When Blue Oyster Cult released Secret Treaties in April 1974, their future standing as bona fide hard-rock legends was anything but guaranteed. It certainly helped that the band’s third album – and the final installment in their so-called “black and white” triptych – happened to be the best effort yet.

Their sophomore outing, Tyranny and Mutation, had undoubtedly paid off on some of the tenuous promises made by the group’s eponymous debut. But its inconsistent songwriting and sheer aesthetic schizophrenia clearly revealed Blue Oyster Cult’s lingering directional uncertainty.

Eric Bloom, Donald Roeser, Allen Lanier, and Joe and Albert Bouchard were clearly still searching for their identity, and most agree that Secret Treaties is where they truly found it. Their songwriting abilities had improved enough to let them carry on exploring a relatively varied range of musical styles and lyrical themes within a mostly heavy-rock framework.

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Blue Oyster Cult had some talented friends helping them out, too. Punk star-in-waiting Patti Smith penned the words for the new LP’s irresistible opener, "Career of Evil," while pioneering rock critic Richard Meltzer provided lyrics for the unapologetic "Cagey Cretins" and the downright creepy "Harvester of Eyes." (Both lyric-writing pals had already lent some help on Tyranny and Mutation.)

Elsewhere, band manager Sandy Pearlman handled the bulk of Blue Oyster Cult’s cryptic wordplay, but the main band crafted the all-important, increasingly accomplished songs supporting them — including future concert favorites like the hard-driving "Dominance and Submission" and the astonishingly finessed, piano-led "Astronomy."

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Secret Treaties was also Blue Oyster Cult's first filler-free LP, thanks to sturdy deep tracks like Bloom’s ominous "Subhuman," the beefed-up, turbo-charged ’50s rock of "ME 262" and the dynamic and dramatic "Flaming Telepaths," featuring particularly stunning leads from six-string hero Buck Dharma.

It all catapulted Secret Treaties to a gold certification by the RIAA and elevated Blue Oyster Cult to arena headliners for the year-long touring that soon followed — later commemorated by the first of many live albums, On Your Feet or on Your Knees.

By the time the band began working on the fourth studio album Agents of Fortune in late 1975, Blue Oyster Cult had struck a secret treaty with hard-rock fans everywhere and established a momentum that would keep them roaring right through the '70s.

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They have never been a paint-by-numbers rock 'n' roll band.

Gallery Credit: Dave Swanson

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