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Music DVD Review: Blue Cheer – Rocks Europe

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First of all, let's get one thing straight. Blue Cheer invented heavy metal. Period. End of discussion.

Before there was Led Zeppelin, before there was Black Sabbath, or even the mighty Spinal Tap, Blue Cheer had their amps cranked to eleven as far back as 1967.

Long before Deep Purple were declared the loudest band in the world by the Guinness Book Of World Records, Blue Cheer earned that same distinction way back in the sixties. Hell, to this day, I can remember the first time I saw these three guys in Hawaii. It was nuts. There were so many freaking amps, I couldn't even see the guitarist.

And it was also really, really loud.

Steppenwolf may have coined the term "heavy metal" in that lyric from "Born To Be Wild," and Lester Bangs may have brought it into the modern vernacular of rock criticism in his articles for Creem Magazine.

But every heavy metal band that has come since—from Metallica to Pantera and beyond—knows in their blackest of hearts who really is responsible for first introducing the world to the really big noise that was actually—amazingly—briefly heard back in 1967 on Top Forty radio in the form of Blue Cheer's cover of "Summertime Blues."

And as evidenced here by Seattle grunge producer Jack Endino's liner notes, many of them will also readily admit it.

Blue Cheer is absolutely, without question, the band that first pioneered the concept of cranking the shit up as high as it could possibly go, letting the rest sort itself out later, and understanding the concept of feedback as a friend rather than an enemy.

But don't take my word for it, just ask Mudhoney, Monster Magnet, or any of the other dozens of bands who have long since co-opted the style Blue Cheer first put to vinyl on the classic album Vincebus Eruptum way back in 1967.

On that album—with it's total of, like, six cuts, including their fuzzed-out assault on Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues"—Blue Cheer immortalized themselves as the loudest, most fuzzed-out band of all time. Remember that overly fuzzed-out bass on Grand Funk's Live Album? Look no further than Blue Cheer's Dickie Peterson to see just where that came from.

I was personally amazed to find that Blue Cheer are still doing their thing all these years later—or for that matter, that they are even still alive. But, God Bless em', they are still at it on this great DVD recorded last year for Germany's Rockpalast show.

Original guitarist Leigh Stephens is apparently long gone—although original members Dickie Peterson on bass and vocals, and drummer Paul Whaley remain from the bands original power trio lineup.

And damned if they aren't as blissfully loud as ever on this DVD. The new guy on the block isn't exactly new either. Guitarist Andrew "Duck" MacDonald has been with these guys for nearly two decades now, and he fills the shoes of Leigh Stephens quite nicely. The guitar parts are as loud and over the top as ever here.

So with the rhythm section pushing what has to be sixty (at least), can these guys still cut it?

Absolutely.

As might be expected, Peterson has taken on both the appearance and the gravelly voice of a grizzled old biker who has smoked one hell of a lot of cigarettes (among other things), and guzzled more than his fair share of grain alcohol. But damned if he can't still play his ass off.

In the guitar department, the "Duck" tends to be a bit cleaner than Leigh Stephens was back in the day. But for the most part, this is still some dirty, greasy, loud as hell grimey-ass shit.

Which is as it should be. These guys invented it. I defy any self respecting student of rock history to prove me wrong on that. The fact that Blue Cheer are still out there making ears bleed is something that truly makes me smile, too.

Get this now. And make sure to fire up a nice big fatty once you push play.

About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.