Blue Öyster Cult: Archival Intelligence (part 2)

Continued from Part One

Bill Kopp: Was the band just so prolific in those days that you simply had more material than you could use?

Eric Bloom: I don’t know about that. These were… I won’t use the word “rejected” because that’s too harsh. Maybe we were just not satisfied with them at the time. Or we just couldn’t agree: maybe two or three out of five guys said, “I don’t want to work on this song anymore.” These things happen when you have a democracy, of course.

Buck Dharma: Historically, we didn’t record a lot of extra stuff. When we’d make a record, we would pretty much decide which songs we thought were going to make the record, and then those were the ones we’d record. The treasure trove of Ghost Stories is what George Geranios had retained from those days, centered around the time when we were writing songs for the movie Heavy Metal. They picked “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” for the movie, but there were others. Listening to Ghost Stories, it’s like a lost BÖC record that somehow got misplaced and then found, because it has all the original band members on it. It’s got Allen Lanier, who’s gone now. So it’s nostalgic and bittersweet to hear it with a sheen of 2024 production on it.

Ghost Stories includes a version of The MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams.” That one has been in BÖC’s set for a long time; you even included it on your first live album, Some Enchanted Evening. What’s special about that song?

Eric Bloom: I’m an old guy; I actually saw the MC5 live. They were great. And [our then-manager Sandy] Pearlman was a fan; he dragged us by the scruff of our necks to go see them, though it didn’t take much persuading. The MC5 has to be the archetype for a hard rock band; they were very inspirational.

The Beatles’ “If I Fell” seems an unusual choice of songs for BÖC to cover. Tell me about that.

Eric Bloom: We did that when Kasim [Sulton] was in the band. We like doing covers; it’s kind of a dressing room thing. We always sang Beatles songs in the dressing room just to warm up on vocals and harmonies. We’ve actually done “If I Fell” during sound checks. One time we did it at an outdoor venue, and the crews and everybody stopped what they were doing and came over to the stage. It’s a fun song to do because it’s got a lot of moving parts. And it was especially great when Kasim was in the band, because he’s such a great singer. I’m glad it found its spot on this record.

Buck Dharma: My rule of covers is, “First, do no harm, and then bring something new.” We enjoy playing other people’s music if we think we could do something with it. “If I Fell” was done at a taping at Red Studios in L.A. at the time of the 40th anniversary of Agents of Fortune.

Has BÖC played any of the original songs on Ghost Stories live onstage?

Buck Dharma: No, [back then] we didn’t play them live as far as I know. I could be wrong. Some completist might say, “No, you actually played it on this date, at this show.” But I wouldn’t be surprised if we would perform some of these new songs this year.

Eric Bloom: It’s possible we played them live to try them out somewhere, which [laughs] may have been the reason why they weren’t used!

Is there more unreleased material in the BÖC vault?

Eric Bloom: I really don’t know. Never say never. There are songs that we wrote for movies and stuff like that; those have come out on as extra tracks [on CD reissues]. I don’t know how much stuff is left. I think the well is dry, but you never know.

Buck Dharma: Ghost Stories is the cream of the crop, the small crop. I don’t know if George has stuff that I’ve forgotten about. I don’t have a notebook from what was done at the time. Is there anything more? We’ll see.

Over the course of Blue Öyster Cult’s career, there have been at least nine live albums. Is the group more in its element in the studio or live on stage?

Buck Dharma: Historically, we sort of broke out because of the live record. That was our first Gold record: On Your Feet or On Your Knees. And I think there was an energy – and even an ability – on our live recordings that didn’t always come across in the studio recordings. But I like studio records myself. I wouldn’t say the live records are better than the studio records; they’re just different.

Eric Bloom: I think we’ve proved to have success both ways. Our best selling record is a live record; it’s that single one that was supposed to be a double album, Some Enchanted Evening. And On Your Feet certainly is raw; a lot of people think it’s a great live record, and it marks a certain time in our career. Extraterrestrial Live is a good record, too.

The press release for Ghost Stories refers to the album “bookending” Blue Öyster Cult’s career. That’s an interesting choice of words. Should that be taken to mean that this is the final release from the band?

Eric Bloom: I think that’s “record label-speak,” so I’m not going to give it any credence. I’m only going to say that if you’re sitting on an airplane and you get an idea for a song and you have a napkin nearby, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to start writing something else that might come out someday.

Buck Dharma: At this moment, we’re not planning to do any more recording, but that could change. As far as live shows, we’re committed to 2024; we’ll probably do between 20 and 30 shows. We haven’t committed to anything in ‘25 yet. Eric and I are getting old, and I’m just wondering if I’ll ever do anything else but get up and play. Because that’s basically what I’ve done for 50-odd years.