Comedic ’80s band Blotto’s “Metal Head” video featured Blue Öyster Cult guitarist Buck Dharma

By on October 13, 2017

You never know what you’re going to find in the full episodes of “Night Flight” that we have streaming over on Night Flight Plus, and, since we can all use a few laughs these days, we thought we’d tell you about comedic early ’80s band Blotto’s “Metal Head” music video, which features a cameo appearance by Buck Dharma of Blue Öyster Cult, one of the several bands also featured in this particular episode which aired first on June 21, 1983.

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Blotto — hailing from Albany, New York — first achieved national exposure when their video for  “I Wanna Be A Lifeguard” was aired on MTV’s first full day, August 1, 1981, wedged in between videos for Iron Maiden’s “Wrathchild” and Rod Stewart’s “Passion.”

While it’s true that MTV probably had to air whatever music videos they could lay their hands on, the truth was that Blotto’s “Lifeguard” video — depicting a shoe salesman who dreams of being a lifeguard — was actually a favorite of a couple of Blotto’s friends, who had just happened to find jobs working at MTV.

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Blotto had evolved from an earlier band, the Star Spangled Washboard Band, a comedic and cornball “post-hippie” jugband who we believe had started out as a mime troupe.

For a few years, the Star Spangled Washboard Band played monthly gigs at a Saratoga, NY club called 17 Maple Avenue, before officially changing their name to the more new wave-sounding Blotto.

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Inspired by the Ramones, those musicians all took the name “Blotto” as their surname: “Bowtie Blotto” (vocals, guitar), “Sarge Blotto” (lead vocals, percussion, and graphic designer), Keith “Cheese Blotto” Stephenson (bass), “Broadway Blotto” (guitar), and “F. Lee Harvey Blotto” (drums).

“Blanche Blotto” — their short-lived lead singer and keyboardist, who also inspired their drumhead lady logo — was later replaced by “Chevrolet Blotto.”

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The name Blotto apparently was inspired by the dog in a popular 1931 novel by Thorne Smith, Nightlife of the Gods, although it was also a hip slang term for drunkeness going back to the 1920s (Laurel & Hardy also made a pre-Code short film with that title).

Read more about Blotto below.

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Two SUNY-Albany students thought that Blotto’s song would make for a fun senior project, and so they made a music video of the band lip-synching to their song “I Wanna Be a Lifeguard.”

“Lifeguard” — featured on their EP Hello! My Name is Blotto, What’s Yours?, released on February 18, 1980 — never officially charted, although it became a regional hit in the greater New York area.

In addition to playing upstate NY clubs, Blotto gained a loyal following at NYC clubs like the Ritz, SNAFU, Eighty-Eight, and My Father’s Place (the band had moved to New York City after graduation).

It was WNEW-FM deejay Vin Scelsa who first gave “I Wanna Be A Lifeguard” — which became the offiicial theme song of the Jones Beach Lifeguards — its first airplay, which then led to others (including WQBK and Top Forty stations WFLY and 3WD) also playing it.

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Blotto hosted “pajama parties,” held “Miss Blotto” beauty pageants, and even threw a Halloween Hop concert (which later became their annual “Blottoween” show).

After their video was played on MTV, they became an even bigger club band, up and down the eastern seaboard, particularly among college students.

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Most of their songs — including their “teen death” anthem “My Baby’s the Star of a Driver’s Ed Movie,” and “She’s Got a Big Boyfriend,” a cautionary tale about dating somebody else’s girl — were considered novelty or “party” songs because they skewered popular genres like heavy metal, surf rock and lounge acts.

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In 1982, Blue Öyster Cult guitarist Buck Dharma — B.O.C.’s manager Sandy Pearlman had wanted them to have unusual stage names, but Long Island, NY-native Donald Roeser’s was the only one that stuck — wandered into their recording studio.

Dharma heard them playing “Metal Head,” which parodies heavy metal fanatics, and Blotto were able to convince him to sit in on the track, adding a guitar solo.

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Dharma ended up producing the song — which appeared on their album Combo Akimbo, charting at #1 on college radio stations throughout the Northeast — and even made a cameo appearance in their video.

Dharma then asked Blotto to open for Blue Öyster Cult on their upcoming tour, and he and Blotto’s guitarist, Broadway Blotto, ended up co-writing “Dragon Lady,” a track on B.O.C.’s The Revolution By Night.

B.O.C. producer Bob Clearmountain was behind the boards for Blotto’s next single, the drive-in makeout tune “When The Second Feature Starts.”

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At some point during the early ’80s, Blotto had even attracted the attention of actor Burt Ward (yes, “Robin” on TV’s “Batman” series), who became their manager.

However, even with all the local success and constant touring — not to mention the stories and articles in Rolling Stone, Trouser Press, and Penthouse, airplay on Dr. Demento’s nationally-syndicated radio show, and a handful of appearances on TV shows like “Uncle Floyd Show,” and Mike Douglas’ nationally-syndicated TV talk show — they never managed to sign to a major record company, even though both Atlantic Records and Boardwalk Records were interested.

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Blotto ended up self-releasing all of their albums, singles & EPs on their own label, which was distributed by Peter Pan Records, who were better known for selling children’s albums and “jazzercize” recordings.

A VHS home video featuring “I Wanna Be A Lifeguard,” “Metal Head” and “I Quit” was also distributed as a Sony “Video 45.”

Blotto finally ended up calling it a day — except for the occasional reunion gig — in 1984.

Watch Blotto’s “Metal Head” video — included in our June 21, 1983 episode, which also features interviews with Blue Öyster Cult’s Allen Lanier and Joe Bouchard, and performances by Black Sabbath and lots of other great bands — over on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.