Music » Livewire

Blue Cheer

With Amps II Eleven. Wednesday, July 5, at the Beachland Ballroom.

'Twas a time when feedback and distortion, like every other goodie in the rock guitarist's arsenal, were brand-new playthings. Hendrix used them to explore uncharted astral regions. L.A. prog pioneer Spirit kept them on a short, taut leash as the carefully controlled colors of their sound. In the hands of Blue Cheer's founding guitarist Leigh Stephens, distortion and feedback were a swing-for-the-fences truncheon.

The San Francisco band's 1968 debut Vincebus Eruptum was a succession of Stephens' uninhibited sonic assaults punctuating songs penned by bassist and vocal shouter Dick Peterson. They forcibly fondled blues standards "Rock Me Baby" and "Parchman Farm" in ways surely unintended by B.B. King or Mose Allison. The lead player's unapologetic heavy hand and the band's overall lust for decibels likely explain the proto-power trio's coronation by some as the founding fathers of metal. Stephens defected, and the band endured numerous changes, with Peterson being the constant until the group disbanded in 1971. He and founding drummer Paul Whaley hooked back up in the late '70s and have shown up on disc sporadically since, abetted by newfound popularity after the release of Rhino's garage-rock compilations, Nuggets.

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