6 Songs You Didn’t Know Patti Smith Wrote for Blue Öyster Cult

In the early 1970s, Patti Smith was in a relationship with Blue Öyster Cult‘s rhythm guitarist and keyboardist Allen Lanier. Captivated by her poetic way, at one point, the band even asked Smith if she was interested in joining, but she turned down their offer to pursue her own musical career.

Instead, Smith shared several of her poems that the band set to music. Her poetry-turned-songs were featured on the band’s second album Tyranny and Mutation in 1973, their 1974 follow-up Secret Treaties, and Agents of Fortune in 1976, along with later albums in the early 1980s.

Lanier returned the favor by co-writing and playing guitar on “Elegie” and co-penning “Kimberly” from Smith’s 1975 debut Horses. On the cover of the album, the horse pin on Smith’s jacket was gifted to her by Lanier.

He also co-wrote “Distant Fingers” with Smith for her second album Radio Ethiopia and played keyboards on her 1978 Easter track “Space Monkey.”

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LOS ANGELES – NOVEMBER 1974: Patti Smith poses for a portrait in November 1974 in Los Angeles California. (Photo by Suzan Carson/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

Ultimately, Smith blamed Lanier’s constant touring with their breakup. Smith later married the love of her life, late MC5 guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith, in 1980 but spoke kindly of Lanier, who died in 2013, in her 2010 memoir Just Kids.

“Ultimately it destroyed our relationship, but not the respect I had for him,” wrote Smith of their breakup, “nor the gratitude I felt for the good he had done.” 

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Spoken word, lyrics, backing vocals, harmonies—Smith did it all with Blue Öyster Cult. Here’s deeper a look at six songs Smith co-wrote for the band throughout the 1970s and the early ’80s.

1. “Baby Ice Dog” (1973)
Written by Patti Smith, Albert Bouchard, and Eric Bloom

Smith’s first contribution to Blue Öyster Cult was on their second album Tyranny and Mutation. The song “Baby Ice Dog” punches open with the brusque I had this bitch you see / She made lies to me.

I had this bitch you see, she made lies to me
Her deceit, oh, it gave me a chill
But I found out now, that baby that baby ice dog

She said, we would wed in Mongolian country
Lilies shoot free, but she was snowing me
In the mountains, oh, her intent was all too clear

It was quite a sin, how the ice caved in
I was numb, I could not assist
Baby ice went down through cold cold cold ground
I said baby, that’s the breaks

2. “Career of Evil” (1974)
Written by Patti Smith

On the band’s third album Secret Treaties, the band handed all the songwriting duties over to Richard Meltzer and producer and manager Sandy Pearlman—who first introduced Smith to Lanier. Smith also contributed a sole track, the opening “Career of Evil.” The remainder of the album was penned by Pearlman and Meltzer. Secret Treaties peaked at No. 53 on the Billboard 200 and spent 14 weeks on the chart.

I plot your rubric scarab, I steal your satellite
I want your wife to be my baby tonight
I choose to steal what you chose to show
And you know I will not apologize
Your mine for the taking
I’m making a career of evil
I’m making a career of evil
I’m making a career of evil

Pay me I’ll be your surgeon, I’d like to pick your brains
Capture you, Inject you, leave you kneeling in the rain
I choose to steal what you chose to show
And you know I will not apologize
Your mine for the taking
I’m making a career of evil
I’m making a career of evil
I’m making a career of evil

3. “The Revenge of Vera Gemini” (1976)
Written by Albert Bouchard and Patti Smith

Smith also contributes several songs to the band’s fourth album, Agents of Fortune, including the Side A closer “The Revenge of Vera Gemini.”

You’re boned like a saint / With the consciousness of a snake speaks Smith at the beginning of the song about a sinister woman with a face like an angel. Smith can also be heard singing alongside Eric Bloom throughout the song.

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The ominous track also references Smith’s album Horses: Oh, no more horses, horses / We’re going to swim like a fish / Into the hole in which you planned to ditch me / My lovely Vera Marie.

You’re the kind of girl (kind of girl)
I’d like to find
Face like an angel (in my mirror)
But you’re boned like the devil

Your eyes have shifted from me (have shifted)
Everyone saw what you did (your eyes)
You have slipped from beneath me (from me)
Like a false and nervous squid

Oh, no more horses, horses
We’re going to swim like a fish (we’re gonna swim like a fish)
Into the hole in which you planned to ditch me
My lovely
Vera Marie

4. “Debbie Denise” (1976)
Written by Albert Bouchard and Patti Smith

On the flip side—literally—Smith also co-wrote the Side Two closing track on Agents of Fortune with Bouchard, “Debbie Denise.” Unlike “The Revenge of Vera Gemini,” “Debbie Denise” is the story of a less menacing woman, and one who is more loyal in her ways.

She kept the light open, all night long
For me to come home, and sing her my song
Oh, Debbie Denise, was true to me
She’d wait by the window, so patiently
And I’d come on home with my hair hanging down
She’d pin it up, and softly smile

But I was out rolling with my band
I was out rolling with my band

5. “Fire of Unknown Origin” (1981)
Written by Patti Smith, Albert Bouchard, Eric Bloom, Joe Bouchard, Donald Roeser

Already well into her career by the mid to late-’70s, Smith didn’t contribute much to Blue Öyster Cult’s fifth album Spectres, their 1979 follow-up Mirrors, and Cultösaurus Erectus from 1980, but she did reconvene with the band on their 1981 album Fire of the Unknown Origin, which featured the hit “Burnin’ for You.”

Smith co-wrote the title track with the band, a song exploring an all-consuming love.

The closing track, “Don’t Turn Your Back,” also marked Lanier’s final songwriting credit with the band before he parted ways with them in 1985.

Death comes sweeping through the hallway, like a lady’s dress
Death comes driving down the highway, in its Sunday best

A fire of unknown origin took my baby away
A fire of unknown origin took my baby away

Swept to ruin off my wavelength, swallowed her up
Like the ocean in a fire, so thick and gray

6. “Shooting Shark” (1983)
Written by Patti Smith and Donald Roeser

Smith worked with the band once again on their ninth album, The Revölution by Night. Based on another poem by Smith, “Shooting Shark” features Donald Roeser on vocals. Released as the lead single, “Shooting Shark” reached No. 16 on the Mainstream Rock chart.

Well I’m up there beside the magic man
And he laid some tricks for me
He said you do need help my friend
I whispered, obviously

He laid a spread of Jacks and Queens
And he begged me take my pick
But every face that had your face
I cried out, I am sick

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
Oh it’s a hard love to love you it takes up all my time

Photo: Suzan Carson / Michael Ochs Archive / Getty Images

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