35 Years Ago: Blue Oyster Cult Storm Back With ‘Fire of Unknown Origin’
Eight albums and over a decade into their career, Blue Oyster Cult had already come to a crossroads of sorts. After the less-than stellar sales and fanfare given the 1979 album Mirrors and 1980's Cultosaurus Erectus, B.O.C. were not only facing a drop in popularity, but also a new decade full of new challenges.
While some older acts would flounder, Blue Oyster Cult took advantage of the new decade and its new gimmick, MTV. The first single released from Fire of Unknown Origin, which came out in June 1981, was the very catchy "Burnin' for You." The fact that you could not only hear the song on the radio, but also see the band via MTV, helped push the single into the Top 40. While the song may be among the band's more pop offerings, it is no less rocking as lead guitarist Buck Dharma delivers one of his finest solos. The song has gone on to become a B.O.C. signature tune and a staple of classic rock radio.
The title track, written by the band along with some help from Patti Smith, kicks things off in classic style and sets the tone for the album. "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" is another killer on the album, this time around with some lyrical help from noted sci-fi author (and Hawkwind cohort) Michael Moorcock. That song was included in the animated sci-fi adventure Heavy Metal.
Another classic from the album was the mini-epic "Joan Crawford," which was full of drama and riff-heavy action. The album is also notable for its hard and punchy sound thanks to producer Martin Birch. Known for his work with Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and, later, Iron Maiden, Birch gave the band a modern, yet classic, sharp edged sound.
Fire of Unknown Origin was the last album to feature the original line-up as drummer Albert Bouchard was asked to leave the band during the tour to promote the album. "They were giving me such a hard time about my life choices," Bouchard told Classic Bands. "There might have been some substance abuse involved, but you read stories from Aerosmith, and we were nothing like that. A lot of it was feeling betrayed by Joe [Bouchard, Albert's brother and the band's bassist]. He didn't have my back."
On the strength of "Burnin' for You," the album made it to No. 24 on the Billboard chart. In many ways, Fire of Unknown Origin was the end of an era for the band, as they would struggle to find solid footing with critics and radio over the next several years. One thing they never seemed to lose, were their die hard fans as they would remain a popular concert draw.
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