Blue Cheer: LSD, rehab, whisky, fights… And in their spare time they invented metal
The Blue Cheer story effectively goes dark for the rest of the 1990s. At the tail end of the decade, Duck McDonald returned to the fold for a successful – if slightly Spinal Tap-esque – tour of Japan. Over the next few years, the trio of Peterson, Whaley and McDonald solidified into perhaps the most stable and creative line-up so far for the constantly embattled band. The next step was to write and record that next great album, the one that could stand up beside Vincebus Eruptum as a definitive document of Blue Cheer’s mastery of fuzz and volume. It took them nearly a decade, but eventually, they did.
In 2007, Blue Cheer released the overwhelming What Doesn’t Kill You, a 12-ton punch to the snot-locker that sounded less like a creaky 60s band reliving fuzzy, ancient memories than a vital new force of dope-rock motorcycle crazies on a village-pillaging rampage. Ear-searing scuzz-rockers like
I Don’t Know About You and Rollin’ Dem Bones combine jungle-beat primacy with stoner-rock crunch and Blue Cheer’s patented low-end elephant stomp in an orgy of manly swagger and pill-shovel excess. It is clearly their best record since 1968’s Outsideinside, and that is entirely the point.
“It was an attempt to combine everything we’ve been,” says Dickie. “And bring it up to date.”
Duck elaborates: “I said to Dickie, for this album, we have to go full circle. We have to tie the first two albums with this new album, and everything in between, well, that just kinda disappears. We had to tie up the beginning and the end. I say that because I don’t know how many Blue Cheer records Dickie’s got in him. Maybe another one, I don’t know. This could be Blue Cheer’s last record, and that’s the way we looked at it.”
Despite the new album’s virility, it did not make the back-in-black splash the band had hoped. Surely it will gestate, and five decades from now, way-out teenage freaks will form biker gangs and sex cults based on its teachings. That, however, does not help the band now. Fortunately for them, the albums have always been incidental. The real proof of their menace and might occurs onstage.
“I think when we play them live, it’s a better representation of the songs than what’s on the album,” says Paul Whaley. “When we play them live, people go fuckin’ crazy. We’ve done tours with a lot of heavy young bands in the past few years, and we stand right up next to ’em, if not surpass them. Blue Cheer is a really heavy band, man,” he says, with obvious pride. “It’s a great feeling to play so aggressive and loud again.”
Paul and Dickie both live in Germany full time now. Duck lives in upstate New York. You’d think that would make playing live difficult, but it is evidently a trifling matter to these everlasting behemoths.
“It’s not as difficult as it seems,” Dickie says. “We just have to figure out where we’re supposed to be, oil the gears, and hit it.”