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Once upon a time, when I was very young and living in NYC, a wild Detroit based band called the MC5 happened to me. It all began when music guru Danny Fields put the word out that something big was happening, and anybody who wanted to be anybody better get on the stick and go see this new band from Detroit. And so we did, and that’s where the story begins.

At the time, the “Motor City Five” were fresh from Detroit, and consisted of bushy-haired wild man Rob Tyner as lead vocalist, Michael Davis on bass, Fred “Sonic” Smith on rhythm guitar, Wayne Kramer on lead guitar, and Dennis Thompson on drums. Before they even came onstage, MC5’s radical politics preceded them, when JC Crawford introduced the band with the question “Are YOU part of the problem or part of the solution?” With the audience noisily cheering, the MC5 took the stage with guitars wailing, drums pounding, and lead singer Tyner mesmerizing the crowd with his energetic antics. “Kick Out The Jams, Motherfuckers” was the band’s message, and anyone who saw them in those days became their disciple.

Somehow, I managed to meet them, to become friends with them. I think it had to do with my roommate at the time, who wrote a groundbreaking column for the now-legendary East Village Other, and therefore had carte blanche to meet just about anybody. I often came along during her interviews as the sidekick/photographer, thereby creating a career for myself that survives to this day. It was also because we met the charismatic John Sinclair, elder statesman and guru of Detroit’s then-happening radical arts scene, who founded the “White Panther” Party, envisioned an artistic and humane social revolution, and took over both managing the band and influencing their politics.

Whenever they were in town, we would see them-go to the shows, hang out; we even went to someone’s summer house for a barbecue once. I don’t recollect how long this continued-whether it was months or years, but things changed for me, and certainly changed for them, as the pressures of the music business demoralized them, bad luck or poor choices undermined them, and out-of-control drug use was destroying them.

The last time I remember seeing anyone from the band was one long-ago afternoon, when Michael and Dennis called out of the blue from the airport, explaining that they were on their way to England, but their flight didn’t leave until that night. Could they come and visit? But as it turned out, they really came to score. Their heroin habit, which I knew nothing about, had taken over, and the band was on its way to oblivion. After Davis was fired, and Smith and Thompson quit, the band was ripped apart. On New Year's Eve, 1972, the MC5 played their farewell concert at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit for a reported $500.


Fast forward to the present, and the phone rings. It’s Angela Davis on the line. Out of the blue, she explains that she is MC5’s bass player Michael Davis’ wife and manager. Memories came flooding back as she speaks, good memories of fun times long past. She tells me that the remaining members of the band (Rob Tyner and Fred Smith have both died) are forming, or reforming a new musical entity in honor of the great, albeit brief, musical career of the old band, now rechristened DKY/MC5, and they are looking for photos. Wow, I think.

Checking their official website, I notice that they have a show scheduled in Anaheim, CA at the same time I planned to be in LA. Ah, fate’s right hand. Thus, we hooked up and re-visited after so many years. And how was that? The answer is-it looked very different, but it felt the same. With the handsome Mark Arm of Mudhoney, and Evan Dando of Lemonhead sharing vocal duties, the famed Marshall Crenshaw on guitar, and a kick-ass horn section, the band rocked the house like it was 1969. Believe me, the new band is every bit as good as the old, if not tighter, cooler, better.

While backstage, I recorded what the band, now hailed as the godfathers of punk, heavy metal & hard edged fusion, told me that night…… / Issue 47 - September 2018
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