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Review Blue Oyster Cult - Cultosaurus Erectus (1980)

Speed King

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#1
Blue Oyster Cult
Cultosaurus Erectus
1980 Columbia Records (JC 36550)

Produced by Martin Birch

Cover By Richard Clifton-Dey



Released on June 14,1980 Cultosaurus Erectus was the seventh studio album from BOC. The one thing that immediately stands out about this album is the cover art. The album art is a cropped and mirrored version of the Richard Clifton-Dey painting called “Behemoth's World”. Richard Clifton-Dey was a British painter/illustrator most active in the 60's, 70's and 80's. The album cover is fascinating, the image of the alien dinosaur with it's teeth fused together seems to fit really well with the first couple of songs on the album. I'm guessing that the whole dinosaur theme of the album has something to do with the success of the song “Godzilla” from Specters. It's only a guess but seems like an obvious one. In any case, Cultosaurus is a departure from the 2 previous albums back to their harder rocking roots. The album is produced by Martin Birch (of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath fame) instead of the usual Pearlman and Krugman. At this time, Sandy Pearlman was managing both BOC and Black Sabbath which accounts for the Black & Blue tour in 1980.

Band Members:

Eric Bloom: Guitar, Keyboards, Lead Vocals on tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9
Donald (Buck Dharma) Roeser: Lead Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Lead Vocals on track 4
Allen Lanier: Keyboards, Guitar
Joe Bouchard: Bass, Lead Vocals on track 7
Albert Bouchard: Drums, Lead Vocals on track 6

Don Kirchner: MC on “The Marshall Plan”
Mark Riviera: Saxophone on “Monsters”

Side One:

Black Blade (Eric Bloom, Micheal Moorcock, John Trivers) 6:34

Black Blade was a collaboration with Eric Bloom and British sci-fi writer Micheal Moorcock along with Bloom's former band mate bassist John Trivers (Lost and Found). The Black Blade itself can be found in several of Moorcock's writings, most notable would be “Elric of Melnibone”. The sword is completely black except for some blood red runes carved into the blade. The sword has a name, “Stormbringer” (not to be confused with the Deep Purple album and song of the same name). The story goes that Eric Bloom wrote Mr. Moorcock a fanboy letter. Writes Eric Bloom: "I went out of my way to send him a Fan Boy letter. He was living in England, and he came over to America, to meet with his publisher. He said, “Let's get together.” We got together, and bonded, and he started sending me lyrics. That is how "Black Blade," "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" and "Great Sun Jester" happened”. The song was written from Elrich's point of view, basically being enslaved by his sword, made to kill, slaughter, and “wade through gore”. The song is well written and well performed. I especially like the lyrics, having a professional Sci-Fi writer sending you lyrics makes all the difference in the world. The song really has two main parts, the first being Elrich plight, and the second part where the sword gets to sound off.
The voice of the sword was fed though a Vocoder (Voice Synthesizer) and since the sword's rant isn't all that clear, I'll write it out:

I am the Black Blade
Forged a million billion years ago
My cosmic soul goes on for eternity
Carving out destiny
Bringing in the lords of chaos
Bringing up the beast of Hades
Sucking out the souls of heroes
Laying waste to lord and ladies
My....Master....is....my....slave!


Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

(and just before the explosion we hear)

You poor f***ing humans!

Obviously the band put their heart and soul into this song and it really shows, on a thread elsewhere in this forum (on a top ten list of favorite BOC songs), I listed this song number 3, it is by far the best song on Cultosaurus, not that the others aren't really good as well, but this song just really stands out as something very different.

(Best use of a Vocoder ever, second best would be “Sheep” by Pink Floyd)
 
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Speed King

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#2
Monsters (Albert Bouchard, Caryn Bouchard) 5:10

So after “You poor f***ing humans!” and a huge explosion comes this song, “Monsters”. (I'm assuming this is the title track, or as close to a title track as Culto has) It's a song that's not sure whether it wants to be a thunderous hard rocker or a jazzy lounge number, and that's what I love about it. The way the song flows from Rock to Jazz and back to Rock is pretty amazing, although to get back to rock requires a catchy bass riff. The lyrics tell a story of ripping through space, and pretty fast too, “We went so fast that we grew younger, put this ship on cruise-control”. The premise of the story seems to be to re-colonize on a another earth planet, “Keep going getting higher, new worlds waiting in the sky, to escape the feasting and the hunger, not the monsters in our minds” and “Federal rules and regulations, no more laughter left on earth, outer space our one salvation, may god help us in our search” (same old story, trash one earth planet then move on to the next) Our crew consists of four males, and you would assume they were the boys in the band except for this, “The four of us and Pasha dear, she to steer and we to fight”,....four of us?, maybe they left Albert back on Earth?,......probably not since he co-wrote it. So as the story unfolds and we get toward the end of the song, so comes the romantic sub-plot (dammit, there's always a romantic sub-plot!), “We all did our best with Pasha, but not as good as good ol' Joe”….So Joe and Pasha had a thing going, until this happens.....“Love never should have entered, It was never in the plan. We were finally going to have her and let Joe be damned”...“Joe awoke from a stupor, it was clear something was wrong, he rushed in and found us with her, and in his rage he aimed his gun.

One shot and it was over
Pasha smiled and then was gone”
...(who smiles after being mortally wounded?)

So kids, the moral of the story is that the crew were the real monsters, literally killing any chances to repopulate a new planet and dooming themselves to a life of celibacy. (we think?)

Divine Wind (Donald Roeser) 5:07

The term “Divine Wind” refers to the English translation of the Japanese word ”kamikaze”, a word most associated with Japanese “suicide bombers” of WWII. The original meaning of the term refers to typhoons that occurred in Japan in 1274 and 1281. The typhoons occurred in perfect timing to thwart off two separate attacks from the Mongol Hoards. Because of the circumstances and the timing of the typhoons, the Japanese felt it must have been divine intervention. A more accurate interpretation of the word “Kamikaze” is “God wind”. As far as the meaning of this song, it's not what I originally thought it was. I thought the song was a response to protests by religious groups regarding the bands perceived connection with the occult. What it's actually about is the Iran hostage crisis and the rantings of the Ayatollah Khomeini in the late 70s. The song's chorus “If he really thinks we're the devil,....then let's send him to hell” refers to the Ayatollah’s statement that America is “The Great Satan”. I'm not exactly sure what the songs title has to do with the song's meaning, but I do find it ironic that BOC wrote this song in 1980 about a terrorist attack against Americans and titled the song “Divine Wind” which is translated from the word “kamikaze” which has come to mean “suicide bomber”. Then in 2001, America was attacked by (middle eastern) “suicide bombers” (kamikazes). Anyway, this is a very heavy song and having been around during the Iran hostage crisis, the song has a new meaning for me. I consider the first three songs to be the best on the album. The overall feel of the song for me at least, is one creepiness and unease, and I think that's exactly what the band intended.
 
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Speed King

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#3
Deadline (Donald Roeser) 4:27

This song has Buck on vocals, most BOC albums have one Buck song, BOC/BOC and Fire of Unknown Origin have two. I tend to like the songs with Buck on vocals. This one is more commercial sounding than I would've liked, none the less it's a well put together song. In spite of it's commercial sound, I do like it. The song plays on the “dead” part of the word “deadline”. It goes through several scenarios where individuals wind up dead and thus “missed the deadline”. It's interesting how polished the band's music had become since the Black & White years (This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what direction your tastes run). Their lyrical style had evolved from a very mysterious and enigmatic style to one that's much more story telling. I'm not sure if this song received any radio air time, but it would've been the one most likely to be a hit.

Side Two:

The Marshall Plan (Eric Bloom, Albert Bouchard, Donald Roeser, Allen Lanier) 5:24

I want to start out by saying that I've read a lot of very negative comments from BOC fans in regard to this song. Everything from “sacrilege” to “worst BOC song ever” and even “how could the band that did 'Flaming Telepaths' do this piece of $h!t?” Personally, I don't really understand the hostility. While it's true that the lyrical story is a bit sappy, it does rock along pretty well, minus the rather shameless promotion for “Don Kirchner’s Rock Concert”. The song is about a kid named Johnny and follows along the lines of “Shooting Star” and “Jukebox Hero” Johnny and his gal-pal Suzy attend a concert (possibly Deep Purple considering the cameo appearance of the main riff to 'Smoke on the water') in which Suzy disappears. It's interesting to note that this is the third time that BOC has referenced Suzy in one of their songs, Susan (Susan and her brother, Charles the grinning boy) from “Dominance and Submission” and Suzy (Carrie Nurse and Suzy dear) from “Astronomy” (both songs from Secret Treaties). Suzy is spotted later by Johnny, rolling away in the band's limousine (it turns out, that Suzy was a floozy). A distraught Johnny vows to get revenge by getting a good guitar and a big amp and become a guitar legend, which he does, The End.

The title of the song is a play on words, “The Marshall Plan” being the plan to rebuild Europe after WWII. Johnny's Marshall Plan was the same as any other red blooded, guitar playing, American kid,....to own a large Marshall Amp.

So, not a fantastic song, but not a terrible one either.

Hungry Boys (Albert Bouchard, Caryn Bouchard) 3:38

Here we have a song deserving of contempt. I remember the first time I spun Cultosaurus. A friend and I were listening to the album in it's entirety. We got to “Hungry Boys” and both looked at each other with total disbelief at what we were hearing. I think I said something like, “this isn't Blue Oyster Cult, it's Blue Oyster Devo!” Hungry Boys seems to be about hard drugs and needles (another reason for me to dislike this song) It's a very fast paced song that was written by Albert and Caryn Bouchard, the pair that wrote “Monsters”, (they should've quit while they were ahead). BOC are known for weirdness and experimentation but this is ridiculous. The vocals are done in a way that sound robotic and mechanical, the lyrics are awkward and uninspired, here's a sampling “My buddies and me keep looking for the stuff, to make us feel the blood rushing through our veins” (you don't need hard drugs to feel the blood rushing through your veins, you only need to be alive) and “Friday night we take off, headin' for the city. And dance with the lady from the white-snow country” (Lady? White-snow? Probably a reference to cocaine but what do I know about such things) and “Now look at Louie, he's really got the need. (Valerie's?) got the needle but she always makes him plead” “Louie was a wonderin', if brought the stuff to town” “But the cop's moved in and shut the operation down” (Thank God!) I always kind of wondered if this song is some kind of inside joke that I don't get. This isn't the first time BOC has written a song about cocaine, “Tenderloin” from “Agents of Forutne” also has some references to cocaine use. But unlike “Hungry Boys”, “Tenderloin” is an excellent song. (I think I listed it at number 7 on my BOC top ten list) This isn't a total loss though, Buck displays some pretty tasty lead guitar work from 1:42 to 2:15.

If it seems like I'm being excessively harsh, it's only because I know full well what this band is capable of, and this song falls way short of that. I'm a little miffed that they tried to slip this one past me.

Fallen Angel (Joe Bouchard, Helen Robbins aka Helen Wheels)

“Fallen Angel” like “Deadline” is more poppy and commercial than I would've liked. I would've preferred more guitars and less synthesizers but it is what it is. The song is very upbeat and fast. What really saves this song for me is the vocals. Joe Bouchard is at the mic on this one and really belts it out. I've had this song pop into my head more times than I can count, as it's a very catchy tune. This song was a collaboration with Helen Wheels of The Helen Wheels Band, (gone are the days of the Patti Smith collaborations) Lyrically this song harkens back to the old days when BOCs lyrics were mysterious and enigmatic.

Lips in the Hills (Eric Bloom, Donald Roeser, Richard Meltzer

In my review of T & M, I mentioned that this album had a song on it that was weird even by BOC's standards, and it's “Lips in the Hills”. Even the title of this song is bizarre. It's a great song and I'd love to recommend it to people but I don't want to have to explain the name. I've wondered if the name is some weird sexual reference that's over my head, or it might even be about breast feeding, but the lyrics don't seem to bear that out. In any case, “Lips” is a really great, strange song that epitomizes why I like this band so much. Like many others on this album, it's pretty fast paced and very heavy with plenty of great guitar work. The song is really trippy and I'm reminded of how much acid there was circulating in the early 1980's

Unknown Tongue (Albert Bouchard, David Roter)

“Unknown Tongue” seems to be about a good Catholic girl with a fetish for cutting herself and drinking her own blood. (who hasn’t seen that scenario played out) The lyrics are lengthy by BOC standards but no less strange. The music reminds me of the Talking Heads, kind of choppy. It's kind of slow but not a bad song, it beats the hell out of “Hungry Boys”.

The Band's Symbol

Every BOC album has the hook and cross symbol visible somewhere on the album's front cover. BOC/BOC and T & M have the symbol in plain site. Starting with Secret Treaties, the symbol was cleverly hidden in plain site. (on the tail of the ME262) Cultosaurus has the best hidden symbol of all the BOC albums. I've handled several different vinyl copies of Cultosaurus and have yet to clearly see it even though I know where to look. According to internet legend, the symbol is on the spaceship flying directly underneath the dinosaurs head. The symbol itself is the creation of Bill Gawlik, the artist that did the art for the first two albums. Unlike the band's name, the band liked the symbol instantly. It's interesting to note that BOC can be identified by it's symbol alone, something very few bands can say.




Album specific dust jacket (front)



Album specific dust jacket (back)



Woohoo!, this album came with a poster! The poster is basically the Richard Cliffton-Dey painting with the “hook and cross” symbol added.



The album's back cover. Because it's probably not legible from the image, I'll write out the captions under the photos. Upper left corner pic.

Figure A: Unfertilized egg
from a female Cultosaurus
Erectus (facsimile).
Found in the Stalk-Forrest
near Oyster Bay, Long Island,
New York.
Photo courtesy of New York
Museum of Diz-Bustology.

Lower Left corner pic.

Figure B: Cultosaurus Erectus
discovered by Professor Victor
Von Pearlman near Stoney Brook,
New York. Photo courtesy
of the Underbelly Institute.

Middle pic.

Figure C. Artist's rendering
of Cultosuarus Erectus from
the skeletal remains found near
Oaxaca, Mexico; thought to be a
distant relative of the
Horn-Swooped Bungo Pony.

Fans of the band should get most if not all the references listed above.

To me Cultosaurus Erectus is a great album. If I didn't love this album, I wouldn't be reviewing it. (it's a lot of work) Rather than grade each individual song, I'm choosing to give one score to the entire album. I give this album a 9, I was going give an 8.5 but bumped it up a half point because of the album art. (one of the best covers in all of rock & roll)

 
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