“Ladies, fish and gentlemen…

August 11, 2007 at 2:40 am (Drunk and disorderly, Waxing Nostalgic)


On this day in 1981, I saw Blue Oyster Cult for the first time. It was during the hottest period on record for Portland. Temperatures peaked twice at 107 degrees.

I was seeing lots of national-touring rock and roll acts around this time. Memorial Coliseum was the big arena, but the Paramount Theater was the best place for an intimate show. BOC had toured with Black Sabbath the year before, and had a new album out: Fire of Unknown Origin. I managed to get two balcony seats, and invited my Detroit groupie friend Lynda. (She’d met Led Zeppelin!)

During this period I was no stranger to psychedelics, and gobbled a bunch of acid the day of the show. Keeping cool with White Russians and bugging the neighbors with my stereo. By showtime it was a comfy 99 or so. Up in the balcony it was about 120 degrees. Since everyone was crowding the main floor, we had room to stretch out. Much more conducive to a pleasant acid trip.

I’d seen Van Halen and Judas Priest, but this was my first truly heavy metal show. They opened with Dominance and Submission, and segued into Cities on Flame. (It felt like it.) By the time they slashed into ETI (Extraterrestrial Intelligence), I was hooked.

They did old stuff, songs about Joan Crawford, brought out a bunch of alien drummers for a ten-minute version of Veteran of the Psychic Wars. A blistering version of Don’t Fear the Reaper. The song would never sound the same. Eric Bloom rode a motorcycle onstage for the encore of Born to be Wild and Roadhouse Blues.

In April of 1982, they released Extraterrestrial Live, a double album recorded from the tour. I break it out every once in a while.

In 1986, Ozzy Osbourne was touring with Metallica. The bus crash that killed Cliff Burton put Metallica off the tour. When my little sister heard Blue Oyster Cult had replaced them as the opening act, we had to go!

I loved the not-too-serious mysticism and beer-soaked spirit of the band. Songs about space ships, nuclear-spawned monsters and smuggling trunkloads of the devil’s weed fit my headspace nicely.

In 1988, BOC came back to town, playing the Starry Night, now The Roseland. This was another balcony show; this time we were second row. In front of us? A deputy district attorney and two of his buddies. They bought us drinks, in exchange for us not throwing them off the balcony. Seemed fair…

The next morning, we got up, bought a twelve pack of 16 ounce Rainiers and drove to Seattle, to see BOC at the Club 99. During this time the club was having a problem with a serial rapist. I attended with my sister and ex-wife, but wasn’t too worried. They’re both tough broads, and the place was crawling with cops. Since smoking pot was still a heavy criminal offense in Washington, we stuck to beer. It was a lackluster show. It was the first of two shows that night, and main floor was served a dinner. Who the fuck has dinner at a rock concert? The band was picking on them from the stage. I made friends with a county sheriff, who watched closely every time I went to the head to refill my empty bottle. No, sir. I’m not the rapist.

The next time I saw them was a painful experience. It was the early ’90s, and a bunch of us bought tickets and met at my apartment. While I hosted the beer and bong contingent in the living room, Phineas held court in my bedroom with the white powder crowd. They were amped out of their minds, and I was the questionable voice of reason.

Having seen them so many times, I learned the best time to take a leak is during the drum solo of Godzilla. It lasts six to ten minutes, and it’s when the band goes to the bathroom. Or whatever they do backstage, ahem.

I hurried down the stairs, failing to notice the beer bottle sitting on its side. I lost balance and started charging down the stairs. I’d just about corrected when I ran head-on into the stairs going up the other side. I went splat, and don’t know which hurt more; my body or my pride. Some drunk kid was laughing and pointing.

I made it to the bathroom and back. Things were swelling, and I was getting a headache. The first time I heard them perform my favorite BOC song, Astronomy, and I was in too much pain to enjoy it.

I wasn’t the only one. Phineas had tried to slow down the coke by applying lots of beer. I wonder if anyone in the mosh pit noticed when he projectiled over the crowd? We confiscated his car keys, and he spent the night.

The next morning, my arm looked like an eggplant, and I had striped bruises up and down both legs and arms. I missed two days of work, and because of the beer bottle, Double T was cool and paid for lost wages and my doctor bill. (Doctor’s advice? Drink much less in public. Or in general.)

The next time was during the great flood of 1996. The base of the Burnside Bridge was submerged, and downtown was mere inches from being flooded. I’d seen them in all extremes of weather now.

The last time I went, it seemed the exact same show I’d seen twice before. A little different setlist maybe, mostly greatest hits. Without the booze and chemicals, it seemed a little pointless. It seemed we were both about ready for the county fair circuit.

But they’re still touring. (Upcoming dates with Lynyrd Skynyrd, according to the website.) Sure, I’d go see them again, but at this point I’d rather spin the greatest hits CD after a couple puffs of sweet leaf.

The clock strikes twelve and moondrops burst

out at you from their hiding place.

Like acid and oil in a madman’s face;

His reason tends to fly away…


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