Joan Crawford was one of the most popular actresses of the 1920s and 1930s. She died in 1977, and the next year, her adopted daughter Christina wrote the book Mommie Dearest, which claimed that Crawford abused her and her brother Christopher. The book was made into a film starring Faye Dunaway, which was released in September 1981, a few months after this song appeared on the album Fire of Unknown Origin.
The song, alternately titled "Joan Crawford Has Risen From The Grave," is filled with absurdist lyrics, envisioning an apocalyptic scene where anarchy rules and Crawford returns from the dead. It was very timely, as Crawford was top of mind thanks to the Mommie Dearest film.
Blue Öyster Cult used an eclectic mix of lyricists to help compose their songs. This was was written by their drummer Albert Bouchard along with a New York based musician named Jack Rigg and a comedian named David Roter.
The band made a video for this song that proved controversial, as it showed Catholic schoolgirls turning into vampires, with one of the girls happening upon an intimate encounter between her mother and a man.
The video was made around the same time MTV went on the air - August 1, 1981. Blue Öyster Cult was one of very few popular American bands making videos at the time, but MTV didn't touch this one, since they didn't wanted to get booted off cable companies. MTV did play the other video BÖC made from Fire of Unknown Origin: "Blue Öyster Cult." Exposure on the network propelled that song to #40 in the US, while "Joan Crawford" failed to chart.
At the 3:26 mark, a spooky voice says, "Christina." This is a reference to Crawford's daughter Christina, who wrote Mommie Dearest. The implication is that Crawford is coming back from the dead to seek revenge on her.