Classic hard rock band Blue Coupe — featuring original Alice Cooper bassist Dennis Dunaway and multi-instrumentalist Joe Bouchard and his brother, drummer Albert Bouchard (co-founders of Blue Öyster Cult) — will perform at the City Winery in New York, May 31. The dynamic and intelligent trio will open for Ian Hunter and the Rant Band at their celebration of Hunter’s 80th birthday. (Hunter, whose birthday is June 3, and the Rant Band will perform songs written for Mott the Hoople. The show is sold out; to get on the waiting list, visit citywinery.com.)
The Bouchard brothers — known for helping to create the masterpiece “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” and other Blue Öyster Cult hits, including “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll” and “Astronomy” — combine their emotional, high-energy songs with Dunaway’s legendary bass moves to create fresh classic rock sounds. Dunaway co-wrote, along with other members of the original Alice Cooper group, many hits, including “School’s Out,” “I’m Eighteen” and “Under My Wheels.”
The Bouchard brothers and Dunaway have performed on albums that have sold more than 15 million copies, and have been awarded with more than 30 gold and platinum records worldwide. About half a century later, these songs endure. Indeed, as the school year comes to a close, I’ve heard “School’s Out” blaring from young drivers’ cars in my town.
“Saturday Light Live” viewers might recall a 2000 skit that fictionalizes the recording of “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” Christopher Walken plays a music producer demanding “more cowbell” from a band member. Featuring Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon and other cast members, the skit grew wildly popular, giving the phrase “more cowbell” a place in pop culture.
The Bouchards are both inductees in the Long Island Hall of Fame, and Dunaway was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame (as a songwriter), and the New England Hall of Fame.
Blue Coupe’s history goes back to 2008, when the Bouchard brothers joined Dunaway at a CBGB show and a club owner asked them to play for him in the Poconos. Not a nostalgia act, Blue Coupe have released two albums, with everyone contributing to the songwriting, and are working on a third. It should be released later this summer, said Dunaway.
“We have spent a lot more time on this record than our other two put together,” said Albert Bouchard. “We need to make sure that we could feel an emotional connection to every song, whether it made us laugh or cry. We feel that the new music on this record represents us more faithfully than any of the others.”
“Each of us has our own distinctive playing style that is recognizable to fans that follow our respective successes,” said Dunaway. “That’s part of our sound. But as artists, we’re constantly evolving, and that’s what keeps things exciting.”
The three have known each other since 1972, when Blue Öyster Cult opened for Alice Cooper’s School’s Out Tour.
“Alice Cooper had become headliners and we were looking for a group to open some shows with us,” said Dunaway. “We were walking around at an outdoor festival in North Carolina in 1972, and Blue Öyster Cult started playing. They had a giant backdrop with their logo on it. I said to Alice, ‘We should get these guys to open for us.’ That’s when we met them and became friends.”
Al Bouchard remembers that “in early 1972, our manager Sandy Pearlman took us to see the Alice Cooper Group when they played nearby, (at) the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, N.J. We were all riding in the singer’s (Eric Bloom’s) van and as we crossed the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey. Blue Öyster Cult’s first single, ‘Cities on Flame With Rock and Roll,’ came on WABC radio. It was the first time I had ever heard my voice on the radio. Needless to say, I was already in a good mood when I saw them, but by the end of that ACG show I could barely breathe. A couple months later, we were opening shows for them. That was crazy. And how could I imagine our lives would be even more intertwined as the years go by?”
Joe Bouchard worked with Dunaway and Dunaway’s brother-in-law Neal Smith (drummer for Alice Cooper) in the 1990s and 2000s, touring England, France and the United States. He thought their tribute shows to Alice Cooper’s guitarist Glen Buxton, who died in 1997, were particularly memorable.
“Neal doesn’t like traveling and the rigors of touring, so he dropped out of the trio we had,” Joe Bouchard said. “Albert loves playing shows so it was easy to bring him into the situation. That led us to this Blue Coupe band with two, and soon to be three, studio albums and a great summer of shows, starting with the Ian (Hunter) show at the Winery.”
Hunter has co-written songs with Bloom for Blue Öyster Cult albums, and Bloom has sung on Hunter’s solo albums. When Joe Bouchard was working with Dunaway and Smith, they ran into Hunter at a Connecticut magazine shop and exchanged phone numbers. A few months later, Hunter agreed to help them with some songs for an upcoming album. “It was like a master class in creativity,” said Joe Bouchard.
Blue Coupe’s previous albums are Tornado on the Tracks, (2010), featuring guitarist Robby Krieger of The Doors on the song “Angel’s Well,” and Million Miles More (2013), featuring Alice Cooper, Tish and Snooky of Manic Panic, Buck Dharma of Blue Öyster Cult and Goldy McJohn of Steppenwolf.
“Some songs draw from real-life experiences,” said Dunaway. “Like, ‘Keep Rollin’ On’ is inspired by a friend that kept a positive attitude despite losing her husband in the 9/11 tragedy, while other songs are created from fantasy situations — like ‘Day After Day,’ which is about being in love with someone that’s already in a relationship.”
“If you look at the big picture, Alice Cooper and Blue Öyster Cult wrote songs about unusual subjects for songs, especially pop songs,” said Albert Bouchard. “This was in an era when there was a market for something other than the most blatant appeal to basic instincts. That is our groove and we’ve stayed in it, for the most part … Each of us, as an individual, has a certain style that our fans expect to hear from us, and whether we’re playing a Blue Öyster Cult song or an Alice Cooper song or a song from our own catalog. We bring our own individual styles to every performance.”
“Blue Öyster Cult always got out on a limb with song themes,” said Joe Bouchard. “Sci-fi, aliens, classic movies etc. We love that stuff, so more is coming.”
He added, “I’ve been writing songs with sci-fi writer John Shirley, and two songs will be on the next album. He’s a very creative guy and connects the dots from the paranormal to current events.”
Albert Bouchard said that playing in Blue Coupe differs from his work with Blue Öyster Cult because of the trio’s “great effort to be egalitarian in the responsibilities for running the group. Each of us has their own specialties and we take advantage of that.”
Joe Bouchard added, “to me, it’s not that different. ‘Let’s just write the best songs we can, then record them as best as we can.’ It’s only three of us who make all the decisions; we self-produce our work. We hope our songs connect with the public because we know they will connect with the hardcore fanbase. But often we go farther than that.
“People have commented that my style is the Blue Öyster Cult style. Well, yeah, of course, that’s in my blood.”
He has tried other musical styles, like composing music for a ballet company, “but my strength is what I do best,” he said.
Blue Coupe will perform at the Sweden Rock festival on June 8. “We’re comfortable performing at a festival because we’ve all done it so many times,” said Dunaway. “We’ve learned to adjust our set list for the occasion, so ‘More Cowbell’ won’t be in the set because the call and response many not be as effective due to the language barrier.”
Their upcoming shows in the United States will include an appearance at the Great South Bay Music Festival in Patchogue, N.Y., July 21.
For more on the band, visit bluecoupeband.com.
CONTRIBUTE TO NJARTS.NET
Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of $10, or any other amount, to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJ Arts Daily to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.