MC5 : Kick Out the Jams

On Halloween night 1968, at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom, five local kids performed for a raucous crowd, recorded it to tape and released it the following year as their debut album. The Motor City Five wasn’t just a rock `n’ roll band, it was a movement. As much as their music could get a party going, it also spoke of change and revolution in a way that hadn’t been done so aggressively and angry before. These kids liked a little food for thought with their rock, and as members of the White Panther Party, hoped to encourage other like-minded kids to reject what they had been taught and to get down with the new sound of the revolution.

From the same scene that spawned the Stooges, these Detroit rockers shared little in sonic similarities to their peers. While the Stooges were a more stripped down and bluesy mix of garage rock and old time blues, the MC5 were pure loud rock n roll mixed with a little white boy soul. Not so much concerned with being artsy or experimental, Wayne Kramer and company wore their influences on their sleeves, and pounded out pure primal bursts that hadn’t been heard on this magnitude before. It can easily be said that the MC5 are just as responsible for punk as the Stooges. Just listen to the opening riff to “Borderline” with its crunchy power chords and you can hear the roots of every punk band in existence.

When singer Rob Tyner yells “Kick out the Jams motherfucker!” MC5 sent a message to American authority. No longer was revolution about sit-ins and drum circles. The times are fucked and the kids are pissed. When listening to this live album it’s hard to imagine that the kids didn’t take over Detroit after the show. This was a wake up call for white America by white America. On the track “Motor City is Burning,” the band slows it down to let the crowd know what exactly was happening in their own city by a detailed description of the 12th St. riots of 1967. The police tried to shut down an after hours bar in the black part of town, and as expected, overreacted, sparking days of rioting. MC5 wanted the kids to know that it was the police to blame, and it was their job to seek the truth when looking at these racially-charged events. And just to keep the crowd on their toes, the band ends the show with a eight-and-a-half freaked out cover of “Starship” by interplanetary weirdo Sun Ra. Just another nod to who really started this whole rock n roll thing.

Kick Out the Jams is as an album that fits in as comfortably at a kegger as it does at a leftist political gathering, a sign that its ambitious and overpowering sonic appeal was created for the everyman, just as long as they eventually got the message.

Similar Albums/ Albums Influenced:
Stooges – Fun House
At the Drive In – Vaya
The Ramones – The Ramones

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