Blue Öyster Cult: “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” (1976)

A ready-made classic that felt like it had stepped out of a fresh grave from the 60s.

Cronosmyth 5.1: A grim fairy tale.

Me (in mock indignation): “It has nothing to do with suicide and life after death. It’s about vampires.” Now, this is the real me talking, I think it’s a little of both. I believe that Buck Dharma had his own mortality in mind when he wrote this song, but it talks about dead people (we can be like they are) and Romeo and Juliet, so how is it not about suicide? And then there’s the last verse (“Came the last night of sadness”), which totally cops Bela Lugosi’s bedroom entrance in Dracula.

Whatever the song’s message, it found an adoring audience, catapulting Blue Oyster Cult into the national spotlight and boosting sales of not only the source record (Agents of Fortune) but its precedent (On Your Feet or On Your Knees). The single is an edited version that cuts out the guitar solo, which means it slows down for no apparent reason about two-thirds of the way through. The B side is the elpee version of “Tattoo Vampire,” which I’m pretty sure is also about vampires.

Original 7-inch single version

A1. (Don’t Fear) The Reaper (Donald Roeser) (3:45)
B1. Tattoo Vampire (Albert Bouchard/Harold Robbins) (2:45)

7-inch single reissue (1978)
A1. (Don’t Fear) The Reaper (Donald Roeser) (5:05)
B1. R U Ready 2 Rock (Sandy Pearlman/Albert Bouchard) (3:43)

7-inch single reissue (Columbia Hall of Fame)
A1. (Don’t Fear) The Reaper (Donald Roeser) (3:45)
B1. Career of Evil (Albert Bouchard/Patti Smith) (2:55)

7-inch single reissue (1990)
A1. (Don’t Fear) The Reaper (Donald Roeser) (4:52)
B1. Burnin’ for You (Donald Roeser/Richard Meltzer) (4:28)

The Product

Released on 7-inch single in July 1976 in the US and Canada (Columbia, 3-10384), on July 23, 1976 in the UK (CBS, S CBS4483) and in 1976 in Australia (CBS, BA 222233), Germany (CBS, CBS S 4483), the Netherlands (CBS, CBS 4483) and New Zealand (CBS, BA 461699) with regional picture sleeve; reached #12 on the US charts (charted on July 31, 1976 for 20 weeks) and #16 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-released with “R U Ready 2 Rock” on back-to-back hits 7-inch and 12-inch single in May 1978 in the UK (CBS, S CBS 6333/12-6333).
  2. Re-released with “Career of Evil” on B2B hits 7-inch single in the US (Columbia Hall of Fame, 13-33348).
  3. Re-issued with “R U Ready 2 Rock” on B2B hits 7-inch single in the UK (Old Gold, OG 9398).
  4. Re-released with “Burnin’ for You” on B2B hits remastered 7-inch single in 1990 in the US (Rock’n Mania Gold Mine Series, RMGD-2525).
  5. Re-issued with “Burnin’ for You” on B2B hits 7-inch and CD single in 1994 in the UK (Fragile, FRS/CDFRS-100).
  6. Re-issued as promotional CD single in 1994 in the US (Herald, HERPROCD3) feat. A only.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.