It’s time for another spin around the turntable with “That 70’s Guy – Retro Review”. This hidden gem is none other than Secret Treaties by Blue Oyster Cult. Yes, BOC are the farthest thing from a one hit wonder or a forgotten unknown act but, like most popular bands, I feel some of the best albums are the least popular and get little recognition. Secret Treaties is one of them.
This album was my first introduction to the band, despite it being their third release.
Back in the day, FM radio was played through a dark screen on your cable TV. In my case it was CHUM FM out of Toronto. Songs would play back to back and maybe continue for an hour before a disc jockey would come on and run down the songs that were played. You had to pay close attention. This particular day in 1974, I heard three long songs in a row – all for the first time, and all changed my life forever. They ended up being “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Working Man” by Rush and “Dominance and Submission” by Blue Oyster Cult.
I immediately searched all three out the next day at my local Sam the Record Man store.
Blue Oyster Cult was formed in Long Island, New York in 1967. The line up on this album was consistent of their longest lasting and most commercially successful one including Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser on lead guitar and vocals, Eric Bloom on lead vocals, guitar and keyboards, Allen Lanier on keyboards and rhythm guitar, Joe Bouchard on bass and Albert Bouchard on drums.
Secret Treaties got a ton of airplay in my basement, while I transformed my buddies into fans as well. Usually I was sporting my baby blue Blue Oyster Cult tee shirt which my parents would ask “What the heck does that symbol mean?” Of course, they were referring to the bands logo – the “cross of questioning”.
As I mentioned above, this album is somewhat of a hidden gem as it spent 14 weeks in the US album charts, peaking only at No. 53. It was a lot higher on my chart. Let’s give it a spin.
Blue Oyster Cult – Secret Treaties – Released in 1974 on Columbia Records
1. “Career of Evil” – classic song to start my first BOC journey. Right off the bat, you can feel their unique style with double vocals, harmonies and strong sense of keyboards. The lyrics were written by Patti Smith.
2. “Subhuman” – great riff, with soft undertones. This is a great song including a sweet solo by Buck Dharma. When I listen today, I realize it really isn’t that heavy but the way it is beautifully composed works perfectly.
3. “Dominance and Submission” – the first song I ever heard by BOC opens with another classic riff. Albert Bouchard’s drums are on display here. Being 14 years old, the meaning flew over my head, but the way the song builds and builds until the final climax was what made it work for me. The guitar solo makes it still one of my faves today.
4. “ME262” – the classic war song written by manager Sandy Pearlman, as were many of their songs back then. This song is one of the few from this album that still makes its way onto their set lists today.
1. “Cagey Cretins” – side two was always my go to side and this gets things rocking early. I never knew what a Cagey Cretin was and I probably didn’t care. I’ve been singing the famous chorus of “Oh Cagey” for 44 years and I still don’t know what it means.
2. “Harvester of Eyes” – the start of the three best BOC songs. Great guitar, driven all the way through with fabulous harmonies. BOC had a sneaky way of not being heavy but being heavy, if that makes sense. By the way, the lyrics always creeped me out.
3. “Flaming Telepaths” – Joe Bouchard’s classic keyboards, mixed in with the great guitar riff makes this a real treat. Eric Bloom’s synthesizer solo is amazing, especially for 1974. Another great guitar solo as well!
4. “Astronomy” – possibly my favourite BOC song. This “anthem” is magical. One of the greatest riffs, with Allen Lanier’s slow subtle bass keeping this masterpiece together. Then there’s that quiet pause, resulting in the ending chorus dueling with the guitar that is still goose bump worthy.
There you have it, BOC rocking us through 1974 all over again! If you have never heard this album go pick up the CD, if you have, dig it out again. Great memories!
In wasn’t long after that I returned to Sam the Record Man and picked up their second album Tyranny and Mutation, equally as good but that’s another story. BOC struck gold with their next album Agents of Fortune where they became a household name and one of the finest rock bands of all time. They never looked back.
I finally saw them in concert in 1980 in Buffalo, opening for Black Sabbath during the Black and Blue tour. It wasn’t until this summer that I saw them again in London Ontario. Only Eric and Buck are left, but they rocked through all the hits spanning their 46 years like it was yesterday.
“They hung there dependent from the sky
Like some heavy metal fruit
These bombers are ripe and ready to tilt
Must these Englishmen live that I might die
Must they live that I might die”