“I’ve got a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell!”
In uttering that line during the April 8 2000 epic Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Will Ferrell’s fictional take on the recording of Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”, Christopher Walken set in motion a super-meme that has been used in everything from TV shows and movies, animation films, charity events, to online games. Its use has become so widespread that Walken has bemoaned audiences shouting out “needs more cowbell” during his stage shows, and Ferrell has commented that he thinks it has probably ruined Walken’s life. Blue Oyster Cult also weighed in saying that they loved the skit and it has probably lessened the eerie nature of the original track.
According to Ferrell the skit was inspired when, hearing the cowbell played during the song, he wondered “what kind of life does that person have?”. Despite the widespread popularity of the meme, the song in fact has a very muted use of the instrument that was almost a staple of rock music in the 70s. Even the band members were unhappy with its use, with drummer Albert Bouchard – who, despite contrary claims, was the cowbell player – saying that they thought it sounded “like crap” and, in a similarity to the skit, it was their producer – David Lucas, not the skit’s ‘The Bruce Dickinson’ – who insisted on including it. It was kept in only after heavy modification with tape and being played with a timpani mallet to deaden the sound so it actually sounds more like a wood block than a cowbell. To me that adds to the humour as it parodies the prominent use of the percussion instrument in so many other songs of the time, and since.
So in homage to the SNL skit, the meme and BOC’s genre defining song, Hong Kong Beat offers this set for rockers who have the fever!