(Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult

THIS DAY IN MUSIC………………………………………on September 4th 1976 Blue Oyster Cult’s biggest hit, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”, cracks the Billboard Top 40 on its way to #12. Blue Öyster Cult’s first hit, this was written by lead guitarist Donald Roeser, also known as Buck Dharma. He contributed his vocals to this track and also wrote their other Top 40 hit, “Burnin’ For You. “Blue Öyster Cult was considered a “cult” band, somewhere in the realm of heavy metal with complex and often baffling lyrics dealing with the supernatural. Those inside the cult took the time to understand that like Black Sabbath, BOC combined outstanding musicianship with fantasy lyrics, and they weren’t for everyone. “Don’t Fear The Reaper” exposed them to a wider audience, which was good for business but bad for art. Buck Dharma said in a 1980 interview with NME: “Ever since ‘The Reaper’ was a hit we’ve been under pressure to duplicate that success; the body of our work failed. Even on (1977 album) Spectres everyone tried to write a hit single and that’s a bad mistake. The Cult is never destined to be successful at a format. To be a singles band you have to win the casual buyer.” Some of the lyrics were inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet. In Shakespeare’s play, Romeo swallows poison when he believes Juliet is dead. Juliet responds by taking her own life. This led many people to believe the song was about suicide, but Dharma was using Romeo and Juliet as an example of a couple who had faith that they would be together after their death. For the lyrics that begin, “40,000 men and women,” Dharma was guessing at the number of people who died every day.This wasn’t released as a single in the UK until 1978, where it became their only hit in England reaching #16.