In the 70s and 80s, Blue Öyster Cult had their pick of interesting lyricists. Their friend Richard Meltzer, one of the first rock critics, contributed a number of songs, among them “Harvester of Eyes,” “Stairway to the Stars” and “Burnin’ for You.” Like Hawkwind, BÖC collaborated with sci-fi author Michael Moorcock, who wrote the words to “Veteran of the Psychic Wars,” “The Great Sun Jester” and “Black Blade.” And how better to while away a lazy afternoon than by puzzling over the gnomic lyrics of manager Sandy Pearlman, author of such intelligence-resisting classics as “7 Screaming Diz-busters” and “Dominance and Submission”? But the only Commandeur dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres to have written for the metal gods is Patti Smith, who was romantically involved with BÖC keyboardist Allen Lanier in the mid-70s.
In her memoir Just Kids, Smith mentions Richard Meltzer as one of the rock journalists she “held in esteem” in the 70s. A few pages later, writing about her first performance with guitarist Lenny Kaye, she suggests the writer was more Kaye’s friend than hers, listing Meltzer as one of “Lenny’s people [who] came to cheer him on.” For what it’s worth, Meltzer’s version of events, as told in Blue Oyster Cult: Secrets Revealed!, is quite different from Smith’s, and characteristically scabrous:
“OK, basically, I was the one who brought her to the band,” recounts Meltzer. “She was my friend. In the summer of 1970, my dentist was around the corner from the bookstore where she worked, Scribner’s Books on 5th Avenue in the 40s. And I stopped in there and we became great friends. And somewhere down the line I brought her to the band. And Pearlman wanted to fuck her and that was his interest. And I don’t know if he did or didn’t, but once it was clear that she was with Allen, it got to be that there was a lot of tension between Pearlman and Allen. And Allen and Patti were very anti-Semitic folks, without any irony whatsoever. You know, fuck the Jews, all that kind of stuff. And so there was a lot of anti-Pearlman wrath from both of them. I lived with this woman Ronnie and we would hang out with Allen and Patti a lot, through the mid ‘70s. And essentially what made the relationship viable was that we didn’t mind their anti-Semitism. But the point is that Allen thought the faux-Nazi stuff was a joke. I mean, everybody took it as a joke. Except, as I remember, Eric [Bloom] thought there was something cool about it, that the Third Reich had its shit together. You know, the Jew in the woodpile was the one that took it the most seriously.”
Well that’s interesting, isn’t it?
If I’m not mistaken, Smith’s voice first appeared on Ray Manzarek’s The Whole Thing Started with Rock & Roll Now It’s out of Control (1974), which is hard going even (especially?) for a Doors fan. However, the first Patti Smith lyric committed to vinyl was 1973’s “Baby Ice Dog,” sequenced as the first song on the second side of BÖC’s masterpiece Tyranny and Mutation. Set on a frozen Mongolian steppe, the song tells the familiar tale of man’s betrayal by dog, dog’s fatal plunge through ice, and man’s fantasy about “unnatural acts” involving ladies who’d “like to make it with my big black dog.”
“Baby Ice Dog” from Blue Öyster Cult’s Tyranny and Mutation
With its unrepentant declaration of adherence to the left-hand path, Smith’s next BÖC lyric, “Career of Evil,” makes the first lines of “Gloria” seem like not such a big deal. For starters, she wants to seduce your wife and daughter, rob you, hold you for ransom, and charge you for unnecessary brain surgery. When it was released as the single from BÖC’s third album Secret Treaties, the line “I’d like to do it to your daughter on a dirt road” was amended to “I’d like to do it like you oughta on a dirt road.” Meltzer calls the song “the first forcible fusion of rock and Rimbaud.”
“Career of Evil” from Blue Öyster Cult’s Secret Treaties
The platinum-selling Agents of Fortune—the one from 1976 with “Don’t Fear the Reaper”—includes two songs with lyrics by Smith. The chorus of “The Revenge of Vera Gemini,” a duet between Patti and BÖC’s lead singer Eric Bloom, refers to Smith’s debut album Horses, released the previous year:
Oh no more horses, horses
We’re gonna swim like a fish
Into the hole in which you planned to ditch me
My lovely Vera Marie
“The Revenge of Vera Gemini” from Blue Öyster Cult’s Agents of Fortune
The last Smith lyric BÖC recorded was 1983’s “Shooting Shark,” released during her retirement from music. In the video for the song, guitarist and singer Buck Dharma takes part in an unspeakable ritual, chases a spectral woman with an equally spectral gun, and sees a lot of things that are just plain mysterious.
The music video for “Shooting Shark” from Blue Öyster Cult’s The Revölution by Night