I Sat Next to the Guy on the Left. And yes, he still has all his hair.
When I was in college, and for a few years after I graduated, I had an amazingly progressive, eccentric and entertaining boyfriend named Mark. I met Mark when we were both DJs at the campus radio station (KUCI FM in Irvine), and we had a pretty wild ride together. I was the same elitist hipster doofus about music back then that I am today. I thought I knew absolutely everything about every band or album that was worth listening to, and if I didn’t dig it, it didn’t need to be dug. But Mark had been raised by acid-dropping hippy parents, and he was actually able to turn me on to music I was completely unfamiliar with at the time, such as the first two Alice Cooper albums, The Fugs and a power trio that were often lauded as the supposed originators of the Heavy Metal Sound, Blue Cheer.
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Mark was such a dork about Blue Cheer that he not only owned an original vinyl copy of the band’s 1968 debut album, Vincebus Eruptum, with the faux 3-D brushed silver and violet cover, but he also had a back up copy with a regular printed cover in a monochromatic blue. One for playing and one for looking at. The first time I heard the mighty fugue of Blue Cheer’s cover of “Summertime Blues” I felt like I’d been hit in the face by the sonic sludge train. Let’s just say I am pretty sure that the members of Black Sabbath have at least a few Blue Cheer albums socked away in their collections, and there certainly is no doubt where those Seattle-based flannel shirt-wearing progenitors of “Grunge Rock” got their ideas for the sound that launched a million soul-patches.
While I was never a head-over-heals Blue Cheer fanatic, I’ve maintained a solid respect for their place in rock’s family tree. Plus, they took their name from a kind of LSD, so, props for that and all. It’s probably at least circuitously thanks to Mark that I ended up staying out way past my bedtime earlier this week to check out Blue Cheer’s show at the Knitting Factory. The band, which still features original members Dickie Peterson on bass and Paul Whaley on drums, with guitarist Duck McDonald, who’s been in the band since the ‘90s, has a new CD out, and their publicist, Michael invited me to meet him for dinner before the show. What ended up happening is that I sat in on Blue Cheer’s sound check, which was so fucking loud I would have had to leave the room if not for the earplugs I carry with me everywhere I go.
After the sound check, my dinner with Michael turned into my dinner with Dickie and Duck and their entire entourage including girlfriends, webmasters, journalists, photographers, cable access TV show hosts and assorted hangers-on. Paul declined to join us, because (completely serious) he wanted to wash his hair before the show. Props for hygiene, Paul! We went to eat at a crappy neighborhood pub called Murray Street (recommendation: don’t go) which was barely a step up from McDonalds, but it hardly mattered, because this was dinner with Blue Fucking Cheer, man! And you don’t turn down the chance to dine with Rock Royalty.
During dinner I sat next to Dickie and enjoyed his many “back in the day stories” about what a slut Grace Slick was and the incident with his ex-wife that finally made him quit drinking. Good times. The show was pretty amazing as well, and those guys still kick major ass for a bunch of acid casualties in their early sixties. My ears still hurt. Blue Cheer’s new CD is called What Doesn’t Kill You, and it’s well worth a listen.