This page is intended to list all the Soft White Underbelly, Stalk Forrest Group and early nascent Blue Oyster Cult songs that have ever been written and performed.

Sometimes, all I have - and all I will ever have - is just a song title, but I'll list it anyway, together with how I heard about it...

Three or four of the songs listed here might be considered to be Blue Oyster Cult songs, but they actually started life earlier when they were the Stalk Forrest Group, and so that's why they're included here...

I purposefully haven't included any covers on this page - this page exists purely to document the bands' 'own compositions'.

There's a separate page with details of all the recording sessions and demos etc here but this page is purely to gather together information about the songs themselves.

If you can help with any other information, please let me know

I thought it might be useful to kick this page off with looking at what is known about what an SWU or SFG setlist might have looked like, back in the day.

The following are the only documented SWU setlists I have seen to date:

2 Feb 1968: Anderson Theatre:

  1. You
  2. Hangin' Round
  3. Green
  4. All Night Gas Station
  5. Alan's Song
  6. Rain is Falling

These were the only songs mentioned in a review from the Anderson Yiddish Theatre which appeared in the Stony Brook student magazine, The Statesman (9 Feb 1968) - there may have been other songs played of course, but possibly not, as SWU were only the opening band in a three-act bill...

The above songs were an example of a pre-Les setlist, of course. Fortunately, thanks to Les, I have now seen an example of a two-set setlist, but, unfortunately, we don't know exactly where or when it's from - nor which of the two sets came first:

Date/Venue: Unknown:

Set 1:

  1. Mystic Stump
  2. Patron of the Arts
  3. Bonomo's Turkish Taffy
  4. Mothra
  5. John L. Sullivan
  6. Arthur Comics
  7. Rational Passional

Set 2:

  1. Bonomo's Turkish Taffy
  2. Bark In The Sun
  3. Queen's Boulevard
  4. Donovan's Monkey
  5. Arthur Comics
  6. Sitting on The Buddha's Knee
Les Braunstein

The two sets were written on the two ends of a folded up envelope or something. I don't know what night it was, and I can't be sure which was the first set and which the second, but I notice we did one song, Bonomo's Turkish Taffee twice, Once in each set. I guess we didn't have too many songs yet.

One set ends in Rational Passional, which is a rave up by the end, so that's why I stuck it at the end of the set.

The other set ends in Buddha's Knee, which was probabaly the last set because that jam-out at the end is bigger and features the fire hose nozzle. Could be the end of the night tune.

What I find of interest in the above setlist is the presence of songs which I had previously thought only came in with the introduction of Eric Bloom, namely "John L. Sullivan" and "Donovan's Monkey".

I had also previously thought "Bonomo's Turkish Taffy" and "Arthur Comics" were SFG songs also, but when the SWU demos appeared on youtube I was able to see they dated back to Les's time.

23 Oct 1968: Stony Brook University Gym:

On 12 Nov 2016, an amazing thing happened: WUSB fm broadcast the 23 Oct 1968 SWU gig from Stony Brook, and I was able to hear an actual SWU set with Les for the first time.

  1. John L. Sullivan
  2. Mystic Stump
  3. Patron of the Arts
  4. Sitting on The Buddha's Knee
  5. Bark In The Sun
  6. Curse Of The Hidden Mirrors
  7. Bonomo's Turkish Taffy
  8. Queen's Boulevard
  9. Arthur Comics
  10. Rational Passional

It was only a relatively short 45 minute set because the SWU were fourth on the bill that night behind Blood Sweat & Tears, Ten Years After and Rhinoceros...

But it was a very important recording because it transformed "Mystic Stump" and "Patron of the Arts" into actual flesh and blood songs, rather than mythical titles on folded up bits of paper...

As mentioned in the above entry, it also helped roll back the timeline on the genesis of certain songs previously-thought to be SFG-only tunes - "JLS", "Arthur Comics" and "Bonomo's" - only now we can at last stick a date on it: "23 Oct 1968"...

Stalk Forrest Group:
I don't yet have an actual Stalk Forrest Group setlist (I'm hoping Albert might list the Conry's shows for me at some future date) but the thing about SWU setlists that would seem to set them apart from SFG ones is that the SWU ones pretty much consist of original material only.

The Stalk Forrest Group were a "working band", meaning they played the clubs and had to play what people knew - namely, the hits of the day. Consequently, much of their sets seemingly consisted of covers with the occasional original song squeezed into the mix, often called as a cover to disguise its identity!! :-)

"A Fact About Sneakers" was the result of a re-structuring of "All Night Gas Station" following the departure of Les Braunstein.

We're fortunate in that the song appears on the Rhino disk in both the original Oaxaca demo and SFG California Album formats. However, I find them a bit confusing.

Here's why: the story is that "All Night Gas Station" was long and rambling, and that suited the Les version, but when Eric joined they had to make it more streamlined and formalised when they re-purposed it as "Sneakers".

But the version labelled as the Oaxaca demo (from Nov-Dec 1969) is short and sharp (03.10) whilst the one recorded in LA a couple of months later (around Feb 1970) is back to being long and a bit rambling (07:53)... this seems to be back-to-front to me...

Can anyone offer an explanation...?

In the meantime, click the following link to hear a long and rambling, self-indulgent 13 minute live version of "A Fact About Sneakers" from Conry's Bar (January 1971)...

Lyrically, whereas "All Night Gas Station" ended with someone poking their own eyes out with pins, Meltzer went off in a different direction entirely...

I'd like to know what Eric Bloom's reaction was when he got handed these lyrics to sing:

Hey hey hey there's just a DJ
An engineer, with no say
Why's that all there is, oh why?
O cause with a shoe shine boy in the radio booth
Get shoe shined, hey hey hey while you hear Spooky Tooth
If you're in there too
That's not hard to do
That's not hard to do
That's not hard to do
That's not hard to

Day by day there's no hay
Shining' shoes the old way
Polish made of oily stud pie
But with a shoe shine girl in a shoe shining kit
Get shoe shine, hey hey man
While you're watching some tit
If he gets the chance guy will shine your pants
He will shine your pants
Guy might shine your
Pants above the knee are knickers
Many worn by football kickers
Accompanied by pairs of sneakers
Nil from any standpoint of the shoe shine boy

The only proof of the existence of this song is the following mention in a review in 9 Feb 1968 edition of The Statesman of the band's Anderson Yiddish Theatre gig on 2nd Feb 1968:

Howie Klein

"Alan's Song" was the weakest piece.

I don't know - I only have the above spelling to go on, but my presumption is that maybe this song "title" was actually "Allen's Song" and that they never got round to actually naming it.

Clearly Howie wasn't too impressed by it, anyway...

"All Night Gas Station" seems to have started off as an instrumental piece, and just from reading about it, my early impression was that it was fairly unstructured in its original form, probably much in keeping with a lot of early SWU material.

However, in a review of SWU's gig at Anderson Yiddish Theatre review in The Statesman (9 Feb 1968), Howie Klein said this:

Howie Klein

It was followed by a tight hard rock number, "All Night Gas Station", which introduced Jeff on a tastefully used saxophone. They do what few rock bands can do: add a saxophone in a non-raucous manner.

So it was a "hard rock number" and it was "tight" - this review was, of course, from a gig which was before Les Braunstein joined. Once Les was on board, this song was further developed into an impressive finale with a free-form ad-hoc narration from Les and helped close the deal when they played the Diplomat showcase for Elektra's Jac Holzman in August 1968.

After Les left, it was re-structured, became more formalised and became "A Fact About Sneakers".

One thing I don't know is did "All Night Gas Station" ever have any formalised lyrics, and if so, did Les write them?

There was a reference to this song in the 1996 Goldmine special which suggested that it was indeed written by Les:

Les Braunstein wrote 'Rational Passional' ["That was all Les," Pearlman commented, "workin' real hard to become Jim Morrison."]

That was one song [of his], 'Jay Jay' another, 'All Night Gas Station' was another...

I don't know a lot about this - when Albert was setting me straight about what was recorded during the SWU Elektra demos (Nov 1968) and the LP sessions (Jan 1969), he said this:

Albert Bouchard

The track list from MF#4 is wrong. We recorded all the demos over again in multi-track versions (the demos were live stereo tracks).

We also recorded "All Night Gas Station", and "American Dream", later called "Home From the Hills".

I asked Les about this song:

Les Braunstein

"Home from the Hill" is a song of mine that I remember we practiced, I don't remember recording it...

Albert says "Home from the Hill" came after "American Dream" - what I don't know yet is how diffferent were the two songs...?

Arthur Comics is probably one of the most accessible of the SWU songs and was the B-side of the promo single [EKM-45693] "What Is Quicksand?"/"Arthur Comics" which Elektra released on 20 July 1970.

It is also the only song that I can think of that has been performed by all variations of the band: Soft White Underbelly, Stalk Forrest group and Blue Oyster Cult.

For more information, see the Early Recordings page...

NB:The chord changes for "Arthur Comics" were later recycled for the BOC instrumental "Buck's Boogie"...

It's been suggested that the later appearance of Albert Bouchard's name in the credits for "Buck's Boogie" (in the remasters etc) is possibly due to this "recycling" - maybe it was felt that Albert might be able to make a back-dated claim for royalties if he felt minded to do so on some future date...

It seems clear, though, that Albert had no such intentions and was surprised by the credit:

Albert Bouchard

I noticed a mistake that's been getting repeated, especially since it's on the BOC remasters and that is that I wrote over half of Buck's Boogie. I do get paid on it from Sony but people should know.

Maybe if the Brain Surgeons did it and I called it Al's Boogie. What do you think? Nah, not the same ring is it?

BOC fans will recognise the chorus on this one, as it was later re-used in "Cagey Cretins", as was, apparently "Mystic Stump":

Albert Bouchard

I recycled "Bark in the Sun" into "Cagey Cretins" and the lyrics came from Richard Meltzer's house-sitting stay in Shirley NY...

Richard Meltzer

"Bark in the Sun" is a love song "through corridors of pennies on the dull side of town."

In time, the song developed even further, as witnessed by the "Bark In The Sun" version that The Stalk Forrest Group did on the Conry's tapes...

For non-Americans, I should point out that Bonomo is a Coney Island-based sweet manufacturer, and their "Turkish Taffy" was apparently their "most sought after candy".

So - really - it should be "Bonomo Turkish Taffy", not "Bonomo's"...

Now I'm a massive fan of Les's vocal style, but even I have to admit, this isn't really the song for him - only the SFG version really does it justice...

Check out the lyrics - Meltzer seems to have made a mental link between having to eat a pile of BBQ-sauce-smothered chicken necks cooked by Les Braunstein (they were cheap) in the Great Neck house and a bar of "Bonomo Turkish Taffy", but exactly what that connection was isn't exactly clear to me:

Sleeping on a sunday - lying in your bed
Nothing can top it or even come close
Chicken necks - what the heck
Why should I get out of bed for that?

I'm ever wondering after I'm married
will I have to put up with a dope?

Nope is what I hope
Nope is what I hope
Nope is what I hope
Nope is what I hope

When you're just a kid you're just in school
and you see a groundhog as a rule
You can't go look and see if it's real
While you're spelling words or supposed to learn a tool

In a preview of the SWU LP in the July 1969 edition of Circus Magazine, Richard Meltzer offers this helpful summation:

Richard Meltzer

"Bonomo's Turkish Taffy," with a why-get-out-of-bed lyric in the midst of enough energy to get to Mars, places fun-freedom-etc in the science-fiction thimble, and everywhere else.

If I'd have been Les Braunstein, I'd have told Meltzer to cook his own bloody breakfast in future...

I've seen only a single reference to this song title, and that was in the 1996 Goldmine special - here it is in the full context of Albert's remarks as he tries to recall what songs they planned to include on the unreleased SWU LP for Elektra.

Albert: "There was a song called 'Donovan's Monkey', which we recorded, there was a song called 'Queen's Boulevard' - that was a big epic/rock opera type of deal.

'Donovan's Monkey' was written by Richard Meltzer, 'Queen's Boulevard' was written by Sandy Pearlman.

Les Braunstein wrote 'Rational Passional' ["That was all Les," Pearlman commented, "workin' real hard to become Jim Morrison."]

That was one song [of his], 'Jay Jay' another, 'All Night Gas Station' was another...

Let's see - what else did we have...? 'Bonomo's Turkish Taffy', a Meltzer song, 'Bark In The Sun', Meltzer... 'All Night Gas Station' was [later] reworked into 'A Fact About Sneakers'.

Let's see, 'Buddha's Knee' was another one - that was a Pearlman lyric. 'The Burning Man', which we never recorded.

When I heard that BOC might have considered reworking "Curse Of The Hidden Mirrors" for "Tyranny And Mutation", I asked Albert if that might have been true, and had any other SWU/SFG songs ever been lined up by BOC for re-recording?

Albert Bouchard

I can't say for certain that that one or others didn't end on the lists that you make when you're getting a record together but we never got to the point of working on it for the record.

"Cagey Cretins" was a combination of "Mystic Stump" and "Bark in the Sun". "Quicklime Girl" was a reworking of "Checkout Girl". "Cities on Flame" was a reworking of "Siren Sing Along".

There was a lot of recycling going on in those days.

I'd come across this song title before in the Martin Popoff book, when Albert was discussing "Quicklime Girl":

Albert offers a few words on this characteristically weird tune. "Well, that was actually a song that I had written called Checkout Girl (laughs), and it wasn't much of a song.

Sandy said 'I re-wrote the lyrics for Checkout Girl' and he gave me this Quicklime Girl and of course I was like, 'OK this we can use, but we're going to have to make it more scary' (laughs).

These lyrics are really bizarre, you know, the famous story of the person that kills people, or actually I don't think she kills people, but she performs a service.

She would bury the murdered dead, and use them as fertiliser for her plants."

I just assumed this was a song written during the time when BOC were trying to come up with material for "Tyranny", but the fact that Albert mentioned "Checkout Girl" above as a SWU/SFG song helps put an earlier date on it.

I'd love to hear that original version, though, with the "Quicklime" music and the "Checkout Girl" lyrics... though I suppose "Behind the till, there lurks a girl" probably wouldn't have carried the same air of menace...

Retrospectively armed with knowledge of the Imaginos story, and the Black Mirror of Dr. John Dee etc, you might be forgiven for thinking that this song might possibly fall somewhere within that saga with a title like "Curse Of The Hidden Mirrors".

However, this is a Meltzer lyric, so has nothing to do with Imaginos - just the mundanely bizarre recursive idea of trying to imagine what's behind your own reflection in the mirror... trouble is, your own body always blocks your view, so what you really need is another mirror...

You may think I cover up much of your view
There's lots of things behind you if you could only see a few
But imagine your surprise when I tell you you can't see
What you wanna anyway

Cause there's a mirror behind my back
In the back
Behind my back

There is one behind my back and it's just my shape
And you can't see the view maybe there's an ape
And you will see a scene and it's got you in it
And you block your own view behind you... wait a minute

Then you may think you cover up much of your view
There's lots of things behind you if you could only see a few
But imagine your surprise when I tell you you can't see
What you wanna anyway

So cover all your mirrors with curtains without rods
And roll up all your curtains into rugs seldom seen
And now that you are done doing all of that
Save it for the rust and dust and
Rust and dust and bugs

Richard Meltzer

In "The Curse of the Hidden Mirrors," the city is the country and nature is a popular eyesore and everything is anything, and poetry is a real live teddy bear.

One thing: in the BOCFAQ, it says:

It is believed that BOC tried to re-record "Curse Of The Hidden Mirrors" for "Tyranny And Mutation".

That sounded odd to me - I could never see it personally - not for "Tyranny" - maybe at a pinch the first LP, because you had stuff like "Redeemed" on there which always seemed a "transition" song to me, and maybe was all the more interesting because of that...

I asked Albert what he made of this claim, and had any other SWU/SFG songs ever been lined up by BOC for re-recording?

Albert Bouchard

I can't say for certain that that one or others didn't end on the lists that you make when you're getting a record together but we never got to the point of working on it for the record.

"Cagey Cretins" was a combination of "Mystic Stump" and "Bark in the Sun". "Quicklime Girl" was a reworking of "Checkout Girl". "Cities on Flame" was a reworking of "Siren Sing Along".

There was a lot of recycling going on in those days.

I'd always assumed this song came in with Eric Bloom but its presence in the setlist section (above) shows I was mistaken.

Donovan's Monkey
Donovan's Monkey
Here he rides on his back but he isn't a lack
No trouble to conceptualize
The monkey's been tried on for size

No he doesn't fit
But he makes a hit
Very big, quite a pig
Yeah, he's Donovan's Monkey

Girl and her father
Girl and her father
Yeah never aware that's he's losing his hair
He wishes she'd love him for just a day
But crime doesn't pay anyway
Scrubbing the floor like he did before
What a gig, quite a pig
Yeah it's a girl or her father

Killer Kowalski
Killer Kowalski
He jumps on his head, opponent is dead
Gorillas where the resemblance derives
Onto their faces he dives
Ripping their guts like paper huts
What a dog, not a frog
Yeah he's Killer Kowalski
With a claw
He's Killer Kowalski

The only version I've heard of this song contains no lyrics as it appears Les left the band before any were recorded, which is a massive shame.

It's a very short and dainty, piano-led, piece with an almost simplistic yet jazzy feel...

What the hell is a "Fantasy Morass", anyway...?

I know very little about this one, except to say that the BOCFAQ reckons it was believed to have been recorded on either the first or third demos for Columbia done at David Lucas's Warehouse studios.

Was this one written by Eric Bloom?

Wonderful country-flavoured tune with a lyric Albert claims to belong within the Imaginos saga, but I wouldn't have guessed that from these lyrics:

Bad oats in town, the word went out
So my horse and me, we left town
Rode my Palomino down to Gil Blanco County
It's not far, you know

Ever seen the sun rise
In Gil Blanco County?
Ever see the pools they got there?
It's where the birds go on the Fourth
Just a bird's way to celebrate

Got caught in a storm in Gil Blanco County
"It rained so hard," said Injun Joe
He knows all there is to know
It should wash the face of the Earth
And make us clean again

Away from the Imaginos cycle, apparently there was a baseball pitcher in the '60s named Gil Blanco, who played for the Yankees at one point, so I was thinking that this couldn't be a coincidence...?

Musically, the bridge from "Gil Blanco County" was used as the main development section in "Buck's Boogie".

The very last part of the song would later re-emerge at the end of the live version of "DFTR" (see "Some Enchanted Evening").

NB: BOC have actually played this song in their "acoustic" set as well as at the Allen Lanier memorial gig.

Andrew Winters

I wrote this song in 1967, during the early days of the band, when things were fresh and new and bright.

I am playing Jackson Browne's Guild acoustic guitar on this track and the recently departed Allen Lanier is on bass.

The song was originally called "Green" from a lyric by Tina Wiesenthal. Donald's playing picks up on some of the minor/major changes I wrote and fits the verse well.

Andrew's music was used, but, in the end, lyrics by Sandy Pearlman were used instead of Tina Wiesenthal's. I wondered why - we know that SWU were performing this song as "Green" for a while, so what problem did Pearlman have the original lyrics...?

Also - the BOCFAQ says that the poem was actually called "Blue" - I wondered if there was any truth in that?

Andrew Winters

The song was always "Green", never blue nor any other color I can recall. The lyric was:

"You sit in the blue, I in yellow, you succumb and we are green..."

Why didn't Pearlman like it? Beats me... it fit the tune and it was a lot less verbose than what turned out to be St. Cecilia, which was - as usual with Pearlman - pretentious and wordy, although clever enough in its own way.

I guess there was a second verse but I cannot recall it. I wrote it to a poem of Tina's, whilst sitting on my bed in the house the band shared in St. James, Long Island during the first, and most fertile, year of the band.

Tina was the youngest sister of John who was a sort of catalyst for the band's birth, although, as I think I said in prior messages, much too much of a dilettante to actually commit to being a member of the band.

Instead, John just hung around stirring things up and being a royal pain. I remember Jackson Browne yelling at him "I love you man, but you are full of shit" over some of John's cosmic bullshit that he was constantly trying to inflict on everyone. Tina was around for a while and I think I was supposed to get involved with her but I just wasn't interested enough.

I'm not sure when the transition from "Green" to "St. Cecilia" took place, but I know SWU played "Green" at the Anderson gig (2 Feb 1968) and Howie Klein described it as "a beautiful folksy piece."

Anderson Yiddish Theatre review in The Statesman (9 Feb 1968):

Howie Klein

"Hangin' Round", a song about draft boards, had some of the clearest, most integrated organ of the night.

Again, that's all I know about this song - and again, I'd never heard of it before I read the review and never seen it anywhere else since...

It was a very relevant topic around that time as Allen Lanier had just managed to get himself released from his draft at the time of the Anderson gig...

Also - Albert's song "You" ("I Saw You") was also about the draft, so the threat of conscription was clearly a rich vein of inspiration...

I don't know much about this song, except to say that the BOCFAQ reckons it was believed to have been recorded on either the first or third demos for Columbia done at David Lucas's Warehouse studios.

I think this song was written by Eric Bloom, but I'd welcome a confirmation.

Click the youTube link just above to hear a version of this song from Conry's Bar (Jan 1971).

This is probably a load of old bollocks, but I've come across two references to this title in the music press.

The first was in a 1976 issue of the NME:

That night I saw two manifestations of one group. Firstly, in the dressing room, they jammed for over an hour for nobody's benefit other than the two or three people who happened to be assembled there.

Blue Oyster Cult reverted to the Stalk Forrest Group and played material from the rejected second Elektra album, including such masterpieces as 'Mummy', 'Howdown On Your Pelt' and 'Ragamuffin Dumpling'.

They didn't even get to 'Curse Of The Hidden Mirror', 'St. Cecelia' or 'What Is Quicksand?' and I have to say that this material, on first hearing, was the most essential acid-blues into Styx H.M. improvisation (Come again, Max? - Ed) I'd ever heard in the flesh.

New Musical Express by Max Bell [21 Aug 1976]

Note to self: Investigate the possibility that "Mommy" was once indeed an SFG tune...

The second reference was in a small piece on BOC in the Melody Maker in 1978 - it said the following:

[Their unreleased Elektra record] contained tantalising titles like "Hoedown on your Pelt", "Curse of the Hidden Mirror" and "Ragamuffin Dumpling".

Melody Maker [4 Feb 1978]

"Hoedown on your Pelt"?? WTF is "Hoedown on your Pelt"??

Needless to say, these are the only occasions where I have ever come across this unique juxtaposition of words before and it's probably the case that I never will do so again in the future...

Unless, of course, you know different...

"I'm On The Lamb" was a re-working of a song called "I Saw You" which Albert wrote around early 1968 about the draft and the death of a friend of his in Vietnam:

Glide Magazine [ July 27, 2015 by Leslie Michele Derrough]

... when we made the first Blue Oyster Cult record, we were trying to make things a little bit more mysterious, trying to create this Blue Oyster Cult identity, and Sandy Pearlman said, "Listen, I like it, I like that song, but I think the lyrics are just not mysterious enough. It's too obvious it's about the draft. What about if we make it like, okay, now you're going to flee to Canada to get out of the draft?"

I'm like, "Okay, I still might do that." (laughs) "I may become a draft dodger, who knows." So he rewrote it to "The Red & The Black" lyrics that we have now.

He called it "I'm On The Lamb But I Ain't No Sheep."

Actually, if that's right about Sandy thinking that "I Saw You" wasn't "mysterious enough" for the band - and by extension, Columbia - then that's rather curious.

The story goes that when Pearlman touted the band back to Columbia around summer 1971, Murray Krugman more or less told them they needed to fit a certain slot in order to get signed: they needed to be Columbia's answer to Black Sabbath - they needed to get heavier and they needed to get darker.

But we also know that "I'm On The Lamb" would seem to have been written in 1969 - some sources cite it as being recorded in summer 69 as part of the rejected Columbia demos, and Albert confirms it was definitely recorded in March 1970 with Dennis Murphy in New York.

Click the following link to hear a live version of "I'm On The Lamb, But I Ain't No Sheep" from Conry's Bar (January 1971)...

Anyway, what this means is that the lyric and title change (from "I Saw You") preceded by nearly two years the band's transition to "the darkside" in the summer of 1971, so can't have been prompted by any Columbia dictat - it just seems that it was all a part of Pearlman's general propensity to veer away from the overt and seek the warm embrace of the covert and obscure.

Even back in 1969...

"I'm on the Lamb" later went on to be re-recorded for Blue Oyster Cult's first album Blue Oyster Cult in January 1972.

What's weird is that by April 1972 - so the album containing this song had only been out barely three months - if you listen to the "Golden Nugget" radio broadcast (and bootleg EP), it's plain to see that they'd abandoned that song in favour of re-worked version under the title "The Red and the Black"

Albert explains further in that Glide interview:

We played that ("I'm On The Lamb") in the clubs in 1970 and of course most of the stuff that we were doing in the clubs we recorded for that first Blue Oyster Cult record in 1971.

We went out on the road and we were playing the song, and before we recorded it, there was a guy and he was kind of a booking agent and he used to say, "Hey you guys, you should make the whole song that last bass lick. I really like that bass part and it's really great."

So when we went to play it live, we felt like the song sort of laid there until we got to the ending when the bass part came in.

We said, "What if we made the whole thing the bass part? What if we made the guitar and the bass play the same thing? We'll change up the chorus a little bit, make the chorus go up instead of down and we'll make it like, you know, a blues standard, like going down to Louisiana, but like a very upbeat version.

We wanted a song that could be a great opening tune, cause we noticed that Alice Cooper, when they started their show, their opening song was great. They did "Be My Lover" but they took the introduction from a different song, I think it was "Public Animal," because the introduction was so exciting that they liked it.

So we said we wanted a really exciting song to open the set with so we're going to change this around to be more exciting and we put a new introduction on it, because we played with Mahavishnu and they started with just a flurry of noise, like this big fanfare; it was almost like a Stockhausen kind of crazy thing happening and you're like, "What! What!" (laughs)

That's how we got the intro and then we went into the' down in Louisiana' kind of thing.

And of course when we went to make the second record, we weren't even thinking that we'd record it. We'd just recorded it on the first record but they were like, "No, no, you've got to do that new version on there but we'll change the title. We'll call it 'The Red & The Black.'"

So we did the re-recording and of course it became very popular after that; actually one of my most popular songs and had lots of covers starting with The Minutemen.

So that's how that song came about.

Canadian mounted baby, police force that works
Red and black, it's their color scheme
get their man, in the end
It's all right, it's all right

Frontenac chateau baby
I'll cross the frontier at ten
Got a whip in my hand baby
And a girl or a husky at leather's end
It's all right, my cousin rarin it's all right
It's all right, My lovely bel punice, you kill, you maim
The Mounties know

Hornswoop me bungo pony dogsled on ice
Make a dash for freedom baby, don't you skate on polar ice
It's too thick to be sliced by the light
Of long and white polar nights
It's all right, my cousin rarin it's all right
It's all right, by lovely bel punice, yeah
you kill, you

Albert Bouchard

This song was written solely by me and came to me in a dream.

Eventually it morphed into "I'm on the Lam" and also "I Am the One You Warned Me Of" (middle section).

First it was "I Saw You" and then we shortened it to "You".

In an interview with Glide, Albert gave some further background info:

That song went back to the Soft White Underbelly days and I had a dream and the song was playing in my dream. I don't know how I came to remember it but it was called "I Saw You" and what was on my mind back then was I was about to get drafted.

I had to go for my physical and I really didn't want to go. At that point I had just lost one of my best friends in Vietnam and I was very angry about it. It felt like the whole thing was stupid and I was involved with a group called the Yippies in Manhattan that protested the war.

So anyway, this was really on my mind. The song originally was about the draft board and how they were looking at my files. I had filed for conscientious objection status on the basis that I didn't have beliefs that it was right; on a religious basis I did not believe it was right.

And I went before the draft board and it turned out one of the guys on the draft board was my neighbor! This guy is the father of one of my friends and he's like, "I know you, you're Roman Catholic, you can't be a conscientious objector. You have to be a Quaker or something like that."

I go, "I'm sorry, I believe that I should not fight in this war. I don't believe in that and I think it's morally wrong." And he was like, "Well, your application is denied."

So that's what happened and then I had this dream about them going through my files, seeing who I was and telling me I couldn't be a conscientious objector.

So I wrote this song and the Soft White Underbelly was playing this song from time to time. I'd sing it and stuff and when we made the first Blue Oyster Cult record, we were trying to make things a little bit more mysterious, trying to create this Blue Oyster Cult identity, and Sandy Pearlman said, "Listen, I like it, I like that song, but I think the lyrics are just not mysterious enough. It's too obvious it's about the draft. What about if we make it like, okay, now you're going to flee to Canada to get out of the draft?"

I'm like, "Okay, I still might do that." (laughs) "I may become a draft dodger, who knows." So he rewrote it to "The Red & The Black" lyrics that we have now.

He called it "I'm On The Lamb But I Ain't No Sheep."

Howie Klein's Anderson Yiddish Theatre review in The Statesman (9 Feb 1968) mentions this song, and suggests Jeff Richards also helped out on the vocals during his time with the band:

Howie Klein

"You" was superb. Jeff and Albert did amazingly well with their voices. Albert's drumming and Don's lead guitar were out of sight.

This was a Les Braunstein song and represented his take on three people whose name began with a "J":

  1. Jay, who looked like a model and thought like a mannequin ("JJ - Mannequin Man")
  2. Janet, who was beautiful but under-appreciated ("JJ - Sillhouette Girl")
  3. And then Jesus ("JJ - Happiness Boy")

The circumstances surrounding the actual recording of this song caused some bad-feeling between Les and the others - read more about it on the "Early Recordings" page.

In the July 1969 edition of Circus magazine, Richard Meltzer describes "John L. Sullivan" as "the snappiest tune ever sung about a boxing movie or you and me."

This song actually started life during the tenure of Les Braunstein, which surprised me when I found out, as I would have thought it would have been too frantic to suit Les's style...

Maybe they played it slower back then...?

Apparently, it was supposed to be part of the unreleased SWU LP for Elektra but curiously didn't make an appearance on the Rhino CD.

Other songs from the same session as "John L. Sullivan" later appeared as "extras" on BOC remasters, but for a long time the only place this song could be heard was on the "God Save Blue Oyster Cult From Themselves" sampler disk. However, that has since been rectified when it was included on the "Rarities" disk as part of the 40th Anniversary Columbia disk set.

I wrote a song, it wasn't long and here's another short song too
It's stolen from a movie about John L Sullivan
He never looked at a lady's limb - lest it was an artistic whim
Once almost asked me to marry him - that's why he always was a perfect gentleman - to me

I wrote a song, it wasn't long and here's another short song too
It's stolen from a movie about John L Sullivan
He never looked at a lady's limb - lest it was an artistic whim
Once almost asked me to marry him - that's why he always was a perfect gentleman - to me

I debated about whether or not to include this here as it's not so much a song, but, as the title suggests, more just a live a 7/8 minute-long jam. For now, I'll include it.

Its main claim to fame is that it includes Sandy Pearlman on harmonica and the fact that it featured an instrument swap, with Eric Bloom on drums and Albert Bouchard on guitar...

Click the youTube link just above to hear a version of this song from Conry's Bar (Jan 1971).

This is a strange one - if I hadn't heard that Sandy Pearlman didn't touch drugs, I'd have asked to see a blood sample to see what he was on when he wrote these lyrics:

Starfish swim, Hot spicy seas
Their eyes see what they should see
What kind of eyes does your starfish have?
Eyes that see what they want to see

Did the giant Japanese moth in question even have eyes like a starfish?

Richard Meltzer has helpfully explained that "Mothra" is "about the famous monster and early Country Joe." Early Country Joe & The (Star)Fish, maybe...?

All I previously knew about this song was that, like "Bark in the Sun", it was a precursor to the creation of "Cagey Cretins".

I used to wonder - did "Mystic Stump" become "Bark in the Sun", which in turn became "Cagey Cretins", or were they both two different songs that were subsequently later combined to form one..?

The answer to this last part was answered when Les sent me a SWU setlist which showed that they did in fact co-exist independently, and at one time both were played together in SWU sets...

Now, it was obvious that "Bark in the Sun" clearly supplied the main riff/chorus of "Cagey Cretins", but what, I wondered, did "Mystic Stump" provide...?

Well, now I know, thanks to the wonderful WUSB fm broadcast of the 23 Oct 1968 SWU gig from Stony Brook, which featured "Mystic Stump as the second song.

At first, I didn't realise what song it was, but Albert identified it as "the legendary Mystic Stump", and confirmed that the music was his and the lyrics were by Meltzer.

He also mentioned that this song provided the "Dumb clouds are raging" section from Cagey, so that sorted that one out, and seemed obvious once he'd pointed it out.

I did see the following intriguing mention of this song in a Nick Kent piece once that tied it in with Harvester of Eyes, but I don't know how much credence to give it:

THE CONCEPT crops up in the mental process of one Desdinova whom Pearlman has appointed the hero and narrator or the B.O.C.'s next album Secret Treaties.

All the lyrics appear in the first person and even though Messieurdames Smith, Meltzer and Bouchard have all been involved in the words, a linear concept has been constructed to fall in line with Pearlman's preoccupations.

"Desdinova possesses starry wisdom. That's from Lovecraft, y'know - I just liked the term and he's made a secret treaty with the ambassadors of Plutonia..."

Within this plot are worked such gems as Patti Smith's 'Career of Evil', Meltzer's 'Cagey Cretans' (formerly 'Bark in the Sun'), and 'Harvester of Eyes'/'Mystic Stump'. - plus Pearlman's 'Astronomy', 'Subhuman', 'A Concentration Camp for Dogs Was Recently Located In New Jersey' and 'ME 262' a paean to the Nazi jet fighter plane.

New Musical Express by Nick Kent [2 March 1974]

Erm... 'A Concentration Camp for Dogs Was Recently Located In New Jersey'??? WT Flying F???

Before WUSB fm broadcast the 23 Oct 1968 SWU gig from Stony Brook, all I previously knew about this song was just its blurred title on a piece of paper shown to me by Les - other than that, I knew nothing more except to say that it was clearly played somewhere at least once...

Information doesn't get more definitive than that...

However, thanks to WUSB, I've heard it now and I think it seems to have a somewhat different style musically from the rest of the SWU set - it's like a punk rock precursor... if the feeling is that the SWU were coating themselves in a West Coast emulsion, then this song seems to have more of the peeling paint of the Motor City about it...

Again, not much info on this one except to say this Buck-penned song title has been mentioned in dispatches as an early entry into the Imaginos saga.

The only printed reference I can find is from the NME in 1976:

For some time now he and Albert have worked on a project called The Soft Doctrines Of Imaginos, which includes all the Desdanova material and such enigmatic peculiarities as 'Del Rio Song', 'Magna Of Illusion', 'I Am The One You Warned Me Of', 'Curse Of The Hidden Mirror' and the autobiographical 'Fort Jefferson'.

Nectar of Strychnine! by Max Bell [21 Aug 1976]

It was also mentioned in the BOCFAQ:

The Imaginos story actually pre-dates BOC, and started within the mind of Sandy Pearlman, who, back in about 1967, wrote a collection of poems called "The Soft Doctrines of Immaginos" (note the original spelling of Immaginos). It was Pearlman's desire that BOC be the embodiment of the Imaginos concept.

Around that time, two songs were written around this concept -- "Gil Blanco County" (which would appear on the Stalk-Forrest Group demo for Elektra), and a Buck Dharma tune called "Port Jefferson" (interestingly enough, this is the town where current BOC drummer Bobby Rondinelli was born).

Actually, I think the earliest they would have been written is probably more 1968 than 1967.

One point: as a rule, Buck didn't really have much to "do" with the Imaginos songs, so I'm not sure if he wrote the lyrics, or would that have been Sandy? Or maybe it was an instrumental?

And did the band ever play it live, I wonder?

Buck Dharma

I wrote "Port Jefferson" and demo'd it, but I don't know if anyone has a copy of the audio. I think I have a small reel of quarter-inch tape somewhere, but I haven't come across it in decades.

It was 2 trk reel tape. If I ever get any time to go through stuff I've been moving around for four decades, I might find it.

It would be an interesting footnote to the BOC story, but I couldn't lay my hands on it to provide it. If I do, I'll digitize it and put it up on the internets.

If it does exist and someone has it, they should put it online and let us know.

This song was a one-off, free-form improvisation performed as part of a Pot Bust benefit with Country Joe and The Fugs near the gates of Stony Brook on Tuesday 27 Feb 1968.

Incidentally, this was the first gig that Les ever played with The Underbelly.

Les Braunstein

The band begins to jam. I look across at the Fugs standing and talking to students in small clusters. There's a purpose to the day. "Pot bust!" I sing. Everyone turns my way.

"Pot bust!
Send in the Army
Send the Marines
Send in some Green berets.
Our local enforcers our buddies in blue
have spotted some pot here today.
Pot Bust!"

People start to come around closer. I continue to ramble on while the band plays. People stand in front of the makeshift stage and fire up joints in plain view.

Cops are situated in various spots off to the side of events. Whatever they would normally have done, the weight of so many people defying them to their faces has shifted the power for the moment. They watch, but leave everyone alone.

In this song Pearlman paints a strange vignette involving old Mr. Fleischman's three motorcycle shops, Susie, Calvery Cemetery and the Virgin Mary...

Richard Meltzer

"Queens Boulevard" is a geographical motorcycle song ("... three Fleischman's Motorcycle Shops, one in Long Beach, one in Bayshore, one on...").

El Patio's the place - the place is no waste
And down to El Patio on Queens Boulevard
I see the Queen of Heaven, the Virgin Mary, on the knoll of Calvary Cemetery
Positions just like plastic Mary of that famous song
The Queen's also seen by Susie, but bein' Jewish and knowing movies
Susie thinks "horse", cannot figure "Mary" from the Calvary Cemetery.

And cross country, another place
A Brown haired man from his place on the floor
Inclines his head as if to speak to the lady who was his wife

At one time there were three Flieschman's Motorcycle shops
One in Long Beach, one in Bayshore, one on Queens Boulevard
In the shop, in Flieschman's Motorcycle shop
1600 Super Hawks sat waiting to be bought
By the boys who drive 'em off to El Patio
Cause bikes do promise diz-tusk massage
Methodical satisfaction for the boys on the bikes
But along came your new Suzukis and old Indians
and those Hawks just sat waiting to be bought
And Old Man Fleischman closed up his shop on Queens Boulevard

And cross country, another place
The Brown haired man from his place on the floor
Inclines his head as if to speak to the lady who was his wife

So early one Summer, early one day
We drove off to Queens Boulevard, Meltzer and me
Passed the Queen of Heaven, boys on their bikes
Old Man Fleischman and the Cemetery
Off to El Patio in a little open car
To paint the Queen of the Fauves
She did sixteen guys in two hours
Each one many times, being a real Queen - as she was

And cross country, another place
The Brown haired man from his place on the floor
Inclines his head as if to speak to the lady who was his wife

According to Les, the "Brown haired man from his place on the floor" was "Bobby Kennedy. You can see him at his moment of death on the internet, as he inclines his head as if to speak to the lady who was his wife"...

This was the song to feature two firsts - the first appearance of "Susie" and the first use of the term "Diz":

Albert Bouchard

The diz was an expression invented by Meltzer. Sandy and Richard were using it when I met them in 1967. It was their own private joke.

One of the first songs that Allen Lanier wrote with Sandy was "Queen's Boulevard" which we recorded in 1968/69 for Elektra. One of the lines in the song goes, "Cause bikes do promise diz-tusk massage."

Richard had a painting he did in 65/66 called "Queen of the Fauves" which depicts a female who does just that and I believe, utilized real pubic hair in the medium.

See above where Albert says Allen wrote the music...? The problem with that is that Albert once posted the lyrics of Queens Boulevard on the BOC-L forum and described it as:

Albert Bouchard

... an Underbelly tune (words by Sandy Pearlman - about Meltzer, and music - though you can't hear it - by Donald and Albert)...

So, either it was a Pearlman/Lanier or a Pearlman/Roeser/A. Bouchard composition... but which is it?

Interesting to hear that Sandy Pearlman wrote the lyrics about Richard Meltzer...

Albert has since added this unequivocal declaration:

I did not write "Queens Boulevard" - that was Allen Lanier and Sandy Pearlman only...

As much as I love this song, I am repeatedly bemused by Meltzer's lyrics on this one.

If I could pick just one song to sit down and ask Meltzer: "What the f*ck were you on about, you mad, mad bugger?", it'd be this one...

Blow away, Grow away, Throw your lousy dough away
Watchin sideburns growing - gettin' lengthier than the hay
I'm a magic man with a magic plan
In a royal exclamation, I'm the Royal Duster Dan

When you pull the string I'm just another favorite toy
But spend your time with candy and your dentist gets annoyed

When I am a stooge it never fails to fail to fail
Sit me on a toy stool
I want the sand that's in your pail and a boat that sails

If I was a realie I'd want a scad of fester sores
Got none now but then I'd want a million hundred more

Scaffold on the wrist
It does the same thing as a tape
For broken wrist the treatment
Vitamins that have the shape of a busted grape

Ragamuffin, Tagamuffin, Sour dough ruffin muffin
Desperation jargon spittle-powered by a cork
I'm the magic man with a magic plan
In an awesome thunderbolt, I'm the Royal Dumpling Stan

Anderson Yiddish Theatre review in The Statesman (9 Feb 1968):

Howie Klein

"Rain is Falling", a soul song, was fantastic, enlivened by Don's unsurpassed guitar rushes.

When Albert was listing for me some of the covers the early SWU jammed on, here's what he said:

Albert Bouchard

We did a lot of the blues songs that we'd been doing, some Blues Project... we did some Bo Diddley, Spoonful, some Jimmie Reid, "Bright Lights Big City", but we also played original music, we did this song "Rain is Falling" which was a song that Allen and I wrote together, "Can't Judge a Book by its Cover", that was another one... that was a big popular number...

So that shows that Albert wrote this song with Allen, but doesn't indicate who wrote the lyrics (presumably it wasn't an instrumental?).

From the way it reads, you could also be forgiven for thinking that "Can't Judge a Book by its Cover" might be another Lanier/Bouchard composition, though of course, there's the Bo Diddley hit of the same name that you have to assume was what he meant...

Les describes this song as one of the band's "biggest crowd pleasers". Despite this, the band seemed to be dragging their feet when it came to recording it for the unreleased SWU LP for Elektra.

Read more about this actual recording on the Early Recordings page.

Despite initially seeming to concern a visit to the Selective Service, the song had a special hidden verse aimed at Sandy Pearlman.

Buck offered the following insight:

Donald Roeser

I think Les probably thought he didn't want to be trapped in the mold of SWU's vocalist, and working under the strong influence of Sandy Pearlman, that it wouldn't allow him to fully be himself and he'd be better off going on his own.

Les touches on that in his song "Rational Passional." The second verse of that deals specifically with his relationship to Sandy.

Here is that verse:

I was contemplating my land
When a pedant from the Island
Came to lecture-ostracise my fatal flaw
He said don't you know berating and masterminderbating
Have become the fashion and indeed the law
He said words to be propulsive
Must be clammy and convulsive
Or at least be mentioned more than once by Freud
I said thanks for that appraisal
But I think a few more days'll
Find me hungry still but gainfully employed.

This song apparently later morphed into the BOC song "Cities on Flame" - thanks to Albert playing the Conry's tapes on his monthly radio show on wfku we've managed to hear this song and, I have to admit, if he hadn't have told us that fact, I'd never have guessed...

This was also apparently on the second demo that the band recorded at David Lucas' Warehouse studio in the summer of 1971 for Columbia - the one that got them their audition.

Click the youTube link just above to hear a version of this song from Conry's Bar (Jan 1971).

That Ravi Shankar gig at Stony Brook that Albert went to (and where he met Helen Robbins) clearly had an effect on Albert when he wrote this one.

Les Braunstein

Buddha's Knee was a psychedelic trance song, where I get dreamy and take people away. I was really trying to hypnotize the crowd like Andy Yarrow used to hypnotize me with his changes

Richard Meltzer

In a time when rock excitement has become just a convenient abstraction, the Underbelly's "Buddah's Knee" (comparable only to "Eight Miles High" and the original live "Pooneil") is you-guessed-it.

I didn't guess it. I'm just slow...

BTW: You sometimes see a "Donald Roeser" credit attached to this song - Albert has clarified this matter:

"Buddha's Knee" was written by just me and Sandy Pearlman...

This is the revamped version of Andy Winter's "Green" - the lyrics weren't apparently good enough for Sandy Pearlman, so he fashioned the following:

Holy sleep took her
Between Rome and Padua
She awoke to say
I can hear whistles
That fill the air

Little St Cecilia
The Patron Saint of Music
Good sisters couldn't tell
The color of her hair

It surprised her mother
But the Pope was ready
To forestall the Devil
He names little St Cecilia
The Patron Saint of Music

This was actually a Stalk Forrest Group song and was written in 1970.

Click the youTube link just above to hear an interesting early, honky tonk version of this song from Conry's Bar (Jan 1971).

Albert Bouchard

"Sun Comes Up" was another Allen song that never got released...

And that's all I know about this song - other than the fact that the Stalk Forrest Group used to play it live.

Apparently, this was also one of the four tracks that comprised the second demo that the band recorded at David Lucas' Warehouse studio in the summer of 1971 for Columbia.

Click the youTube link just above to hear a version of this song from Conry's Bar (Jan 1971).

Not, as you might have thought, a Blue Oyster Cult song, this was written in 1970 when the band was still Stalk Forrest Group, and living in the Great Neck house.

It charts the true story of three students who headed out West for a drug deal that went badly wrong. There has always been some confusion over the last verse and what it means:

Donald Roeser

The first two verses are narrative relating the story and the players. The last verse switches the perspective to the participant, before the event, about to leave for the trip west, and inviting the listener to come along.

"They say the west is nice this time of year, it's what they say."

The setting for this song is Tucson, AZ. Tucson today is a lot more dangerous than it was in 1968, mostly due to AZ's federally sanctioned porous border with Mexico.

I believe Don Bolles, the reporter for the Phoenix newspaper that worked with the Newsday journalists in NY to publicize the story that inspired Last Days of May, was murdered some years later himself while investigating crime and corruption in Arizona.

Courageous guy.

Not sure about the date (of the incident). It might have been 1969 or later. Year or two after Soft White Underbelly's Stony Brook period.

Last Days was written during the band's Stalk-Forrest/Blue Oyster Cult transition when we were living in Great Neck NY.

Albert Bouchard

The Stony Brook student who died was called William Tate. The story was featured in (Long Island) Newsday in May 1970.

When Elektra wanted to put out a promo single for the forthcoming SFG LP, this was the song they chose for the A-side.

Well right now in Tokyo
Only place I am
When my blisters are immersed
in fresh as fresh tin can

I've always talked about how the cretins span the world
In the time that I've known you I've yet to have shown you
A moron with his snarl unfurled

But right back in Tokyo with a tough encircled hand
Thousand vultures smokyo
Cigareet with a seegar band

I've never talked about how to carve up Daddy's boat
In the space of a half year we've yet to embark my dear
To another shallow side of the moat

To which I say: WTF??

All I know about this Allen Lanier song is that the Stalk Forrest Group used to play it live.

Apparently, this was also one of the four tracks that comprised the second demo that the band recorded at David Lucas' Warehouse studio in the summer of 1971 for Columbia.

Click the youTube link just above to hear a version of this song from Conry's Bar (Jan 1971).