An April 8, 2000 Saturday Night Live
skit with Christopher Walken made fun of the extremely loud cowbell in this song. In the skit, the band would get upset when Will Ferrell would play the bell too loud, but Walken kept calling for "More Cowbell." In the skit, Walken plays a super-producer named Bruce Dickinson, who the band respects enough to put up with his cowbell antics. There really is a Bruce Dickinson (besides the Iron Maiden lead singer), but he didn't produce "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" - that was David Lucas, who also brought us the General Electric "we bring good things to life" and the AT&T "reach out and touch someone" jingles. Dickinson is an archivist who works on album reissues, which means gathering master tapes to ensure the best sound quality. He is credited as the reissue producer on a later version of the album, which apparently is how he was named in the sketch.
Lucas and Dickinson both appeared on the Just My Show
podcast, and Lucas explained that the cowbell was his idea, as the song "needed some momentum." He grabbed a cowbell from a nearby recording studio and "just played four on the floor… not hard to do." He found out about the SNL
skit when a friend instant messaged him as it was airing.
Dickinson says he's always felt a little funny about getting the producer role in the famous skit, but it has made life more interesting. Said Dickinson, "I work with Iggy Pop on a lot of stuff and a lot of times when he calls and I pick up the phone, he goes 'More cowbell!'"