Series.” I have a lot of writing credits on it and a lot of songs that I liked on that record. That’s probably my favorite, although I do like the last record we made three years ago [The Symbol Remains]. But yeah, I’d probably say that Secret Treaties would be my favorite because I wrote a lot of stuff on it, and I think it was a period in our history.

A lot of great songs come to mind when it comes to Blue Öyster Cult, but which would you say is the band’s signature song?

Signature song? Well, you know, history will show it’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” I imagine. I mean, it was written in 1975, recorded in ’76, and it’s still getting top airplay, you know, 50 years later.

Do any anecdotal memories spring up when you think of “Don’t Fear the Reaper?”

Well, Buck wrote it in its entirety, both the lyrics and music. He brought it into rehearsals almost completely the way it is on the radio today. David Lucas co-produced it, and it was his idea to add the cowbell. You know, it certainly stands the test of time; it’s been used in movies, television, and lots of different things. It certainly changed Buck’s life.

Do you feel Blue Öyster Cult gets enough credit for its impact on hard rock and heavy metal?

I don’t know. That’s a tough question. I’m perfectly satisfied with whatever notoriety we have. It’s nice to be able to walk down the street and have people not recognize me; I’m perfectly happy with that. And it’s better than the other way around.

Still, the band’s influence is immeasurable. Could you have ever imagined it while you were making those records?

You know, we didn’t think about it in that light. We were just a bunch of guys trying to play some tunes and make good music. But we always had a weird aesthetic, and, of course, it was driven a lot by our mentor, Sandy Pearlman, who is no longer with us.

We always liked what we liked: comic books, monster movies, and a little bit of tongue-in-cheek stuff. That’s what we liked, so we were doing the stuff we liked. And it’s done well by us. Maybe, you know, it was never enough to go over-the-top, but like I said, I’m certainly satisfied with my career.

Blue Öyster Cult comes from what was a vibrant late 60s and ’70s Long Island music scene. Looking back on that period, how do you measure the importance of Long Island on classic rock music in the ’70s and ’80s?

Luckily, we now have the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. A lot of great acts have come out of Long Island, of course, even before us. We were big fans of a lot of those bands, like The Rascals and The Good Rats; those bands both came out of that area.

Of course, our big hero was Billy Joel, but there were just so many other big acts that came from the area. I don’t know how many, but the Long Island Music Hall of Fame is a good place for many people to come and visit now that it has its own building in Stony Brook, New York. I don’t live in the area anymore, but I’d like to come and visit.

Eric Bloom of Blue Oyster Cult Interview

Photo by Chris McCay

Eric Bloom of Blue Öyster Cult: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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