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Blue Cheer: More Pumice than Lava

Metal Mike Saunders, Flash, Fall 1973

NOTE: Until its unfortunate demise and Mark Shipper’s degeneration into an acid-wrecked vegetable, Flash Magazine was an important clearing house of ideas. Information on rare Chocolate Watchband out-takes, Dee Robb’s sex life, and (the truth behind those) Sonics socks could be exchanged without fear of co-option by East Coast sociologists. All the finest minds of the rock world were there: Wayne Davis, Hot Scott Fischer, Vincent Price, Ken Barnes, Killer Kowalski, Lemmy the Lurch.

Yours truly pressed Adny Shernoff (a great kid), in fact, for comment on the old Flash at the National Rock Writers Convention (hence to be known as the National Rock And Roll Fan Club), and Adny’s snappy reply said it all: "Yeah well, my group’s better...but it’s ace!"

Undoubtedly, Flash’s most important contribution to pop culture was in its uniting of all 27 remaining Blue Cheer fans. There had been previous instances of crazed fandom, true, like the nuts who bought the recordings of all 267 Fairport Convention offshoots. But nothing like the devotion of these Blue Cheer fans. The mystery, of course, is how a group so popular and so critically acclaimed in its heyday could have fallen in favor so badly as to be disowned by nearly every one of its original fans. Dickie Peterson’s knifing of Bill Graham on stage during the Fillmore’s closing night in 1969 was part of the reason, sure, but that couldn’t be the whole story.

Nor could Blue Cheer’s unfortunate appearance at the infamous Summer Bummer festival at Chandlestick Park/Golden State Speedway, 1969. No other groups showed up. Blue Cheer did. 765,289 fans died of drug poisoning that day. Rolling Stone declared it "the death of rock," They were wrong. It was the death of rock fans. So what? Less than a fraction of the 16 million listeners who had bought Blue Cheer’s first album were at that festival, leaving the question of why did the Cheer’s remaining 14,214,711 fans fink out on the group that had been acclaimed as one of the most brilliant in 20th century music.

After painstaking interviews with everyone connected with the original group – from Stanley Owsley to Gump Worsley – I have unearthed the true reason behind BC’s inexplicable fall from stardom: Blue Cheer sold out. The true tale behind Blue Cheer, never before revealed, is about to be told for the first time. MS

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Total word count of piece: 2080

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