MC5 - Kick Out The Jams
There were better proto-punk bands from Michigan (the Stooges, Frijid Pink) but none as inflammatory as MC5. They were managed by White Panther Party founder John Sinclair, hung American flags on their amps and preached revolution. So the release of their debut album was destined to be a complete mess. Because it contained the phrase, “kick out the jams, motherfuckers!” both on the record itself and printed in the gatefold, it was yanked from stores, re-released in censored and uncensored versions and banned by the Hudson’s department store. The band responded with a full-page ad declaring, “Fuck Hudson’s,” which then banned all albums on MC5’s label, Electra, which then dropped the band to end the conflict.
All of which obscures the most unique thing about Kick Out The Jams; it was the band’s first album and a live album. And it is a monster. Recorded on Devil’s Night and Halloween 1968 at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom, it captures the most important thing about the MC5; after all the rabblerousing was out of the way, they were a scrappy garage band of the first order. According to guitarist Wayne Kramer, “kick out the jams” wasn’t even intended as the revolutionary call to action it was interpreted as; it was actually a challenge to other bands to knock off the self-indulgent jamming. MC5 rarely bust out anything resembling guitar pyrotechnics, but when they do here, at the end of “Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa),” the effect is spellbinding. They also stretch out a bit on the set-closing “Starship,” though, to be fair, covering Sun Ra—itself a daring move—is probably going to require a little indulgence. Beyond that, the eight songs here are tightly wound. Witness how they shift in and out of different tempos on “Borderline” and run down a blues elegy to the 1967 Detroit riots on “Motor City is Burning.” When they returned to recording after decamping to Atlantic after the whole flap over Kick Out The Jams, it was in the studio, but this had captured what they were about.