I watched a program on BBC4 the other week, it was about the British invasion of the USA by Rock bands in the late 60’s and early 70’s, bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Jethro Tull. At one point it was mentioned that the reason these bands were so successful in the US, was because there was nothing to compare to these bands in America….wait up I thought, yes there was and they were called the MC5, and the majority of kids in America were never really given the chance to appreciate them. Despite releasing three major label albums, it was only after their demise that the MC5 were truly recognised for their greatness, ironically it was the British and European kids that took ‘em to their hearts.
With their reactionary and revolutionary stance the kids of the 60’s underground counter culture couldn’t get enough of their explosive mix of Blues, Soul and Rock’n’Roll. When the announced they wanted to “Kick out the jams mutha fuckers” the last couple of words shook the foundations of Americas music biz, and as for their allegiance to manager John Sinclair’s White Panther party, well that was never gonna win the hearts of the mainstream music moguls and the mass market, neither were songs about fire bombs exploding all around. They’d rather kids were listening to songs about stairways to heaven and other corporate cock sucking rock and southern boogie which filled stadiums and shifted the dollars. Lack of sales saw the band dropped by record labels, hard drug use began to take its toll, and things began to fall apart in the MC5 camp. By 1970 the underground had been buried and turned into commodity, with hippies and freaks for sale in San Francisco, where flowers were replaced by needles in your hair. The powers that be saw the power that could be and killed it. Music was revolution and that’s what scared the man.
By early 1972, when this was recorded, the MC5 had become the MC4, with Steve Moorhouse replacing original Bassist Michael Davis, who left the band because of ‘Drug problems’ the main problem being Michael had got busted at the airport before leaving America, customs found his ’works’ and detained him, which meant he missed the flight and subsequently an important gig in London. By the end of 1972 the 5 had become 2 with just Wayne Kramer and Fred Smith flying the flag.
(See previous MC5 Kick Copenhagen post.) Anyway here’s a blast of the MC5 recorded in Feb/March 1972 at Radio Bremens TV studio in Germany. I dunno if this is a complete recording as unfortunately the final number Black To Comm falls apart and fades out, Kick Out The Jams, Ramblin’ Rose, Motor City Is Burning and Tonite are all complete, as a little bonus I’ve included an alternate version of Kick Out The Jams from the same session.
I watched a bit of MTV the other day, and was struck that after forty years one of the MC5 slogans appeared to have come true as several videos appeared to show that there is “Dope, Guns and fucking in the streets” How times have changed mutha fuckers!