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Allen Lanier 8/2013

Allen Lanier, guitarist for Blue Oyster CultAugust 14, 2013 – Allen Glover Lanier (Blue Öyster Cult) was born on June 25th 1946 on Long Island New York.  In 1967 together with Eric Bloom,  he was a founding member of the band Soft White Underbelly, but after a bad review in 1969 they changed their name to Oaxaca, to the Stalk-Forrest Group, to the Santos Sisters, until the band settled on Blue Öyster Cult in 1971.

They released their debut album Blue Öyster Cult in January 1972. Because of their unique sound and diversity, Blue Öyster Cult has been influential to many modern bands that span many genres and are important pioneers of several different styles of rock music that came to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s. Many heavy metal bands have cited them as a major influence, and bands such as Metallica and Iced Earth have covered their songs.

Lanier wrote several songs for Blue Öyster Cult albums, including “True Confessions”, “Tenderloin”, “Searchin’ for Celine”, “In Thee”, and “Lonely Teardrops” and contributed to hits like “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Godzilla,” and “Burnin’ for You.” In addition to his work with Blue Öyster Cult, he also contributed to music by Patti Smith, John Cale, Jim Carroll, The Dictators and The Clash, among others. He dated Patti Smith for several years during the 1970s.

“After living on and off for more than six years with the same man, (Blue Oyster Cult keyboard player, Allan Lanier), Patti has certainly come a long way with quite an education. Patti confesses that she’s the kind of gal who “jes’ falls apart if my ol’ man cheats on me,” and for two busy performers on the road, the situation can get pretty rough. “

Lanier left the group in 1985, and was replaced by Tommy Zvoncheck (of Clarence Clemons and Public Image Ltd fame). He returned in 1987. He retired from performing with them after the autumn of 2006.

In 2007, without any official announcement from Blue Öyster Cult, the band’s line-up photograph was updated to remove Allen, and a brief mention on the page for Richie Castellano had the following to say: “Since the retirement of Allen Lanier, Richie has switched over to the guitars/keyboards position, both of which he’s quite the master!”

That would seem to indicate that Allen Lanier retired from both Blue Öyster Cult and music in 2007, having played his last concert with them in late 2006. He would rejoin them for their 40th anniversary concert in New York in November 2012, which proved to be his last ever appearance with the band.

Allen’s death on August 14, 2013 was announced by Blue Öyster Cult on their official Facebook page, “Allen succumbed to complications from C.O.P.D.” Lead singer Eric Bloom posted the following:

My great friend Allen Lanier has passed. I’ll miss the guy even though we hadn’t spoken in awhile. He was so talented as a musician and a thinker. He read voraciously, all kinds of things, especially comparative religion. We drove for years together, shared rooms in the early days. We partied, laughed, played. All BOC fans and band members will mourn his death. Ultimately smoking finally got to him. He had been hospitalized with C.O.P.D. It was Allen who heard some old college band tapes of mine and suggested I get a shot as the singer in 1968. A lot of great memories, over 40 years worth. Maybe he’s playing a tune with Jim Carroll right now.

Allen died fighting a chronic lung disease COPD as a result of lifelong smoking, on August 14, 2013 at the age of 67.

‘Don’t fear the reaper’ sweet man. We love you and miss you.

“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult is not only one of my own personal favorite heavy metal songs, but is among those selected by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the Top 500 rock songs of all time. The song is not only a romanticizing about Death’s inevitability, and his personification as the Grim Reaper, but also about premature death, suicide and eternal love (“Romeo and Juliet are together in eternity”). The song and the album it appeared on, “Agents Of Fortune,” came out in time for October and Halloween 1976. At that time there was a mysterious illness called Legionnaire’s disease and a swine flu epidemic scare in progress in the United States. The entire US population had to be vaccinated against swine flu, beginning on October 1, 1976. The scare was unwarranted and the vaccine caused more deaths and illnesses from side effects than the disease it was intended to protect everyone against. I always thought the lyrics of “Reaper,” along with its wild and scary lead guitar solo in the middle part, was especially ironic given the almost apocalyptic mood of the time.

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