The founding late-Sixties lineup of the San Francisco power trio Blue Cheer — singer-bass guitarist Dickie Peterson, drummer Paul Whaley and guitarist Leigh Stephens — was so loud that the band literally recorded half of its second album, Outsideinside, outdoors, on waterfront piers. There was so much amp hum on Blue Cheer’s infamous debut, 1968’s Vincebus Eruptum, that it was practically a fourth instrument. And in one memorable ’68 TV appearance, promoting their freak hit cover of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues,” the group — armed with a long wall of Marshall speaker cabinets — was introduced by host Steve Allen this way: “Blue Cheer. Run for your lives.”
The terror is back. The Blue Cheer that turned up — and turned it up — at CBGB on June 20th featured Peterson, Whaley with long-serving guitarist Andrew “Duck” MacDonald and resurrected the whole of Vincebus Eruptum and chunks of Outsideinside, with every needle on the soundboard pinned to the red.
But this was volume with character — an overflow of harmonics in each feedback shriek; genuine physical lift in Peterson’s and Whaley’s combined boom — basically played by an extremist blues band. “This is what we do to jazz,” Peterson growled wryly before Blue Cheer mauled Mose Allison’s “Parchment Farm” with a light-speed zigzag riff and Whaley’s tight tom-tom and kick-drum eruptions. And Blue Cheer found the same Godzilla-sized bravado and despairing armageddon in Albert King’s “The Hunter: and Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man” that they unleashed in the closing atonal surge of Vincebus’ “Second Time Around” and the extended seizures in “Doctor Please.”
Blue Cheer— still louder and meaner than any of their stoner-rock or doom-metal children — are touring North America through late July. Run for your lives — into the din.