Report: The MC-5
Tuesday 6, May 1969 *Ungano's*, NYC
MC5 OPENS ALL
By Fred Kirby
NEW YORK - Ungano's
vibrated with excitement and sound on Tuesday (6) as the MC5
opened a three - night stand. The Detroit quintet overpowered its material
to the delight of the large audience. Rhythms were strong; the sound was
powerful. They're clearly one of the most exciting acts around.
Also on the bill were the Churls
...MC5 started strong with "Tutti
Frutti" and never let up. Rob
Tyner must be one of the wildest lead vocalists around as he
sang, shouted and conducted. This last seemed especially appropriate since
many of the arrangements, besides emphatic beats, had sharp breaks, an
effective device when used as well as this dynamic unit used them.
Tyner wasn't alone in projecting excitement. In Fred
(Sonic) Smith, who usually took lead guitar, the MC5 has a
member who not only plays well, but is an exciting performer to watch.
Wayne Kramer, who played both rhythm
and lead guitar, also moves, while drummer Dennis
Thompson is a solid performer as is bass guitarist Michael
Tyner's clearest vocal was in a defiant "Motor
City Is Burning," which included some fine work by Smith.
"Rocket Reducer No.62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa
Fa)," also from the quintet's debut album on Elektra,
was an example of voices used to accent the sound.
"Call Me Animal,"
with its strong sound was billed as being the group's new album. It was
recorded by MC5 for Elektra before
the group and record company parted. "The Human Being Lawnmower"
had an interesting, choppy arrangement, which also used volume of sound
The MC5's big and controversial hit, "Kick
Out The Jams," was an exciting climax to the set, which
actually ended with a nameless boogie-woogie jam.
KICK OUT THE JAMS
By Hubert Saal
It's mind-blowing, earsplitting,
stomach-churning. The souped-up music of the MC5 (MC for Motor
City) starts off in high and never throttles down. Until recently, pop
music from Detroit was all Motown, the slick manufactured charm symbolized
by the Supremes. But up from the underground has come a real Detroit sound,
pulsating with the belch of its smokestacks and the beat of its machinery.
Some of the new groups are the Amboy Dukes, the Psychedelic
Stooges, SRC and UP. Last week, the leader of the pack,
the MC5, was playing an infrequent out-of-town date, at New York's
It's a driving music that
has in it the dirt and factory pulse and scream of rubber turning corners
at full speed. The unmuffled engines of the MC5 spare neither audience
nor musicians, who exercise an uncanny control over their electrifying,
abandoned ferocity. They steam with sweat, they leap and stretch and spin
as they play and sing. They even carry along a sort of flight engineer
who adjusts their electronic amplifiers, hands out towels, passes around
a water bucket and replaces frenetic drummer Dennis Thompson's
sticks as he breaks them - ten, fifteen, twenty a set.
The battering ram of a revolution is how the MC5
think of themselves. "Call Me Animal," chants lead singer
Rob Tyner, a plumpish blob of wild-haired libido. And the band
makes happy pig noises as Tyner throws a handy "groupie" to
the floor and exuberantly pretends to rape her. They play and chant with
relish "Motor City Is Burning" and regard society as
"The Human Being Lawnmower (Chop-Chop-Chop-Chop-Chop)"
as they chant the litany or point the necks of their guitars at the audience
like bayonets or machine guns.
Profane: To these kids - 25-year-old bass guitarist
Michael Davis is the oldest - the Revolution is happening. "There's
two cultures today," says lead guitarist Wayne Kramer, who
wears a Continental Army uniform and paints his guitar with stars and
stripes. "There's the adult honky culture - Frank Sinatra, Democrats
and Republicans. And there's the Alternative Culture - the Cream, Jimi
Hendrix, the underground." "It's a revolution against cultural
repression," adds guitarist Fred Smith. "What's obscenity?"
asks Davis. "Four-letter words? Making love? What's obscene are city
streets, dead fish, pollution of air and water. And war. Honky culture
is death culture." The group's use of profane language on one version
of their Elektra LP, "Kick Out The Jams," which has sold
more than 100,000 copies, and in an advertisement in an Ann Arbor, Mich.,
newspaper were apparently the reasons why Elektra recently fired
them, citing "unprofessional conduct." However, it looks as
if they will soon sign with Atlantic Records.
All except Davis come from Lincoln Park, "the
other side of the tracks" from rich Grosse Pointe. That's where they
met, schooled together, learned to make music together. "After high
school, in Lincoln Park," says Smith, "you can go to college,
which you can't afford, or the Army or the factory. You end up working
all year in a loveless job to have two weeks' vacation a year." Smith's
father works in a factory; Kramer's is a truck-driver; Davis's has worked
for Ford for 30 years. He himself once worked in a steel mill, and Dennis
Thompson used to work in a tool-and-die shop.
Impulses: Despite the show of violence, the MC5
is a likable group, not only talented and personable, but concerned and
peace-loving, driven genuinely by inchoate but profoundly felt impulses.
"We want the rebirth of the natural, righteous, self," says
Thompson. "It's a young planet, " says Tyner. "We're just
getting out of the caves. What we try to say in our music is: Come out,
have the whole planet, not just the room with the TV set." To the
MC5, their music "tries to create an atmosphere for change."
"We found out that when you played super-loud and super-fast, it
made you feel pure and happy," says Tyner. "It makes you feel
better today," says Davis. "It makes you feel even better tomorrow,"