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Appropriate For: Halloween Costume, Maybe not best for casual wear
If you’re a fan of Blue Oyster Cult, then perhaps you already know that the cowbell was a contentious addition to their famous song, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”. Even former band member, Albert Bouchard admitted in an interview done by Fox that the band was missing a certain sound when producing their 1976 hit that made the Billboard Hot 100 list1. The SNL More Cowbell t-shirt is also here to commemorate this hilariousness.
Little did the band know that almost two and half decades later, fans everywhere would be asking fervently for, “MORE cowbell” in response to a Saturday Night Live skit starring Will Ferrell playing the instrument with almost excessive vigor.
Background on the SNL Skit
If you have seen the skit before, feel free to skip these next few paragraphs. But, for those readers who have not ever seen the original SNL cowbell skit, it starts off with a mock-up of Blue Oyster Cult in the recording studio seeking to record their newest song, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” It begins with Bruce Dickinson, played by Christopher Walken, walking into the studio and introducing himself to the band. The SNL cast does a great job selling the fact that the Blue Oyster Cult was, at the actual time of recording this song, a growing band. As a result, they make sure to show Dickinson how eager they are and to clearly explain how they want to make their new song great. Of course, Dickinson brags a bit about his past fame and then gets the band going on their first playthrough.
During the first playthrough, Gene Frenkle, played by Will Ferrell, is relatively calm and plays his instrument, the cowbell, normally. It is important to note his positioning in the studio as he is standing immediately behind the lead singer and the lead guitarist. Shortly after the band gets the song going, Eric Bloom, played by Chris Parnell, stops the gig and calls Dickinson back in to explain that the cowbell is distracting.
Much to their curiosity, Dickinson remarks that he thinks there should be more cowbell and that Frenkle should really get into the role. Frenkle makes a short statement supporting that Dickinson is a big name in the industry and says that they should follow his advice. As a result, the band starts playing again, but, this time, Frenkle is hitting the cowbell harder and is starting to jump around the studio with zeal. He even ends up bumping into his fellow band members while playing.
Throughout the skit, the band goes through frustration with Frenkle, and, much to their chagrin, Dickinson continues to come back with quips about how he needs even more cowbell – almost to the point of it overtaking the song. This comical back and forth led to what has been reported as one of the best SNL skits ever made, and it ends with an “in memoriam” statement for Frenkle to capitalize on the fake band’s dismay with the continued, “more cowbell.”
How to Dress Like Gene Frenkle
During the skit, Ferrell is dressed up in 1970’s-garb, inclusive of blue jeans, an all too tight (and too small) brown V-neck shirt and exposed chest hair. And, just in time for the famous skit’s 17th anniversary, is a one-of-a-kind, SNL More Cowbell T-Shirt to commemorate Ferrell’s role. Unlike any other gotta have more cowbell t-shirt that pays homage to this skit, this shirt doesn’t need words – instead it makes the person wearing look as though they are in the studio with the mock-up band.
Perfect for wearing to a party, for a night of watching the show or for just general wear, this SNL More Cowbell T-Shirt is crafted using dye sublimation. This process allows for more cowbell t-shirts that stand out with true colors and full details. In fact, this T-Shirt has a full-cover design meaning that it actually makes the wearer look as though they are in the real SNL garb. Better yet, this design is even fade-resistant when washing due to the dye sublimation process.
This More Cowbell T-Shirt will make you look like the real Gene Frenkle (Ferrell’s character) despite Blue Oyster Cult not actually ever having a single band member by that name. Yes, you heard that correct, there never was a band member in Blue Oyster Cult by that name even with its twenty-two-member history. And, despite the skit gaining wide notoriety, a fake band member was not the only inconsistency. For example, SNL put Jimmy Fallon to the task of playing Bobby Rondinelli on the drums. However, at the time of “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”, Albert Bouchard was the drummer, not Rondinelli. What’s more is that the skit even shows Chris Parnell playing the lead singer, Eric Bloom, even though the real lead singer was Donald “Buck” Dharma. The irony here is that Eric Bloom is actually the original cowbell player in the song!2
This SNL More Cowbell T-Shirt doesn’t have the same inconsistencies as the actual skit, but it is officially licensed SNL attire. Made from 100% polyester, this shirt is very comfortable and comes in all adult sizes. Many similar T-Shirts are selected to be made from cotton; however, there is a myriad of benefits to having this SNL More Cowbell T-Shirt made from polyester, instead. In fact, polyester allows this T-Shirt to be incredibly strong, meaning that it can withstand the elements – especially if you plan on jumping around like Frenkle in the SNL skit. Polyester is also resistant to mildew, abrasion and shrinking. These same qualities are not found within cotton.
In all honesty, this shirt is a great addition to any T-Shirt collection. The only drawback to this shirt is that, because there are no words and only design, those who are not familiar directly with the SNL skit may not quite get the gist of it without an explanation. The only real thing alluding to this shirt being from SNL is the gigantic cowbell image; but, without that, some may think this shirt is just a silly play on 1970’s attire. Therefore, some may find this shirt hard to wear casually as it may be a better costume-type T-Shirt due to its full-size image.
Digging Deeper Than the Cowbell
Design, alone, isn’t what makes this shirt a good wear. Yes, it has all of those qualities of a great T-Shirt, such as durability, resistance to fading during a wash, and a fun design. But what makes this shirt great is the same hidden quality that made the SNL skit an epic one in the first place: the cowbell is so simple, but it’s the hidden gem that holds the story behind the music.
If you haven’t listened to “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” in a while, now is a good time for a refresher. On first listen, you may notice the cowbell, but take note that it is a relatively light sound. In other words, the cowbell doesn’t stick out like Will Ferrell makes it the SNL skit. Many don’t even notice the cowbell until after they see the SNL episode. Thankfully, when wearing the SNL More Cowbell T-Shirt, the cowbell is prominently displayed on the front – it is impossible to miss!
As mentioned previously, the cowbell was not the first choice for an addition to the song “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” Nevertheless, many find it difficult today to imagine the song without it. It is, therefore, surprising that Albert Bouchard actually wanted to use a triangle to help fill the void. It wasn’t until the band’s producer, Sandy Pearlman, offered the use of a cowbell that the band even gave it a thought1.
Nevertheless, Blue Oyster Cult wasn’t sold upon the first introduction of the Cowbell. In fact, the band had to first wrap tape around the instrument to muzzle its boisterous sound and then use a softer mallet. It is ironic then that the SNL skit was found to ask for, “More Cowbell” when the band actually chose to dull the instrument so that the song didn’t get completely overtaken. In listening to the song today, it is apparent that they did a good job, nullifying the sound so that just enough cowbell is heard to drive the beat without it being overpowering. Certainly, Ferrell’s character, alone, brought out the excess both in instrumentality and dancing1.
Christopher Walken’s character should also be discussed. In the SNL skit and perhaps one of the bigger inconsistencies, Walken played the band’s manager, Bruce Dickinson. Walken, in a way, is the crux of the storyline in that the band starts out timid, hoping their sound will resonate. He is even introduced as “The” Bruce Dickinson. Reports say that the “the” was added to differentiate Walken’s fake character from the real living Bruce Dickinson who actually did work with Blue Oyster Cult2.
In the SNL skit, Dickinson is the driving force behind adding “more cowbell”. In response to this, Ferrell’s character starts to jump around wildly in an attempt to use that as a way to play the cowbell even louder. Of course, the comedy is in that the rest of the band starts to get annoyed since Ferrell is seen jumping around and being noticeably disruptive. This was, in part, the real band’s main concern before adding cowbell and is largely the reason they ended up using tools to dull the instrument’s sound. This SNL More Cowbell T-Shirt is guaranteed to not be as disruptive, but it will make a statement!
Wrapping it all Up
Overall, the magic of the “More Cowbell” SNL skit is that Will Ferrell really identified an area of the song, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” that might not have been noticed otherwise. It is hard to imagine how he did this since Blue Oyster Cult used a number of methods to dull out the cowbell’s normal sound so that it was not overpowering. But right there is what makes the SNL skit so great: it juxtaposes an intricate detail that actually caused the real band concern in one of their most famous songs. After all, the cowbell is usually for its metronome effect rather than its musical capability. However, in “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”, the band was actually able to use it to fill a musical void. When heard with the rest of the song, the music really blends and causes cohesion. As a result, the cowbell does not stand out as one would normally expect.
This is really where Ferrell did a great job in identifying the cowbell as part of the song. What if Blue Oyster Cult had actually used the cowbell as one would normally have expected? The question should be asked, would this song have made it to the Billboard Hot 100 list if that were the case? Regardless, SNL was able to identify this area and create an extremely comical skit that capitalized on an instrument that one doesn’t normally expect, or desire, to hear on a normal basis. That is, in essence, the exact twist and is perhaps why this skit has made the records as one of the most memorable SNL skits to air.
In that same light, this SNL More Cowbell T-Shirt captures that twist and puts it in T-Shirt form.
So, with all of that being said, and with the 17th anniversary of the SNL skit coming up, this SNL More Cowbell T-Shirt is a great addition to the wardrobe. It has all of the great qualities of a comfortable and long-lasting shirt, including being made from a dye sublimation process with a resistant polyester material. More importantly, though, this T-Shirt really captures the essence of the SNL skit and brings out the history of an otherwise monumental song from a very famous rock band. This SNL More Cowbell T-Shirt is sure to be the life of the party and will have everyone asking for, without a doubt, more cowbell!
1Fox5NY. “Blue Oyster Cult’s Albert Bouchard Explains the Cowbell that Spawned “SNL” Skit.” Online Video Clip. Youtube. Youtube, 29 September 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFTFTXDOzAc. 11 February 2017.
2Sliwicki, Susan. “Separate Blue Oyster Cult Fact From ‘More Cowbell’ Fiction.” Goldmine. 17 April 2013. http://www.goldminemag.com/article/separate-blue-oyster-cult-fact-from-more-cowbell-fiction. 11 February 2017.