Blue Cheer: LSD, rehab, whisky, fights… And in their spare time they invented metal
“What we do is we headline small clubs and we get all these great new bands to open for us,” Duck explains. “Mostly from the stoner rock scene. Bands like Dead Meadow, Buffalo Killers and The Suplecs. We love these bands because they’re heavy and cool, and they like us because we’re not assholes or rock stars. It’s wonderful to be able to tour in that atmosphere. I mean, we’re 60-year-old men moving our own equipment, touring in a van, just like these kids are. They see us doing it and they can’t believe it. We’re back in the garage,” he says, “And that’s where we like it. That’s where we belong.”
As Blue Cheer vault past their 40th year in rock’n’roll, it is easy to see why they’ve endured, despite all the dirty deals, lost decades and bitter disappointments. They are part of a very exclusive cabal of 60s and 70s cult rockers who never, ever lost their street cred – streetwalkin’ cheetahs and lightning smokers who maintained their aura of teenage cool even as they enter their sixth decade and beyond. Bands like The Sonics, The Stooges, The MC5, Steppenwolf, Hawkwind, the New York Dolls and Blue Cheer will never find themselves on the bottom-rung of some creaky oldies revival show. They all remain vital conduits to rock’s primal source and still attract as many with-it kids as they do greying, freak-flag holdouts. It’s 40 years later, and Blue Cheer still know how to kick out the jams, motherfucker.
“If we were ever considered nostalgic, we’d quit,” says Dickie. “I really mean that. Because that would mean we could no longer do what we do. See, it’s not like fathers and sons at the shows, it’s grandfathers and grandsons that are coming to see Blue Cheer. It’s unbelievable. We’re living testimony that it’s not over after 30.”
Certainly, the touring may have slowed, and it’s entirely possible that What Doesn’t Kill You will remain Blue Cheer’s final album. But the story is far from over. The band is still playing European festivals and taking on shorter US club tours. There’s a live DVD in the works, and Dickie Peterson is hard at work on his first solo album. The odds are, Blue Cheer will be bringing their devastating low-end to some town near you soon. And you probably won’t even believe it.
“Half the time, when people see a Blue Cheer show advertised, they don’t believe it,” says Duck. “They think it’s got to be some kind of Blue Cheer cover band. They just don’t really don’t believe it’s possible.” Duck laughs. “People just figure, ‘Those guys can’t possibly still be alive.’”
Dickie’s been hearing rumors of his demise for years now, and so far, they’ve all been false. “Not only am I not dead,” Dickie chuckles, “I remember every second of the 60s. LSD does that for you.”
* Dickie Peterson died in October 2009, shortly after this article was originally published. After Peterson’s death, guitarist Andy ‘Duck’ McDonald wrote on the group’s website: “Blue Cheer is done. Out of respect for Dickie, Blue Cheer (will) never become a viable touring band again.”