Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dominance and Submission by Blue Öyster Cult; The Best New Year's Eve Song Ever

By baad lamb
There are literally thousands of Christmas songs, and many hundreds of them get played over and over again throughout this holiday season (which now conveniently starts in October). The repetition makes you so crazy you want to jump in a time machine and go back about 2010 years  to delay a certain family’s departure from Bethlehem on their way to Egypt.

But New Years Eve songs? There can really be only one. And for nearly three centuries it’s been Auld Lang Syne.

It’s really time for a new New Year’s Eve song, don't ya think, and I’ve got one everyone should agree on. It starts with one of the best screams in Rock n' Roll, has plenty of fun, Times Square-centric lyrics; a bouncy call and response chorus that practically forces you to sing along; and contains not one, but two ridiculously fast and furious finger-melting guitar solos.

And it’s from the 1970s, a decade that everyone loves, right?
It starts innocently enough, with an ascending minor key, choppy-chord introduction. But then an emphatic “OH YEAH!” aggressively grabs your earlobes, pushes you to your knees, and sets you up for the fun n’ fear that might happen next. Or not. 

I spent ten years, half my life
Just getting ready, then it was time
Warpage in my figures, radios appear
Midnight was the barrier, back in 1963 

From their best album “Secret Treaties”, with a song titled “Dominance & Submission”, a group named Blue Öyster Cult, and a break that relies heavily on the repetition of the devil’s interval, you would be forgiven for expecting debauched BDSM themed lyrics and imagery and a Black Sabbath-like dirge. But throw that fear away and let the fun begin.

Susan and her brother, Charles the grinning boy
Put me in the backseat, and they took me for a ride
Yeah, the radio was on - can't you dig the locomotion?
Kingdoms of the radio, 45 rpm
Too much revolution, then

In the oft-repeated story, Manhattan’s irresistible call of the wild here works its magnet on suburban Long Island youth. I imagine a parents-be-damned night-flight escape in a pointy-finned Chevy convertible to the big and scary New York City on New Year’s Eve in 1963. Top 40 radio was king of the AM airwaves, and bubble-gum singles blared all the way (and Little Eva had recently hit number one with the Goffin/King song name-checked above).

Each night the covers were unfolded
Each night it's Susie’s turn to ride
While Charles, the one they call her brother
Covers on his eyes
Murmurs in the background
It will be time.
It's past midnight said Charles the grinning boy
And looking at me greedily, said it's 1964!

There was definitely something special about late December 1963. Did Jersey boy Bob Gaudio make the same escape from the opposite shore? (Did I really just compare Blue Öyster Cult with the Four Seasons?) Not long after, we know Patti Smith made the same destiny-pilgrimage:

And while she was busy becoming the icon who would later own CBGBs on New Year’s Eve, she was also contributing poems and writing songs with the fledgling Blue Öyster Cult of the early 70s. Now that CBGBs is gone, her always sold-out show is held at Bowery Ballroom this Friday night.

In Times Square now people do the polka
Dominance....submission...radios appear
This New Year’s Eve was the final barrier
Dominance....submission...radios appear
We took you up and we put you in the back seat
Dominance....submission...radios appear
From year to year we looked out for the venture
Dominance....submission...radios appear

Picture Times Square with half a million people singing the hilariously fun call and response of the chorus: Dominance / Submission / Radios Appear
I can hear Ryan Seacrest now, urging:
“All you bitches and hos out there, hands in the air, high voice:”
“Ok, now all you dudes, double fists, pound your chests, low angry voice:”
“Now everybody hold your nose for full nasal effect:”

Radios appear? Yup. 45 r.p.m. (too much revolution)!

Happy New Year, New York City.


  1. WOW! YEAH! Never heard this song before, but it DEFINITELY is an excellent way to bring in the new year! WOO! Awesome guitar.

    Wait, wait. You're waxing nostalgic over 1963. I was ten then, wondering why on earth girls were screaming over this new group from England who sported long hair. Were you even walking?

    Prior to the seventies, I was fully immersed in the folk sound, playing my Simon and Garfunkel LPs until they were badly scratched. I didn't really appreciate heavy sound until much later. My loss. This is an excellent song, and I'll be downloading it.

    My musical horizons have expanded exponentially thanks to the InterWebs and aficionados like you. Many thanks.

  2. Birdie, I was around, toddling more than walking. I didn't even hear this song till about '77. I think "Don't Fear the Reaper" came out in '76 and I started going backwards through their music from there. "Reaper" was a big hit and brought them they fame they deserved, but B.O.C. quickly became a caricature of themselves after that, writing stupid (Godzilla) and campy (Joan Crawford Has Risen from the Grave) songs. Their first three early '70s albums are full of the awesome, though.
    Glad you liked it.

  3. Lamb sweet, how dare you reduce "Joan Crawford Has Risen From The Grave" to simply camp?! It's a crossover classic. You can't make light of lyrics like "Catholic girls have thrown away their mascara. They chain themselves to the axles of big Mac trucks". Recant!!

  4. Perhaps it needs more cowbell.