Don’t fear the reaper, just keep playing: Blue Coupe hits El Mocambo this month
What do you get when you mix two former Blue Oyster Cult members with ex-Alice Cooper Band bassist?
Blue Coupe – a legacy rock trio who not only perform some of their former employers’ best-known hits, but also some pretty decent originals.
Between them, Joe and Albert Bouchard, 73 and 75 respectively, spent 16 years as the rhythm section for Stony Brook, NY, rockers Blue Oyster Cult. Bassist Dennis Dunaway, 75, first formed the Earwigs, which later evolved into the Alice Cooper Band, back in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1964.
They have now been Blue Coupe – which performs at El Mocambo on July 21, the Casbah in Hamilton on July 22 and the Biltmore Theater in Oshawa on July 23 – for almost 14 years, and have released three albums of their own: 2010s “Tornado on the Tracks”; “Million Miles More” from 2013 and “Eleven Even” from 2019.
So why are they still in the game?
“We still really love what we do,” Dunaway said in a recent phone interview. “We don’t call him. We are excited to write, interview and perform. We’ve always been like that and it’s probably common for people who’ve been in successful bands because that’s what is required.
In a separate interview, Joe Bouchard said it kept them young and vibrant.
“Most guys my age would already be at the retirement home,” Bouchard said. “Not us. We bring it to people – people want it.
The Bouchard brothers had been with Blue Oyster Cult since its inception in 1967, when they produced hard rock albums and known as one of the first bands to adopt lasers for their stage performances. They’ve sold 25 million records worldwide, with their biggest hits including “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Godzilla,” “Burning for You,” and the one Joe wrote, “Astronomy.”
However, his main instrument was the guitar – which he plays in Blue Coupe – and not the bass, which he played throughout his tenure in Blue Oyster Cult. And he thought it was time for a change.
“Rock bands always need bass players,” he said. “It’s a good fallback if you need a job. I kept it for 16 years. But towards the end of my time with Blue Oyster Cult, I felt frustrated. I really wanted to play more guitar.
“There was a whole pile of reasons why I left the band, but the constant touring was the main one. I needed to take time off and after doing that I realized it was time for me to find something else. I didn’t know how to do anything but be a rock star in a rock band. It was too easy for me. I like to go rough and go out on my own .
The Bouchard-Dunaway collaboration dates back to 1972.
“We were in North Carolina, this outdoor festival, and the Alice Cooper Band had finally gotten to the point where we were the headliners and we were looking for an opening act. (Drummer) Neal (Smith) and Alice (Cooper) and I were walking through the crowd, and Blue Oyster Cult came over and we were like, ‘Hey, let’s get these guys. ”
The two bands toured together for a while, but even Dunaway admitted, “We don’t remember gigs as much as parties.”
Upon befriending Dunaway discovered that the Bouchard brothers and lead guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser all lived in the same tri-state area of New York. He would meet them on a train and they would get together to party and jam.
During the final days of CBGB in October 2006, the Big Apple’s infamous punk and rock club, a number of fundraisers were held to help stave off its closure.
“We were all playing for free to try and help them out, and Joe and Albert and I ended up getting on stage,” Dunaway recalled. “The three of us did a few songs together, and this guy in the audience stood up and said, ‘Hey, I got a club in the Poconos and you guys have play there.
“We told him we weren’t really a band, but he offered us enough money to say yes. We did two sets without any rehearsals and the guy begged us to do a third set so people wouldn’t destroy the place. We ended up doing all the songs that we had heard in our lives, I think, that night,” Dunaway added with a laugh.
Dunaway’s illustrious history has several notable Canadian moments, including the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival Festival held in 1969 – the one where singer Cooper threw a chicken into the audience only to see it horribly torn apart by onlookers.
“We started using chickens in Detroit because Glen Buxton, our guitarist, was doing this thing where he was tapping his fingers on the strings and it reminded me of chickens clucking,” Dunaway explained. “So we thought it would be fun to have chickens appear on top of the amp. We’d let them loose around the club and if someone caught a chicken, they’d come backstage to bring it back, and we’d give out posters and everything.
“In Toronto, I think Alice really believed that chickens could fly when he threw one into the audience.”
Although Detroit-born Cooper – aka Vincent Furnier – is better known today as a solo performer and personality, “Alice Cooper” was actually the name of the whole band in the early days. The band first recorded avant-garde rock and migrated to Los Angeles, where they were first signed to Frank Zappa’s Bizarre Records label.
And speaking of that audition… Dunaway confirmed that they performed for Zappa at 7am after he had just returned from a long tour with his band, the Mothers Of Invention.
The band had pressured the woman babysitting Moon Unit, Zappa’s daughter, to ask Zappa to come hear them play. She finally succeeded and a time was set: 7 a.m.
While Zappa and his wife Gail slept, the band set up their gear and played rock music much to the family’s chagrin.
“He opened the bedroom door, stopped us and said, ‘Let me have a coffee and I’ll listen.’ And he ended up signing us.
The real magic of success happened when Toronto producer Bob Ezrin got involved. But Dunaway was involved in writing all of Cooper’s early big hits, including the rock anthems “I’m Eighteen” and “School’s Out,” as well as “Elected” and “Under My Wheels.”
About writing “School’s Out”? “We thought, what’s the most exciting thing about school? The last bell. We thought, ‘Well, any age can relate to that.’ This one fell on us. It was 50 years ago and this song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. We never imagined he would have such legs.
As with Joe Bouchard’s Blue Oyster Cult situation, seven albums and constant touring over six years took their toll on Dunaway – who said he suggested Furnier become a character for every song and also the black eye makeup which eventually became Alice Cooper’s signature – and the band went their separate ways, though Dunaway has toured with Cooper several times since.
“You become popular and all of a sudden it’s different than you imagined,” Dunaway explained. “The band had a hard time being alone in the room together because there were so many people in our house all the time or in hotel rooms or even cars. We would get in our limo and the kids in the disc -jockey would be in there, and we had to take another car and follow our own limo.
Things are much different with Blue Coupe, which plans to release a combined DVD/CD project called “When Legends Collide” in 2023.
“We’ve all been around the same block a few times, and we don’t mind going down the trenches and driving to concerts. And we’re having a lot of fun,” Dunaway said. “The Bouchard brothers always have a smile. They are easy to work with.
Joe Bouchard added: “A lot of people say we’re a lot like Blue Oyster Cult. Well, I was there…”
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