Blue Cheer gets a ‘second time around’

By Gus Bode

Blue Cheer gets a ‘second time around’

The main idea behind music is to convey an emotion or idea that the artist or band wishes to produce. That is pretty much true with most musicians, but rarely does the music itself take on a form other than simply constructed noise.

The artists whose music did just this are held in high esteem by music enthusiasts the world over for their sheer genius in creating music that can take on a life of its own. One band, however, Blue Cheer, was not as fortunate as its peers in this category.

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The San Francisco-based power trio Blue Cheer bombarded the bay area with a sonic assault unheard of at the time. Although the band has pretty much faded into obscurity, some of the band’s work is still being produced by Mercury Records.

“Vincebus Eruptum”, although only six songs long, contains an ideal documentation of the transition from rhythm and blues into a rather rudimentary form of heavy metal. The first track, a cover of Cochran’s “Summertime Blues,” is a prime example of how bands in this period began taking classic radio hits and modifying them to fit their own means.

Unlike the song’s slick, mainstream predecessor, Blue Cheer’s version has a dominant, groovy bass line accompanied by blistering vocals and steely guitar hooks. Rather than paying homage to Cochran, this band’s rendition actually gives the song new life.

Spin magazine claims that “Vincebus Eruptum” is one of the heaviest albums of all time. Spin also made the allegation that it was a precursor to the heavy metal masterpiece, the self-titled Black Sabbath debut. Although there is a certain heaviness to it, it has more of an R&B appeal, similar to that of The Who rather than the drudging power chords behind Sabbath’s debut.

Each song on the album marches onward through four songs with an unyielding ambition to not only serve as a symbolic gesture of vocalist Dick Peterson’s lyrics. It also serves as a living, breathing entity all its own. As the album continues, Blue Cheer becomes less and less a group of three men, but more and more a living, breathing beast by the name of Blue Cheer.

The final song, “Second Time Around,” serves as this beast’s swan song. Mainly instrumental, it lingers on, teetering precariously on the edge of a musical void. The band/album/beast doesn’t want to go down easily, and the passion and intensity of the music reflects this.

Distortion and feedback are the medium by which Blue Cheer creates its sonic tapestry, woven with crashing cymbals and screams emanating from the amplifiers. Rather than simply dissipating into the psychedelic ether of the late ’60s, these revolutionary sounds and methods of guitar manipulation are immortalized on this fine CD. Although the band is no more, the fruit of its efforts can be seen and heard even to this day, showing that the beast called Blue Cheer did not die in vain.

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