Friday, October 10, 2014

Elektra Records Spotlight: MC5 - Kick Out The Jams

Day five of our Elektra Records love-fest has us traveling to Michigan.

Elektra's PR man, Danny Fields, was visiting the working class city of Detroit in the Summer of 1968 when he took in a show by a Motor City band that had already released two singles on local labels. With The Doors over a year into their legacy, Elektra Records had real skin in the game and could once and for all be considered a real national label. So when Danny Fields came to your show, it was bound to turn some heads. MC5, with their alleged propulsive live shows and radical left political proselytizing had already been lauded by members of Cream and by Rolling Stone Magazine.

Based on one performance, Fields called back to Los Angeles and told Jac Holzman to sign the band on the spot and unheard. Holzman did just that, wiring Fields $15,000 to sign them on the spot. Further, Holzman and producer Paul Rothchild agreed with MC5's and Danny Fields' suggestion to not go into a studio, but rather record their first album entirely live. Over the course of two days -- October 30th and 31st -- MC5 recorded their debut album at the Grand Ballroom in Detroit in front of a live audience.

Individually they were Wayne Kramer and Fred "Sonic" Smith on guitar, Michael Davis on bass, Dennis Thompson on drums and Rob Tyner on vocals. Collectively they were a punch in the face. Elektra picked the second song of their set, Kick Out The Jams, for the band's major label debut released on December 26th, 1968. The release truly marks a seminal moment in rock-n-roll history. MC5 sounded like nobody else. They were creating a brand new sound. A sound that is universally heralded as the father of Punk Rock. The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and, most transparently, The Damned all grew out of the rib that was MC5.

Kick Out The Jams showed just how fast the band evolved from their first recordings dating back to 1966. And it showed how radical Elektra Records was willing to be. The label was already pushing the envelope with the subversive and hard to control, The Doors. Now they were just flat out ripping that envelope up. Despite the label editing the now infamous introduction to Kick Out The Jams for the single release, the record was immediately banned by a major retailer in Detroit who feared MC5's political insurrection would cause a backlash at the department store. MC5 doubled down and took out full page ads denouncing the department store as capitalist pigs. In the end it was too much for Elektra Records and they dropped the band after the first album. But it was too late. The new sound was out - a very Detroit sound, I might add -- and the groundwork for the future of rock-n-roll was set with this simple little release on Elektra Records. So, right now, right now, let's....Kick Out The Jams mother fuckers!
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!


  1. Any other standouts from the album? Did they ever do a studio version of today's song?

    1. They did not do a studio version of the song. The first album as a whole is very good. Come Together which is clearly influenced by The Who's I Can See For Miles and Rocket Reducer No. 62 are probably my other favorites from the album.