George Starostin's Reviews



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Leonard Witt <> (27.03.2004)

A blast from the past about the band Blue Cheer. I followed this band when they first arrived on the music scene and began blowing up and burning out Marshall Major stacks and drum sets at an alarming rate. Equipment failures and fires were the norm, not because they intentionally wrecked them, but because they pushed them beyond their overdrive limits. Back then it wasn't uncommon for Altec Lansing speaker coils to catch on fire from overpowering them and the old English made Marshall Major amp heads, which had no cooling fans, would give up their tubes and transformers in dramatic fashion. When it happened on stage, the roadies would just kick the bad stack over, prop up another beat up one, and wire it up. When you series cable 6 to 10 of them together and put all the volume controls on 10 (as was the norm for Blue Cheer) you could not imagine how loud Dickie Peterson and Leigh Stevens could be. Paul Whaley, on the other hand, just beat his drums to death.

I remember reading that the last two songs (I don't know which ones) to be done for the Inside/Outside album were recorded on Pier 57 in New York (after the studio threw them out for being too loud) and that boats and ships could hear them as far as twelve miles away! I don't think there were decibel level laws back then (as there is today) and I agree that that Blue Cheer was THE loudest band probably of all time. An old acquaintance of mine was at the Kinetic Playground venue in Chicago the night that Blue Cheer had to cut their show short because the rearmost wall farthest from the stage cracked floor to ceiling due to the vibration, and that a number of people left even before that with their ears bleeding. Here's more irony to that story. The Chicago newspapers reported that at the next concert the Playground was to have, which was Iron Butterfly, the building caught fire shortly before the concert was to begin and burned to the ground. The cause of the fire was electrical and it was presumed, though uncharged, that Blue Cheer's equipment caused an overload that damaged the main wiring in the theater.

I only mention the early days of Blue Cheer, before they softened and went folksy, which covers the time of the first two albums, and to a lesser degree the third. I can only speculate that maybe even they realized that they were too loud and maybe were also feeling the pain of high volume exposure. I don't know. I do also remember reading that they were having problems getting studios to allow them in to record, so maybe that had an effect on the decisions the group made to go in a different direction. I stopped following them after the New and Improved album came out, for the later stuff wasn't my cup of tea. I'm glad that this band isn't totally forgotten, though, and I just wanted to share what I remember about them. Thanks.

shme <> (01.05.2004)


I'm not sure who I'm addressing, but it concerns a review of Blue Cheer's first album.

The reviewer is obviously a child...born well after the first album was recorded, and knew nothing about what had come before.

I'm an old musician. In early 1967, I was playing the most outside music of the time....bands like The Blues Magoos, The Remains, and The Shadows of Night.

We (teenage-musicians) heard Hendrix first album .....which changed everything.

I was still listening to it, when Blue Cheer's "Summertime Blues" came out. It was the only thing least a year before Led Zeppelin.

Think about that.

<> (25.06.2004)

So; its Saturday night in San Francisco and me and my friends. walk up to the window at Winterland; pay 3.oo $ to get in to hear The Dead; Sons of Champlain and a new group; that nobody I knew had heard of. They had no album out or played around town anywhere.Word on the street was that these guys were a little load! Well; we loved load' shit ;we listened to every band in the city since 66 and definatley had no problem with high volume music. We walked in ;walked up front and plopped down on the hardwood floor (good soundproofing!). After the other 2 groups played;and after intermission. and a few of this an that; we came back to our spots on the floor. just as Blue Cheer was setting up their stuff. I couldn;t understand why the drummer was nailing his kit to the floor! I mean he had out hammer and nails; pounding the base drum to the floor.! Then the speakers and Marshall Amps. start comin out and these guys just keep pilin them up; one on top of another By the time they were done stackin; me and my buddies were gettin nervous about this prime-up/front and close spot we had. We sat directly dead center between the bass an guitar; and directly in front of the drums! Maybe 8 ft. back from the stage. As this; O how do I say; purple Owsley acid is beginning to come on like rocket fuel (which is good; by the way) and the band is introduced; I knew then this was gonna be a little out of the ordinary show; even for 60s SF standards; which there really were none. As soon as they hit that 1st note; of Summertime Blues; the top of my scalp was launched 4 rows back; and then it all just kept getting better. The volume was so much higher then anybody at that time ( even Jimi; as I heard him the same year there) but ya know; it was new; it was fresh;no cookie cutter lame L.A. band sound. These guys were not nessasarly the best musicians around; but the energy was great,They were all about business no bullshit! They were not worried about getting a perfect sound ;but gettin the feel across of raw energy;. Pure load kick-ass blues rock; Unfortunately' that could not be transfered to record.What was on the record was not near as good as the live stuff. There are many bands since then that owe Blue Cheer credit for kickin open those doors.They are real heavy metal pioneers. I was lucky enough to hear them from the start; and have good memories and lousy hearing because of it. Fine time an a whole lot of fun! keep rockin Dickie!

HEY- Dickey - so glad you survived and still rock. Don;t give up.! You guys were a real TRIP in 68 ---LOL ---I was 18 then at time. now 55. still alive; and remember you guys like yesterday at the Fillmore-or was it Chet;s house ;. I would have to actually say that there has not been another time in my life where music was everywhere and so many different sound. W e ; the San Francisco listeners; were real lucky to be in the right place at the right time. What amazes me' is that if Blue Cheer had todays technology working for them and had good production people. that band could have been as big as Cream; ar any other;.Just a little more polish and studio time $$$$. The only band since that has had that kind of raw energy is Lynard Skynard. Just kick ass -take no prisoners approach..----thanks Dick-/--Rob-Vancouver Wa.

rick nielsen <> (14.07.2006)

couple small trivias Bruce Stephens, the guitarist on this lp is Leigh Stephens brother, Bruce and Burns Kellog both came to Blue Cheer from another high volume San Fran band called Mint Tattoo and Randy Holden the guitarist on the other side is from the Other Half and Gary Yoder on some of the later lps is from Kak. other than that I must disagree with most of your articles on Blue Cheer but I guess you had to be there to ''get it''


<> (31.03.2001)

okay......i only have one album, vincibus eruptum, but from what iv'e heard from cheer needs to take some guitar lessons! it's very simple, you can either play well......or you can make noise, and unfortunately blue cheer has taken the latter path. even for their time, blue cheer has forsaken the advances in music to simply make a LOUD album.......and it shows! i would listen to this album when i had nothiong better to do....a rainy day band, that's all

Carson Duper <> (19.03.2003)

This IS the record I used to put on to aggravate the neighbors! Or when I wanted to clear the house after the party had gone on too long and I'd somehow defaulted to "host." Or when - and I admit this with a rueful mix of shame and pride - I just wanted to get shit-faced drunk beyond all nihilism and wallow in the bad, bad, BAD.

And it really is bad, bad, BAD - and I add another BAD to make it gloriously so. Guitars just out-of-tune enough - one a wee bit sharp, the other a tiddle flat - to sound exactly like a toothache! Drumming too slow to actually plod, but too fast to accomplish anything I'd call rhythm, seeing as how the guy also has trouble keeping time. A "singer" who blusters and moans like some wigged-out Dudley Doright slammin' speed after barbiturates in the nuthouse. And lyrics... wait, oh me, oh god! I can't even finish the sentence, I'm laughing so hard just remembering! ("Well I'm sittin' over here on the Parchment Farm/All I did was shoot my arm! OHH... NOOO!!!") (Insert toothache in-your-dreams Hendrix imitation here for the... gasp! sputter! KEY CHANGE! Hahahahahahahaha!)

In short, a GREAT album! Another proto-punk "Nugget?" I don't know! It's art. And I would not again receive so much joy from a Rawk album for at least a decade, with the equally impressive Generic Flipper, which has everything Vincebus Eruptum has... and more!

A bold choice, Mr. Starostin. Once again, you demonstrate your instinct for popular culture.

Dude <> (17.11.2003)

Hey i love this album... it's pure amplification, leigh is a great guitarist, i love blue cheer and hard blues. i can't say more because i don't know english very well...

Ed Hall <> (23.07.2004)

You ripped them like the reporters did when they made dropped their first record. You have to remember something-they were performing during a time when I consider that there were more songwriters / composers than in recent times. Every Guitarist couldnt do what jimi. mitch or Noel could do...Blue cheer was having fun while they could have fun and thats it...nothing more nothing less..This is the very reason that makes it awesomely unique-NO ONE ELSE could duplicate their sound! It plug in the guitars and amps and lets play now. I have always liked that raw garage sound. As one of the other emailers stated I'd rather listen to blue cheer than any of the crap from the hair bands (80's)

I was a youngster when they were playing and they were good enough in my book to separate themselves from the other bands. I dont know how old you are but I wouldn't be so hard on the group long since disbanded because they have stopped by made their presence known by bestowing their contributions to rock music history and to us- So If you dont mind...instead of bashing the forefathers of Heavy Metal give them their respect.


Rick Brown <> (20.10.2003)

I remember when Outsideinside was released. An article calling them the loudest band in the world said that they were too loud for the studio so they moved their equipment out onto a pier on the water to record the album! This, in part, accounts for the turgid sound.

Pat Harper <> (07.07.2004)

This album is a great piece of work, absolutely pinned. OK I've heard it said before that maybe they were not the greatest musicians ... so what ... Hey Bob Dylan aint no Segovia either, Blue Cheer's first two discs clearly comprise some of the best acid rock ever. Soaking wet with FX, verging on electronica. Beyond the music, the OUTSIDEINSIDE record cover is another outstanding feature. These guys were living the highlife and not ashamed... I'll take OUTSIDEINSIDE over any Zep album any day.


<> (25.03.2001)

Just a couple of minor points regarding Blue Cheer's New! Improved! LP:

1. I may be totally wrong about this but I think Leigh Stephens & Bruce Stephens are possibly the same person? I've got a vague recollection of somebody somewhere telling me this, and that the LP title therefore refers to "New" guitarist Randy Holden as well as Leigh/Bruce, whose playing had definitely "Improved" - it certainly couldn't have gotten worse! But again, I may be totally mistaken...

2.Strangely, Randy re-did "Fruit & Icebergs" on his Population II solo LP, & his playing is much inferior to Blue Cheer's version, kinda sloppy like Stephens! 3.Finally, "Fruit..." itself sounds to me less like Iron Butterfly than a stretched-out "Tales of Brave Ulysses", thanks to those descending chords. What's up with that "Dress cost way too much money" remark?! That's all. Keep up the good work!

<> (25.10.2003)

Two different people. I know Leigh. It is odd that the group had another Stephens as a replacement.

Randy Boyd <> (07.08.2004)

the guitar solo in 'fruit and ice burgs' is the greatest work of all time


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