The 45-year old Blue Öyster Cult tune turned undying Saturday Night Live meme take it a strange, winding journey to rock-classic status.

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Donald Roeser, aka Buck Dharma, Joe Bouchard, Allen Lanier, Eric Bloom, and Albert Bouchard that Blue Öyster Cult, July 30, 1976.Michael Putland / Getty Images
You might not know the key of A minor when you listen it, however you absolutely feel it. A tune written in A minor has actually an unstable and unsettling presence, a weight, an undertow. Countless A minor songs are so familiar, we’ll cite them just by title: “Angie,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Stairway come Heaven,” “Smooth Operator,” “Rhiannon,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Wrapped around Your Finger,” “It’s too Late,” and the most A young of A minor songs, Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.”

“Reaper” narrates the story of a pair who are “together in eternity,” and also the song appears eternal as well. It ended up being a hit 45 years ago but has never disappeared from popular music culture. Critical year, it had 50,000 spins ~ above terrestrial and satellite radio. An industry resource estimates the it generated much more than $637,000 in revenue in 2020, not including from album sales. Every couple of years, it turns up in one more Hollywood movie—usually the scary ones. And an assortment of bands has actually covered the in a catalog of styles: country “Reaper,” blues “Reaper,” punk “Reaper,” dance society “Reaper,” and also even two-identical-twins-play-it-on-harps “Reaper.” few songs have ever been this durable and flexible.

In April 2000, Saturday Night Live’s “I need an ext cowbell!” sketch, starring hold Christopher Walken as producer Bruce Dickinson, and also cast members will Ferrell, chris Kattan, Jimmy Fallon, kris Parnell, and also Horatio Sanz as Blue Öyster Cult, turned the song into a ubiquitous one-liner and eventually a Twitter meme. But it had already been in the bloodstream that pop culture for three decades. “Reaper” and the word meme also share a year that birth, 1976.


In the 1978 movie Halloween, the track plays in the background when Jamie Lee Curtis and also Nancy Kyes re-publishing a share in the front seat of a Monte Carlo, unaware the Michael Myers is complying with them. The exact same year, Stephen King quoted that in the epigraph that his fantasy novel The Stand. “Reaper” came to be a display staple, particularly for B movies: The 1994 TV miniseries adapted from The Stand; Scream (via a covering by Gus); The Frighteners (via a Mutton bird cover); plunder Zombie’s 2007 remake of Halloween; Zombieland; Godzilla: King of the Monsters; War Dogs; 12 Monkeys; Miracle; Gone Girl; and the Executioner’s Song miniseries around Gary Gilmore, no to cite Guitar Hero and Rock Band.


Actually, Stephen King misquoted the song; he heard the heat “Come on, baby” together “Come on, Mary.” It no the critical time the song’s imagistic text were misunderstood: that sometimes interpreted as pro-suicide, a theory that makes tiny sense once you hear Donald Roeser, who wrote it, sang it, and played that is epic guitar solos, define its genesis. For all its foreboding, minor-key eeriness and mystical whirlwinds, the is, Roeser says, a love song.


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Eric Bloom, Albert Bouchard, Joe Bouchard, Allen Lanier, and Donald Roeser, aka Buck Dharma, that Blue Öyster Cult in Eatons Neck, brand-new York, march 1973.Getty Images
Blue Öyster Cult was a hard-rock tape from the brand-new York area whose very first three albums were complete of cool lyrics around drug deals gone bad, goblins, mummies, Lucifer, and also Nazi bomber pilots. They had a reputation as “the reasoning man’s steel band”—Patti blacksmith collaborated on several of their songs, and also rock critic Richard Meltzer also contributed lyrics, which offered them cachet—and had actually amassed great reviews. In Creem, Lester Bangs said they had “all the tools necessary to come to be the finest band in America,” and Mike Saunders the Phonograph Record stated they had “the potential to enhance the recorded job-related of Led Zeppelin and also Black Sabbath.” BÖC had every little thing a band needs, except the 2 most essential things: one identity and also a hit single.


All five band members wrote and sang lead, for this reason there was no frontman to give BÖC a focus. Unlike with Black Sabbath, that wasn’t clean whether they to be mocking or embracing the wizards-and-warlocks fantasy society that took hold after 1965, once Ballantine published J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord the the Rings in mass-market paperback. And also then there was the band’s name. “Cult” had actually a scary resonance in the ’70s, so quickly after the 1969 Tate–LaBianca murders committed through members that the Manson Family, and the decorate umlaut in the name perplexed people, though it subsequently captured on as an in-joke amongst rock bands, consisting of Motörhead, Mötley Crüe, Hüsker Dü, Spin̈al Tap, and, transforming the knob to 11, Möngöl Hörde.

By 1976, Blue Öyster Cult was focusing more on hooks and also melodies, which had never seemed necessary to them. Together Ken Tucker provided in a Rolling Stone evaluation of Agents that Fortune, the album that included “Reaper,” they additionally put “less focus on absurd, crypto-intellectual rambling.” The album even had sax solos, because that Lucifer’s sake! Coincidentally (or not), it to be released two weeks after the publishing of ann Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. America’s red, white, and also blue bicentennial was dotted v gothic black.

There’s a brief list of hard rock song that are beloved even by world who hate hard rock: “Back in Black,” “Sweet boy O’ Mine,” “Runnin’ v the Devil,” and also “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.” the was additionally said come be one of Gary Gilmore’s favorite songs, i m sorry scans in regards to chronology: the song got to #12 on the Billboard singles graph in November 1976, two months before Gilmore was executed. It’s to be slowed down beautifully by Denmark + Winter, and accelerated by the Goo Goo Dolls, that played the 5:08 song in a snappy 2:17.

To know the undying very nice of “Reaper” on the chance of that 45th anniversary, gendergeek.org talked to Don Roeser, whose stage name is Buck Dharma, his ex-bandmate Albert Bouchard, Saturday Night Live cast members, a cowbell specialist, and an ext than a dozen musicians who’ve extended the track – add to one that tried, yet couldn’t. This is the story that the only rock classic inspired by cardiac arrhythmia.


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Don Roeser, guitarist and songwriter, Blue Öyster Cult: you can contact me Don, if girlfriend want. It’s type of weird, having an alter ego. Periodically I blame Buck for stuff Don did.

Albert Bouchard, ex-drummer, Blue Öyster Cult: exactly how deep carry out you want me to go? You want to geezer out ~ above the song?

Roeser: There was a time once Blue Öyster Cult was living in band houses that we’d all rent. Then the stopped, and I moved in with my girlfriend Sandra, who became my wife. We had a residence in Melville . I had actually just obtained a TEAC 3340s four-track recorder. These days, it’s simple to document multiple tracks on a phone or laptop or iPad, but ago then, it to be a fairly new thing.

Bouchard: A most bands that later on became huge opened for us: Bob Seger, Aerosmith, Heart, Kansas, Styx, every acts that sold more records than we ever before did. Us felt us were in ~ a point where if we had actually something even half-way commercial, it would be successful. So us were thinking about making a yes, really good, refined record.


Roeser: It began with simply the guitar riff, the iconic guitar riff. I taped it, since I knew it to be good.

Bouchard: In the fall of ’75, Don dubbed me and said, “I wrote this riff, i think the pretty cool.” He play it because that me, and I assumed it sound a little bit choose “Teen Archer” Tyranny and Mutation>. Ns said, “Oh, friend took the riff and also put that in A minor.” A week later, he gave me a cassette that ns played on my Walkman, and also he’d placed a beautiful boy melody end the peak of that empty canvas the a modal background. And also in the lyrics, to be answering himself, which was sort of an innovation. That was having actually a conversation v himself, which is one of the reasons it’s such a an effective tune.


Roeser: I had an idea that I want to write a love story about transcending death. Ns was 22, and also I had a love arrhythmia, which occurred in my late teens. I believed I could not live lot longer. A cardiologist said, “It’s not something it is gonna death you.” however dying had been on mine mind.

So I believed of writing a track about, well, what if among a couple dies? Is it possible to cross that divide of the mortal coil and also reunite somehow? ns was writing about characters, yet insofar together it pertained to me personally, the was about me and Sandra. Ns was thinking around her as soon as I composed it.

My sensibilities space a little an ext radio friendly, a little an ext pop. I thrived up with height 40 radio and also R&B radio. I choose to rock, but I additionally like music v sentiment.

Bouchard: ns was like, “Don, this is a hit!” he said, “Ehh, i don’t know. Walk it even fit the band?” everybody in the band agreed through me, except for one guy. I’m not gonna speak who, due to the fact that he constantly denies that he was versus it.


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Donald Roeser, aka Buck Dharma, of Blue Öyster Cult performs in ~ The Hammersmith Odeon in London, 1977.Tom Sheehan / Getty ImagesRoeser: Eric Bloom no think it was appropriate for Blue Öyster Cult. The band was formed about Eric as the high-energy, menacing lead singer. He didn’t think it was the means the band must go, put it that way.

Bouchard: Oh, Don already told you it was Eric? Yeah, Eric said, “He’s creating this around Sandra, his wife. I don’t want any type of songs around wives.”


Roeser: Eric has concerned like the tune (laughs).

Bouchard: The single rose increase the charts quickly. It was released in at an early stage summer, and also by the end of the summer, it to be on every station, it appeared like.


Roeser: FM radio went for it pretty quickly, and then it began to overcome over right into AM, which to be still the popular music radio layout in 1976. We started to attract better. We offered out the smaller venues and also moved right into the large ones.

Bouchard: unexpectedly there to be some recognition for the band. And we had actually a lot more money. I bought a house, paid cash. Ns bought two cars. Three years later, the residence is gone, the cars space gone. One was stolen, the various other I lost in the divorce. The all come out come nothing .

Roeser: after ~ the proceeds began rolling in, the first foolish point we did to be buy a bunch of lasers. The oscillating mirrors took what would be a dangerous quantity of light and diluted it to something that wouldn’t hurt you. The too bad you can’t perform it during concerts anymore.

Jeff Tweedy, singer and songwriter, Wilco (who typically play “Don’t are afraid the Reaper” live, but have never recorded it): together a song, it has its very own shape. That doesn’t have a direct antecedent. It practically doesn’t have actually a straight descendent either. It is a quite high bar to target for, as a songwriter. I aspire to that. Anytime ns hear the song, i’m reminded, oh shit, somebody deserve to do that. It can be done.

Bruce Watson, guitarist, huge Country (who exit a faithful sheathe in 1993): it’s a love song. Whoever composed it was so in love with an additional half, they didn’t want to component from them.

Mandi Perkins, singer, Denmark + Winter (who slowed it come a dirge in 2016): the totally a love song, however a bittersweet love song. The music, the etc line, the melody — that an all-around an excellent song.


Chris Collingwood, singer, Fountains that Wayne: It’s no classically crafted. It’s no a excellent melody — the not also a brilliant guitar riff. It’s an ext than the sum of the parts. It pushes you right into a dream state.

Noko, guitarist, Apollo 440 (who placed out a techno pop version in 1995): It’s choose the best Roger McGuinn track Roger McGuinn never wrote. That a Byrds pastiche, really. It’s obtained a beautiful, chiming top quality that goes ‘round and also ‘round. A great record, however it’s practically all ns know about Blue Öyster Cult. I couldn’t name any other track they’ve done.

Jeff Tweedy, Wilco: ns was nine years old, and also it was on the radio a many in the St. Louis market. At the time in mine life, i was really confused around things once I listened to the radio. It’s tough to believe, yet they played Peter Frampton so lot that I assumed he was a DJ. Lock announced his name so regularly that ns was like, “He’s the male playing the records, right?”

Mandi Perkins, Denmark + Winter: It was written before I to be born. It’s practically menacing, but because it’s for this reason melodic, it no scary as much as that is beautiful-scary.


John Wheeler, singer, Hayseed Dixie (who exit a bluegrass variation in 2017): The very first time i heard it, ns was probably seven or eight years old. It absolutely creeped me out. That was like the very first time I observed Bambi, which ns hated due to the fact that the mommy gets eliminated right in ~ the beginning. Mine father believed he was taking me to a happy Disney movie. I cried the whole method home. Ns was pissed turn off at him for weeks.

To be honest, also as a get an impressive man, the words really creep me out. It’s among the darkest songs I’ve ever before heard. Yet the whole idea of do death and dying right into something erotic was revolutionary. Ns mean, possibly Bambi is a great movie, too. I just think the abusive to show it come a five year old.

Jeff Tweedy, Wilco: that taps into an icy kind of feeling, prefer the hand of death touching her shoulder.

My first memory of the track came from one of my cousins, who was a little older 보다 me, possibly a teenager in ~ the time. At family members gatherings, she’d gather the younger kids and scare the shit out of united state by talking around the occult. She told us she was calling Steve Nicks due to the fact that they want to talk around the Rapture. My cousin was a maniac. She had actually a knack for terrifying, and that song was vividly a part of her shtick. She’d pat it and say, “You’ll walk crazy if you listen to this song.” The middle section scares me still, come this day.


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Blue Öyster Cult in the UK, circa 1975.Gus Stewart / Getty ImagesChris Collingwood, Fountains of Wayne: as soon as I to be a kid growing up north of Philly, males would hang out in the parking lot, gaining high and also blaring shit from their Camaros. It was a tiny scary walking to my vehicle at the finish of the day. For a lengthy time, I viewed it together the music negative Kids listened to. Then when I obtained my an initial car, i realized I favored the strength of the song once you play it yes, really loud. It’s constantly the very first track i play as soon as I get new headphones.


Chris Parnell, actors member, Saturday Night Live: The covering art and the name of the band seemed so mysterious, maybe even demonic.


Martyn Ware, singer and also producer, sky 17 (who understood the tune as dance pop in 2005): ns didn’t rush the end to to buy it, to be honest. In 1976, ns was an ext interested in Devo and also Blondie. Ns wasn’t a massive fan of smoothed-out rock. However I’ve become more of a fan of it since. In the wake up of punk, a many Seventies music has been identified as dinosaur rock. And I think that’s wrong. It was a time of good creativity and experimentation in songwriting.

Lydia Lunch, singer (who walk a punkish variation in 1991): ns can’t say that Blue Öyster Cult to be in my height Ten.

Camille Kitt, singer and also harpist, the Harp Twins (who did, yes, a translation for harp in 2012): among our favorite price quotes is “For death is no more than a transforming of united state over from time to eternity,” by wilhelm Penn.

Kennerly Kitt, singer and harpist, the Harp Twins: This tune is that message, just in musical form.

Robby Takac, singer and bassist, Goo Goo Dolls (more punk from 1987): In 1976, i was living in a suburb of Buffalo, in mine parents’ basement. When I was around 18, Goo Goo Dolls obtained together, just youngsters making punk rock, a much different band than we room today. Us played “Reaper” at a bunch the shows due to the fact that folks sang along and had a an excellent time, and also I occurred to recognize the chords — at least, many of lock . We thought it was funny to play the song 5 times together fast. There to be a little bit of “kill your idols” blended in there.

Noko, guitarist and also keyboardist, Apollo 440: it’s obviously a Goth song. The a Gothic romance, isn’t it? It’s about love transcending life and death, that entirety hot potato. That’s been done a million times, indigenous Shakespeare and also Bram Stoker, onwards.

Martyn Ware, heaven 17: ns love the mystery of the song, and also the Gothic imagery. It has an epos quality.

John Wheeler, Hayseed Dixie: that doesn’t adopt or memory death, but it nearly makes that erotic. I think that’s the first Goth song. The sisters of Mercy would not exist if it wasn’t for “Reaper.”


Mandi Perkins, Denmark + Winter: It’s therefore rich, lyrically. There are so many principles interwoven. Once you think the Romeo and Juliet, you think around dying young. If you look in ~ it superficially, it’s kind of choose a suicide tune — not that it’s permissible to commit suicide, yet it’s telling youngsters there’s something romantic around dying young. I know the track is native the Seventies, and they to be doing every sorts of stunner things ago then!

Jeff Tweedy, Wilco: i guess in those days, you didn’t think about what type of liability or obligation you’re walking to have after the fact. But it absolutely reads together a PSA for suicide. “Just try it. At least once.”


Roeser: The 2nd verse <“Romeo and also Juliet/Are with each other in eternity”> is the one that causes so much trouble. I supplied Romeo and Juliet as an instance of a pair who had belief to take their love what else. Lock in eternity because they had actually the faith to believe in the possibility. It never emerged to me that civilization would think “Reaper” is an advertisement for suicide.

Robby Takac, Goo Goo Dolls: I have actually no idea what the track is about, man. I’ll it is in honest. Ns not also sure we knew the words. In fact, I’m sure we didn’t know. Ns made castle up.

Brian Wecht, keyboardist, Ninja Sex Party (soaring balladry native 2019) : before I started doing music full-time, i was a theoretical physicist. To me, the message of the track is, we have what we live and also nothing else. It’s same to speak to that deep.

Chris Collingwood, Fountains of Wayne: It sounds to me like somebody speak to his beloved, “Let’s dice while our love is pure.” perhaps that’s no deep. However there’s not a solitary word in the tune that sounds the end of place.

Vic Fuentes, singer and guitarist, Pierce the Veil (hard rock, 2010): It’s about a guy who died and he wants his girl come be with him. She can’t take care of life there is no him. In the end, castle reunited. He’s trying come tell her, Don’t be fear of death. That going to it is in amazing, because we’ll it is in together. It’s for this reason heavy. Yes a many love walking on in this song around death.

Bouchard: the the many upbeat fatality song ever!


Eric Gales, blues singer and guitarist (who consistently plays the reaper blues live): not everybody watch at death as a scary thing. We all acquired to watch it at part point, so we might as well welcome it in once it's time. That don't median go and rush your time.

Bouchard: Every song was a tape collaboration, also though everyone in the tape didn’t get songwriting credit. I want to split everything equally. The was what the Doors did. I believed it was a great idea, since people i will not ~ be pulling for their song, simply to make money. Don was among the ones who didn’t desire to split anything when he composed it. Though as soon as he placed something in , he would be okay with dividing the publishing and the credit.

Roeser: to be there animosity in the direction of me? ns don’t think so. Ns mean, maybe. Everybody desire they’d created it, however that wasn’t the case. So, ehh, what are you gonna do?

Bouchard: top top the following album, everyone started chasing the hits, myself contained — although mine idea that a hit was much more like Steely Dan, and that didn’t walk over so well. It’s the “careful what you wish for” syndrome.

Roeser: Everybody want to compose a hit and it wasn’t everybody’s strength, so probably the mystique of Blue Öyster Cult gained diluted in the quest. Us didn’t have an additional hit until “Burnin’ because that You” in 1981.


Bruce Watson, big Country: It’s virtually like they’re 2 or three different bands. You’ve got “Godzilla” and also “Cities top top Flames,” the more heavier sci-fi things, and also then you’ve got “Reaper” and “Burnin’ because that You,” which room radio-friendly.

Jeff Tweedy, Wilco: it’s an anomaly within their own catalog, partly because of the vocal delivery. The soft of the vocal shipment is one of the things that makes it therefore effective.


Roeser: We sold our posting to Sony ATV in the Nineties. Ns still acquire the writer’s share of the money, yet not the publisher’s share. I like to hear covers the “Reaper.” yet I great somebody had a hit with it.


Mandi Perkins, Denmark + Winter: I started the project of Denmark + Winter through Maggie Martin, in ~ Sony Music Publishing. I take few of their magazine songs and also expose them to a new generation — song by Sting, or martin Gore, or Blue Öyster Cult. I develop a new master because that the licensing team at Sony. They license it, and also then they have actually the publishing next of the song. We introduce the track to a new audience, and also they generate a whole new income stream for the song. Anyone wins.

Brian Wecht, Ninja Sex Party: v our original songs, we’re a comedy band. But with cover songs, we take castle seriously. Atypically, us hired a cable quartet to play with us. Act a comedic version of it would feel disrespectful.

Vic Fuentes, Pierce the Veil: The difficulty was, just how do us make this a punk song? It to be a bigger undertaking 보다 we had anticipated. The track is therefore complex, and also the lyrics room out over there — it’s virtually “Bohemian Rhapsody” status, as much as epos songs go. We shaved off some time by bumping up the tempo through a couple of BPM, in ~ least.


Lydia Lunch, singer: that made feeling to record the song as a duet through J.G. Thirlwell . Our version is bombastic – us made it right into a absent opera that romantic desperation. It’s clearly the ideal version the the tune ever.

John Wheeler, Hayseed Dixie: The suggest of Hayseed Dixie is to demonstrate that tough rock and also country room both working course music. Even if it is it’s Bon Scott singing “Highway come Hell” or Hank Williams Jr. To sing “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound,” castle singing about the very same road. So we approached “Reaper” as, “What would certainly this track sound favor if the guys who walk it were from eastern Tennessee?” it’s an old institution bluegrass arrangement, played on hillbilly instruments, treated with a same amount the reverence.

Noko, Apollo 440: once we videotaped it in the ‘90s, run music and also rock music were polarized into two camps. Through Apollo 440, there’s always been an nearly guilty-pleasures element to what we do. We’re absent kids, that’s what we flourished up listening to, and also we to be cheekily pass bits the that ago for the dance generation. I’m a guitarist, however we decided on rule that we didn’t want any guitar on ours version. It’s two Roland Juno-106’s with the filter sweeping in and out. Add a bit of delay, and also you obtain the exact same chime-y guitar quality as the original. Yet we broke our own rule because I walk a little of a feedback solo on the bit in the middle of the song.

Mandi Perkins, singer, Denmark + Winter: ns did the recording through Andrew Blunda of the tape Fastball. We chose to do a slow, mysterious, dystopian version. I tried to do my voice gentle and also soft. Ns think my version’s scarier than their version.

Camille Kitt, singer and also harp player, the Harp Twins: I’d speak to our version “haunting and peaceful velvet rock.”


Mandi Perkins, Denmark + Winter: Males space usually the ones the make crazy declarations in songs. The the male that’s protecting you or conserving you: Don’t be scared. Don’t fear the reaper. Don’t fear the dark. i felt quite an effective saying those words, due to the fact that now i’m comforting someone. Ns doing the job of what a male vocal would do.

Martyn Ware, sky 17: strange enough, the idea of spanning the song involved me in a dream. I had actually to market the idea come glen Gregory, that wasn’t specifically keen top top the idea. He assumed I was mad, in fact.

I thought we might do a more modern-day arrangement, v a valuation track comparable to residence music. The a huge guitar-rock number, but it has beautiful, haunting cadences and counterpoint. That provocative for united state to cover it. We still get world asking, “What the crap is this? Why space you bothering?”

Even once we were recording it, glen wasn’t the keen. When he observed the reaction we obtained from people, of course, he declared all the credit. Singers! can’t live v ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.


Roeser: i think the most faithful and enjoyable version is large Country’s. They go a really nice job.

Bruce Watson, big Country: we did virtually a verbatim version, but without keyboards and also without the center section.

Vic Fuentes, Pierce the Veil: It’s almost like two songs in one. In the bridge, you’re literally starting a new song.

Roeser: In the bridge, i tried to evoke the yes, really metaphysical event that happens. That’s what the important section is doing, it’s setup the stage for the curtains blowing and also the candles blowing out. The guy shows up and spirits his lover far to this other place.


Albert Bouchard the Blue Öyster Cult theatre the drums, 1977.Michael PutlandNoko, Apollo 440: ok tell you what kinds the men from the boys: how you law the center section, the Gothic symphonic bit. Heaven 17 totally ignored it on their version. But almost everybody else used the dark, atonal Gothicness that it and tried come celebrate that.


Eric Gales, blues singer and guitarist: when they gain to that bridge, it sounds favor you’re walking right into a scary home of some sort. The sounds favor the music for part scary dungeon game.

Bruce Watson, large Country: We just went, “No, we ain’t emotional that center section.”

Robby Takac, Goo Goo Dolls: I’m certain we provided the center section a whirl at some point, but we were more concerned with having actually a blast and also driving around in our van.

Bouchard: The song’s a tiny scary, particularly when the goes come the middle section. “What’s walking on here? did it readjust time signatures? Is it an altering keys?”

Chris Collingwood, Fountains of Wayne: We started doing a covering of “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” for a soundtrack, i don’t mental what movie it was. Once we acquired to the center bit, i don’t understand what happened. Maybe we gained too drunk. Us couldn’t resolve the middle part. Absent that entails that lot counting, it’s hard for me.


Jeff Tweedy, Wilco: As countless times as I’ve heard and also played it, I have a daunting time count the middle section. It is all i think about, the whole song.

Bouchard: What you need to realize around the middle section is that the focus is on the two. It is why it’s weird. Yet it never changes time signature. It simply sounds like it does, because who plays on the two all the time?

John Wheeler, Hayseed Dixie: us still pat the tune live fairly a bit, and every bastard in the audience knows exactly what the track is, from the first riff. That’s the mark of one iconic tune — if the first riff sticks come the roof of your brain: “Help!” or “Back in Black” or “Free Fallin’.” I’ve never written anything the recognizable, and that’s why i’m in a cult band.


Bruce Watson, large Country: It became a regular part of our set. When civilization shout for more songs, we choose to turn the night right into a party atmosphere. Everybody knows “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.”

Eric Gales, blues singer and guitarist: The bulk of the world in the group know specifically what ns playing as soon as I start it up. Girlfriend hear the roar. My mam is the percussionist in my group. As soon as I get into the verse, LaDonna beginning the cowbell component and they yes, really go crazy. A sea of human being with your hands increase in the air, and everybody’s yelling.

Bouchard: once I rejoined the tape in 1985 , I readjusted the arrangement. Ago in 1976, Don said, “Play it like Mike Clarke” — the drummer in the Byrds. Clarke play the classic white-boy beat, base drum on eighth notes. Yet by ’85, MTV to be really large – i cry of 100 Haircuts and all the – and also the win were all four-on-the-floor disco beats. So when I rejoined, ns did the disco version. I thought it was great, yet nobody in the band liked it. “What the fuck room you doing???” that was a short-lived experiment.

I’ll tell girlfriend a story. We played in san Pedro on the tour, i m sorry is whereby Mike Watt and his girlfriend in the Minutemen, D. Boon, saw us. Years later when ns was talking to Watt, the said, “I saw Blue Öyster Cult. You weren’t playing with them. They had actually some disco guy.”

I said, “No, that was me.” he goes, “You might’ve to be playing with them, yet it no you.”


Roeser: I intend you have to talk around the cowbell, to talk about “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.” ns wasn’t there as soon as they recorded it. It to be David Lucas’ idea. He and Albert both say they played it. They might both be right, i don’t know.

Bouchard: Three people claim they play it: me, David Lucas, and also Eric Bloom. Eric was the guy who commonly played percussion on the records. He most likely would’ve excellent a better job 보다 me. However David inquiry me to carry out it.


A brief while ago, i was talking to David, and he said, “I play it. Nobody else to be there.” ns said, “David, you’re thinking of “Tenderloin” . You placed a cowbell ~ above it once I no there.” that goes, “There’s a cowbell top top ‘Tenderloin’?” “Yes, and you play it.” he’s like, “….Shit.” Eric offered up claiming he play it. He knows he didn’t.


Chris Collingwood, Fountains the Wayne: when I tweeted around “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper,” civilization were favor “More cowbell!” it’s a funny joke, but the cowbell is no really mixed very high in the song. You have the right to barely listen it.

Roeser: We blended it low — it no “Mississippi Queen” or “Time has Come Today.”

Bouchard: I thought the cowbell was a silly sound to have on a serious song. When we to be mixing, I maintained telling Shelly Yakus, “Turn that down. Rotate it down.” the said, “If I rotate it down any kind of more, it’s going to be inaudible.” which would’ve to be fine with me.

Bruce Watson, big Country: ns think the cowbell should’ve to be louder. In fact, ns think they have to take whatever off it and also have only the vocals and cowbell.

Chris Kattan, who played Roeser in the Saturday Night Live sketch: that was among those songs generally played in a friend’s vehicle during high college or in ~ a kegger. It to be unique, compared to a the majority of other standard rock songs from the mid-Seventies. I had a fondness because that it, even before the cowbell sketch.


Chris Kattan as Donald Roeser, aka Buck Dharma, will Ferrell as Gene Frenkle, kris Parnell as Eric Bloom in their “More Cowbell” lay out on Saturday Night Live, April 8, 2000.NBC / Getty ImagesLydia Lunch, singer: us didn’t usage a cowbell because it’s the dumbest instrument — dumbest non-instrument — ever before invented. Ns don’t think us missed the fracking cowbell.

Camille Kitt, the Harp Twins: We do it live every the time, and also it’s a huge hit. We likewise include a cowbell skit to pay homage come the standard Christopher take walk “it needs much more cowbell” SNL skit.


Kennerly Kitt, the Harp Twins: I’ve been gifted a ridiculous number of cowbells from fans. It’s type of my point now.


Vic Fuentes, Pierce the Veil: we were like, “We can not screw this up. We have to number out just how to perform the cowbell.” in ~ the finish of the song, yes a little Easter egg: my brothers is our drummer, and he was playing the cowbell. You hear him continuing the cowbell ~ the song is over, and also our producer yells at him to shut up.

Brian Wecht, Ninja Sex Party: I play the cowbell. The all quarter notes.

Dan Avidan, singer, Ninja Sex Party: ns just show up and sing. I don’t want the responsibility of the cowbell.

John Wheeler, Hayseed Dixie: us did not put any kind of cowbell ~ above it. One, it’s a cliche. Everybody to know the Saturday Night Live skit. Two, civilization would think us were do a joke the end of it.

Roeser: i didn’t have Saturday Night Live on. Mine wife’s mommy called and said, “Donald’s ~ above television.” We experienced the tail end of it, and somebody taped it, therefore we experienced it later. Ns dying to ask will certainly Ferrell just how he thought of the sketch, because it’s therefore ridiculous.

Chris Kattan, Saturday Night Live: There was a magic element, concerning the chemistry v Will and also the remainder of the cast. Christopher Walken’s distribution is so separate from us. That feels choose two worlds: Will and us, and then Christopher Walken, who constantly seems choose he’s visiting from one more planet when he does lay out comedy.

Roeser: lock looked at a best hits compilation, i beg your pardon is where they gained the surname Bruce Dickinson. He wasn’t the initial producer that the record. As much as the costumes, they duplicated it pretty faithfully.

Chris Kattan, Saturday Night Live: The map out was tried out previous come Christopher take walk hosting. Lock tried it with Alec Baldwin in the walken role. That wasn’t even chosen for the show. Walken’s power at the read-through table had a many to execute with the sketch getting chosen in the an initial place.


But it no do virtually as well at the table read as that did on air. We all assumed it was funny, yet I nothing think anyone had any idea it would become a comedic anthem.

Chris Parnell, that played Eric Bloom on Saturday Night Live: in ~ the table read on Wednesday, the lay out was just called “Recording Studio.” ns played the command singer that the band, however we discovered out later on that it no the command singer who sang the song. Given its location in the display , i guess there wasn’t an expectation it to be going to be popular.

Chris Kattan, Saturday Night Live: If they think a lay out is walk to be huge, they make it the first sketch the the night. That was also in a corner of the studio they speak to the death Corner, because the studio audience can see it just on the TV monitors. That not basic place to get laughs.


Brian Wecht, Ninja Sex Party: The premise is really funny, but what sells the lay out is the performances. The exhilaration is 95 percent of it. They’re yes, really not making funny of the song.

Chris Kattan, Saturday Night Live: After dress rehearsal, will came approximately me and also said, “Hey Kattan, once you say your line ‘Don’t punch this because that us, Gene,’ I desire you to press me yes, really hard.” I have some strength, even though I have the figure of one ant. I propelled him hard enough to fall backwards, and that’s when his belly dropped out the the shirt even further. Jimmy laughed, and also that’s when the dominoes of character break happened. Walken never broke. He is visiting from another planet, so he no understand.


Leslie Jones riffs on will certainly Ferrell's “More Cowbell” map out on Saturday Night Live, January 23, 2018.NBC / Getty ImagesChris Parnell, Saturday Night Live: walk is a huge part the why the lay out is therefore funny, because he has actually such an unusual delivery. And also Will himself is insanely funny, through a shirt riding up over his belly and also his insistence and belief in the cowbell. The was type of absurdist, however it worked. And also people enjoyed, together they frequently do, that the cast was break character and laughing. Yet Christopher walk is so specialized to it. He never broke, which do a huge difference.

Chris Kattan, Saturday Night Live: i don’t also think i knew there to be a cowbell in the sketch, to it is in honest. However that’s the beauty beauty of it. It take it something the really is not really much and also blows it approximately make the important.

I damaged character slightly. Ns smirked. You deserve to see the appropriate side of my mustache advanced up. I was embarrassed, and I accidentally looked in ~ the monitor, and saw that behind me, Jimmy was laughing.


Chris Parnell, Saturday Night Live: the was an extremely hard to not laugh, through Will increase in mine face, looking like he did.


Chris Kattan, Saturday Night Live: after the show, ns walked right into the writer’s room and Adam McKay, the truly brilliant Adam McKay Anchorman and Talladega Nights>, that wrote a most stuff v Will, was watching the cowbell map out again. That said, “God, i can’t avoid watching this.” the was the very first tipoff the the lay out might end up being a classic.

Derek Zimmerman, brand manager, Latin Percussion: We are the world preeminent percussion manufacturer. On ours price list, we have actually 69 different cowbells, various sizes and also pitches. Why does the people need so countless cowbells? since there room a lot of various styles that music. Us sell about 60,000 cowbells every year. It is a the majority of cowbells.

The “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” cowbell sounds like the black Beauty to me. It’s the cowbell that outsells every the others. On SNL, will Ferrell play a black Beauty Senior.

We have actually some new cowbells that referral the sketch and also say “More cowbell!” top top them. We’ve do bells for will – he has actually a Cancer for College foundation, and when they carry out an event, castle order custom graphic cowbells indigenous us, with graphics installed into the metal.

Chris Kattan, Saturday Night Live: ns wondering whereby that cowbell is now. I’m certain it’s precious something.

gendergeek.org has learned, v a source who insisted top top anonymity, the the cowbell is still the home of the SNL props department.

Chris Parnell, Saturday Night Live: world have absolutely yelled “More cowbell!” at me, however usually native a distance. It’s never a good idea to run up and scream at somebody. And also somebody offered me a book of image of cowbells, as strange as that sounds. Ns don’t think I hosted on to it because that long.

Derek Zimmerman, Latin Percussion: some drummers choose the “more cowbell” joke, and some don’t. A significant drummer occasionally gets exhausted of hearing it.


Chris Kattan, Saturday Night Live: once I carry out standup shows, or once I’m in a Rite assist or a trader Joe’s, somebody will yell, “Hey, an ext cowbell!” it is fine through me. However speak it, nothing yell it. Anyone who was in that sketch hears something about it ~ above a daily basis. Christopher Walken probably can’t was standing it by now.

Roeser: A couple of times, venues have introduced us v the cowbell sketch, and then us play. The something we learned to be at tranquility with. I hope Christopher Walken and also Will Ferrell are too, due to the fact that we’re all cursed through it. That a steed collar about our neck. I feel sorry for Walken, who’s had actually such a long and also wonderful career. And that’s all world say come him: “More cowbell.”

Chris Kattan, Saturday Night Live: It would be nice, possibly on the next anniversary present of Saturday Night Live, to all dress up in the very same costumes. Not to execute the sketch again, but just to stand there and see the response. I’m not certain I can fit into the pants and also the above-crotch area, but everything else would certainly fit just fine.


Roeser: I want it played at my funeral, which I’ve stated to anyone who would take treatment of my funeral or my remains. Probably not play over and over, yet certainly ~ above a playlist that repeats. It could be the theme of the ceremony.

I’m tho surprised exactly how it resonates in the culture. Everybody thinks about dying. We’re all gonna die. For this reason it’s almost a romantic take it on it. Probably thinking around dying is creepy, but it’s actually intended to be comforting. The imagines the there’s something else out there, in the way we imagine heaven. I hold open the space that heaven could be real, the we’re not just dust when we perish. If I get to heaven and also they’re playing “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper,” climate I’ll duck walk in there.

Bouchard: even though ns don’t get a piece of the “Reaper” money when people cover it, or “Godzilla,” i still make plenty the money. It’s not a problem. All 4 of us are doing nice well. Also if ns didn’t have a brand-new York City teacher’s pension, I’d be doing fine.

Robby Takac, Goo Goo Dolls: ns wouldn’t be human being if i didn’t are afraid the reaper.

Lydia Lunch, singer: Hell no. I’ve had are afraid for maybe 20 seconds in my life. I cause fear. If you want to know around death, four civilization died not lengthy after I covered their songs: Tom Petty, Steely Dan, Gregg Allman, and one the the Eagles . I had to sheathe “Hotel California,” due to the fact that I hated that so much.


Bouchard: ns don’t are afraid the reaper. Nope. If it’s every to end tomorrow, hey, i did part stuff. We space remembered by what we do. And what we carry out is a have fun of our soul.


Noko, Apollo 440: together time walk on, the reaping machine is more a cogent issue. However all friend can are afraid is having actually wasted time. “In life we room in death” and also all that.

Kennerly Kitt, the Harp Twins: fear the reaper? Nope!

Camille Kitt, the Harp Twins: We recognize where we’re going!

John Wheeler, Hayseed Dixie: i’m reasonably convinced that the God the Abraham is a fiction. Even if it is there’s some universal connectedness whereby we’ll all meet, ns will find out quickly enough. Mythologies and also fairytales are fun, from the suggest of check out of, “This is what civilization used come think, prior to they determined what virus were.” If i’m wrong and I do occur to accomplish the God the Abraham, I’m all set with my 95 Theses .

Jeff Tweedy, Wilco: I fear the reaper on a day-to-day basis. It’s my number one obsession, in regards to songwriting. Not death itself, yet trying to number out how to square your mind through that awareness. That a challenging thing to number out just how much to fear and how lot to live in rejection of that fear. The is something i strive to make peace with practically on a everyday basis, absolutely.

Dan Avidan, Ninja Sex Party: ns played that on the way to mine granddad’s funeral, and also it was comforting. The voice is soothing. The melody is beautiful. The makes death sound and also feel very natural, and therefore nothing come be fear of. Mine granddad was a scientist, and also when he was alive, he always said, “From the moment you’re born, you start dying.”

Roeser: My mam considers that a romantic song. It’s always had a special ar for the 2 of us. We’ve been together for nearly 50 years.

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