Flat Out Articles

In the Autumn of 1982, Portrait Records released Buck Dharma's solo record, "Flat Out." Over two years in the making, the project provided Buck with a great opportunity to spread his wings as a singer, songwriter and producer, as well make two videos for "Born to Rock" and "Your Loving Heart"

(From an article in CREEM magazine, April 1983, by Toby Goldstein)

Blue Öyster Cult's lead guitarist, hit songwriter and proud creator of solo album Flat Out is laughing so hard he's on the verge of falling out of his chair. "There was a small review of the record in Billboard, saying in part, 'Buck Dharma relies heavily on material by producer Donald Roeser,' not realizing..." that, of course, these to gentlemen are one and the same. Feeling closer to his Dharma incarnation than his given name since the album's been released, Buck claims to be comfortable with such a schizophrenic identity.

In fact, Buck Dharma is a man who leads several simultaneous lives, and is neatly mastering all of them. A self-described "leather boy rocker," Dharma is best known for his singing, quality-controlled guitar work with Blue Öyster Cult. For those who like to give credit where it's due, Buck is the author of the cult's two biggest single hits, "Don't Fear The Reaper" and "Burnin' For You." Currently, Dharma's pop roots are displayed on Flat Out, the result of over a year's worth of stolen hours when the Cult wasn't on tour. Last, but certainly not least, as Donald Roeser, he's a contented family man. As Dharma admits, his carious roles are always with him. "I have a medium profile where I live. I can't pass a day without some reference to Buck Dharma and the band."

Dharma realizes, however, that his being a highly esteemed founder-member of the decade-durable BÖC doesn't guarantee Cult fans unanimously praising Flat Out. "I can see the people who crave the more rabid stuff from the band not thinking this is as good as a BÖC record. I told the band years ago that I wanted to do a solo album, and I wasn't out to make a Cult record, either. I wanted to move toward my own musical view, which happens to be a little more pop than the rest of the band. I can't help it," Dharma shyly smiles. "I'm a pop guy." Gee, just because Flat Out contains lots of love songs and closes with a sweet, delicate version of "Come Softly to Me" duetted by Buck and his wife Sandy, I'd never have guessed he missed those golden years of three-minute AM radio classics...

"I grew up listening to Top 40 radio, and that's a long time ago," Buck recalls longingly. "Come Softly to Me" was the first song I ever made out to... I tell ya," He barely suppresses a peal of giggles, "that's a very important song for me."

"I used to have a crystal radio when I was about nine years old--it didn't have batteries, just headphones. I'd fall asleep with the headphones on, listening to this R'n'B station in Freeport (Long Island) called WGBB. I'd just let the stuff soak into my head. I was very undiscriminating as a kid; I would listen to everything and not make any value judgments at all. That came later. I thought the only things that wouldn't get on the radio were dirty songs--blue comedy records and songs like "Peppermint Stick". It wouldn't even be particularly provocative today!"

Dharma also absorbed his share of deathless -- make that teenage death, classics. His love of the morbid has followed him through the Cult right up to an almost unbelievable balled called "your Loving Hear" on Flat out. "I'm obsessed with death," Buck declares jovially, "and I don't know why. Last year my wife and I were sitting in front of the fireplace drinking wine and we just hammered out the story." In brief, the take concerns a dying man who ends up getting a heart transplant, courtesy of his girlfriend, who's killed in a car crash. "It's really heart-felt, if you'll pardon the pun," says Dharma. Naturally, it makes perfect sense to learn that Dharma admires such horror meisters as Stephen King and Peter Straub. Buck's especially proud that King quoted "The Reaper" in his epic-length novel, "The Stand."

By releasing Flat Out, Buck Dharma believes he's been given a new lease on life with Blue Öyster Cult, as well as finally satisfying his own ego. "It's made me un-frustrated as an artist. I felt I had to do it, I wanted to do it, and I'm glad I had the means to do it. The band, at that point had made 10 records, and I needed relief from the sameness of it. Everyone needs a hobby or a second job--this is essentially what this album is."

(From an article in KERRANG!) by Howard Johnson

"It's more of a song album than a guitar album. I wanted to develop myself as more of a performer, an overall rounding out of my character. I had some material which was not really suited to the band and so this was the natural thing to do. That certainly doesn't signify that there aren't any songs here which the Cult would have been able to put across without the slightest difficulty.

"Born to Rock" and "Cold Wind" were the two songs which the other guys wanted to do in particular, but since I'd gotten my solo contract on the strength of the demos which included those numbers, I had to keep them for myself. "Burnin' for You," was actually on those demos but the others were so persistent that I let it go. [to the BÖC record]

Those rough demos, recorded on a small Teac four-track recorder in Buck's house, eventually came to fruition with the help of four well-versed musicians who happened to need a break at the particular time.

"I worked with Rick Downey on the album even before he became Cult's drummer. I got hold of Neal Smith and Dennis Dunaway from Alice Cooper's band, then added Craig MacGregor, who had been with Foghat. They're all top class musicians and I really enjoyed working with them, although throughout the recording I wanted to be entirely responsible for the content and sound of the album."

"There's a more romantic edge to the content of this album. I wrote "Your Loving Heart" with my wife, and it concerns a guy who needs a heart transplant, but when the operation has been completed, the guy finds out it was his wife's heart which has been implanted into him! Although she's dead, his wife's loving heart is always with him.
"That's one of my favorite numbers on the album, along with "that summer Night" and "Cold Wind". There's much more to this particular guitar hero than the mere playing of the instrument, and maybe that's a sign of the true greatness of Buck Dharma. It's of little aesthetic or pragmatic use to be supremely proficient musically without being able to put that ability into a palatable form. there is so much more to it if you really wish to aspire to that "hero" role and reach it with any level of justification. When probed on the various instruments, the tools of the trade used on the record, Buck seems to brush it aside with casual indifference.

"I recorded with a standard Fender Strat fitted with a Floyd Rose tremolo arm, the use of which crops up a lot of the time on the record. I used some acoustic guitars and some standard Gibsons and I also played keyboards for the first time, which I found most satisfying. Probably the most interesting instrument I used was a six inch block of wood which I sawed through during the solo "Born to Rock". It blended in perfectly and we got it down in just two takes. You can see it was a lot of fun doing this album!" Fun indeed, but no doubt hectic, too. "Flat Out" was pieced together over quite a period of time at six different studios. Didn't that affect the continuity and feel of the adventure?

"It was a case of necessity dictated the circumstances. I was contracted to be on the tour with BÖC through the summer and so I had to work around that. It didn't register with me whether it affected what I was doing because ti was my first attempt at solo work and I didn't really know what to do. Whatever I like the way it turned out." So what prospects are there for another solo fling from the guitar hero?

"At the moment I have no backlog of material and there really isn't any more spare time just now. I'd like to perform this album live but there's the Cult to think of, and anyway I don't want to spend all my time performing because i have a wife and want to be at home more. We will be doing some of my songs with the Cult and these will probably be "that Summer Night" "all Tied Up" and "Born To Rock" but if some other tune takes off, we'll slip it in".

how has this most tasteful of guitarists' solo albums been received as it surely one of the albums deserving attention amongst those recently released?

"It's picked up some very strong airplay but the actual sales have been a little disappointed. That'll probably change when I go on the probably change when I go on the road with the band. There's not a lot I can do until we play live, apart from interviews and a video of "Your Loving Heart" which we made. It was pretty good, revolving around hospitals, operations and that kinda thing.

"I must admit that the studio side of things has become much more interesting for me lately. I got a great deal of satisfaction out of producing my own guitar sounds and I could see myself getting into that in the future. Sometime up the road I could carry on with my solo career because having total power and the time to develop my songs is really exciting. A lot of the stuff that happened on "Flat Out" was the result of things which happened off the cuff in the studio.

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