Saturday, January 8, 2011

THE MC5 - KICK OUT THE JAMS (1968 promo version)

The MC5. I can't say anything that hasn't already been said about this group, except for the fact that I'm NOT the biggest fan of this band. Well actually, I don't mind the band so much as I don't understand people who INSIST that the MC5 were the - tah dah! - GREATEST ROCK BAND OF ALL TIME!!!!!!! Really? Better than those Beatle guys? More "revolutionary" than that dude named Elvis (at least in the first few years of his career)? I'm sorry, I'm not gonna do a Dave Marsh here and justify everything this group did by blah blah blah-ing about the "cultural revolution" and the strikeback against the "troubled times" just so I can look like I'm a cool dude who REALLY knows what "high-energy Motor City rock and roll" is all about. I'm not from Detroit. I'm from Newark, NJ. I can't hear the sound of thousands of folks working the assembly line and not being one damn bit happy about it. I don't care about the inner-city insurrection that caused sounds like this to happen. I can only hear the MC5 as a group who made RECORDS, and if I need a history lesson from Marsh or Lester Bangs or whomever to get the "full effect" of the MC5, then I'd rather just leave their records alone. In other words, the reason I don't "get" the MC5 is probably the same reason why people from Detroit probably don't "get" old streetcorner doo-wop records - they weren't here in NY/NJ when the music was being formed, and they don't know the particular brand of economic (and/or racial and social) depression that sent these kids out into the streets to fend for themselves and form singing groups to pass the time and avoid the old ennui. But I DON'T expect everyone in the whole country to bow down to doo-wop music like they do here in the NY/NJ area. But it seems like the original crop of Detroit-based "rock journalists" have been shoving the MC5 down our collective throats for what seems like a million years, which is probably why I resist this group so much. Well, that and the fact that I don't believe rock and roll and politics make for a good mix, and these guys were as much about politics as they were about music - and like all politicians, the MC5 were masters of FRAUD.

Wow, Rich. Fraud? That's a pretty strong word. Well, I wouldn't say it if this 45 didn't exist to back it up. This is the ORIGINAL version of "Kick Out The Jams", which was only available as a giveaway promo 45 at the group's free Fillmore East concert in New York in 1968 - about 6 months before the group's LP of the same name was released - and, as you can hear, lead singer Rob Tyner sings "KICK OUT THE JAMS, BROTHERS AND SISTERS!" instead of the usual "KICK OUT THE JAMS, MOTHERFUCKERS!". Now, this begs the question - if this was a GIVEAWAY 45 that was never actually released to record stores, and only available at a concert given at the Fillmore East (whose patrons had certainly heard the word "motherfucker" at least ONCE in their lives), then why did the group record this "brothers and sisters" intro at all? Especially if the group was supposed to be sooooooo revolutionary? Even the LABEL COPY says "Preview Pressing For Brothers And Sisters of The MC5". Did the group's "manager" John Sinclair (another drug-addled hippie disguised as "political activist") take the day off at that point?

Here's my theory: the MC5 wanted to get well-known in the NYC area, so they pressed this 45 and gave it away at the concert, hoping someone would bring it to the attention of someone in NYC radio and it would get airplay. Not a bad idea at all, but it didn't work. The music was too far ahead of what was happening in late '68. So when it came time for the LP to be released, the group, dopey John Sinclair, and Elektra decided to include a different recording of "Kick Out The Jams" with the X-rated intro, KNOWING that there would be problems (and LOADS of publicity, however bad). Then, when the pressure got too high, Elektra would splice off the original intro and put the "brothers and sisters" intro back in, and THEN release it as a single. Here's where the fraud comes in: forever afterwards, the group (and Sinclair) would claim that the X-rated intro was spliced off WITHOUT THEIR KNOWLEDGE, and that the "MF" intro was the way they wanted it all along. Oh, really? Like 1969 radio was going to play the word "motherfuckers" on the air?? Like Elektra was gonna sell ANY copies of the LP outside of Detroit with NO radio play?? Like you didn't record the "brothers and sisters" intro 6 months before to get the record on the radio in the FIRST place??? COME ON!

Don't get me wrong - I'm sure that Rob Tyner screamed the "MF" intro at every concert he and the Five ever did, but PLEASE, all you moronic rock critics, don't insult my intelligence by claiming that these guys were some kind of revolutionaries by putting the word on their first LP, because this pre-LP single proves the lie. They were just another group that wanted to get on the radio, and when they couldn't, their mush-brained manager decided to use the tool of every dumb-ass politician wannabe (not to mention every dumb-ass politician) who wasn't smart enough to come up with a new idea - HYPE.

That being said, this is one awesome 45. It is so much better than the released commercial version (Elektra 45648, as opposed to this one, which was denoted Elektra MC5-1, for all you record geeks) because it has even MORE energy, more ferocious vocals from Tyner, it's got a better mix, and it's slightly faster! Fred "Sonic" Smith's guitar riff (and crazed solo) will stick in your head forever, if you have any sense of what great rock and roll is AT ALL. Any MC5 fan can tell me this is one of the greatest rock and roll records ever made, and I'd agree completely. But if that same fan needs to tell me WHY they were so great, I'm walking away.

The MC5 - Kick Out The Jams (Elektra MC5-1) - 1968


  1. Nice research and theory, Rich! I like and appreciate the MC5, but they were never my favorite Detroit rock band. It's incredibly entertaining - and historically important - to go through the materials, look at the dates, and make conclusions about what might - or might not have - happened.

    Perhaps this track was recorded AFTER the well-known track, yet not released until later?

  2. Well put on the MC5. I dig em too, but geez- they were just bunch of stoned misguided hippies who could play their guitars well...

    I just found your blog today. Some choice tunage so far, keep em coming. Check out The Junk Shop Juke Box if you get the chance:

  3. Right, I love the MC5 and I positively adore that first album, and live they knocked me out, but I don't agree with anyone saying they were the greatest rock n roll band in the world, because there's no such thing. There are lots and lots of great bands and the MC5 was one of those. I don't blame you for getting pissed off at being preached to by those who write about them but don't knock the band because of that.

    Now we come to this single, so let's get the facts right. Jac Holzman got Bruce Botnick to record the MC5's concert on the 31st October '69 at Russ Gibb's Ballroom in Detroit. But he knew what could happen at a live concert, fluffed vocals , messed up guitar licks, so as an insurance the following day he got the band to record their concert again, in the same venue, non stop live but without the audience. That was how he recorded two versions of Kick Out The Jams, and knowing the problems he would have with airplay and sales he recorded the 'dangerous' and the 'safe' version. (It's record companies that release the plastic not the bands.) Three of the tracks that appeared on the LP were from the second day's recording but I don't know which ones. Before the LP was released Elektra issued the Kick Out The Jams single but with the safe "bothers & sisters" intro. I can't see Electra pressing up the "motherfucker" version just so the band can give it away. However, it wouldn't cost much to stick on some different labels and give them those. Also what would happen if the dangerous version wound up at a radio station ? No, too risky if the band wants a single give them the safe version. Think business :)

    When the LP was released, according to Jac Holzman's autobiography, Elektra pressed two versions (safe & danderous) and gave record stores the choice of which version they could have.

    Now the part of your comment that really intrigues me is when you say this single has "even MORE energy, more ferocious vocals from Tyner, it's got a better mix, and it's slightly faster!" I've listened to your version and it sounds to my ears exactly the same as my 1969 UK LP version. Have you got a copy of the single on Elecktra 45648 with which to compare it ? If it really is different then it suggests that they used a different day's recording for the official single than the version on the LP.

    Anthony Harland

  4. In 1969 when I first heard the MC5 they had no predecessors.The music was progressive and volcanic.Just listening to them I felt a release of energy not experienced before while listening to music.Unless, of course you include an 8 year old with his ear to the radio listening to Little Richard for the first time. R&R & Rock is a musical form whose success relied heavily on spontaneity. It feeds off an energy that comes from within more so than out. The MC5 perpetuated the rawness of everything Rock and Roll was meant to be, a soulful progressive sound. I do not look upon them as Saviors or Political Revolutionaries of Rock . They did not possess the commercial or creative skills of The Beatles,but they were the culmination of everything that Rocked before them. They took music to a new level and gave it another direction which manifested in Hard Rock and Punk. I was lucky to catch them live in a relatively small venue in 1970 .I have never felt the intensity they gave in their performance before or after, even at CBGB'S in NYC. One thing I have learned listening to R&R all my life,it does not have to apologize for itself or give explanations.You either except it or change the station.

  5. @ RPM REcords: Vinyl Oldies - yes, Yes, and YES!!!! Couldn't agree more!!

  6. @Anthony Harland - the differences between this one and Elektra 45648 - the mix on the vocals is clearer on the one I posted, the backing vocals in the third line of the song ("I Know how you want it child, hot quick and tight, the girls can't stand it when you're doin' it right") are mixed waaaay back, and the tape is slightly sped up. If you want, you can compare my version to the Elektra 45648 version here:

    As for the whole "record companies release plastic, not the bands" thing, I agree with you that Elektra "thought business". But what I was saying was that the group CONSTANTLY spread the rumor that the "clean" version was released without their knowledge. Since the giveaway single was put out a few months before the LP, the group HAD to know that Elektra wasn't going to put "MF" on a record that they might have wanted to put on radio.

    I DO believe that the two singles (Elektra 45648 and this one) are the same recording, just mixed differently. And that the one I have is the better mix.

    BTW, the Five recorded this on October 30-31, 1968, not 1969.

    Do you know his correct valu?