Monday, April 12, 2010

The MC5 in the marketplace

Never toss out your old suits, it's often said. You never know when wide lapels will become again. You also never know which grossly non commercial, limited appeal band will become sanctified in the market place. Guitar Hero introduces "Kick Out the Jams" by the MC5 to the guitar starved:

I saw the MC5s play in Detroit between 1967-69 when they played the Grande Ballroom and teen clubs and free shows around Wayne County, and there was a real dangerous, outlaw method in the way they did their business. They did things their way and the consequences be damned. Everyone in the mainstream press and the rock press hated them, and Elektra Records dumped them after one album after the band took out a full page ad in the local underground paper The Fifth Estate for it's first album, Kick Out The Jams. A local department store chain, Hudson's, wouldn't carry the album because the title song, because the song had the word "motherfucker" exclaimed at the start; the MC5, in a likely combination of integrity and ego, had the ad read

KICK OUT THE JAMS, MOTHERFUCKER! And kick out the door of the store that won't sell you the MC5. FUCK HUDSON's
 To the horror Elektra Records executives, the band put the record company logo on the ad, which made it seemed as if they had approved of and paid for the ad themselves. I do paraphrase the exact wording of the ad, but it is faithful to the cadence and , well, spirit of the band's marketing approach. Hudsons' was perhaps the major outlet for new album releases at the time, and the record executive quite likely didn't want to be dropped from the store sales racks. The revolutionary 5 were dropped from the label in quick order.

 I am gratified that the MC5 are getting their due. The irony is that their music has had to be commercialized with things like Guitar Hero, meaning that the 5 have had to become as consumer friendly as the artists after them who cite them as a major influence.


  1. I think Marcuse's idea of "repressive tolerance" is relevant here. Let the consumers kick out the jams in the privacy of their own homes to their heart's content. Every man/woman his/her own guitar hero, revolutionary warrior, whatever. Stick it to The Man in virtual reality. Go plaster fuck-you stickers all over the internet to your heart's content. Whatever you do,just keep buying things. Raht Ohhhn!!!!


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