Influential local musicians and artists gather at the Crofoot to
celebrate the recording of the MC5's classic debut
Special to Metromix
October 29, 2008
On October 30, 1968, legendary Detroit pre-punkers the MC5 recorded
their debut album, "Kick out the Jams." Unusual for a debut, the
record was a live album -- recorded at the Grande Ballroom, a now
derelict building located on Grand River Avenue in Detroit.
The MC5 and manager John Sinclair knew that they were an
extraordinary live band and, if they were to capture themselves at
their best on record, a live album would be the way to go. With songs
like the title track, "Ramblin' Rose" and "Borderline," the album
would have an unprecedented impact on the rock 'n' roll world.
Forty years later to the day, tonight at the Crofoot in Pontiac,
local musicians and artists will gather to celebrate the anniversary
of this influential album. John Sinclair will be hosting the event,
photographer Leni Sinclair will be displaying her wares and, cough,
yours truly will be signing copies of my critically acclaimed (please
excuse the shameless self-promotion) MC5 biography, "Sonically Speaking."
Bands appearing on the day include cow-punks the Orbitsuns, garage
rockers the Muggs, Scott Morgan's Powertrane, Ann Arbor rockers
Mazinga, local metal gods 60 Second Crush and hard rockers Overloaded.
For Powertrane guitarist Robert Gillespie, the event will be
particularly poignant. "Oh God, they meant everything. I first heard
about them when I was about 14 years old," Gillespie said. "I was
hanging around with older guys that had seen them live, and I just
had to see them. I borrowed some ID and I went to see them at the
Crow's Nest East, which was a small club for teens on the eastside.
"It was just after they'd made the 'Kick Out the Jams' album, so it
was Thanksgiving '68. They just kicked ass. It was an incredible
show. I was in shock because it was so good.
"It was one of those nights that will always be with me. I thought it
was the finest, heaviest band I'd witnessed. Not long after that, it
all fell apart. They left quite an impression. They were the
blueprint for all of the heavy, punk-y intense rock 'n' roll that followed."
When the MC5 broke up just a few short years later, singer Rob Tyner
would controversially go on to tour with a new band and call it the
New MC5. Gillespie played guitar in that band. "One night at the Red
Carpet on the eastside, I was hanging out with the Rockets and Rob
Tyner was there. We jammed, he got my number, we hooked up and we
started writing songs," Gillespie said.
"This was the summer of '76. After about a year, we did our first gig
as the New MC5 at the Red Carpet. It was jammed, like sardines. We
did all new songs, except for 'Looking at You' and 'Kick Out the Jams'."
60 Second Crush bassist Dana Forrester also had some post-MC5
involvement with Rob Tyner. "I come from a personal standpoint
because when I was a teenager I played with the Vertical Pillars,"
Forrester said. "We met Rob Tyner and he took us under his wing.
"He actually toured with us. I had the good fortune to play with Rob
Tyner as a teenager. He was a remarkable man. He really taught me
what it took to be a rock star. He told me that, when you walk in a
room, everyone should know you're in the band. He also taught me to
use the space on stage. He was a big influence on me as a musician."
For John Sinclair, the event will be a very special evening indeed.
As well as managing the MC5, Sinclair was the brains behind the White
Panther Party (a political group closely aligned with the Black
Panthers in terms of their agenda) and he was imprisoned in the late
'60s for possession of two joints. He received the particularly
excessive sentence of 10 years, prompting John Lennon to write the
song "John Sinclair."
Sinclair would actually only serve a fraction of his sentence. He
still has many fond memories of his former charges. "They were always
great," Sinclair says. "They were always 100% there and they went to
kill. They floored the opposition and bedazzled the audience. That
was always their goal. They were so great."
The 30th October marks a day of huge relevance in the history of
Detroit rock 'n' roll, and this event at the Crofoot promises to
celebrate it in style. Don't miss it!