Author: Martin Popoff
Release: Blue Oyster Cult: Secrets Revealed
Publisher: Metal Blade Records
Date: July 2004
As someone who religiously mailed a self-addressed-stamped-envelope in order to receive (sometimes months later) early tractor-feed computer printouts of each of Blue Oyster Cult’s album’s lyrics, I found Martin Popoff’s book Blue Oyster Cult: Secrets Revealed a thoroughly enjoyable fact-filled analysis and a “keeper” book for continued reference. Although it is unlikely you will sit down and read this book cover to cover, it makes a great companion to the B.O.C. musical catalogue; a perfect resource to browse for tidbits about the germination of songs while you’re listening.
As promised in his introduction, the author sticks to B.O.C.’ s musical legacy and eschews any of “the dirt” as he calls it. That’s just fine, because of all the metal bands that have been dissected over the years the oyster boys have been sorely overlooked. Blue Oyster Cult were the first band to make a savvy assessment of post Altamont America and the ensuing paranoia of the 1970’s. Yes, Black Sabbath was heavier and Led Zep may have actually dabbled in the occult, but B.O.C. and their numerous lyricists laid out a Lovecraftian landscape filled with secret societies, forgotten sciences and even a whiff of nascent-Nazism. Arguably, this stew of literary arcana over a jazzy rhythm section and jam oriented band (part Doors, part Yardbirds) can be seen as the proto-type of future speed metal bands. Certainly Metallica has made no secret of their indebtedness to B.O.C.’s first three albums, even covering “Astronomy”.
After a short exploration of the band’s early incarnations as the Soft White Underbelly, and The Stalk-Forrest Group the book is simply and sensibly divided into chapters dedicated to each successive album. The author references the expanded CD re-masters released in 2001 with the bonus tracks being discussed as well.
Keeping true to his “secrets revealed” subtitle Popoff delves into the origins of the inverted question mark logo, the graphic artist who created their first covers and the plethora of lyricists that included critic Richard Meltzer, poet/singer Patti Smith and author Michael Moorcock to name just a few. In particular the book familiarizes us with lyricist Sandy Pearlman’s “Imaginos” song-cycle that peppers B.O.C.’s entire catalogue. Answers are furnished most often via quotes from actual band members and it’s great to have their direct input though even they sometimes have difficulty sorting the mythical from the factual. The only sour note is that the book is completely devoid of graphics other than small representations of the album covers at the beginning of each chapter. It would have been nice to include some photos of the band in its earliest lineups.
All in all, this is a good choice for addition to your rock library. Dig out your B.O.C. collection and have some fun but keep it away from your copy of The DaVinci Code, who knows what conspiracies they might brew together.