John Sinclair - Photo: Leni SinclairGUITAR ARMY
©1972 by John Sinclair

Copies of the long-out-of-print one-and-only edition of
GUITAR ARMY are available from John Sinclair
and may be ordered by writing him at

2. Rock & Roll Dope #5

    Poet-MC5 manager John Sinclair and MC5 guitarist Fred Smith were brutally assaulted, beaten, MACEd, and arrested by members of the National Security Police, the Oakland County Sheriff's Department, and the Michigan State Police while performing at a teen-club in Oakland County last Tuesday, July 23rd. The two victims of police terrorism were charged with "assault and battery on a police officer" and are presently free on $2500 bond pending their pre-trial examination September 12th. The charge is a high misdemeanor and carries a maximum two-year-sentence.
mapThe LOFT, formerly Club Limberlost    The scene took place at the Loft, a converted barn in Leonard, Michigan, where the MC5 had been contracted to play a dance job. What follows is Sinclair's account of the incident:

    We had worked at the Loft twice before in the past month or so and never had any trouble out there, just great crowds of high-energy kids, you know? But the clubowner had bounced two checks on us for a total of almost $400, and we were going to take him to court and also try to get his place closed down by the musicians' union, because he had beat a bunch of other bands around there too. This dude, Harold Boumer his name is, called our booking agent and told him that he wanted to settle everything with the bands he had ripped off, and he set up this date for us to go out there the 23rd and play again in exchange for all the money he owed us plus 40% of the gate for that night. We didn't want to hang him up anyway - we just wanted to get our money, and we dug playing out there because the kids are so far out. So we agreed to the deal and drove out there the night of the 23rd.
    When we arrived, and before we could even get out of the van, we were confronted by this rent-a-pig named Capt. Kenneth Osborne and told that he didn't want us to play "that song with motherfucker in it." I told him that he didn't have anything to do with our show, and that if he wanted to say anything to us he could say it through the manager, because we worked for him and not for some rent-a-cop, right? This pig had given me some shit the last time we were there anyway, about moving the equipment out faster or something, and I didn't wanna talk to him at all.
    When we went inside Boumer ran up to me and apologized for Osborne's actions. I told him that we would just as soon turn around and go back home if there was gonna be any funny shit, because we were giving this dude a break in the first place and we didn't haveta stand for any of his pig's madness. Boumer said never mind Osborne, just play the gig and I'll pay you your money afterwards. Well, we were supposed to get it all in front, but he only had $100 and he said he'd give us all the money that came in that night, because he had a full house and he knew he'd have all the money by the end of the night.
    So I took the $100 and the band went on stage to kick'em out. The 5 smoked through the first 3 tunes and were really flyin', but this chomp Osborne had the house announcer stop the show "because of obscenity." We asked the people of we should stop, explaining that we had come to play for them and we'd let THEM decide what we should do. They told us to keep on playing, but we decided to play one more thing and then go right into "Comm" so we could get out of there in case this pig started any shit. We didn't wanna stop tight there because we didn't wanna leave the people with nothing, you know, but on the other hand we knew this fool was crazy and we wanted to get outa there as soon as we could.
Gig flyer - MC5 at the Loft, July 23, 1968    Meanwhile the rent-a-pigs apparently called the Oakland County Sheriff's Department and told them there was a "riot" going on because we wouldn't stop playing and were "inciting the kids to violence." That was a bunch of bullshit, because what we actually told them was that there were a bunch of crooks running this place and they should never come back because the owners were cheating the bands and pulling funny shit all the time, right? Anyway, Osborne and his flunkies blockaded all the exits to the place so nobody could get out - evidently they figured they'd better HAVE a riot situation when the real pigs got there or else they wouldn't look so good, you know?
    I had the equipment dudes pack up all the shit and take it out to the van, and got the band changed and all the guitars and shit packed up and sent them downstairs to wait for me. I didn't know that the doors were shut off or anything, I was up there checking the stage area to make sure all the equipment was taken care of and checking the dressing room and all the stuff you have to do before you leave, so you won't leave anything behind, you dig? I'm standing by the stage when this dude Boumer comes up to talk to me. We sit down on the edge of the stage, and he apologizes again for the police and asks me to bring the equipment back up so we can play another set and he won't have to give the kids their money back! WHAT?! I couldn't believe what I was hearing! I told Boumer he was stone crazy if he thought we'd stick around that madhouse for another minute - we wanted our money and if he didn't want to pay it right there we'd see his ass in court. I also told him that we were going to put the word out on him to all the bands in the area, and that I was going to get the musicians' union to shut him down for good - not just because he beat us out of the money, but because he couldn't control his police and he was cheating all the people who went there.
    Boumer kept talking, mumbling on about a second set and dodging the money issue, when all of a sudden the rent-a-pigs and a bunch of uniformed police in riot gear appeared at the top of the stairs and started marching over to where we were sitting. Osborne was in the lead, and he came up to me and started oinking in my face.
    "Sinclair, get out of here!" Osborne grunted. I asked him what the fuck he was talking about, looking at Boumer expecting him to explain what was happening. Osborne oinked again: "I told you to get out of here - NOW!" I told him I couldn't possibly leave until I got the money. Osborne and his partner snatched me by the arms and yanked me up, but I broke free for a minute and smashed him in the face. Then the whole force jumped on me and beat me down to the ground. Osborne squatted on top of me and kept hitting me in the face while the other porkers were smashing me with nightsticks, blackjacks, fists and booted feet while I tried to cover up my head and genitals. During the melee an Oakland County pig, Donald Gilbert, badge number 81, squirted me in the face with MACE, and another pig handcuffed me.
    There were still about 100-150 kids on the dance floor standing around in horror as this bloody scene flashed into action in front of their eyes. They were just as dumbfounded as I was, and it all happened so fast that it must've been hard to believe that it was really happening. Girls were screaming and crying, everybody was trying to figure out what was happening, and by this time the pigs were beating on Fred Smith, who had run up from downstairs to help me when he heard all the noise. Fred leaped into the pile of pigs who were beating on me, but two of them pulled him off and beat his ass with clubs. They subdued both of us, got us handcuffed and dragged us over into the corner before they started clearing the room. A bunch of sisters, righteous MC5 addicts who came to all our gigs, came over and started wiping the blood off of us, but the pigs grabbed them and pushed them down the stairs. One sister had a camera and I told her to get pictures of this shit, but the pigs spotted her and grabbed her camera and broke it before they pushed her down the stairs too. They beat up quite a few kids and shoved everybody else out of the place, finally letting the doors be opened so people could leave.
  [PHOTO : Leni Sinclair]
John in Oakland County  Police car    They took me & Fred and put us in the car and started for the county jail in Pontiac, with about 15 cars full of kids following them all the way. One kid tried to set the place on fire he was so mad! When we got to the jail they booked us on charges of assault and battery on a police officer, but when Osborne tried to sign the arrest warrant the desk sergeant told him that he wasn't a police officer and couldn't legally arrest us. So one of the Oakland County pigs stepped up and said he'd sign it - that was Gilbert, the one who MACEd me, right? All these kids were milling around outside, but the deputies all went outside and started threatening them, so they yelled up to us one more time and then pulled up. When we got in court to be arraigned the next morning some other pig's name was on one of the warrants too. We pleaded not guilty and our people posted $2500 bond for each of us, which was the highest bond the judge could set, you dig? We're gonna fight this as hard as we can, and then we're gonna sue all these creeps. These fascist dogs are trying to stomp ALL of us out - DON'T LET THEM DO IT!

[Printed in the FIFTH ESTATE, August 1-14, 1968]     [ LIBRARY ]     [ MC5 GATEWAY ]
Fred Smith and John Sinclair in custody July 23, 1968
[PHOTO : Leni Sinclair]

Rock & Roll Dope #5 ©1968 by JOHN SINCLAIR
Reprinted by permission of the author

David McLaughlin's book ROCKIN' AT THE LIMBERLOSTPhotos of the Club Limberlost/Loft, map, gig flyer and Fred & John in custody are reprinted from "Rockin' At The Limberlost" by permission of the author.

The brief history of the LOFT, formerly CLUB LIMBERLOST, is well documented in David McLaughlin's book "ROCKIN' AT THE LIMBERLOST" -
ROCKIN' AT THE LIMBERLOST is available from D.McLaughlin and may be ordered by writing him at:
PO Box 242
Lakeville MI 48366-0242