MC5 (1964-1972, 1992, 2003-2012): a Hard Rock band from Lincoln Park, Michigan, USA.


etroit, Michigan, USA act MC5 was formed in 1964 originally known as Bounty Hunters, and the Motor Five but the group was sundered the following year when the entire rhythm section left in protest over the new original song, Back To Comm. It was here that Michael Davis (bass) and Dennis Thompson (drums) joined founding members Rob Tyner (Real Name: Robert Derminer; vocals), Wayne Kramer (guitar) and Fred 'Sonic' Smith (guitar) with the intention of pursuing more thoroughly the Back To Comm concept. By 1967 their repertoire featured material taken from R&B, soul and avant garde jazz in a set of original songs. Two singles, One Of The Guys/I Can Only Give You Everything (1967) and Borderline/Looking For You (1968) arrived to capture their high-energy sound soon after.

When connected to John Sinclair's "Trans-Love Energies", the MC5 became Detroit's leading underground act. A deal with the 'Elektra' label resulted in the seminal Kick Out The Jams in 1969, recorded live at the Grande Ballroom showcasing the act's reckless and loud style.

MC5 were then dropped from 'Elektra' over various disagreements but signed to 'Atlantic' to invite the soon-to-be Bruce Springsteen producer and former rock journalist Jon Landau to release their sophomore set, Back To The USA (1970), a set that showcased their abilities in the studio even if it lacked the thrill of the predecessor. The follow-up, High Time (1971), re-enforced their desire to experiment with the addition of several local jazz musicians, even if the resulting album was ill-focused where each member but Davis contributed material.

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MC5 would then move to Europe in an attempt to re-kindle dwindling interest but after the departure of Davis, then Tyner in 1972 the act split. The act might have been gone but when the punk rock movement arrived in the middle of the decade their reputation created new interest. Davis would resurface in Destroy All Monsters, while Sonic Smith married Patti Smith and was subsequently featured on that singer/poet's comeback album Dream Of Life in 1988. Kramer and Tyner, for their parts, toyed with reviving the MC5 name for various unrelated projects but wisely dismissed the idea. Attempted reformations, most notably 2003-2012 resulted in some live albums and compilations but nothing from the studio.

In 1991 Tyner died of a heart attack while seated in his parked car in his hometown of Ferndale, Michigan; Smith would pass away 3 years later, and Davis would depart this realm in 2012.

Kramer would launch a solo career that same year enlisting various prominent members of the US underground scene influenced by the MC5.

The first public reunion of the band after their recording years as a group was as a four-piece, at a performance celebrating the life of the late Rob Tyner, a concert event at the State Theater in Detroit on February 22, 1992.

2003 saw the three surviving members performing as the MC5 at the 100 Club in London with Fred "Sonic" Smith's place temporarily being taken by Nicke Andersson of The Hellacopters, vocals at that time being taken variously by David Vanian of The Damned, Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, Ian Astbury of The Cult and Kate O'Brien, as well as seeing Moore and Jones reprise their roles in the brass section.

In 2004, the band set out on an extensive world tour using the name DKT/MC5.

In early 2005, MC5 stabilized into a new lineup, consisting of Kramer, Thompson and Davis, along with Handsome Dick Manitoba (vocals; ex-The Dictators). This lineup continued to exist until Davis' death in February 2012. Incidentally Davis had previously injured his back in a motorcycle accident back in 2006.

2018 saw the act tour to celebrate their 50th anniversary with a line-up including Kramer, plus Kim Thayil and Matt Cameron of Soundgarden, Brendan Canty of Fugazi, and Doug Pinnick of King's X, as well as Marcus Durant and Don Was. Pinnick was eventually replaced by Faith No More bassist Billy Gould.

Footnote: During their career, MC5 were not without controversy. Under the "guidance" of the aforementioned former DJ John Sinclair (who dubbed his enterprise "Trans-Love Energies" and refused to be categorized as a traditional manager), MC5 were soon involved in left-wing politics: Sinclair was active with the White Panther Party and Fifth Estate. In their early career, MC5 had a politically provocative stage show: They appeared onstage toting unloaded rifles, and at the climax of a performance, an unseen "sniper" would shoot Tyner; the band members were also using LSD and marijuana during these times.

The 'MC' in MC5 means "Motor City' a nickname for Detroit since it is the auto manufacturing center of the USA. Many North American cities have nicknames given to them by the locals.

The band also performed as part of the protests against the Vietnam War at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago that were broken up by a police riot.

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Nation USA
City Lincoln Park, Michigan
Genre Hard Rock
Formations 3
Active Years 1964-1972, 1992, 2003-2012
Last Modified 2022-09-25
Diskery ID 1206

Artists Linked to MC5

Faith No More Fugazi King's X
Lemmy Kilmister Masters Of Reality Motorhead
Soundgarden The Cult The Damned

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