From the Vinyl Stack:
Almost any ’70s music fan knows the origins of punk rock: it all starts out with the three driving forces of the Ramones, the Clash, and the Sex Pistols. However, these bands obviously needed their own inspiration. Enter pre-punk inspiration.
Of course, there were bands like the Velvet Underground and the Who to push forward the hard rock attitude. Pete Townshend and Lou Reed’s inspiration on edgy and raw sounds were prominent for the punk genre. However, there was one band that pushed it all forward.
The Motor City Five, better known as the MC5, are as raw as music gets. The MC5 are Fred “Sonic” Smith, Dennis Thompson, Rob Tyner, Wayne Kramer, and Michael Davis. To understand how influential they were to punk music, they were one of Joey Ramone’s favorite bands.
The reputation preceding the MC5 is one of the most incredible things to be noted. They were the only band to play the riots at the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention. Their fan club, as dubbed by manager John Sinclair, was known as the “White Panthers,” to spin off of the current Black Panthers. They were known as founders of the revolution.
On top of that, lead guitarist Wayne Kramer knew that they were sexists who knew how to roll with the women. They were also quite aware that they were in no way politically correct.
Those afro-clad white boys knew how to raise hell. In their live album, Kick Out the Jams, the band seems entranced in a haze of pure inspiration. More likely, however, is that they’re stoned out of their minds.
The album opens with the track “Ramblin’ Rose”. Here the boys bust out their finest falsetto voice and thrash away on their axes. The intro alone makes their intentions very apparent: they want your attention, they don’t care about what you think, and they aren’t about doing it perfectly. By the end of Kick Out the Jams’ first track, the boys make it abundantly clear that they aren’t in it to win it.
If you didn’t get it at that point, the opening line of track two is, “Kick out the jams, mothafuckas!”
On their next album, Back in the USA, the MC5 make their plea to loose women in their song “Teenage Lust”. The song is summed up in the lyrics, “Baby baby help me, you really must, / I need a healthy outlet / For my teenage lust.”
In short, these guys are some of the original bad-asses of rock n’ roll. The punk attitude begins with the MC5. There will probably never be another band to have the same effect on the political and musical culture.