What I like most about music is the memories. Music brings back memories of memorable times in my life. So when I was sitting down to decide what musical artist to write about, the recent winter storms reminded me of the worst winter in my memory, and a particular song.
When I think of Blue Oyster Cult, I think of snow and Idaho Falls. I spent the winter of 1983 in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The snow stayed on the ground all winter. I don’t remember it melting until late spring. I had lived in southern California, North Carolina, and New Mexico up until then, and had never seen so much snow before. I didn’t have much to compare it to, and still don’t really, but the locals told me it was the worst winter they had had in years. Just my luck, it was the winter I was stationed there in the US Navy.
I had the Blue Oyster Cult album Spectres on cassette. That album always reminds me of Idaho Falls because it was playing in the car the day I rolled into town. It was actually late in the evening after a long day of driving, and I remember Blue Oyster Cult playing as I drove into town. Now that memory is probably enough to tie the group to the town, but another memory cemented the two together forever.
I lived in a house with three other guys and we worked shift work at the base. We were all on the same shift, and that Christmas two of my roommates decided to go down to New Mexico to visit one of their families during our long break. We had five days off. I thought they were crazy because it would take them a day to drive down and a day to drive back, but off they went.
We started to get worried on the last day because they had left New Mexico earlier, and there was a major snow storm raging outside. This was before cell phones so we went to bed that night wondering where they were. Two o’clock in the morning we got our answer when the phone rang. They had gone off the road just south of Pocatello, about fifty miles south of where we lived, and needed a ride back. Oh, and we both needed to go get them because they had brought a bunch of stuff back in their truck and it wouldn’t fit in one car.
Imagine driving down the interstate in a major snowstorm in Idaho at 2 am. I had a Chevy Chevette hatchback with no snow tires or chains. It felt like the twilight zone because there was no one else on the road and you couldn’t see the blacktop because of the ice and snow. Did I mention they had gone off the road in a loaded down truck with snow chains on the tires and I had never really driven in the snow before? Luckily, I had my favorite album to keep me company on that ride—Spectres by Blue Oyster Cult. There is nothing like sliding down the road in a blizzard with “Godzilla” playing full blast on the radio.
So we got there in one piece and picked up the lost ones. Packing their crap in both vehicles (my other roommate drove some big American made monstrosity of a car), we headed back home. Now comes the best part. One the way back my Chevette starts acting up. It starts chugging and hesitating every time we hit a hill. By this point we’ve lost the other car, and I’m tired and wrung out from the stress of getting there and wondering if we’ll go off the road before making it home. Again, Blue Oyster Cult came to the rescue. In the midst of the car troubles “Golden Age of Leather” started playing:
“Raise your can of beer on high
And seal your fate forever
Our best years have passed us by
The Golden Age of Leather”
Oh how I wanted a beer at that moment, but the song lifted my spirits and we chugged out way back to town. We got there just in time to get dressed and catch the early bus to work.
“Golden Age of Leather” is still my favorite Blue Oyster Cult song, and it’ll always remind me of snow and ice and the little Chevette that could.