Revisit The MC5’s searing ‘Kick Out The Jams’ from their Detroit show in 1970
We’re stepping back into the Far Out Magazine archives to dig out a classic live show as the iconic American rock band from, The MC5, perform Detroit’s Tartar Field. The band, whose original line-up consisted of vocalist Rob Tyner, guitarists Wayne Kramer and Fred Smith, bassist Michael Davis and drummer Dennis Thompson, formed in 1964 and capitalised on the counter-culture movement which was sweeping away the young people at the time.
While some bands were spreading messages of peace and empathy, MC5 turned their attention to fire-breathing revolution and through a series of intense and intent singles and a host of searing performances, the group soon gathered up a fanbase capable of bringing down any venue from the inside.
For that reason alone, the group are often labelled as one of the most important hard rock groups of the era, but we’d say it is The MC5’s politically charged lyrical approach which had the lasting effect on alternative music as a number of hugely influential punk bands cited them as an early inspiration for their own explosive performances.
The band enjoyed major success in the Detroit and the surrounding area during their formative years but, typically, it was their live shows that caused a major stir. Writing on reflection of one of The MC5’s live gigs, rock music critic Robert Bixby said that live sound of the band was like “a catastrophic force of nature the band was barely able to control” and so that reputation grew to new lengths.
Having toured extensively as their cult fanbase continued to fill music venues around the country, The MC5 returned to Detroit for a major live show at the Tartr Field where they opened with a rousing rendition of 1696 track Ramblin’ Rose’ before the likes of ‘Kick Out the Jams’, ‘Looking at You’, ‘Motor City Is Burning’ and ‘Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa)’ quickly followed.
The band’s iconic song ‘Kick Out The Jams’ always landed most heavily, however. About the track, Wayne Kramer told Songfacts, “We were using the expression for a long time, because we would be critical of other bands that came to Detroit that the MC5 would open for. They’d come into town with this big reputation, and then they’d get up on stage and they weren’t very good. So, we used to harass them. We’d yell at them, ‘Kick out the jams or get off the stage, motherf–ker!’ Finally, one day we said, ‘I like that expression. We should use that as the title of a song.'”
While footage of the event remained rare, guitarist Wayne Kramer released some remastered clips of the event on YouTube. “A true fan favourite,” he said at the time. “In genuine Motor City fashion, here’s the MC5 in an unparalleled afternoon of raw rock and roll as they kick out the jams to the backdrop of a busy Detroit highway.
“This is the finest quality ever found on the world wide web!” See the footage, below.