By: Heather Quinlan
January 19, 2024

One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of metal records from the Eighties (1984–1993, in our periodization schema). Series edited by Heather Quinlan. Also check out our MÖSH YOUR ENTHUSIASM playlist at Spotify.



“(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” was my gateway song to Blue Öyster Cult, long before the “More cowbell” SNL skit but several years after it was released. (In my defense, I was two.) Ironically, for a band that’s one of my favorites, this is their one song I can no longer stand. I used to love it, but I’ve over-heard it. You know how sometimes you can play a song a million times and never get sick of it? “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” is not one of those songs. But “Shooting Shark” is, from BÖC’s 1983 album The Revölution by Night. This would mark a decline in their popularity, though I think “Shooting Shark” is BÖC’s best song. It’s not completely written by them. But it is written about one of them.

BÖC is one of those bands that’s too inventive to pinpoint. They’re clever as hell, dark, but also kinda wacky — a bunch of really smart, verifiably nerdy guys who are also terrific musicians, led by singer/guitarists Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma (né Donald Roeser)… and there was also one woman alternately in the spotlight and off to the side — Patti Smith, the (God help me) Fifth Beatle of Blue Öyster Cult.

I knew very little about Patti Smith — admittedly, there are artists I ignore because I don’t think I’ll be able to stand their fans. I put Patti Smith in that category, everything was too Lower East Side for me. How wrong I was. I mean, she did a Springsteen song and sang with Blue Öyster Cult. And while Smith was never an official BÖC member, she co-wrote and duetted with Eric Bloom on “The Revenge of Vera Gemini” and co-wrote “Fire of Unknown Origin.”

“Shooting Shark” began as a poem about her tortured relationship with BÖC member and heroin addict Allen Lanier. For whatever reason, wow, did she love him. Or was at least literally crazy about him. I honestly think she had a thing for junkies. Or maybe it was an occupational hazard. (One of Lanier’s best friends was Jim Carroll.)

What’s shocking is that Patti Smith didn’t sing “Shooting Shark”—Buck Dharma did. So, in effect, Dharma was singing about terrible boyfriend and bandmate Allen Lanier — almost as if Lanier were his terrible boyfriend — while Lanier played along on keyboards, like an endorsement: “Yeah I suck.” Maybe it was also a way for Dharma to vent his spleen about Lanier’s typical rock ’n’ roll BS. In that way, “Shooting Shark” became both Smith and Dharma’s love/hate song to Lanier.

Dharma has co-writing credit, and the song is described as “Inspired by a Patti Smith poem.” I’ve never seen the poem, but could it be that different from the actual song? “It’s a hard love to love you, it takes up all my time” is a line I think most of us can relate to. “Sick of hauling your love around/Want to run my train alone/But the engine tracks straight through your heart/And weighs me like a stone.” Same.

And then there’s the biblical: “Three times I’ve sent you back from me/Three times my boats gone dry/And three times I’ve seen the shooting shark/Lighting up the sky.” Aside from the image of a shooting shark, I’m fixed on “sent you back.” “Sent you away” or “took you back” would be the usual phrases, but this is poetry so you have to dig deep. I would say it’s the push-pull between the singer and their obsession. And what the hell is a shooting shark anyway? I don’t know of any shark constellations. And don’t look to the video for an explanation, though by all means do watch it — Buck Dharma’s in an undershirt and slacks most of the time, trying to look like a hard-boiled detective who’s his own client, surveilling his girlfriend. There’s also a fantasy scene where he chases and tackles her in a forest, only to discover she’s turned into a goat. The goat symbolizes the devil, right? But a shooting shark? My guess is an impossibility made possible if only for a second.

The cover of 1979’s Wave — Patti Smith’s last album before she took a long break from the music business — is a photo of her holding doves. The last scene in 1983’s “Shooting Shark” video is Buck Dharma releasing a dove. (And looking oddly like Doug Henning.) Coincidence? Nah, the writer and her alter-ego are both now free. By the time “Shooting Shark” was released, Patti Smith was happily married to Fred “Sonic” Smith and living in Detroit with the first of their two kids. Buck Dharma’s been married forever, and Allen Lanier would leave BÖC in 1985 and return intermittently over the years, until he died age 67 of COPD.

On Halloween 2018 I got to hear “Shooting Shark” live when I saw BÖC at Staten Island’s St. George Theatre. It brought down the house almost as much as “Godzilla.”


MÖSH YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Heather Quinlan | Crockett Doob on Metallica’s ENTER SANDMAN | Dean Haspiel on Mötley Crüe’s HOME SWEET HOME | Jack Silbert on Poison’s TALK DIRTY TO ME | Adam McGovern on Dio’s INVISIBLE | Mariane Cara on Faith No More’s EPIC | Heather Quinlan on Blue Öyster Cult’s SHOOTING SHARK | Steve Schneider on UFO’s DIESEL IN THE DUST | Carlo Rotella on Primus’ JERRY WAS A RACE CAR DRIVER | Erik Davis on St. Vitus’ BORN TOO LATE | Greg Rowland on Motörhead’s ACE OF SPADES (remix) | Kathy Biehl on Twisted Sister’s WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT | Nikhil Singh on G.I.S.M.’s GAS BURNER PANIC | Erin M. Routson on Metallica’s ESCAPE | Holly Interlandi on Helmet’s MILQUETOAST | Marc Weidenbaum on Celtic Frost’s I WON’T DANCE (THE ELDERS’ ORIENT) | Amy Keyishian on Living Colour’s CULT OF PERSONALITY | Josh Glenn on Scorpions’ STILL LOVING YOU | Alycia Chillemi on Danzig’s SOUL ON FIRE | James Parker on Godflesh’s CHRISTBAIT RISING | Miranda Mellis on The Afflicted’s HERE COME THE COPS | Rene Rosa on Type O Negative’s BLACK NO. 1 | Tony Leone on Slayer’s SOUTH OF HEAVEN | Christopher Cannon on Neurosis’s LOST | Brian Berger on Black Sabbath’s HEADLESS CROSS | MÖSH CONTEST-WINNING ENTRY: Tony Pacitti on Metallica’s THE CALL OF KTULU. PLUS: CONTEST RUNNER-UP: James Scott Maloy on Accept’s MIDNIGHT MOVER.




Enthusiasms, Music