Let’s continue what we started, and keep reading Cultosaurus Erectus by Blue Oyster Cult!
As always, my procedure works this way: I’ll write my first impressions of the piece. When you see the tarot card, that means I’ve flipped it over. I actually don’t know what’s coming during these posts until I am midway through them.
The singer appears to be a serial killer here, speaking to a possible partner or confidant. Bill is the latest victim — he missed the deadline. The biggest point of the song is that the listener has almost missed the deadline, and that the singer “couldn’t live if it happened” to them. It’s not clear what the deadline is for, what they’re missing, or even if it’s all in the killer’s head.
That’s what makes it frightening, of course. “There wasn’t a thing anybody could do.” This album did come out in 1980, and America seemed to see an upsurge in serial killings in the 70s. Bundy, for instance, was caught and confessed in that decade. So in one way this song is a simple horror story from the point of view of the “monster.” We’re nearly halfway through the album, and that seems to be its theme. In how many different ways can the album portray monstrosity?
King of Swords
The artist’s description of this card says clear thinking and confidence. I think the confidence is the most important part here, in this context. The singer is absolutely confident. The “deadline” is so absolute it can’t be questioned — so absolute the song doesn’t mention what it’s for. That’s an old writing trick: treat your novum (new thing) as so ordinary that no one would ever talk about how it works. But if it’s really a strangeness, it will mark everything else in the story.
The king here is of swords, which represent the intellect. This confidence is because of an idea, which in this case is wrong or messed up in some way. The speaker is confident in an idea, not a thing or a person. It structures his life so strongly he can’t think of anything else.
The Marshall Plan
This is another song I was familiar with in high school. It was on the second greatest hits album I picked up, which was a big double-disk set. The title is not directly referencing World War 2, though BOC regularly did so. It’s a pun on that history, basically, since it’s directly referencing the maker of Marshall amps.
The story is that the main character — who is not the speaker — is a young man looking forward to a rock show. He sees it with his girlfriend, but she disappears and he sees her, later, getting into the band’s car as a groupie. The implication is that she’s going to have sex with one or more of them.
So the main character considers his dream life and decides to make it real. He imagines himself as a rock star. The song goes on and depicts him doing so, even appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show.
There are two possibilities here, and both are interesting. One is that he does literally become a rock star. The other is that the entire rest of the song is his daydream. In either case, things end poorly. He experiences the excitement of stardom and yet his girlfriend still disappears. That makes me wonder if she were ever his girlfriend at all. It’s worth pointing out that many BOC songs refer to “Suzy,” who was actually a former girlfriend of Sandy Perlman (the guy who wrote some of their lyrics and a lot of the narratives and magical symbolism they used; he was responsible for all the Imaginos songs, for instance). Perlman did not have nice things to say about Suzy, overall. That makes me suspect even more strongly that the whole thing is Johnny’s dream; she may have been a friend. On a previous album BOC wrote the most perfect version of the “friendzone guy” I’ve ever heard. I like the song even though I think the friendzone effect is bullshit. So. Um. Johnny is lost in his own head, a little like the guy in the last song. Here, the effects are mundane: Johnny’s lonely, even when he’s famous (if that’s true). However, the impulse is the same.
Nine of Staffs
This card depicts a dog burning in a fire. It apparently alludes to a story where a dog ate a prince and had to be sacrificed so the king could be reborn. It’s about sacrifice, though, and not necessarily what comes of it. That speaks to this song. Johnny sacrifices himself to an empty dream. Even if he really is a famous rock star, his whole motivation has failed. He didn’t really do it for music; he did it for a girl. And the girl, because he fooled himself, just doesn’t care. Fuck off, Johnny. Sacrifice to something that is connected to you.
This song has all the energy, just all of it. That is appropriate, given that it’s about uppers. The entire song is about needing a fix of some kind — at one point the “lady from the white snow country” seems to mean cocaine, and later one guy begs a needle from another woman. So the song is devoted to depicting the need for an addiction as a hunger, one that makes people manic and energetic.
I suppose, given the rest of the album, that makes me feel that the next verse — the one that never exists, the one that’s implied by the rest of the song — is that these guys lose their shit at some point and someone gets hurt.
Eight of Staffs
This card depicts a man working to chop wood; the wood is on fire. The artist says this card is about cutting back or focusing. I also think it shows someone working too late: this probably should have happened before the wood was on fire. He’s stuck doing this and risking injury because he didn’t do it sooner. That’s a particularly negative reading, but this is a particularly negative song.
The eights usually focus on movement, with the wands or staffs the portrait of movement itself. Crowley named his and Harris’ eight of wands “Swiftness.” Here, in this context, the swiftness is in the hurry to do something, move something, because of desperate need. The energy will be dissipated unless there’s some focus. The song doesn’t sound like there’s any to be had.
That’s another reading done. Join me next time for the conclusion, which will probably be just as frightening and disconcerting as this one! Yay~