Blue Oyster Cult’s Buck Dharma came by MoPOP this March and graciously agreed to an oral history interview with Senior Curator Jacob McMurray.
Here are a few of our favorite quotes from the interview.
Jacob McMurray: Was the British Invasion an influence on you?
Buck Dharma: When I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, that really gave me the idea that maybe I should give [this] a shot. Looks like a lot of fun . . . It just seemed like you could do it. And I don’t know why, but I’ve talked to a lot of musicians that said that, when they saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, they said “yeah, I can do that.”
McMurray: When did you transition from listener to musician?
Dharma: I played accordion at nine years old. I played that for about a year and then I sort of became disinterested because it was apparent to my ten-year-old sensibility that accordion wasn’t really a hip instrument.
Buck Dharma at home with his guitar
McMurray: What were some of the bands you covered with the Travesty your college cover band?
Dharma: The first Blues Project LP and Paul Butterfield’s band East-West record were probably the biggest influence on our music and on me as a guitar player because to play those songs, I had to really practice to even be able to cover them. It required me learning new technique, which I didn’t possess previously to that.
McMurray: What was your song writing process in the early years?
Dharma: We just went wherever our minds took us.
McMurray: Can you tell me about how you got the name Blue Oyster Cult?
Dharma: We got signed by Clive and we didn’t know what to call ourselves. We couldn’t decide. But we had to commit to something. Blue Oyster Cult is a song title, actually, of one of Sandy’s [Pearlman] songs. And its part of a larger song cycle called ‘The Soft Doctrines of Imaginos,’ which is basically a sort of a docu-drama of history—of Western Civ history—that starts in the late 1700s in England and arcs across to World War II.
The Blue Oyster Cult was a mythical race of amphibious beings that rescue a sailor from a shipwreck.
When we decided to be Blue Oyster Cult we sort of invented a mythology for ourselves, because we almost wanted to be kind of mysterious. You had to have a legend, you know what I’m saying?”
Dharma standing under our glorious sign in MoPOP's Sound Lab
McMurray: Tell me about writing “Godzilla.”
Dharma: The guitar riff I wrote in a hotel room in Dallas. I was a big fan of Godzilla [movies]. It just popped into my head this [hums riff]. You know [Godzilla’s] ripping down the wires and all that stuff. And that lyric was pretty easy to write. If you’ve ever noticed, there’s not many words in that song. There’s like a verse and a half and that’s pretty much it.
McMurray: What was it like playing with the Mahavishnu Orchestra on your first tour?
Dharma: We had to pick our jaws off the floor every night watching those guys play. Cause it was just stunning.
McMurray: Tell me about performing on Alice Cooper’s Killer tour.
Dharma: The Killer show was an amazing show. It’s just funny how your eyes are opened by different experiences. Besides Alice’s theatrics, we learned a lot about how to project to a bigger crowd from Alice and his band.
Thanks to Buck Dharma for being willing to share his story with us!