Blue Öyster Cult

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It occurs to me that Terry Pratchett must have a passing interest in the works of that much under-rated American heavy metal/Goth group, the Blue Öyster Cult. (btw, note the un-necessary umlaut that is in danger of rolling off and causing punctuation to happen: it is thought B.Ö.C., founded in 1972 in their current form, were trend-setters for other heavy rock bands, as regards the whole business of inserting un-necessary umlauts into the band's name in order to look hard and in most cases Germanic. In this case, as most of the band members are "nice Jewish boys from upstate New York" ( in the words of band associate Michael Moorcock, himself no mean fantasy writer, and spoofed by Pterry in The Colour of Magic), the "Germanic" thing is perhaps played down... in any case, that umlaut is the band's ticket into the Spinal Tap Hall of Fame for services to heavy rock excess.) But I digress...

The obvious link between Pratchett and the B.Ö.C. must be the motto of the extended Death family.

Non Temetis Messor

Do we really need to translate this? OK then, the literal is "Have no timidity concerning He who gathers the harvest"

Which by stunning coincidence is also the title of the band's biggest hit single, Don't Fear The Reaper.

(Death, of course, stars in the book Reaper Man.)

Later in Hogfather, (p375 paperback edition), Susan and Jonathan Teatime have an intense discussion as to the good taste of such a family motto.

As a tangential reference, B.Ö.C followed up Reaper with two tracks on their next album (Spectres) that could have been written for Discworld vampires: I Love the Night and Nosferatu

In I Love the Night, a jilted mortal walks aimlessly in the dark, pining for the girl who has jilted him... suddenly a lovely lady in white is by my side, who turns out to be a vampire who'd quite like a boyfriend who shares her interests. A certain agreement is struck up between the two, which means the narrator of the song is fated to never more be able to shave himself nor go out in daylight without heavy-duty barrier cream. The thought occurs that in Carpe Jugulum, when Vlad de Magpyr has an amorous interest in Agnes Nitt, the theme of this song is being turned neatly on its head (ie, male vampire pursues human female who has absolutely no interest in being turned into a vampire, thank you very much). As Agnes is also the agent of this Magpyr's eventual destruction, (just as Lucy, by apparently submitting, brings about the death of Nosferatu), it could be said that both songs are being referenced here? Come to think of it, Granny Weatherwax, by assuming passivity and apparently submitting to their will, also brings about the eventual destruction of the vampire coven...

What can be said for that lovely exchange in Good Omens?

"'Ere, I seen you before,' he said. 'You was on the cover of that Blue Öyster Cult album."

Which, as messrs Breebart and Kew point out, means this would be Some Enchanted Evening (1978), the Blue Öyster Cult's second live album, (with cover art painted by T. R. Shorr).

A similar kind of exchange happens in the short story Turntables of the Night.

I GET EVERYWHERE said Death.


There is an early scene between Death and Susan Sto Helit in Hogfather that appears to act out the last verse of "Don't Fear the Reaper"


(Page references are to the Corgi paperback edition, pp14-19)

The door burst open and a wind appeared;

"The candle flame was streaming out horizontally, as though in a howling wind" (p15)

The candle blew and then dissappeared;

"She looked up. The curtains billowed away from the window, which-

-flung itself open with a clatter. But there was no wind. At least, no wind in this world."

The curtains flew, and then He appeared.... saying "Don't be afraid"

But Susan is bloody annoyed rather than afraid, and she certainly doesn't run to him, nor take his hand...

"Oh no, not AGAIN. not after all this time, Everything had been going so well-"

What deters Death from manifesting and completing the verse is the inopportune appearance of Susan's charge Twyla, who wants her to get rid of a monster. It is clear from the context of the above that Death is in the vicinity and wants to see his grand-daughter. Perhaps this is a professional call to collect the soul, or nearest equivalent, from the spider-like monster which Susan then despatches with a poker, just to prove a point to Twyla... Death must then have thought better of manifesting to an angry grand-daughter with attitude and a poker.But the above is almost exactly as per the song...

Susan returns to bed, bitterly thinking "So they were coming back", and tries to ignore the long thread of wax that suggested the candle had, for just a few seconds, streamed in an otherwise non-existent wind, as mandated by Narrative Causality...


Other Lyrics referenced?

Going Postal(p137) "'Look, I'm not the One you're looking for!'" This is annotated elsewhere on the Wiki as – Possibly, but not clearly, a reference to Neo's role as the One in the Matrix films. Or, more likely, a reference to Graham Chapman's increasingly perplexed and angry Brian in Monty Python's The Life of Brian.

There is a track on the Mirrors album entitled I'm not the one you were looking for (but you can't go wrong with me). The "Ah well, you're the best I'm going to get, I suppose" air of this track might fit the mood of this part of the book?

Also, a recurring character in B.Ö.C. songs is "Suzie", or Susan, who appears as a kind of archetype, young, female, independent and self-sufficient, throughout quite a lot of songs over several LP's. Possibly a coincidence, but possibly also a factor in naming Susan Sto Helit?

There may well be sly sideways references to a "Suzie" track called The Marshall Plan in Soul Music. In the song, a hopeless dreamer called Johnny (ie, Sioni..) sees his girlfriend Suzie dissappear at a rock gig; he develops an obsession with finding her again, which persists even when he becomes a famous rock star himself. Susan Sto Helit literally appears and dissappears at The Band's gigs. When Imp Y Celyn isn't obsessed with the baleful guitar, he develops a parellel obsession with the girl Susan, who is there one second and gone the next.

Ref. Good Omens and Agnes Nutter's prophecy re. the Four Other Riders Of The Apocalypse: Agnes must have listened to some righteous heavy rock music across time and space - or else Heaven/Hell tried to drown out her particular prophetic frequency in hard rock, only to discover she quite liked it, as she quotes not only Motorhead but also the B.Ö.C., much to the marginal perplexity of later Devices down the ages. She makes tangential reference to a track called Feel the Thunder (on the Revolution By Night album), about the fiery death, and subsequent job interview with Satan, of a group of Angels who come to grief on the San Bernadino coast road in California.... The Prophecies also quote Queen (needless to say), but this is more chart-oriented stadium rock than proper rock music.

Reverse Annotation?

The 1994 album Cult Classic (otherwise a reimagining of tracks from the group's glory years, performed by its 1990's line-up, which lacks several original group members) has a rear-cover illustration showing DEATH walking through a golden wheatfield. The wheat is so tall that only Death's skull, cowl and scythe are visible. The themes of Reaper Man cover concepts such as Death's transition into the mortal world as Bill Door, farm labourer. There is that key philosophical discussion between the two Deaths about the nature of Death ( the New Death proclaims The Reaper does not listen to the Harvest!, which is against our Death's inclinations and dispositions). Having learnt a lesson about mortality, Death then creates the eternally rippling cornfields in His Domain as a reminder that the Reaper should listen to the Harvest. One would suspect that the B.Ö.C, in incorporating Pratchett's Death onto an LP cover, are returning a compliment here. (Reaper Man was published in Great Britain in 1991 and in the USA shortly afterwards).

The front cover of Cult Classic is also oddly suggestive. Drawn to emulate the illustration style used to illuminate occult documents and rituals used by the Rosicrucians and the Golden Dawn, it shows a weird chapel with altar rail, with magickal signs and symbols on the walls and floor. There are two stained-glass windows: one shows the Goddess of Summer walking in a cornfield under the sun with the motto Messis ex Vitae underneath. The right-hand window shows Death walking with his scythe at night under the moon, and the motto is Messis ex Morte.

While the line "A harvest of life, a harvest of death (resumes its course each day)" is taken from one of the B.Ö.C.'s earliest songs (Quicklime Girl, on the Tyranny and Mutation album of 1973), this song isn't covered on Cult Classic. So the question arises as to why a track, not covered on a "greatest hits" album, should be referenced so unmistakeably on its cover. It does, however, sum up the themes of Reaper Man quite aptly! (What can the harvest hope for, apart from the care of the Reaper Man?)

Cult Classics rear cover 3.JPG

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