Blue Cheer: LSD, rehab, whisky, fights… And in their spare time they invented metal
The result was August 1968’s blistering Outsideinside, perhaps the only album in existence recorded outside, in New York Harbour, because the band were too loud to play in a studio. “We knew we were doing something that no one had done before,” Dickie says. “We thought it was so absurd, we just had to do it.”
Despite being nearly as loud and twice as fuzzy as its predecessor, Outsideinside failed to do the brisk business Vincebus… did. While the band continued full-bore, the atmosphere in San Francisco and in the band were both radically changing.
“You know, there were some sides of the 60s that were absolutely amazing,” Dickie says. “You could go down to Haight Street, and if you were hungry and didn’t have any money you’d be fed. If you were out of money and you had your wits about you, you’d find a place to sleep that night. It wasn’t until hard drugs walked in, around 1969-70, that it started going sour. We were using by then. I don’t hide the fact that I was a heroin addict for 15 years. I’ve been away from that since the late 70s, but that’s when things all went to shit. There was a lot of desertion from the revolution. There were a lot of people that went back to college or went back to their parents’ real estate agency or selling life insurance, on and on. I see ’em all the time. In one respect, I understand it. Maybe if I’d been educated, I would’ve too, but I’ve never done anything but play music. So I never had anywhere to go to. But another side of me says that it’s desertion in the face of the enemy.”
Paul Whaley quit the band in 1970. “We started screwing around with drugs,” he says. “And the wrong kind of drugs, too. The money was going, there was conflict between me, Dickie, and our guitar player at the time, Randy Holden. The chemistry just wasn’t right. There were arguments, and we just didn’t want to be around each other. So we just decided to break it up.”
Soon after leaving the fold, Whaley was invited to join Brit folk-psych band Quiver. Unfortunately drugs hobbled any chance of the situation working, and Whaley soon after dropped out of the music scene completely. He spent the next decade lost in an endless loop of dope and rehab. Peterson struggled as well, not just with drugs, but with a seven-album record contract that still needed to be fulfilled, despite the fact that his band had already broken up.
“The band sorta dissolved, and I got stuck trying to pull musicians together to try and get stuff done,” Dickie says. “That’s why out of those first six albums, four of them are much different. I don’t think the music is bad, it’s just different.”
Dickie and a motley crew of friends, hangers-on, and studio musicians eventually recorded and released four more ‘Blue Cheer’ albums from 1969 to 1971. They are clearly rushed affairs, jammed with forays into country rock, organ-dominated prog and breezy West Coast jangle. Although each album contains a gem or two, these records are clearly not the work of the young savages who played so loud they had to record outside. Those mad bastards were already long gone. When the whole trying process was over, Dickie Peterson, addicted, drained and heartbroken, chopped off his freak-flowing mane and vanished.