Biography

The MC5 was a hard rock band that came out of Detroit, USA in 1966. Their blend of furious hard rock and intense political sentiment was a critical influence on the rock movement of the 70s.

Standing for “Motor City Five”, MC5 established themselves with their first album, Kick Out the Jams, recorded live on October 30 and 31, 1968. The album caused some controversy due to the title track Kick Out the Jams rallying cry of “kick out the jams, motherfuckers,” and John Sinclair’s inflammatory liner notes. The album concluded with Starship, a cover of a Sun Ra song. Critic Mark Deming notes that Kick “is one of the most powerfully energetic live albums ever made … this is an album that refuses to be played quietly.”

When Hudson’s, a Detroit based department store, refused to stock the LP, the MC5 responded with a full page advertisement in the Fifth Estate saying “Fuck Hudson’s!”, prominently including the Elektra Records logo in the ad. Hudson’s pulled all records on Elektra, the MC5’s label, and Jac Holzman, the head of Elektra, dropped the band. The band then signed with Atlantic Records.

Their second album, Back in the USA virtually provided a prototype for punk rock with its short, fast, hard-edged angry guitar rock. Also, a recording glitch removed much of the album’s low end, which would become a major influence on punk’s “tinny roar”. Their third album, High Time would also prove influential on 1970s hard rock bands like Aerosmith and Kiss. Both Back in the USA and High Time lost money for Atlantic Records, which dropped the band.

On February 13, 1972, Michael Davis left the band. The remaining members recorded three new songs - Gold, Train Music, and Inside Out - in London shortly afterwards for the soundtrack of a film called Gold. This would be the band’s final recording session. The band broke up shortly afterwards amidst drug-related problems. John Sinclair, the band’s manager, was politically active with the White Panthers and Fifth estate.

Singer Robin Tyner died in 1991, and guitarist Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith in 1994. Guitarist Wayne Kramer is still active, and has released several solo albums.

2003 saw the three surviving members of the MC5 -— Kramer, bassist Michael Davis, and drummer Dennis Thompson -— performing as the MC5 at the 100 Club in London with Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith’s place being taken by Nicke Andersson (also known as Nick Royale) of the Hellacopters, vocal chores being filled by Dave Vanian of The Damned, Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead, Ian Astbury of The Cult, and singer Kate O’Brien, as well as seeing Charles Moore and Buzzy Jones reprise their roles in the brass section from the High Time album.

In 2004, the band set out on an extensive world tour using the name DKT/MC5. As with the 100 Club concert, a host of special guests joined them on tour such as Mark Arm of Mudhoney, Nicke Andersson, Evan Dando of the Lemonheads, Marshall Crenshaw, and others.

Edited by thetrogg on 8 Aug 2014, 17:24

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Formed in
  • 1966
Founded in
  • Detroit
Band Members

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