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“We Just Went Wherever Our Minds Took Us” An Oral History with Buck Dharma

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 playing guitar on stage 

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?”

Buck Dharma standing in the Sound Lab at MoPop

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! 


About the author

Adrienne is a writer and editor from Seattle and is MoPOP's Content Wizard (patent pending).