©1972 by John Sinclair

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Kick Out the Jams,

The "Total Assault on the Culture!" issue of the Warren-Forest Sun was one of our last formal actions in Detroit - a few weeks later we packed up everything and moved en masse to Ann Arbor after the Board of Zoning Appeals and the Detroit Police Department combined to run us out of town. We couldn't get any printers in the state to touch our paper, but the Sun continued as a mimeographed free street paper and our total assault program intensified with the crazed rock and roll guerrilla warfare we were waging with the MC5 and the Up. In Ann Arbor we copped two big houses next door to each other and had everybody in one place for once - both the bands were right there with us, our operation tightened up, and we had the added advantage of a greatly increased base in the mushrooming freek community as well as a much smaller and much less dangerous police presence to deal with. We suffered a serious setback in June with the arrest and incarceration (under a $20,000 bond!) of brother Pun Plamondon by narcotics officers from Traverse City, who snatched up Pun on a charge of giving away one roach three months earlier and held him until the middle of September. They came with a warrant for Gary Grimshaw too, but Grim beat it out of town before they could get to him and remained underground until the summer of 1970, when we finally got him back.
During the summer of 1968 we started running into more and more hassles with the police and the other mother-country authorities as we refined our total assault campaign and struck deep into the heart of honkie-land with the MC5 night after night. We followed the principle of relying on the people and using the police assaults on our activities to expose the repressive nature of the mother-country system while building up our base of support among the people and constantly increasing the scope of our operation. Every two weeks I would write up what had happened for the   FIFTH ESTATE   and try to interpret it so our people could understand what was going down. What follows is a series of "Rock & Roll Dope" columns, SUN stories and press releases from that period, which culminated in the band's ill-fated recording contract with Elektra Records and the founding of the White Panther Party after Pun was finally released from jail in September. We didn't understand exactly what was happening when all this shit was going down, because there'd never been anything like it before, but the increasing harassment and repression we were encountering in Michigan coupled with the massive police stomp scene we experienced in Chicago at the "   Festival of Life   " in August (where the 5 was the only band to show up for the opening of the celebration) pushed us out of our hippie drop-out peace-love consciousness and into an explicitly political-radical stance which grew directly out of our experience that summer.
More than anything else we learned that our culture itself represented a POLITICAL threat to the established order, and that ANY ACTION WHICH HAS A POLITICAL CONSEQUENCE IS FINALLY A POLITICAL ACTION. The result was that we became CONSCIOUSLY political, and the White Panther Party became the formal expression of our new consciousness. But the documents tell the story better than I can do it now . . .


1. Rock & Roll Dope #2

    A strange polarization (or maybe it's a natural one) seems to be happening with rock and roll fans right now, with white teen-age audiences turning toward either total freek scenes or greasy reactionary hostility when confronted with the revolutionary guerrilla tactics of the MC5. Three incidents in the last three weeks illustrate the current scene:
GROSSE POINTE HIDEOUT,   MC5   -   LARGER IMAGEFriday, May 31st, the MC5 was booked into the Grosse Point Hideout, an eastside teen dance joint. We produced our own handbill for the gig, a Grimshaw design featuring a picture of the band naked against a backwards American flag and the legend, "Break through American stasis with the MC5!" Four hundred kids jammed into the tiny hall to dig the 5 - the Hideout's biggest crowd in months - and were first treated to two fine sets by a new Detroit trio, the 3rd Power. MC5 drummer Dennis Thompson and I stepped outside during the second set for a smoke and met some young brothers in the parking lot next to the building. The young rock and roll addicts produced some grass, and while the sacrament was being ingested two rent-a-cops strolled onto the scene, surprising one brother with a joint in his hand.
    The two associate pigs called their big brothers, the Harper Woods police, who appeared on the scene some 30 minutes later to see ten freeks lounging against some cars under the watchful eye of the hired guards. Questioning followed, and the ten were told that we'd be taken into the station and booked on marijuana charges. I asked that the rest of the band be informed of this revolting development, which was done, and band members Wayne Kramer, Fred Smith, Rob Tyner and Michael Davis, along with equipment manager Ron Levine, immediately burst upon the scene woofing at the cops and demanding an explanation, causing enough confusion that those in the assembled company who were holding the sacrament could get rid of it. Then the real shit went down.
    Levine hassled the pigs until he was sure that subtle persuasion wouldn't work (resulting in one cop pushing Fred Smith in the chest and threatening him with a whupping) and then returned to the club, turned on the p.a., and informed the eager MC5 fans that me and Dennis were getting popped in the parking lot and that the only way they'd get to hear the band would be to surround the cops outside and MAKE them give us up. While Levine was rapping, the club's manager had a cop drag him off the stage and then closed the doors, trapping the kids inside. He was sufficiently shook up, however, to persuade the police to release the suspects, except the one who was caught with the weed and the two under-17 "juveniles" who were taken in and released later to the custody of their parents. By this time Kramer was on the phone contacting LEMAR attorney Bill Segesta, and Dennis and I were threatening the clumsy suburban police with false-arrest suits and extra-legal retaliation.
    When the band, intact once again, returned inside to play their first set, the crowd went into a spontaneous scream scene to welcome them back to reality. And when Tyner kicked off the first tune with "KICK OUT THE JAMS, MOTHERFUCKER!" it was madness all the way, with wild applause and jubilation before and after every jam.
    The Hideout's manager was furious by this time, but he was caught in a simple capitalist contradiction: he couldn't move to censure the band because the paying customers were behind us all the way, and they were a lot more than "paying customers" by that time too - they were READY! When the chomp shut off the electricity during the closing energy-orgy "Black to Comm" to get the band off the stage, the crowd joined Fred Smith in chanting "Power! Power! Power!" until the juice came back on and the music soared to its natural climax.
The next Friday the MC5 joined the Cream for the Grande Ballroom show. GRANDE BALLROOM,  DETROIT  Cream, MC5  -  See the POSTER GALLERYExcited by the success of the previous week's guerrilla theatre event, the band planned to burn an American flag on stage during "Comm" to make their feelings about this shit clear once and for all. Ballroom owner Russ Gibb got wind of the scheme through the underground grapevine and left word for us that if any burning went on, he would have the police sent in to capture the ragged symbol and take appropriate action against the traitors, so we came up with a last-minute alternative plan and went ahead as scheduled.
When the 5 danced on stage for the second set of the evening, the temperature in the Grande was over 100 degrees on Detroit's first boiling weekend and there were close to 2000 sweating rock and roll fiends packed onto the floor, lured into action by the promise of the Cream and the dangerous home-town favorites the Motor City 5. Again, a huge cheer erupted from the crowd when Tyner announced his purpose, and the people carried on like that all through the explosive hour-and-fifteen-minute set in the sweltering heat.
As "   Black to Comm   " built to a screaming frenzy, equipment manager Steve "the Hawk" Harnadek introduced a tattered platic-nylon American flag onto the stage, and he and Tyner ripped it to shreds while the audience freeked and cheered. The symbol of imperialism and oppression demolished, Tyner then struggled back to his feet and raised his freek flag high: a 4' x 5' red banner inscribed with a rampant marijuana leaf, green in a yellow circle, in the upper-left-hand corner, and the word FREEK scrawled across the body of the banner. Again the freeks in the crowd - most everybody - screamed and cheered in a burst of patriotic frenzy. Simultaneously, the spectre of madman Jerry Younkins (of the Magic Veil Light Company) materialized on stage with the band, fully naked, and the cheers turned to gasps of disbelief as Younkins settled cross-legged on the lip of the stage and began chanting "OM" into a microphone, merging his spectral voice with the distant humming "OM" of the amplifiers as the music faded into history and the band stumbled off stage leaving the people stretched out on the floor in exhausted awe.
Repercussions followed immediately: Ballroom manager Larry Feldmann was called on the carpet by building owner Gabe Glantz and was summarily discharged from his duties. Glantz also started ranting at Tyner and me about "committing crimes" and "obscenity" and "is that what you think of your country?", threatening us with eternal expulsion from the Grande, which was pretty comical all in all. The next day Feldmann reported scores of phone calls from irate parents, we were lectured by our booking agent, and everyone involved in this heinous caper was met with frosty silence from "Uncle Russ" Gibb, who carried on as usual about freedom, dope, police brutality, and rock and roll music on his radio show. Only the Cream, it seemed, were unaffected by the whole scene, as they didn't bother to show up at the Ballroom until the beginning of their set, which began half an hour after the 5 had left the stage and continued until they collapsed from the heat an hour later.
The following Wednesday, June 12th  , we travelled to Lansing for a gig at the (yes!) Lansing Hullabaloo. Our audience seemed at first to be 90% grease and maybe 10% freeks, and there was a lot of hostility generated throughout the three sets by young short-haired anti-freek forces in front of the stage. Warned by our booking agent against any unAmerican and/or obscene acts, the 5 merely kicked out the jams throughout the evening and into the last set, holding their rap down to their usual blasphemous cant and raunchy music. Kramer periodically swept the front row of the audience with his guitar held like a gatling gun to cool the greasers out a little bit, the band worked its magic on the rest of the kids to warm them up, and by "Comm" time the polarization was down to maybe 50-50. As "Comm" climbed to its howling climax, the freeks in the crowd began howling with the music and waving their arms in the air, flashing a two-handed "V" and jumping up and down with glee.
The converted short-hairs joined them, while the most hostile elements raised their middle fingers in the traditional gesture of rejection and disgust. The Tommy James fans made menacing gestures toward the stage, and one of their number responded to direct musical attacks by Wayne and me (I was playing saxophone) by climbing up on the stage and shaking his fist in our faces. He was pulled back down by his friends in the audience before anything physical could jump off, and it seemed that a lot more V's went up, starting with those on the bandstand, as the music decrescendoed into the everlasting cosmic drone of the assembled   Sunns  . Rumors of toughs waiting outside filled the dressing room as the freeks rushed to join the band backstage, but the purity and accuracy of the music as usual equalized the bad vibes and we rolled home unscathed.
GRANDE BALLROOM   Blue Cheer, MC5  -  See the POSTER GALLERYAs everyone wonders what will happen next, the MC5 is girding its loins and readying some new tactics. Our itinerary for the rest of June includes dates at Sarnia (Ontario) Arena, the Birmingham-Bloomfield Teen Center, the Michigan State Fairgrounds, the Benton Harbor Scene, the Grande again with Blue Cheer and the Psychedelic Stooges, a return to the Grosse Point Hideout, the Jackson Hullabaloo and the Greenlawn Grove in Romulus. The MC5 will also headline the first Saugatuck Pop Festival on the 4th of July, with the Amboy Dukes, the Rationals, the Up and the Flock. See you on the street!

[Printed in the FIFTH ESTATE, June 19-July 1, 1968] NEXT

Rock & Roll Dope #2 ©1968 by JOHN SINCLAIR
Reprinted by permission of the author

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