Monday, March 23, 2009

Band of the Day - the MC5!!

If you got lame in yer ears, blast that stuff out with the MC5, arguably the band where which it all started. When you look at pre-Ramones rock and roll music, their is a definite schism between the hardest bands of the sixties like the Who, Jimi Hendrix, the Yardbirds, or even the Sonics, and the dangerous intensity that the MC5 brought to the game. They started as a psychedelic rhythm and blues rock and roll band out of Detroit with all its music history, and they echoed it with hard riffy jams and excellent dance moves. Kinda sorta hand in hand with the Five was New York's the Velvet Underground, who played a nearly diametrically opposed form of anti-pop, and also specialized in dangerous intensity onstage. These got hyper-distilled and filtered through amateur musicians to creep closer towards perfection in the form of Iggy and the Stooges, and then one more step with the New York Dolls. As these bands directly followed the British Invasion/Girl Group era, their sounds may have held rejections of most of the melodic lessons therein, but one of the strands that connects these bands I've mentioned is their natural adeptness at rock and roll, that is they are rock and roll fans with big hearts and sharp minds, who distilled their own selves, embracing every right step with angry sentiment, and vehemently casting aside that which strays from how that rock and roll music is supposed to be, and taking it very seriously and personally.

The MC5 started with a couple of very thrashy rockin' singles that set them apart as the hardest band in the world, and so thoroughly American that no Led Zeppelin nor Black Sabbath could ever hope to match them. And though punk rock may have officially been recorded for the first time on their live LP "Kick Out the Jams" when on the title track Rob Tyner exclaims, "Kick Out the Jams, Motherfuckers!", the rest of the album is good at best, still bogged down by the remnants of psychedelia in the Five's writing. As much of a detriment as that may have been, the MC5's involvement with stereotypical 1960's left wing political organizations is part of what made them so cool. They were members of the White Panther Party, committed to aiding the Black Panthers if need be. They played for eight hours when riots broke out at the 1968 Democratic National Convention because no other bands showed up. They set a precedent that if you're gonna be involved or play this kind of rock and roll music, you'd better be down, or you're probably not really cool. But, they don't fully step into musical modernity until their second LP "Back in the U.S.A." It starts with a Little Richard cover ("Tutti Frutti") and ends with a Chuck Berry cover ("Back in the U.S.A.") and in between are eight two and a half minute teenage epics played catchier and harder than they had been before or since. The gem of the album is "High School" ("They only wanna shake it up baby!") as heard in the Ramones movie "Rock and Roll High School", but each one sounds entirely different from the one before, and help to reshape the youth of the world's idea of rock and roll after Sgt. Pepper bent it all outta shape. "Back in the U.S.A." is by my estimation the first full punk rock records, and an inductee into the Danthology Hall of Fame!

When picking out which videos to feature, there is no doubt that this one is the greatest, due first to our host, Gail, and second because it's the stellar opening track off "Kick Out the Jams", the rave-up cover of Nat "King" Cole's "Ramblin' Rose" with Wayne Kramer's falsetto and crotch grab! Live from Detroit 1970.
"Ramblin' Rose"

From the same show, out comes one of the greatest white front men of all time, Rob Tyner, and...
"Kick Out the Jams"

One of my favorites off "Back in the U.S.A.", it's pretty clear they're lyp syncing, but it's still cool. I want the Headies to cover this one!
"The American Ruse"

One more off "Back in the U.S.A.", it's a little later from 1972, I wish there was a lot more of the Five to see... luckily there's always new Tit Patrol!

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