The MC5 get some recognition

The MC5 get some recognition

The MC5 were among the best, most powerful rock bands ever. Their Kick Out The Jams LP, recorded live in ’68, remains a wondrous, politicized, take-no-prisoners sonic barrage.  And political they were. Upfront revolutionaries, in fact.

They were the only band to play to the crowds of protesters at the ’68 Chicago Democratic Convention – just before the “police riot” (those are the words of the commission that investigated what happened, not mine). No other band, I think it’s safe to say, was crazy enough to play there.

Their music was overtly political, and they pissed off the powers-that-be to the point where their manager, John Sinclair, got 7 1/2 years for two joints. Mostly though, they were a rock and roll band who took things to whole new levels.  Not unlike another Michigan band of the time, Iggy and the Stooges.

The MC5 influenced many bands, especially punks. And still do. Their music was garage punk (before punk, that is), with sometimes incendiary lyrics and massive amounts of energy, passion and talent.  William Burroughs meets Sun Ra in Detroit back alley and glorious rock and roll is the result.

They broke up in the early 70’s amid bad blood and too much junkie business.  Guiitarist Wayne Kramer did a couple of years on drug sale charges that seem like entrapment to me.  Fred Smith married punk poetess/singer Patti Smith (which made her Patti Smith Smith, I guess…).  Some rare cuts, etc. have been released on various labels, notably Alive/Total-Energy, but it seemed like it was over, except for long time fans and punk bands. 

Now, all these years later, the MC5 has been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.  Plus a movie about them, MC5 * A True Testimonial, is near release.  They’re finally getting long overdue recognition (and if the movie does well, money too – something they never saw much of in the MC5 days).  Sadly, there can never be a reunion tour, as two members, Fred Smith and Rob Tyner are dead (from natural causes).

Wayne Kramer has released four excellent solo CDs over the past several years, as well as doing collaborations with others.  His latest, Adult World, was just released on his own label.  He calls his current stuff “rock and roll for adults”.  His guitar work is still ferocious, and the lyrics tends towards street level slice-of-life vignettes, with heart.  Adult world indeed.