Kick Out The Jams, Motherf#ckers!
Brothers and sisters, I wanna see a sea of hands out there. Let me see a sea of hands.
I want everybody to kick up some noise. I wanna hear some revolution out there, brothers. I wanna hear a little revolution.
Brothers and sisters, the time has come for each and every one of you to decide whether you are gonna be the problem or whether you are gonna be the solution. You must choose, brothers, you must choose. It takes five seconds, five seconds of decision. Five seconds to realize your purpose here on the planet. It takes five seconds to realize that it's time to move. It's time to get down with it.
Brothers, it's time to testify and I want to know are you ready to testify?! Are you ready?! I give you a testimonial. The MC5!
That’s how Brother JC Crawford introduces the MC5 for the live recording of Kick out the Jams at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, October 1968. If you look at the Billboard Top 100 charts for 1968, “Hey, Jude” by the Beatles is at number one. At number 5 is “People Got to be Free” by the Rascals. “Mrs. Robinson” is at number nine. And a little bit further down the list is “La La (Means I love you)” by the Delfonics.
I like the Delfonics. Their music makes Jackie Brown one of Quentin Tarantino’s best movies.
1968 is a big year for America. You’ve got assassinations, rioting, police beating the shit out of people at The Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the Tet Offensive, the Detroit Tigers winning the world series and a lot of other even weirder shit than that going on.
The peace and love movement was transitioning. Or perhaps it was splintering. Transitioning and splintering are often intermingled and difficult to tell apart. But “flower power” is definitely losing ground to “burn the motherfucker down”.
Musically though, peace and love are still bringing in the big bucks. England and California are the epi-center of music production. And because of technical advancements being made in recording technology the roles of producer and recording engineer have risen to the level of practically being considered members of the band.
The record labels have the formula down. Find some charismatic hippies. Get them in a studio long enough to lay a few basic tracks down. Then get them the fuck out of there and bring in the pros to polish it up.
Cue the Wrecking Crew.
Plug in the wall of sound.
Add in a French horn and call it a day.
It’s corporate. It’s polished. It’s mainstream.
Which, practically by definition, means that just below the surface an undercurrent is forming.
In New York you’ve got the Velvet Underground singing about transvestites and shooting speed. And in Detroit you have the MC5.
They’re not interested in going to Scarborough Fair. They don’t want to be sittin’ on the dock of the bay. Even being born to be wild doesn’t really do it for them.
They want to kick out the jams, motherfuckers. They want revolution. They want radical change by any means necessary.
Three years later they broke up.
These days, you really kinda need to be pretty deep into music to get to the MC5. They’re just not something you’re going to accidentally run across on a classic rock station. You’ll need to do the heavy lifting yourself to get to the MC5. They ain’t Led Zeppelin. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t have impact.
A lot of people point to the MC5 as the pre-cursors of punk rock. Bands like Rage Against the Machine cite them as influences for their political messaging. And they got the Stooges signed to their first record label.
The MC5 didn’t change the world. The revolution failed. The radical change didn’t happen. The Black Panthers and The White Panthers never really gelled.
But they made a spark. A tiny ember. And that tiny ember landed on the metaphorical American sofa and left a little burn mark that is still there to this day. You can flip that cushion over all you want, but it’s still there.
The world is not in a very good place right now. We got a Russian madman who may or may not be trying to start WWIII because he’s upset that he has cancer. We got temperatures of 115 degrees in London. The economy is shit. And there’s a damn good chance that in just a few months we could be treated to another pandemic.
Right now on the Billboard Top 100 Harry Styles is at number one with “As it Was”. Beyonce is on there with “Break My Soul”. And the only other name that I really recognize is One Republic at #31 with “I Ain’t Worried”.
I don’t really follow new music anymore. I used to be obsessive about it. I had to know about a band before everyone else did. I took a huge amount of pride in being the guy that everyone would ask to burn them a disc of the new My Morning Jacket record.
But then I had kids and staying current became a real time suck. Once you have kids all of your interests go away. Kids really ruin that shit. They want you listening to them and their crappy stuff. And you love them so much that you do it and then before you know it you’re dead inside and really have no idea what’s going on with shit anymore.
My oldest son was born in 2011 so I missed Kanye West entirely. That may or may not have been a blessing.
So, I don’t know who is kicking out the jams right now motherfuckers.
I certainly hope someone is though.
Because shit is coconuts all over the place.
So brothers and sisters. I really think that it’s time to move. It’s time to get down with it. It’s time to testify.
And I want to know, ARE YOU READY TO TESTIFY?
Thanks for reading. I’ll see you again real soon.