Blue Cheer
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(Translated from the Italian by Ornella C. Grannis)

Hard-rock and heavy-metal were born in 1968 thanks to the efforts of a trio who relocated to San Francisco. In that year Blue Cheer released two albums with a terrifying sound that staked it all on deafening amplification of the guitar riffs of Leigh Stephens and the bass riffs Dickie Peterson. The group belonged to the psychedelic platoon ("blue cheer" was a name for LSD) and played out its acid trip with a vengeance. Their atomic version of Summertime Blues (1968) by Eddie Cochran, followed by the anthem Out Of Focus (1968), made them famous.

Vincebus Eruptum (Philips, January 1968 - Mercury, 2005) is one continuous sound barrage. The riffs come about slowly, dreadful and hyper-distorted, built around depraved melodies, in particular those written by Petersen: Doctor Please, Out Of Focus, Second Time Around.

Outside Inside (Philips, August 1968) contains cuts like Magnolia Caboose and Babylon, forerunners of the melodic hard-rock that would explode a year later in Great Britain, pieces imbued with heavy psychedelic aromas like Feathers From Your Tree, Like, and Get It, and songs with echoes of their fellow San Francisco musicians' acid-rock, Sun Cycle and Gypsy Ball. The singles Just A Little Bit and The Hunter,by Booker T Jones, are less than mediocre.

For New Improved (Philips, 1969) Randy Holden of the Other Half (Acta, 1968), perhaps the only guitarist in those years who could compete with Stephens, took his place in the band. By then, songs such as Piece Of Mind hardly belonged to hard-rock anymore, and more properly to British progressive-rock. Holden was already gone, replaced by Gary Yoder of the Kak (Epic, 1969). Holden, would eventually release Population II (Hobbit, 1970) accompanied only by a drummer, an album of hard-rock containing four lengthy jams (notably Guitar Song and the ten-minute Keeper Of My Flame) plus two brief vignettes.

Bruce Stephens formed a new trio, the Mint Tattoo (1969), whose only album includes a version of Scorpio Woman worthy of Blue Cheer. Leigh Stephens, instead, also recorded the solo album Red Weather (Philips, 1969), with Nicky Hopkins at the piano, and A Cast Of Thousands (Charisma, 1971). He later formed Pilot, with whom he released Pilot (RCA, 1972) and Point of View (RCA, 1973).

Blue Cheer, with Petersen as the only surviving founding member, ended after three more albums: Blue Cheer (1969), that gets lost in a parlor blues-rock, Original Human Being (1970), that shows exuberance in Pilot and Good Times - perhaps the most mature and organic album of Petersen's career, and Oh Pleasant Hope (1971), that gets lost in generic ballads like the title track, the rough Ecological Blues notwithstanding.

Louder Than God (Rhino, 1986) is a very good anthology.

The band continued to play in the 80s and released The Beast Is Back (Megaforce, 1985) recorded live, and a collection of new songs, Highlights And Low Lives (Nibelung, 1990), with Duck McDonald on guitar and Dick Peterson on bass, followed by Dining With The Sharks (Blue Cheer, 1991) and several live albums.

L'hard-rock e l'heavy-metal nacquero nel 1968 per opera di un trio di San Francisco. In quell'anno i Blue Cheer pubblicarono due album dal sound terrificante, che puntava quasi tutto su un'amplificazione assordante dei riff di chitarra (il californiano Leigh Stephens) e di basso (Dickie Peterson, l'unico a non essere nato in California). Il gruppo apparteneva al plotone psichedelico ("blue cheer" e` una variante dell'LSD) ma trasferiva gli "acid trip" della droga in carica selvaggia. A renderli celebri fu un'atomica versione della Summertime (1968) di Eddie Cochran, seguita dall'anthem Out Of Focus (1968).

Vincebus Eruptum (Philips, january 1968 - Mercury, 2005) e` un unico, continuo muro del suono. I riff si sviluppano lentamente ma immani e iper-distorti attorno a melodie depravate (in particolare quelle scritte da Petersen, Doctor Please, Out Of Focus, Second Time Around).

Outside Inside (Philips, august 1968) contiene brani anticipatori dell'hard-rock melodico che esplodera` l'anno dopo in Gran Bretagna (Magnolia Caboose, Babylon) e imbevuti di ruvidi aromi psichedelici (Feathers From Your Tree, Come And Get It) con echi dell'acid-rock dei concittadini (Sun Cycle, Gypsy Ball). I singoli Just A Little Bit e The Hunter (di Booker T Jones) sono men che mediocri.

Per New Improved (Philips, 1969) Stephens venne sostituito da Randy Holden degli Other Half (Acta, 1968), forse l'unico che in quegli anni poteva fargli concorrenza. Pezzi come Piece Of Mind appartengono sempre meno all'hard-rock e semmai al progressive-rock dei complessi britannici. Holden era gia` partito, sostituito da Gary Yoder dei Kak (Epic, 1969). Holden, accompagnato soltanto da un batterista, avrebbe poi inciso Population II (Hobbit, 1970), an album of hard-rock contenente four lengthy jams (notably Guitar Song and the ten-minute Keeper Of My Flame) plus two brief vignettes.

Bruce Stephens formo` un nuovo trio, i Mint Tattoo (1969), il cui unico album contiene almeno una Scorpio Woman degna dei Blue Cheer. Leigh Stephens invece registro` anche gli album solisti Red Weather (Philips, 1969), forte di Nicky Hopkins al piano, e Cast Of Thousands (Charisma, 1971), prima di formare i Pilot, di cui usciranno Pilot (RCA, 1972) e Point of View (RCA, 1973).

I Blue Cheer (Petersen l'unico membro fondatore sopravissuto) si spensero dopo altri tre album: Blue Cheer (1969), che si perde in un blues-rock da salotto, Original Human Being (1970), contenente ancora le effervescenze di Pilot e Good Times, forse l'album piu` maturo e organico della carriera di Petersen, e Oh Pleasant Hope (1971), che si perde in ballate generiche come la title-track (nonostate il ruvido Ecological Blues).

Louder Than God (Rhino, 1986) e` un'ottima antologia.

Il gruppo si e` riformato negli anni '80 e ha registrato The Beast Is Back (Megaforce, 1985), un live e una raccolta di brani nuovi, Highlights And Low Lives (Nibelung, 1990).

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