By Susan Sliwicki
Watching the vintage “Saturday Night Live” sketch about Blue Öyster Cult — affectionately known as “More Cowbell” — is kind of like watching the movie version of something instead of reading the original book or play: The stories don’t always match up.
Goldmine feels compelled to set the record straight. After watching this sketch several times — fact-checking is a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it — we wanted to share our findings. In case you’re more of a DIY or see-it-to-believe-it kind of person, you can visit www.funnyordie.com to check the skit out for yourself.
1. Who The Heck Is Gene Frenkle? Yes, there have been many members of the Blue Öyster Cult — 20 plus at last count, as bassist Rudy Sarzo recently parted ways with the band and was replaced by Kasim Sulton. However, there was never a member of BÖC named Gene Frenkle, portrayed in the skit by Will Ferrell. Of course, that didn’t stop fans from sending out condolences to the band’s “survivors” after the skit aired on NBC. The closing shot of the sketch indicates that it is dedicated in memory of the fictional Frenkle, for whom the cowbell tolled in 2000. No word on how he allegedly died, but we could totally see some freak stampede-related accident being to blame.
2. Bloom vs. Buck? Eric Bloom, who was portrayed in the sketch by Chris Parnell, is shown handling lead vocal duties in the sketch. However, Bloom didn’t sing the song in real life; that was done by the song’s composer, guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser (played by Chris Kattan). To make things even more confusing? Several different artists have indicated they played the cowbell on the song, including Bloom, producer David Lucas and drummer Albert Bouchard.
3. Will ‘The’ Bruce Dickinson Please Stand Up? “The” Bruce Dickinson alluded to in the sketch did, in fact, work at Columbia Records, BÖC’s real-life record label. (By the way, The “The” is used to make it clear to viewers that this is NOT the lead singer of Iron Maiden.) Although “The” Bruce Dickinson is credited on the band’s albums in real life, neither he nor Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson actually produced “Don’t Fear The Reaper.” That honor goes to David Lucas, Sandy Pearlman and Murray Krugman. “The” Bruce Dickinson appears to have a healthy sense of humor about the sketch. On his official LinkedIn page, where he details the artists with whom he has worked on projects via his business, Imagineerist Enterprises, he lists Blue Öyster Cult — and immediately follows the listing with the phrase “More Cowbell!” in parentheses.
4. Wait, When Did That Happen? The SNL skit indicates that the band was in the studio in late 1976, and an establishing shot of the studio’s exterior details that time as August 1976. But the “Agents of Fortune” LP, on which “Don’t Fear The Reaper” first was featured, was actually released in May 1976.
5. Musicians MIA: The skit shows Bobby Rondinelli behind the drum kit (portrayed by Jimmy Fallon). However, Albert Bouchard was still keeping the beat for the band in 1976. And, speaking of MIA artists: Where is Allen Lanier? The BÖC keyboardist had been a constant in the band since joining shortly after the band’s formation, but he’s nowhere to be found in the skit — despite the fact that keyboards are clearly audible in the song.
6. Düde, Where’s My Umlaut? In addition to its ahead-of-the-game use of a band logo (the Cross of Chronos), Blue Öyster Cult was quick to adopt an umlaut in its name. The trend has been favored by a lot of heavy metal bands, from Motörhead to the umlaut-abusing Mötley Crüe, and we suspect it flummoxed typesetters tasked with working on the band’s albums, press materials and posters. (It’s not like there were a lot of umlaut keys just wandering around on typewriters back in the day.) Regardless, the umlaut is missing from the opening and closing “Behind The Music” titles that spell out the band’s name. And in a related case of irony: Why the heck doesn’t the word “umlaut” actually have one as part of its spelling?
BOC BONUS ROUND: During another one of BOC’s hit songs, “Godzilla,” there is a section featuring an announcement spoken by Bloom in Japanese, which means “Attention. Attention. Godzilla is entering the Ginza area. Evacuate immediately. Evacuate immediately.” However, rumors started that Bloom performed the entire song in Japanese while the band was on tour in that country. Bloom swears on his cowbell that he didn’t.