Fire of Unknown Origin

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Fire of Unknown Origin
Fire Of Unknown origin.jpg
Cover art by Greg Scott
Studio album by
ReleasedJune, 1981[1]
RecordedSpring, 1981
StudioKingdom Sound Studios, Long Island, New York
The Automatt, San Francisco, California
ProducerMartin Birch
Blue Öyster Cult chronology
Cultösaurus Erectus
Fire of Unknown Origin
Extraterrestrial Live
Singles from Fire of Unknown Origin
  1. "Burnin' for You" / "Vengeance (The Pact)"
    Released: July 1981
  2. "Burnin' for You" / "Heavy Metal: the Black and Silver"
    Released: September 1981
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[2]
Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal9/10[3]

Fire of Unknown Origin is the eighth album by the American hard rock band Blue Öyster Cult, released in June 1981. It was produced by Martin Birch.

The album, which included the Top 40 hit "Burnin' for You" (#1 on Billboard's Album Rock Tracks chart) represented a resurgence of the group's commercial standing after two albums with disappointing sales. Fire of Unknown Origin would be the final studio LP featuring the band's original lineup; during the subsequent tour, the band fired original drummer Albert Bouchard.


Several of the songs were intended for the soundtrack of the animated film Heavy Metal, such as "Vengeance (The Pact)," the lyrics of which follow in detail the plot of the "Taarna" segment of the movie. However, only the song "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" (ironically not written for the film), co-written by science fiction author Michael Moorcock, ended up in the film's final version and soundtrack. The title track was used in episode 17 of season 1 of Supernatural.

The album's closing track, "Don't Turn Your Back," marks Allen Lanier's final songwriting contribution to Blue Öyster Cult; it was played live by the group for the first time on June 17, 2016, at a special concert highlighting Lanier's music.[4]

"Joan Crawford" was a moderate success, reaching #49 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.[5] The subject of the song is the actress of the same name, who had died four years before the song's release. A music video was created for the song, which was famously banned by MTV for featuring a sexually suggestive scene.[6]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1."Fire of Unknown Origin"Eric Bloom, Albert Bouchard, Joe Bouchard, Donald Roeser, Patti SmithBloom4:09
2."Burnin' for You"Roeser, Richard MeltzerRoeser4:29
3."Veteran of the Psychic Wars"Bloom, Michael MoorcockBloom4:48
4."Sole Survivor"Bloom, Liz Myers, John TriversBloom4:04
5."Heavy Metal: The Black and Silver"Bloom, A. Bouchard, Sandy PearlmanBloom3:16
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
6."Vengeance (The Pact)"A. Bouchard, J. BouchardJ. Bouchard4:41
7."After Dark"Bloom, Myers, TriversBloom4:25
8."Joan Crawford"A. Bouchard, Jack Rigg, David RoterBloom4:55
9."Don't Turn Your Back"A. Bouchard, Allen Lanier, RoeserRoeser4:07


Band members
Additional musicians
  • Karla DeVito – background vocals on track 4
  • Sandy Jean – background vocals on track 9
  • Bill Civitella, Tony Cedrone – additional percussion on track 3
  • Jesse Levy – string arrangements on tracks 3 and 8
  • Martin Birch – producer, engineer, mixing
  • Clay Hutchinson – engineer
  • Paul Stubblebine – mastering
  • Greg Scott – album artwork



Year Chart Position
1981 RPM50 (Canada) 21[8]
Billboard 200 (US) 24[9]
UK Albums Chart 29[10]


Year Title Chart Position
1981 "Burnin' for You" Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks (US) 1[11]
Billboard Hot 100 (US) 40[12]
RPM100 Singles (Canada) 47[13]
UK Singles Chart 76[14]
"Joan Crawford" Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks (US) 49[15]

Sales Certifications[edit]

Year Country Organization Sales
1982 U.S. RIAA Gold (500,000+)[16]
Canada CRIA Gold (50,000+)[17]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Jurek, Thom. "Blue Öyster Cult - Fire of Unknown Origin review". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
  3. ^ Popoff, Martin (November 1, 2005). The Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal: Volume 2: The Eighties. Burlington, Ontario, Canada: Collector's Guide Publishing. p. 54. ISBN 978-1-894959-31-5.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Blue Öyster Cult Top Songs". VF Entertainment. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
  6. ^ "BÖC MTV Style Videos". Blue Öyster Cult. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
  7. ^ Popoff, Martin (March 2009). "Fire of Unknown Origin". Blue Öyster Cult: Secrets Revealed! (2 ed.). Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Power Chord Press. pp. 169–170. ISBN 0-9752807-0-8.
  8. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 35, No. 7, September 12, 1981". Library and Archives Canada. September 12, 1981. Retrieved September 23, 2018.
  9. ^ "Blue Öyster Cult Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  10. ^ "Blue Oyster Cult Official Charts". Official Charts Company. Retrieved April 5, 2016.
  11. ^ "Blue Öyster Cult Chart History: Mainstream Rock Tracks". Billboard. Retrieved September 23, 2018.
  12. ^ "Blue Öyster Cult Chart History: Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved September 23, 2018.
  13. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 35, No. 12, October 17, 1981". Library and Archives Canada. October 17, 1981. Retrieved September 23, 2018.
  14. ^ "Burning for You by Blue Öyster Cult". Music Retrieved September 23, 2018.
  15. ^ "Rock Albums & Top Tracks". Billboard. August 29, 1981. p. 26.
  16. ^ "RIAA Gold & Platinum Database: Search for Blue Oyster Cult". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved September 23, 2018.
  17. ^ "Gold Platinum Database – Search for Blue Oyster Cult". Music Canada. Retrieved September 23, 2018.