This is the first track on Blue Öyster Cult's third album, Secret Treaties. Patti Smith (yes, the punk icon who is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), supplied the lyric.
Smith had not yet released her first solo album, but came into the BÖC orbit early on and started dating their keyboard player, Allen Lanier. The group welcomed lyric contributions from anyone with the chops, including the rock writer Richard Meltzer and their manager Sandy Pearlman. At their "band house" in Long Island, the band members would go through these lyrics and pick different selections to work into songs. Smith's first contribution was "Baby Ice Dog" on the group's 1973 album Tyranny and Mutation.
"Career of Evil" began as a piece written by Smith called Poem Of Isidore Ducasse, which is inspired by Les Chants de Maldoror, a poem by the French author Isidore Ducasse (1846-1870) who wrote using the pseudonym Comte de Lautreamont. The group's drummer, Albert Bouchard, put music to the words.
This is a rather disturbing song about a nefarious individual with no moral boundaries. He makes a continuous series of threats, which are both terrifying and ridiculous, made more absurd by the SAT words in the first line:
I plot your rubric scarab, I steal your satellite
The Secret Treaties album, at one point titled Power In The Hands Of Fools, has a loose concept based on the character Desdenova (an H. P. Lovecraft inspiration), who according to the group's manager Sandy Pearlman, has "made a secret treaty with the ambassadors of Plutonia."
This dark fantasy meshed with the group's heavy sound to create an ambitious album that lead singer Eric Bloom considers their best. Melody Maker readers agreed, naming it the Top Rock Album Of All Time in a 1975 poll.
"Career of Evil" was released as a single, but failed to chart. The group didn't crack the Hot 100 until 1976 with "(Don't Fear) The Reaper."
The single release was toned down a bit, with the line "I'd like to do it to your daughter on a dirt road" changed to "I'd like to do it like you oughta on a dirt road."
J. K. Rowling titled her 2015 novel Career of Evil after this song. Written under the penname Robert Galbraith, the book tells the story of a serial killer who keeps the body parts of his victims. Blue Öyster Cult lyrics appear throughout, including in the chapter headings.
Mo'0 from NycNot only did the single tone down the lyrics (which wrecked the song) - it also did away with most of the "twin lead" vocals where Eric Bloom and A.Bouchard sing in p4th or p5th harmony throughout most of the verse(s). Spending "your ransom money but still keeping your sheep.".. after 'doing it' to your daughter on a 'dirt road'..... PURE EVIL LOL. Fantastic lyric by the great Patti Smith - sets the tone of album perfectly. "Secret Treaties" is absolutely one of the greatest recordings of the 1970s - and I'm not being facetious or sarcastic - deadly serious... it's that good. "TOO MUCH REVOLUTION...THEN..." Indeed.