(Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Öyster Cult – 1976

Although it only made #12 on the US singles chart, Blue Öyster Cult’s 1976 hit, (Don’t Fear) The Reaper was named best song of 1976 by Rolling Stone Magazine and, even today, consistently makes it onto “best of” lists.

the bells…

The music to Blue Öyster Cult’s fabulous (Don’t Fear) The Reaper is amazingly repetitive – the guitar riff of Donald Roeser, aka Buck Dharma, and the famous cowbell.

The song was originally recorded without the cowbell and then, at someone’s insistence (the band cannot remember who it was), overdubbed as a percussion backing.

The (Don’t Fear) The Reaper cowbell has become famous. In fact, in April 2000, Saturday Night Live featured a comedy skit entitled, More Cowbell. The six-minute sketch revolved around fictionalised version of the recording of (Don’t Fear) The Reaper on an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music.

Will Ferrell wrote the sketch in which he plays Gene Frenkle, an overweight cowbell player. Christopher Walken plays a record producer who asks Frenkle to “really explore the studio space” and up the ante on his cowbell playing. The rest of the band are visibly annoyed by Frenkle, but the producer tells everyone “I got a fever, and the only prescription . . . is more cowbell!”

The band LOVED the sketch. So much so that, “more cowbell!” has become a phrase the often shout at each other in jest.

trend setters

Blue Öyster Cult began back in 1967, and are another of those 70s bands that is still going! With their roots in Long Island, New York, the band have always been known for their music videos. When MTV premiered in 1981, Blue Öyster Cult were immediately on high rotation; so much so that they are credited with making a significant contribution to the development and success of the music video in modern pop culture.

it’s who you know

A number of people, besides the band members themselves, have written for Blue Öyster Cult. One such person is the great Patti Smith who has co-written a few of their songs.

Randy Jackson has also played bass for Blue Öyster Cult.

what’s in a name?

The name Blue Öyster Cult (which is pretty cool) came from a poem written by the band’s manager Sandy Pearlman. Sandy had also come up with the band’s earlier name, Soft White Underbelly. He grabbed that from Winston Churchill. Those are the words he used to describe Italy during World War Two.

The band did not like the name Blue Öyster Cult and settled for it as a work in progress. I think it’s pretty well stuck for good now!

(don’t fear) the reaper fax

  • (Don’t Fear) The Reaper is lifted from Blue Öyster Cult’s fourth album, Agents of Fortune released in 1976.
  • The song (Don’t Fear) The Reaper was written and sung by lead guitarist, Donald Roeser. It was released as a single in July 1976 with Tattoo Vampire on the B-side.
  • While the album version of (Don’t Fear) The Reaper is 5.08 minutes long, the single version is only 3.45 minutes.
  • This was Blue Öyster Cult’s highest peaking single reaching #12 on the US singles chart in November 1976. It peaked at #7 in Canada and #16 in the UK.
  • (Don’t Fear) The Reaper was named The Best Song of 1976 by Rolling Stone Magazine who listed at #397 on their list of the top 500 songs of all time.
  • (Don’t Fear) The Reaper is about the inevitability of death and the foolishness of fearing it. Lyrics such as “Romeo and Juliet are together in eternity” have led many listeners to interpret the song to be about a murder-suicide pact, but the is about eternal love, not suicide.
  • A number of bands have covered (Don’t Fear) The Reaper, including The Goo Goo Dolls. It has also appeared in a number of movies, most notably Halloween, The Frighteners and Scream.
  • Stephen King quoted the lyrics to this song in his novel The Stand, in which 99.9% of the US population is killed by a manmade disease called “Superflu.”
  • (Don’t Fear) The Reaper lyrics.

(don’t fear) the reaper – blue oyster cult – 1976 – video – studio version

(don’t fear) the reaper – blue oyster cult – 1976 – video – live version

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