Corrections or additions?
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
"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
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
complicated history. Of the original members, only the Bouchard
— drummer Albert and bassist Joe — are no longer with
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
baby boomers — many of them parents of their own 20-somethings
now — are still passionate about rock ‘n’ roll. Need further
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
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
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
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
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,
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
Heather Holcombe. $15 to $30. A gala New Year’s Eve celebration
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.
Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-246-7469. A New Year’s Eve
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
broadcasts have entertained more than a billion viewers. To 10:20
p.m. $25 to $45. 8 p.m.
packages for pre-theater and post-theater seatings at 5:30 and 10:30
p.m. Late seating includes Champagne toast. To order, call
Paterson, $93. The Frog and the Peach, 29 Dennis, $100 & $131.
Makeda Ethiopian Restaurant, 338 George, $81 & $94.
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
335 George, $70. Stage Left, 5 Livingston, $99 and $115.
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
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
and reception. 7 p.m.
7 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-249-5560. New Year’s eve
of the musical saga of the African-American experience. $27.50. 8
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
South Main Street, New Hope, 215-862-5102. Rockabilly music
by prime rib or roasted salmon and shrimp entree and Champagne toast
at midnight. $45. 8 p.m.
New and Pearl streets, Metuchen, 732-549-5306. Jazz with Allan Vache,
Warren Vache Jr., Richard Wyands, and the Tony Jefferson Quartet.
609-924-7855. New Year’s Eve show, with contemporary and classic
and blues. $10 cover. 9 p.m.
Hope, 215-862-5981. New Year’s Eve party with the folk-rock group.
Reservations. $12.50. 9:30 p.m.
Waterfront Park, Route 29, Trenton, 609-393-7300. Music, hors
open bar, dinner buffet, Champagne toast at midnight, and breakfast
at 1 a.m. $60. 10 p.m.
In Atlantic City
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.
Rock ‘n’ roll legend. New Year’s Eve show by invitation only.
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.
908-359-2607. For 55-plus. Dinner, open bar, continental breakfast.
Reservations. $37.50. 7:30 p.m.
Commons, 609-924-7294. New Year’s Eve Celebration features "bubble
without the bubbly," with food, entertainment, chanting, and
$15 singles; $30 couples. 8:30 p.m.
732-462-2406. New Year’s Eve Dance, buffet, prizes, $50. 9 p.m.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.