Revolution is in the air as Anonymous and Occupy Wall Street gain momentum. 2011 is reminiscent in ways of the sentiment in 1968 when revolution took to the streets. Music has always played a role in shaping our thoughts when there is strife.
The Detroit high-energy rock scene in 1969 gave us the central protopunk bands known as the MC5 and The Stooges. I was 17 years old then and the rock and roll scene plus its voice, Rolling Stone magazine were my prurient interests.
The first and most explosive MC5 recording was Kick Out The Jams. It is their signature recording. How rare is it that a début album is recorded live and sold to the public for their digestion? Virtually never.
The influence MC5 had on the punk rock music scene is clear throughout this live recording. If you listen closely to “Kick Out The Jams” you can hear The Ramones sound. MC5 is the bedrock for many of the punk rock bands that followed.
MC5’s Kick Out The Jams introduced me to my favorite rock and roll music journalist, Lester Bangs. His review of Kick Out The Jams was his first published article for Rolling Stone magazine.
I recall the controversy that surrounded the MC5. I am not a fan of censorship and the use of the word, “motherfucker” posed the MC5 and Elektra Records issues through its sales channels. I purchased the “uncensored” Elektra vinyl recording of the MC5’s Kick Out The Jams and I played it real loud.
The MC5 was rooted in hard-core revolutionary politics. They represented the thrash for the White Panther Party led by John Sinclair, who was their manager. You may recall John Sinclair from the song “John Sinclair” by John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Elephants Memory on the album, Sometime in New York City.
It is important to note that one of the founding members of MC5 was lead guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith. Rolling Stone magazine ranked Smith number ninety-three in its list of The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. The band Sonic Youth took its name from Smith’s nickname.
Fred “Sonic” Smith was married to Patti Smith. They were introduced to each other by Lenny Kaye. Patti Smith wrote a song about her husband, entitled “Frederick” which appears on her Wave album.
I especially like how full circle Fred “Sonic” Smith’s activist vision became as a result of writing “People Have The Power” which is an anthem for protest. Fred “Sonic” Smith passed away at 46 years of age in 1994 of a heart attack.
Patti Smith performs this song with conviction and purpose. It speaks to the triumph of the human spirit and their symbiotic, eternal relationship.