The MC5 - Metal Antecessor

Written by: Doc Godin
Published: 07.04.2008
In Detroit-1964, something came alive, an explosive musical force of power and aggressiveness that had rarely been shown in music to date. Consisting of Fred "Sonic" Smith & Wayne Kramer on guitars, Dennis "The Machinegun" Thompson on drums, Michael Davis on bass and Rob Tyner on vocals. These 5 men perhaps didn't even realise the detrimental effect their collective short-lived career would have on rock n' roll history.

The Motor City Five, or The MC5 in its earliest forms began with high school friends Wayne Kramer & Fred Smith, under the name "Headhunters". Shortly to be joined by drummer Dennis Thompson. After auditioning a rather homely looking man by the name of

The MC5 Live
Rob Tyner (then known as Rob Derminer) on bass, the band found him much more suitable as a lead singer. After the acquisition of bassist Michael Davis, The MC5 was born. Playing shows nightly, and gaining a reputation for incredibly energetic performances, the band achieved a respectable following, often selling out shows of over 1000 people.

Though the band released several well received singles before 1968, the real impact didn't strike until 1969, with the release of "Kick Out The Jams". The rare occurrence of a debut live album proved to be a smart choice for the band, capturing them in their truest form. Raw, aggressive, and altogether in-your-face; the way rock n' roll was meant to be.

But trouble was brewing from the get-go. The title track opened with "…And now its time to…kick out the jams motherfuckers!" This, as you can imagine, did not sit well with many people, including Hudsons (a Detroit-based department store). After Hudsons refused to shelve this album because of the cursing, the band retaliated by posting a full-page ad in a Detroit periodical which simply said "Fuck Hudsons". This war ended with Hudsons dropping all Elektra label albums from their shelves, and Elektra dropping The MC5. Shortly after Atlantic records picked them up and put them back into recording-this time in a studio.

1970 saw the release of "Back In The USA". With Jon Landau behind the mixing board the band suffered from lack of artistic control.
The music suffered with a more contained sound, as enjoyable as the album was, wasn't exactly appropriate for an MC5 record. The album received mixed reviews, and poor sales, not even making a dent in the charts. In this album you can see a potent influence on early punk, explosive, yet melodic songs that are short in length.

In 1971 the band would release their final effort, entitled "High Time", this time the band had much more control, and in turn, the artists were a lot more satisfied with the results. We see a return to form for the band, Kramer & Smiths love for free jazz is shown much more in this album, an altogether more experimental sound. Unfortunately the album was poorly promoted and resulted in even worse sales than the previous album, losing the record company money, leaving The MC5 without a label once again.
The band quickly started falling apart because of heavy drug use. After recording 3 final songs for the film "Gold" (without bassist Michael Davis) the band quickly became whittled down to just Kramer and Smith. The band would reunite for one last show on New Years Eve of 1972, attracting only a few dozen people. The turn out for this show was so lousy Kramer walked off stage after a few songs. The band would never be together as a whole ever again.

How did a band with such a short life span manage to make such a giant impact on almost every corner of rock we see today? It's the pure romance behind their story; a highly political rock band, being a voice of the underdog-scratch that, being the underdogs! Making very little money, and being genuinely offensive for their time while still keeping their integrity. These things made them pioneers for a louder generation to come. Many Metal & Punk bands owe musical influence to these 5 men, bands from all across the board like Motorhead, Kiss, Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, The Ramones, Blue Oyster Cult, Rage Against The Machine, Corrosion Of Conformity, and even Entombed. Take Motorhead for example, the rockabilly sounds of "Back In The USA" echo into every one of their records, and if Motorhead were an early influence on extreme metal, then isn't there a chain that results in bands like Darkthrone or Sodom being somewhat of descendants of the MC5 in a way? There's no doubt about it. Unfortunately the most potent traces of The MC5 left in music today appears to be in the garage rock trend that resurges every now and then onto the pop charts, producing few original bands but instead mostly forgettable manufactured knock-offs, further proving how timeless and irreplaceable The MC5 were.

To truly hear the influences on the extreme ends of rock, whether it's metal or punk, one needs to listen to "Kick Out The Jams", or any live recording for that matter, some of these recordings cross the line from influence to genuine metal! These recordings also show what the MC5 were all about, making a loud noise while making everybody's parents worried. This is a band with very little fame in relativity to their influence, being pioneers for our pioneers, and by all means deserved a long healthy career but probably wouldn't have been as amazing as they were with their shooting-star style career. But enough talk, pop in K.O.T.J, crank it up, and enjoy some music from our forgotten ancestors.

I give you a testimonial, The MC5!





 



Written on 07.04.2008 by
Doc Godin
Former EIC. Now just a reviewer guy.
More articles by Doc Godin ››




Comments

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Ozman - 08.04.2008 at 03:48  
Good to see someone young recognize the importance of a band such as MC5 to metal.
Clintagram - 08.04.2008 at 04:59  
Ah! So this is what you were referring to Dr. Rock. A very well written article, and I'll bet you money Fenriz knows and loves The 5.
tulkas - 08.04.2008 at 05:23  
i have to say i had never heard of this band before, but after what i just read i know it's not only worth listening to it, but it's also like an obligation, hehe.
can anyone tell me where can i find samples from the band, or even better, download at least some of their music?

btw, very good article, i can now say i learned something today it's always good to get to know influencial bands that never got to be well known for whatever reason. imo, this shows how complex music, and specifically metal really is, concerning all the different influences it had
ylside - 08.04.2008 at 13:37  
Never heard of the band aswell. I just finished listening to their live album Kick Out The Jams. So that's where RATM got it... !
Hangar XVIII - 08.04.2008 at 15:52  
MC5 is definately underappreciated. My friend introduced me to them a few years ago, and I was blown away. They have a certain rawness that many other early bands did not.
Herzebeth - 08.04.2008 at 18:38  
Pff 5 comments? people really need to start learning about their family tree...

but everyone knows and loves Metallica and Ozzy right?


I love The MC5...one of my fav bands actually, maybe they weren't the greatest musicians...but they did help create the genre we all love...

Kudos to the creator of this article
jupitreas - 05.06.2008 at 07:06  
Besides the value judgment regarding garage rock towards the end of the article, this is quite a well written piece about a band that strangely seems to be overlooked all the time in terms of influence, in favor of bands like Zeppelin, Sabbath, the Stooges and Cream. It is indeed crucial for anyone interested in more than a passive consumption of the latest trend in loud and expressive music, since the MC5s influence cannot be denied. Many modern listeners are tempted to act as revisionists of history based on lack of knowledge or loyalty to some band that they would like to see as being more innovative than they actually are. A lot of confusion results in this, and although a revisionist approach can certainly be seen as viable and intriguing from a post-modern point of view, one cannot ignore actual historical facts.

I wish we had more articles like this, revealing the actual influence of bands that are nowadays erroneously confined to being innovators only in their respective genres. Names like Alice Cooper, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Killing Joke, Husker Du, Ministry and Korn come to mind, since their influence on the world of music in general and rock in particular is widely misunderstood by contemporary listeners based on the fact that they look at history through the looking glass of the contemporary music landscape, instead of trying to understand what these artists meant at their time and how a very real causal chain develops from their innovations. I'm hoping Dr. Rock or anyone else up to the task can take the time to commit such, very much needed, articles...
Valentin B - 05.06.2008 at 11:28  
woah, that thing with the 'Fuck Hudsons' is just so BADASS i think i'll have to get Kick Out the Jams now
totaliteraliter - 08.06.2008 at 19:56  
It should be fairly obvious why this band is less recognized in metal communities - there influence is a broad one upon rock rather than a strong and specific one focused on metal. So it shouldn't be surprising that they aren't regarded on the same level as, say, Black Sabbath. MC5 you tend to hear more relevantly discussed in a punk context. Cool band.

Written by jupitreas on 05.06.2008 at 07:06
I wish we had more articles like this, revealing the actual influence of bands that are nowadays erroneously confined to being innovators only in their respective genres. Names like Alice Cooper, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Killing Joke, Husker Du, Ministry and Korn...

Can't wait to read that Korn article.
Doc Godin - 22.07.2008 at 21:17  
Written by jupitreas on 05.06.2008 at 07:06

I'm hoping Dr. Rock or anyone else up to the task can take the time to commit such, very much needed, articles...

Yes, I hope to as well. But it is fairly difficult getting the motivation to write an entire article, finding a topic people would actually learn something from, while also being a topic you have superior knowledge in (not bragging, just saying that if your going to write an entire article, then you should have more knowledge in the subject than the average person), then putting all your ideas into a solid direct piece of writing with purpose. Its a far more difficult task than one would think, far more difficult than an album or concert review I find. Luckily if its something one is really passionate about the ideas tend to just pour out and the only real work is just constructing and revising. But after its all over its a very enjoyable experience especially after you give birth to a well received article, which I'm very happy I have yet to see a negative response to this. I'm very proud of this one and hope to get working on something else soon....just finding the right subject is the hardest part.
Valentin B - 23.07.2008 at 12:49  
wow, i just listened to the song "Kick Out the Jams" and it really sounds like the missing link between Led Zeppelin and early Priest lol.
Doc Godin - 06.12.2008 at 08:21  
Written by totaliteraliter on 08.06.2008 at 19:56

So it shouldn't be surprising that they aren't regarded on the same level as, say, Black Sabbath.

Yes, but a article on say Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin would be fairly obvious and unnecessary for most metalheads to read. I wanted to write about a band that did have influence on metal but unknown to many (though I do admit they didn't have nearly as much influence as Sabbath or Zep). I kind of wrote this article for the same reason that Alice Cooper or Thin Lizzy are on metalstorm here - its something that interests metalheads.

Written by tulkas on 08.04.2008 at 05:23

i have to say i had never heard of this band before, but after what i just read i know it's not only worth listening to it, but it's also like an obligation, hehe.
can anyone tell me where can i find samples from the band, or even better, download at least some of their music?

Late response, Im aware. Checking these Myspace profiles and youtube videos would be a good start (none of the myspaces are official):
http://www.myspace.com/detroitmc5
http://www.myspace.com/mc5rocks
http://www.myspace.com/mc5tothemax
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Cg0qJ-ieRk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E372fuerleM&feature=related
Don Martin - 17.11.2009 at 22:01  
Didn't expect this in here

Fuckin legends, may you rest in peace Rob Tyner!

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