Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blue Cheer: Summertime Blues

This is an extra entry into the blogosphere, as I just got word that Dickie Peterson, bassist and lead vocalist, of Blue Cheer died in Germany on Monday, October 12, 2009. Peterson, 61, succumbed after contracting an infection following surgery to treat his liver cancer.

While the band had a cult following, they did break into the American charts in 1968 with their debut single, a cover of Eddie Cochran's “Summertime Blues” at #14 and album, "Vincebus Eruptum" at #11. Formed as a sextet in San Francisco, the band trimmed its membership to a power trio after seeing the Jimi Hendrix Experience live. They were the antithesis of the San Francisco sound of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and other bands which were thriving in the turbulent times of the late 60s.

Studio Version

Live Version

In the 1970s, Blue Cheer was awarded the distinction by the Guinness Book of World Records as being the loudest band in the world. In 1976, they were displaced by The Who – a group that also released “Summertime Blues” as single, albeit two years after Blue Cheer’s release.

Reportedly, Blue Cheer was the first American band to adopt Marshall Amplifiers that added to the high decibel levels during their concerts. There is a story, probably apocryphal, that a dog brought by his owners to a live outdoor show died of sonic exposure once the band began to play. We may never know if this story is true, partially true, or totally fiction.

Having never seen Blue Cheer live, I cannot testify to their noise levels; however, their recordings were all very heavy and certainly I can see where this was a great possibility. Of the many bands I have seen live, I will have to say A Flock of Seagulls 1982 show at Kings Island in Cincinnati was the loudest and most painful experience I've ever had at a concert - I can only imagine what Blue Cheer was like. I guess, I'll never know.

Rest in Peace, Dickie Peterson (1948-2009).

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