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More Cowbell: Speaking with Blue Oyster Cult’s Eric Bloom

Band to play its first ever acoustic show at Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington.

If you don’t think that one chance encounter can change the course of your life, then you’ve never chatted with Eric Bloom, lead singer and guitarist for Long Island’s most famous band – Blue Oyster Cult (BOC).

Almost 44 years ago, Bloom was working at Sam Ash in Hempstead, when he met the members of a band, then called Soft White Underbelly, who had come in to buy amps. This chance meeting ultimately lead to Bloom joining the band, which would eventually change its name to Blue Oyster Cult. Though there have been many lineup changes throughout the years, Bloom and lead guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roesser have remained the backbone.

Over the past four decades, BOC has toured relentlessly, released numerous CDs, and attained commercial success most notably with the hit singles “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper,” “Godzilla,” and “Burnin’ For You.” I had the opportunity to chat with Bloom in advance of the band’s acoustic performance on Saturday, at Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington.

I’d had the good fortune to see Blue Oyster Cult in 1984 at Radio City Music Hall. That show included lasers, smoke, screaming guitars, ear-blasting decibel levels, and an animatronic Godzilla. I simply couldn’t understand how this band was going to do an all acoustic show – it would be like asking Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin to play an all acoustic show. So I asked Bloom how many acoustic shows they’d done in the past. “None,” he said, calmly. “This is our first.”

Bloom wasn’t joking.

“We got the offer and took it as a challenge,“ he said, noting that he’d been to shows at Landmark in the past, including Christine Ebersole. “We obviously can’t do a regular hard rock show there,” he said. “It would just peel the paint off the walls.”

So how are they going to do it? “This will be a little different for us,” Bloom admitted, “and we’re doing a lot of rehearsing to make it as good as we can.”

Bloom and lead guitarist Buck Dharma have gone through their catalogue of music and picked out the songs they thought would work best. “There will probably be some surprises,” said Bloom, who admitted, when asked, that they would probably play “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.” Bloom laughed at my offer to play cowbell in the song, saying that I’d have to prove that I can keep time. The band typically has a crew guy play cowbell offstage for the song, and on one occasion when the usual person was out, “we just grabbed another crew guy and said ‘here, you’re doing the cowbell tonight!’” said Bloom. “Unfortunately, the guy we gave the cowbell to could not play it in time. It was hilarious,” Bloom recounted, adding that the crew member took a lot of ribbing for it.

I couldn’t resist asking about the band’s reaction to Saturday Night Live’s “Behind the Music with Blue Oyster Cult” skit, with Christopher Walken. The skit featured the infamous “more cowbell!” line. “It was a rare Saturday when we weren’t on tour,” Bloom said. “So I saw it live. We had no idea. It was a jaw-dropping experience.” Bloom admits it took a few viewings to “get how hysterical it was,” but that now the term "more cowbell" has crossed over into common parlance. “I was reading a car magazine the other day,” Bloom told me, “and it said ‘this car needs more cowbell’ and right away you know what this means.” So, who actually played the cowbell in the recorded version? Bloom recalls that it was him, but admits that others have made the same claim.

Bloom has had an incredible career with BOC, touring the world, sharing the stage with other top-tier bands like Rush and Black Sabbath, and collaborating on lyrics with the likes of Patti Smith, and writers Eric Van Lustbader, Michael Moorcock, and John Shirley. But what I really learned about Bloom after sitting and chatting for an hour on a bench outside of Gino’s Pizzeria, is that he’s actually a regular guy. Despite his fame, he eats pizza and watches “The Big Bang Theory” just like the rest of us. He raised his two grown children in Long Island, and he’s looking forward to playing locally.

Blue Oyster Cult’s acoustic show at Landmark is a Signature Series event for the Arts ALIVE - LI festival, highlighting the arts on Long Island. What better way to do so than with Long Island’s most illustrious band?  For ticket information, visit the website of Landmark on Main Street.

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