New Year’s Eve

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This article by Richard J. Skelly was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper

dated Wednesday, December 23, 1998. All rights reserved.

No Nostalgia for Time Past

Don "Buck Dharma" Roeser, now 50 years of age,

swears that Blue Oyster Cult, the band he co-founded in 1970, offers

more than just music for aging hippies.

Blue Oyster Cult is not just another nostalgia act, he insists. And

frankly, the band’s recent album, "Heaven Forbid," on CMC

Records, proves it. There’s not one regurgitated, rearranged hit from

the past on the album. You won’t find any re-worked versions of

"Godzilla,"

"Burnin’ For You," or "Don’t Fear The Reaper" —

a five-minute track that became a huge hit for the band in 1976 and

remains a staple of classic rock radio — on "Heaven

Forbid."

What does Roeser make of the various phony retro acts that can be

found touring these days?

"The only thing I bristle at is being lumped into a group with

bands that are just touring with one or even none of the original

guys and none of the original vibe," explains Roeser from his

home in Red Bank, where he’s lived since 1993.

"Those bands are purely a nostalgia experience," he argues.

"What you get from Blue Oyster Cult is the real thing and it’s

just as potent as it ever was, perhaps more."

Like most bands with a long discography, Blue Oyster Cult has a

somewhat

complicated history. Of the original members, only the Bouchard

brothers

— drummer Albert and bassist Joe — are no longer with

"BOC,"

as Roeser likes to call the band. Original members include Eric Bloom,

guitar and vocals, Allen Lanier, keyboards, and Roeser on lead guitar.

(In fact, Roeser’s guitar solo on "Don’t Fear The Reaper"

is one of the more famous solos in all of classic rock.) Since the

late 1980s, the band’s core members have been working with bassist

Danny Miranda and drummer Bobby Rondinelli.

Blue Oyster Cult, who originally called themselves the Stalk-Forrest

Group, formed in Long Island in 1970, composed of members of three

groups: The Cows, Soft White Underbelly, and Oaxoa. In 1971, they

signed to Columbia Records as Blue Oyster Cult, steered to the company

by Crawdaddy Magazine writer Sandy Pearlman and rock writer Richard

Meltzer, known for his ground-breaking book, "The Aesthetics of

Rock."

In BOC’s early days, both writers contributed lyrical

and production ideas to the group’s studio efforts. Their self-titled

debut album, "Blue Oyster Cult," was released in June, 1972.

It sold 100,000 copies, more than respectable in those days.

Making use of their own logo, stage theatrics, and state-of-the-art

lighting techniques, BOC followed up their album with some heavy-duty

touring, opening shows for Alice Cooper in 1972. Their second album,

"Tyranny and Mutation," reached No. 122 on the album rock

charts, and sales doubled. By the time their third album, "Secret

Treaties," was released, with songs written by Lanier’s

then-girlfriend,

Patti Smith, the band was on its collective way up the charts and

on to a series of chartered planes and tour buses.

"In those days, record companies would nurture you and retain

you if your sales were increasing," Roeser recalls. "We did

eventually find our audience, but it was through a lot of hard

touring,

going out and building a following."

Perhaps helped along by lyrics from the likes of Smith and Meltzer,

the band found itself in the rarest of situations: they appealed to

both teenagers and rock critics — normally two mutually exclusive

audiences. Asked how all of this felt back in 1976 and 1977, the time

when the band had cemented its following with "Don’t Fear The

Reaper," Roeser was temporarily speechless. "I really don’t

know what to say about that. Although we sold a lot of records, we

never were a super huge commercial success," he says.

"We had six or seven gold records and one record that went

platinum.

But we never had a double platinum record, we never went on to that

next step that even bands like Kansas and Heart and Ted Nugent were

able to do." Even after "Don’t Fear The Reaper" (from

their "Agents Of Fortune" album) became a hit and the band

was playing arenas, Roeser says he thought the band was "a little

too quirky for real mass acceptance."

Roeser was raised in Smithtown, along Long Island’s north shore.

He majored in chemical engineering at Clarkson University in Potsdam,

but dropped out in 1968. His parents worked in the then-burgeoning

defense industry in Long Island, he says. They were supportive of

his earliest musical endeavor, a surf-rock band he formed in high

school.

"My early influences would be Chuck Berry via Carl Wilson,"

he says, but notes that when the Beatles arrived in 1964 on their

first U.S. tour, it proved a revelation. A freshman in high school

that year, he says the Beatles inspired him — and thousands of

other teens — to try their hand at writing songs. Over the 16-year

existence of the first version of Blue Oyster Cult, it was Roeser

who proved to be the most inventive songwriter and composer in the

group. He wrote most of Blue Oyster Cult’s hits, including "Don’t

Fear The Reaper," "Godzilla," and "Burnin’ For

You,"

the last a co-write with rock critic Meltzer.

"Personally, I didn’t consider myself a professional at this until

we released our third album," he says, laughing. "I remember

thinking at the time, `Okay, it’s great I’m doing this now, but I

don’t see this lasting for the long haul. And now here it is 30 years

later and I’m still doing it."

During his brief college career, Roeser says he was influenced by

everything going on musically in the 1960s: the blues of Janis Joplin,

the blues-rock of the Butterfield Blues Band, the early psychedelic

music of Quicksilver Messenger Service, as well as folk musicians

like Patrick Sky and Dave Van Ronk. Jimi Hendrix was from another

planet and on an entirely different level, he notes.

Roeser met original bandmate Al Bouchard in college and they formed

a band that specialized in Blues Project and Paul Butterfield Blues

Band material. But at the same time, they were paying attention to

folk music and pop tunes. "We were just eating it all up. When

you think about the 1960s, you realize it was an era of great

creativity."

When I note that the 1960s, aside from being a time of great musical

creativity and experimentation, was also a time when rock music hadn’t

yet become a major industry, with few bands, songwriters, producers,

managers, or festival organizers exhibiting very much business sense,

Roeser argues that is precisely why musical creativity flourished.

"Nowadays, you don’t get anybody taking any chances, because they

figure that’s the fast train to obscurity," he says.

Asked how he came to settle in Red Bank, Roeser explains he was raised

in suburban Long Island, so he always felt most comfortable in

suburban

settings. "After the band became successful, I lived in Fairfield

County, Connecticut, for nine years, but I got out of there primarily

because it was a very stuffy scene," he says.

"I thought it was actually injurious to my children. So my wife

and I fled to upstate New York and landed in Ithaca, and that was

a good place to park our kids for awhile before coming down here."

"Every time I’d have some band business, I’d have to go downstate

and stay in a hotel in the city for a few days to rehearse. We started

looking around the New York area and found Red Bank to be the perfect

place," he explains. "Monmouth County is by far the best of

any place I’ve lived so far. I find New Jersey people in general to

be very down-to-earth and very nice."

After Blue Oyster Cult made 12 or 13 albums by the mid-1980s, he says,

all the members felt they needed a break from the seemingly endless

cycle of record-tour to record-tour.

"We did kind of run out of gas in the sense that we wanted to

do other things. You can only do this for so long," he says. As

a result of taking a break from the road and from each other, "I

think I’m more excited about playing now than I was 10 years ago."

Since the release of "Heaven Forbid" in April, this year,

Blue Oyster Cult has performed more than 120 shows, a lot more than

they’ve been used to performing in recent years.

Roeser is equally excited to be working with a niche label like CMC

International, distributed by BMG, that caters to classic rock groups

and their aging audiences. At CMC, Blue Oyster Cult’s label mates

include Iron Maiden, Molly Hatchet, and Little Feat.

"Frankly, they’ve realized they can make money on us," says

Roeser. The label’s executives understand that people in their late

30s, 40s, and 50s are still buying records and attending concerts.

As a recent report on ABC TV’s "World News Tonight" made

clear,

baby boomers — many of them parents of their own 20-somethings

now — are still passionate about rock ‘n’ roll. Need further

proof?

Look at 1997 and 1998 attendance figures for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall

of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.

Asked how it feels to be on a label with what Roeser jokingly refers

to as "gray beards" — groups with members in their 50s

— he says it’s great to be doing what he loves doing. Now, at

age 50, Roeser finds himself arguing with the band’s booking agency

to have Blue Oyster Cult play more clubs with tables and chairs.

"When folks get to be a certain age, they want to have a

comfortable

room to see a band. I like to restrict our gigs to more comfortable

rooms when possible," he says, adding, "this past year, we’ve

played far too many dark, narrow rooms where everybody stands."

What can people who aren’t familiar with much beyond the band’s

handful

of hits expect at Club Bene on New Year’s Eve?

"Unlike a lot of my contemporaries, the records we’re making today

are every bit as good as our earlier records. I challenge any listener

to compare what we’re doing today to what we did in our peak

years,"

he argues. "When you come to see us, you’re getting a very current

and vital musical experience. This is not a nostalgia act."

— Richard J. Skelly

Blue Oyster Cult, Club Bene, Route 35 South, Sayreville,

732-727-3000. Doors open at 8:30 p.m.; opening bands start at 10 p.m.,

and Blue Oyster Cult takes the stage at midnight. $35. Thursday,

December 31.

Top Of Page
New Year’s Eve

Hot Spots

New Year’s Eve Concert & Gala, Greater Trenton Symphony

Orchestra , The War Memorial, Trenton, 609-394-1338. Favorite and

festive symphonic pops and light classics conducted by John Peter

Holly and Bill Holcombe, with pianist Clipper Erickson and

mezzo-soprano

Heather Holcombe. $15 to $30. A gala New Year’s Eve celebration

follows

the concert in the glittering, restored-to-period ballroom with a

buffet supper by Maxine’s, dancing to the music of Bill Holcombe’s

big band, and a champagne toast at midnight. $125. 8 p.m.

Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians, State Theater, 15

Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-246-7469. A New Year’s Eve

celebration

under the baton of Al Pierson, playing nostalgic hits "Seems Like

Old Times," "Boo Hoo," and "Ain’t She Sweet."

Founded in 1919, the orchestra is the longest running act in show

business history. The New Year’s Eve Party show broke radio history

records, playing 50 consecutive years through 1979; now their

television

broadcasts have entertained more than a billion viewers. To 10:20

p.m. $25 to $45. 8 p.m.

Ten New Brunswick Restaurants are offering fixed-price dining

packages for pre-theater and post-theater seatings at 5:30 and 10:30

p.m. Late seating includes Champagne toast. To order, call

732-246-7469.

2 Albany, in the Hyatt Regency, $68. Clyde’s, 55

Paterson, $93. The Frog and the Peach, 29 Dennis, $100 & $131.

Makeda Ethiopian Restaurant, 338 George, $81 & $94.

Napolitano’s

Ristorante , 19 Dennis, $55 & $68. The Old Bay, 61 Church,

5:30 seating, $55. Panico’s, 103 Church, 5:30 seating, $80.

River Club, 85 Church, 5 p.m. seating, $77. SoHo on

George,

335 George, $70. Stage Left, 5 Livingston, $99 and $115.

Phyllis Diller, Paper Mill Playhouse, Brookside

Drive, Millburn, 973-379-3636. New Year’s Eve gala features Diller,

"the first lady of hilarity," the long-time comedienne who

is also active as a pianist and a painter. Also appearing, harmony

group the Duprees, and magician Mercer Helms. Shows only $55 to $75;

late show with midnight buffet, $120. 7 and 10 p.m.

At the Theater

Inspecting Carol, George Street Playhouse, 9

Livingston

Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-246-7717. "New Year’s Eve Extravaganza

features a special performance of the seasonal comedy followed by

a gala reception hosted by actor Dan Lauria, of television’s "The

Wonder Years," and other cast members. $35 performance only; $45

performance

and reception. 7 p.m.

It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues, Crossroads Theater,

7 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-249-5560. New Year’s eve

production

of the musical saga of the African-American experience. $27.50. 8

p.m.

Love Letters, Off-Broadstreet Theater, 5 South

Greenwood

Avenue, Hopewell, 609-466-2766. New Year’s Eve presentation of A.R.

Gurney’s poignant love story featuring Laura Jackson and Jerry Dunn.

Champagne, dessert, & show, $22.50. 8 p.m.

Restaurants and Clubs

New Year’s Eve Celebration, Tre Piani, Princeton

Forrestal Village, 609-452-1515. Butlered hors d’oeuvres followed

by five-course dinner. Dancing to the music of Miracle. Champagne

and party favors at midnight. $75. 7:30 p.m.

Rehearsal for the New Millennium, Hyatt Regency

Princeton ,

609-987-1234. Dining and dancing in the Regency Ballroom, Catch A

Rising Star, or the Crystal Garden Restaurant with open bar, balloon

drop, and Champagne toast, $85 to $145; add overnight room for two,

$170 to $395.

New Year’s Eve at the Forrestal, Forrestal at Princeton

Hotel , 100 College Road East, 609-452-7800. Choice of early or

late dining with Seafood Buffet and open bar at the Homestate Cafe,

with music by the Tony DeNicola Ensemble, dancing, Champagne, party

favors, and optional guest room. Late dining at 9 p.m. at Gratella,

with dancing into the new year with Seven Man Dance Band. Dinner &

dancing, $99 to $179 per couple; add guest room for two, $279 to $299.

New Year’s Eve Ballroom Gala, Holiday Inn,

Jamesburg,

609-655-4775, extension 7109. Open bar, hot and cold hors d’oeuvres,

Beef Tenderloin or Grilled Salmon entree, Champagne at midnight, and

breakfast at 1:30 a.m. Music by the Triple Play Plus Two. $105 per

person; with sleeping accommodations, $299 couple.

New Year’s Eve with the Razorbacks, Havana, 105

South Main Street, New Hope, 215-862-5102. Rockabilly music

accompanied

by prime rib or roasted salmon and shrimp entree and Champagne toast

at midnight. $45. 8 p.m.

New Year’s Eve at the Cornerstone, Cornerstone

Restaurant ,

New and Pearl streets, Metuchen, 732-549-5306. Jazz with Allan Vache,

Warren Vache Jr., Richard Wyands, and the Tony Jefferson Quartet.

9 p.m.

Night Train, Triumph Brewing, 138 Nassau Street,

609-924-7855. New Year’s Eve show, with contemporary and classic

rhythm

and blues. $10 cover. 9 p.m.

I Am, John & Peter’s, 96 South Main Street, New

Hope, 215-862-5981. New Year’s Eve party with the folk-rock group.

Reservations. $12.50. 9:30 p.m.

Flying Mueller Brothers & New Year’s Eve Party,

KatManDu,

Waterfront Park, Route 29, Trenton, 609-393-7300. Music, hors

d’oeuvres,

open bar, dinner buffet, Champagne toast at midnight, and breakfast

at 1 a.m. $60. 10 p.m.

In Atlantic City

Wayne Newton, Resorts, 1133 Boardwalk, 800-322-SHOW.

Singer,

author, movie and television star performs his hits "Daddy, Don’t

You Walk So Fast," "Heart," and "Red Roses for a Blue

Lady. $65 & $75 includes Champagne and favors. 10 p.m.

Neil Sedaka, Harrah’s, 777 Harrah’s Boulevard,

609-441-5000.

Rock ‘n’ roll legend. New Year’s Eve show by invitation only.

Vicki Sue Robinson, Tropicana Casino and Resort,

Brighton & the Boardwalk, 800-736-1420. The singer, Broadway, and

cabaret artist. With The Fantastic Voyage ’70s All-Star Show of disco

hits. $50 & $75. 10 p.m.

Singles

Princeton Singles, Princeton Elks, Route 516, Blawenberg,

908-359-2607. For 55-plus. Dinner, open bar, continental breakfast.

Reservations. $37.50. 7:30 p.m.

Princeton Center for Yoga & Health, 113 Commons Way,

Montgomery

Commons, 609-924-7294. New Year’s Eve Celebration features "bubble

without the bubbly," with food, entertainment, chanting, and

dance.

$15 singles; $30 couples. 8:30 p.m.

SingleFaces, Brunswick Hilton and Towers, East Brunswick,

732-462-2406. New Year’s Eve Dance, buffet, prizes, $50. 9 p.m.


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