Some Enchanted Evening

Blue Öyster Cult

There was a spell in the cloudy haze of the 70s that Blue Öyster Cult comprised a void in my voyage of musical discovery. I saw the original lineup — Eric Bloom on vocals and guitar, Buck Dharma on lead guitar and vocals, Allen Lanier on keyboards and guitars, Joe Bouchard on bass, Albert Bouchard on drums — twice at the Long Beach Arena. Montrose opened the first show, and then there was a loony co-headlining gig with Black Oak Arkansas. This was around the time Agents Of Fortune was opening up the pearly gates to stardom for the band. I saw them again in 1978 with UFO at the L.A. Forum. By then, I was more interested in UFO.

Back then, I was mostly a fan of BÖC’s first four albums. Dark, ominous titles like Tyranny And Mutation, and songs like “Workshop Of The Telescopes" and “Dominance And Submission” were festering with cerebral, apocalyptic intensity. How could I, an impressionable teenager caught up in the hard rocking whirlwind of the early 70s, not appreciate a band like BÖC? We’re talking about black-leathered ruffians from the mysterious depths of New York City who had Sandy Pearlman, a noted critic for Crawdaddy! and The Village Voice, as their manager. Pearlman, along with fellow critic Richard Meltzer, wrote many of the group’s gloomy lyrics, contributing immensely to their shadowy disposition. Even Patti Smith thought BÖC were cool. Their records blended right in with my growing collection of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple LPs.

Then came Agents Of Fortune and its fortuitous hit, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” straddling the mainstream and dispelling the mystique. BÖC fell into a strange quagmire — stripped of the supernatural layers, now they were leaner and more accessible. As it is, their fortunes changed, and their direction became more rigidly defined. But it wasn’t a complete bust. Looking back at the follow-ups, 1977’s Spectres and 1978’s Some Enchanted Evening, both newly remastered and expanded, you sense the group, with its alchemically-infused logo intact, was in a necessary spate of growth and rejuvenation, spurning their rapturous headiness with a more commercial, radio-friendly perspective. It worked on various levels.

Filled out with four extra tracks, Spectres introduced the world to “Godzilla,” “The Golden Age Of Leather,” and “R.U. Ready 2 Rock” — tunes forever etched into BÖC’s quest to the middle of the road. “Godzilla,” in all its comic frivolity, rips and roars and splashes through the mucky, spunky melodic waters without a care in the world. No wonder the Japanese loved it — it’s impossible to dislike. “The Golden Age Of Leather,” not as punchy as its title implies, is a biker tale blemished with trite lyrics, yet engrossing during the instrumental breaks. “R.U. Ready 2 Rock” brandishes the same moxy as “Godzilla,” but with a smoother hook.

“Goin‘ Through The Motions,” a popish ode co-written by Bloom and former Mott The Hoople leader Ian Hunter, has all the makings of a hit, but falls short in its urgency to bounce, shimmer, and shake. The rest of the record has its ups and downs, but the four bonus tracks give the expanded version a welcomed kick. “Night Flyer” and “Dial M For Murder,” with newly recorded guitar parts and vocals, would have been better served as part of the main course. On the other hand, “Please Hold” and a cover of the Ronette’s “Be My Baby” do little else but make “Godzilla” less of a novelty song.

For the Cult’s Some Enchanted Evening, their second live album and reportedly best-selling record, Legacy/Columbia has gone the extra mile with mucho bonus tracks and a live DVD to boot. On the heels of Spectres, BÖC’s penchant for subversion and mythology gave way to lasers and lights when it came to the shows they staged. They started employing lasers, which Pearlman persuaded a mad scientist friend into loaning him. Eventually, BÖC, the Who, and others were dogged by the rumor that the lasers could burn the retina in someone’s eye if they happen to look directly into the beam, a seemingly unavoidable consequence at a rock concert. But the show went on, and the live dynamic of BÖC as tightly wound as a roll of duct tape hanging off the bottom of a roadie’s tennis shoe.

From its storm trooper stance, On Your Feet Or On Your Knees, the first live BÖC set, established the band as a burgeoning concert act. To successfully repeat the exercise after only two studio albums meant to keep it short and hit-oriented. More pointedly, forget the older stuff (with the exception of “Astronomy,” which didn't appear on Knees) and focus on stuff from Agents Of Fortune and Spectres. Subsequently, the original version of Some Enchanted Evening, like other single live albums of the 70s, performed a blind disservice by neglecting certain staples, and offering only glimpses of what in a reality was a more diverse presentation. The additional seven tracks set the record straight.

But really…the live DVD, taken from a different performance than the CD, is the real bonus here. You get to watch Bloom rouse the crowd into a silly sing-along of “R.U. Ready 2 Rock.” Seeing them burn through “Harvester Of Eyes” and “ME 262” may possibly bring back various hash-ridden memories, if you know what I mean. We get a clear view of a well-oiled machine, scrapping metal for a five-axe blitzoid attack of strumming during, uh, “Guitars.” Then the smoke floods the stage for “Born To Be Wild,” followed by the crowd-pleasing lasers and all-out guitar histrionics. It’s a touching snapshot of when the bizarre possibilities of rock and roll (and lack of cowbell) seemed all but endless. In the meantime, Legacy keeps pumping out pieces of prime Cult catalog and BÖC carry on with over 4,000 live performances and counting. All is right in the world.

~ Shawn Perry

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