MC5 - The Big Bang! (Best Of)

MC5 (short for Motor City Five) was a hard rock band formed in Detroit, Michigan, USA in 1964 and active until 1972. The band consisted of Wayne Kramer and Fred "Sonic" Smith (guitars) Michael Davis (bass), Rob Tyner (vocals), and Dennis Thompson (drums). They had a promising beginning, known especially for their energetic live performances, which earned them a cover appearance on Rolling Stone magazine in 1968 even before their debut album was recorded. The MC5's career was ultimately short-lived due to personal and political tensions, and they were largely forgotten when they broke up. Within just a few years of their dissolution, however, the MC5 were often cited as one of the most important American hard rock groups of their era: their three albums are regarded as classics, and they exerted an influence on metal and especially punk rock. The widely-covered "Kick Out the Jams" is probably their best-known song.

When Hudson's, a Detroit-based department store, refused to stock Kick Out The Jams due to the obscenity, the MC5 responded with a full page advertisement in the Fifth Estate saying "Fuck Hudson's!" and prominently including the logo of MC5's label, Elektra Records, in the ad. Hudson's pulled all Elektra records from their stores, and in the ensuing controversy, Jac Holzman, the head of Elektra, dropped the band from their contract. Uncommonly, Elektra's classical division (Nonesuch) was operated on a nearly pro bono basis due to profits generated by popular music releases, and the removal of Nonesuch records from Hudson's represented a significant loss for the corporation. The MC5 then signed with Atlantic Records.

Both Back in the USA and High Time lost money for Atlantic Records, which dropped the band.
On February 13, 1972, Michael Davis left the band (he was using heroin and was all but forced out by the others). The remaining members recorded three new songs — "Gold," "Train Music," and "Inside Out" — in London shortly afterwards for the soundtrack of a film called Gold. This would be the band's final recording session. The group limped along a while longer, eventually reduced to Kramer and Smith touring and playing with local pick-up groups, playing R&B covers as much as their original material. The MC5 reuninted for a farewell show on New Years' Eve, 1972-73 at the Grande Ballroom. The venue that had only a few years before hosted over a thousand eager fans now had a few dozen people, and, distraught, Kramer left the stage after a few songs. The band broke up shortly afterwards amidst drug-related problems.

Fred "Sonic" Smith formed a new group called Sonic's Rendezvous Band and released several albums; he later married singer Patti Smith and retired from music to raise a family, and died in 1994. Wayne Kramer made scattered appearances on other people's records before being incarcerated for drug offenses (in prison in Kentucky, Kramer was unexpectedly reunited with MC5 bassist Michael Davis, also behind bars on a drug charge). After his parole, Kramer worked straight jobs for several years and focused on kicking drugs; in the early 1990s, he returned to the music industry, and has released several well-received albums. Tyner became a successful producer, manager and promoter in Detroit; he released the warmly-reviewed Blood Brothers in 1990, and died in 1991.

2003 saw the three surviving members of MC5—Kramer, bassist Michael Davis, and drummer Dennis Thompson—performing as MC5 at the 100 Club in London with Fred 'Sonic' Smith's place being taken by Nicke Andersson of The Hellacopters, vocal chores being filled by David Vanian of The Damned, Lemmy of Motörhead, Ian Astbury of The Cult, and singer Kate O'Brien, as well as seeing Charles Moore and Buzzy Jones reprise their roles in the brass section from the High Time album.
In 2004, the band set out on an extensive world tour using the name DKT/MC5. As with the 100 Club concert, a host of special guests joined them on tour such as Mark Arm of Mudhoney, Nicke Royale of The Hellacopters, Evan Dando of The Lemonheads, Marshall Crenshaw, and others. Since February 2005, Handsome Dick Manitoba has been singing lead for the band. In May of 2006, bass player for DKT/MC5 Michael Davis injured his back in a motorcycle accident.

The final chapter of this storied band, is still to be written.


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