Blue Cheer – Summertime Blues

28th April 2024 · 1960s, 1968, Music, Rock

Blue Cheer was never been anything more than a name to me – a late-Sixties band that I’d never actually heard. Now that I finally have… well, fucking hell!

The San Francisco power trio are not so much the missing link as the precursors of blues-rock (Hendrix, Cream) and heavy metal (Zeppelin, Sabbath) and proto-punk (MC5, Stooges).

Their sound is simple and primal, built on the bludgeoning riffs of Leigh Stephens (not necessarily in tune) and the thunderous rhythms of drummer Paul Whaley and bassist/vocalist Dickie Peterson (not necessarily in time).

That’s the template. But the distinguishing feature is the exuberantly incompotent soloing of Stephens – a sound memorably described in one review as “wind-howling terror.”

Dissonant and distorted, he treats his electric guitar like a wayward beast that needs to be tamed by any means necessary – just so long as it’s violent and painful.

Formed way back in 1966, before the Summer of Love that swept through their hometown, they must have scared the living daylights out of the hippies in Haight-Ashbury with their kaftans and tabs of acid and Grateful Dead albums.

Apparently in their heyday they were described as being “louder than God.” On their cover of Eddie Cochran’s immortal Summertime Blues – the first track from their 1968 album Vincebus Eruptum – you can hear why.