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The Motor City 5 kicked out the jams and politicized every bystander in sight.  They were an unapologetic garage band that influenced countless punk and heavy metal bands.

“Brothers and sisters, the time has come for each and every one of you to decide whether you are gonna be the problem or whether you are gonna be the solution.” For the Motor City 5, there was never any doubt that the band’s unapologetic driving rock anthems would be anything but the solution – the fast-rocking truths, raw and revealing about a culture in turmoil.

Draped in red, white, and blue, the MC5 were a high-watt onslaught of musicians: guitarists Wayne Kramer and Fred “Sonic” Smith, bassist Michael Davis, drummer Dennis Thompson, and brain-shattering lead singer Rob Tyner. The Motor City 5 kicked out the jams and politicized every bystander in sight. Their powerful sound was a unique combination of R&B, psychedelia, and garage rock with dominant political messages. Invited by Abbie Hoffman to play to the masses of young protestors outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, MC5 were the only band brazen enough to play onstage. They became the soundtrack to a cultural tipping point, played over scenes of tear gas and police brutality.

With proud anti-establishment credentials, the MC5 prefigured much of American punk rock and even influenced heavy metal. After releasing Kick Out the Jams, the band broke new ground with their second album, Back in the USA, produced by then-rock critic Jon Landau. The record combined Chuck Berry riffs with lyrics that remain prophetic to this day. Just listen to “High School” to hear the pop-punk sound later perfected by the Ramones. Each album’s relentless qualities drive listeners to the brink of sensory overload while remaining rooted in melody and groove.

In 2018, founder Wayne Kramer was back on the road with a supergroup of musicians playing thought-provoking music during another period of political unrest. The MC50 featured members of Faith No More, Fugazi, Soundgarden, and Zen Guerilla, encapsulating the continued broad influence and spirit of the original Motor City 5.

Selected Discography

“I Can Only Give You Everything,” “I Just Don’t Know” (1966) • “Looking at You,” “Borderline,” (1968) • “Kick Out the Jams,” “Ramblin’ Rose,” “Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa),” Kick Out the Jams (1969) • “Tonight,” “Shakin’ Street,” Back in the USA (1970) • “Sister Anne,” High Time (1971)


Mary J. Blige