Blue Cheer – Vincebus Eruptum (1968): On Second Thought

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Formed 1967 in San Francisco, California, Blue Cheer included lead singer and bassist Dickie Peterson, guitarist Leigh Stephens and drummer Paul Whaley.

Adding layer upon layer of strength, volume and ear-numbing feedback to their improvisionally inclined material, the trio was radical even by the era’s standards of anything goes, no matter which way the wind blows. Louder than Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience – who they were constantly compared to – but not as technically competent, Blue Cheer attracted a lot of attention right from the start. Yet opinions were greatly divided, as the band was either loved or loathed.

Enough people clearly approved of Blue Cheer’s thunderous jamming, because not only did their debut album Vincebus Eruptum climb to No. 11 on the charts, but the disc also parented a top-selling single: An absolutely devastating cover of Eddie Cochran’s 1958 hit “Summertime Blues,” which reached No. 14 early in 1968.

Sounding like a herd of stampeding elephants, Blue Cheer assaults the tracks on Vincebus Eruptum (Philips Records) with relentless force and hunger. Dickie Peterson’s gruff and grimy vocals are ideally twinned with the raunchy instrumentation booming forth from the clusters of crushing grooves carpeting the album.

Blue Cheer’s intrepid vision especially comes to light on a pair of original compositions. Measuring nearly eight minutes in length, “Doctor Please” is a marvelous mind-bending mess of rickety racket, while “Second Time Around” shuffles past the six-minute mark and features a manic drum solo. The interplay between the band members is intense but thoroughly spontaneous. A thick and thudding remake of B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby,” along with an adaption of Mose Allison’s “Parchment Farm” are further heard on the album.

Blue Cheer never matched the commercial success of Vincebus Eruptum, but they continued recording and gigging. Changes in both personnel and musical motives occurred, as the focus leaned more towards traditional hard rock.

Dickie Peterson appeared with various versions of Blue Cheer until he passed on in October 2009. I saw the band a couple of times in the ’80s and was wowed from head to toe by their energy and commitment.

Quaking with sonic power pitched somewhere between dumbfounding and daring, Vincebus Eruptum has properly been labeled a premier heavy metal album. Blue Cheer certainly were pioneers in the field, and years later the record still has the ability to inspire and astound.

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at
Beverly Paterson

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