In 1976, the band Blue Öyster Cult was ready for a fresh start. After building a strong fan base over three studio albums, the group chronicled the era with 1975 live album, On Your Feet or on Your Knees.
With the band's fourth studio effort, Agents of Fortune, they distilled the Blue Oyster Cult sound in new and inventive ways, none more so that the album's first single and the group's signature song, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper."
"It was sort of inspired by a personal health scare," the band's Buck Dharma told Songfacts. "I thought I was going to maybe not live that long. I had been diagnosed with a heart condition, and your mind starts running away with you - especially when you're young-ish. So, that's why I wrote the story. It's imagining you can survive death in terms of your spirit. Your spirit will prevail."
Released on May 21, 1976, the album was a breakout hit for the band, spending 35 weeks on the charts and peaking at #29. "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" still stands as Blue Oyster Cult's top chart song, peaking at 12 on the Hot 100 for the week of November 6, 1976. The #1 song in America that week: Steve Miller's "Rock'n Me."
And yes, Buck Dharma has seen the legendary Saturday Night Live "More Cowbell" sketch: "Hilarious. It's really funny. The band had no idea it was coming, either. It was quite a surprise and phenomenal in its endurance and the way it's worked its way into the culture. If the cowbell has been at all an annoyance for Blue Öyster Cult, it's got to be 10 times worse for Christopher Walken! So, I'm riding that horse in the direction it's going... I've never met Will Ferrell, but if I did, I'd ask him where he got the notion to get that skit idea to begin with, because it's really kind of outside."