mc5 - The I-94 Bar

"Kick Out The Jams" by the MC5

Here's a Friday special - because we can. It's the MC5 performing "Kick Out The Jams" at Tartar Field, Detroit, circa 1970, for local cable TV.

"Revolutionary Action" to trace Scott Morgan's post-SRB years

revolutionary-action-largeTracking the post-Sonic’s Rendezvous Band career of Detroit’s rocking rhythm and blues man, Scott Morgan, gets a little easier next month with the release of three of his solo band albums on a double CD.

UK label Easy Action (who else?) will release the “Scots Pirates”, “Revolutionary Means” and “Rock Action” LPs in re-mastered form as “Revolutionary Action” on October 20.

The 38-song collection will be encased in the usual top-shelf packaging with a bonus cut, the hard-to-find cover version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Can You See Me?”

Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Rock and Roll in America’s Loudest City– Steve Miller (Da Capo Press)

detroit rock city bookCall me biased and armed with far too much hindsight for my own good, but for a brief time in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Detroit was the lesser-known but undeniable epicentre of genuine rock and roll. The music industry, as it was, might have had its moneyed roots deeply planted on America’s East and West Coasts, but the real action was occurring deep in the US Midwest.

Sure, there was Motown and its over-ground success that eventually shifted to L.A. to mutate and die but we’re talking a parallel universe here that was populated by a different cast of characters plying a blue-collar strain of music. It’s an eternal truism that musical scenes never last. The Motor City’s rock and roll had its moment but succumbed to fashion, drugs, shifting attention spans – whatever factors play to your own historical biases – and has never recovered.

Grande Ballroom movie released and it's Louder Than Love

It’s been years in the making and "LOUDER THAN LOVE", the long-awaited documentary paying tribute to legendary Detroit music venue the Grande Ballroom, is finally available.

The Grande was the birthplace or breeding ground for the likes of the Stooges, the MC5, The Up and The Rationals. It also became a notorious killing field for visiting international bands who had to undergo a "trial by support band" where the locals did their best to blow them off the stage (sometimes succeeding.)

“LOUDER THAN LOVE: The Grande Ballroom Story” is Tony D’Annunzio’s first independent film as a producer and director.  His movie chronicles the Detroit music scene in the late 1960s, as told through the eyes of the legendary bands that played there.

Hanging out with Carrie Phillis & The Downtown 3

downtown3
The Downtown 3 are (from left) Carrie Phillis, Craig Jackson, Scott Nash and Johnny Casino. Emmy Etie photo.

During some lean times for rock and roll in Sydney, two staples of the live scene have been Johnny Casino & The Secrets and the Booby Traps. Casino (aka John Spittles) is a guitar toting veteran of hard-hitters Asteroid B612 and a variety of bands also much of his own making, The Secrets being the most durable (and essentially a two city collective with bases in Sydney and Melbourne) playing rootsy but righteous rock. The Booby Traps were a wonderful collision of fuzzy garage pop and girl group pizzaz, fronted by fetching songstress Carrie Phillis.

He also served: Gang War drummer John Morgan and life in the trenches with Johnny Thunders and Wayne Kramer

gang war on stageGang War at Second Chance in Ann Arbor in 1979.  Sue Rynski photo  

It’s said the drummer in a rock and roll band has the best seat in the house. It’s given John Morgan his unique perspective on some of rock and roll’s most talented, fascinating and sometimes flawed characters. 

Now living in Ventura, California, John Morgan’s spent half his life as a professional musician, playing with a long list of blues and jazz bands. But it’s his insights into two in particular: Gang War and Sonic's Rendezvous Band - the former as a partcipant, thw latter as an observer - that will hold the most interest for I-94 Bar patrons. 

High Time: MC5 honoured in home town

mc5 tribute postermc5 tribute posterThey can't crack it for a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but the MC5 will be honoured with a 50-year retrospective exhibit and concert in their Detroit-area hometown of Lincoln Park, Michigan, at the Lincoln Park Historical Museum.

An open reception will be held on July 11 with a concert on July 12. The exhibit will run through Labor Day, September 7, with regular museum hours (Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1-6pm.) Admission to all events is free though donations to the Lincoln Park Historical Society are encouraged.

The exhibit highlights iconic photos by Detroit photographer Leni Sinclair and Lincoln Park-raised Emil Bacilla, original psychedelic posters by Carl Lundgren, and Gary Grimshaw (also raised in Lincoln Park) and band memorabilia (including personal artifacts from the Derminer/Tyner family.)

The concert will be held in the Park Band Shell in Memorial Park - one of the earliest sites where the MC5 played – with music from Timmy’s Organism, Rocket 455 and Chatoyant.

Surviving MC5 members Wayne Kramer and Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson and the families of Rob Tyner, Fred “Sonic” Smith and Michael Davis have been invited. While Kramer is unable to attend, Thompson will be in attendance at both the Saturday and Sunday events.

While the band was the target of establishment harassment during its existence, the afternoon concert will be marked by Lincoln Park Mayor Tom Karnes presenting the keys to the city. Ain't irony grand?

A limited edition of Carl’s Lundgren’s artwork created for the anniversary celebration poster will be available for purchase at the opening night and on the day of the concert. The Lincoln Park Historical Museum website is here.

Human Being Lawnmower - MC5 (Total Energy)

mc5 humanI was just looking at my review of Bro. Wayne Kramer's reished "Hard Stuff" and I musta been outta my fuckin' mind when I wrote it...that album definitely rates five Rolling Rocks if anything does. Which made me wonder, why am I so hard on Wayne?

Legendary Detroit poster artist Gary Grimshaw dies

Leni Sinclair portrait of a young Gary Grimshaw.Celebrated American rock poster artist Gary Grimshaw has died at the age of 67 after protracted health battles. Some Detroit musical greats are gathering for a concernt to benefit his family in March.

Lexington - Wayne Kramer & The Lexington Arts Ensemble (Industrial Amusement)

lexingtonHe’s back with his first solo album in 13 years (how long?) and no-one could accuse Wayne Kramer of not taking chances. In fact, if you’re a longtime MC5 fan, chances are you might struggle with “Lexington” as it dives headlong into territory that his old band - at least on record - visited without fully casting adrift its rock anchor.

Louder Than Love - The Grande Ballroom Story

louder than love coverSeismic changes in music don’t occur spontaneously. They’re usually a result of people unwittingly being in the right place at the right time, running into a catalyst and stumbling over a big stockpile of serendipity.

Does anyone think CBGB would have been anything more than the source of dogshit on the soles of a few Bowery bums’ shoes if Hilly Krystal hadn’t been conned by a supposed bluegrass band into giving live music a try?

How quickly would the Sex Pistols have fizzled out if Queen hadn’t cancelled on Bill Grundy at the last minute, presumably so Freddy could get his nails done? McLaren had no more planned the TV outburst that propelled his band to infamy as Steve Jones had sworn off the booze.

In 1966, a former dance hall on the shady side of Detroit called The Grande Ballroom became both a focal point for the counter culture and a scene. It attracted and generated a strain of high-energy, blue collar rock and roll, the likes of which have been seen rarely anywhere else. It came into being through good management, but also through incredible luck.

Revolutionary Action – Scott Morgan (Easy Action)

revolutionary actionIn which the complete recorded works of the 1980s and ‘90s are compiled on one double CD set, spanning 38 tracks.

You have to give it to Easy Action. They know how to package a legacy. And Scott Morgan, of course, has had lots of legacy to restore.

Michigan’s Best Kept Musical Secret had been around the metaphorical block a few times by the time the ‘80s rolled around, but up until that point his bands hadn’t produced many recordings. If he hadn’t invented blue-eyed soul, Morgan played a big part in its arrival in the '60s when front-man for Ann Arbor’s Rationals who took a detour into soulful, pastoral-flecked psych before running out of steam. 

Sonic's Rendezvous Band: The One That Got Away

sonicsrendezvousbandsrbConsider the Sonic's Rendezvous Band saga... 

Arisen, phoenix-like, from the ashes of four of the Motor City's finest proponents of high-energy rock -- the MC5, the Stooges, the Rationals, and the Up - the Rendezvous steadfastly refused to bank on their illustrious pasts (which, granted, might have been more of a liability than an asset at that point in history). Rather, they insisted on a more original kind of expression -- hardly a guarantee of steady employment for a local band in the mid-to-late '70s. 



Sonics Rendezvous - Fred “Sonic” Smith (Orchide-Detroit)

sonic soloThe loudest sound you’ll hear on this is the bottom of the barrel being scraped.

The intentions were probably sound. Assembling a collection of previously unheard works-in-progress by the man who was a driving force in rock and roll’s most criminally under-recognised band makes perfect sense. 

Provided the raw material you have is bountiful and of premium grade. 

It wasn’t and it is not.

SRC guitarist ill

quackenbushThere’s a benefit show for Gary Quackenbush of The SRC on September 6 at Club 54 in Sterling Heights in Detroit. The guitarist has been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. 

The SRC were formed by Scott Richardson after singing with the Chosen Few, an Ann Arbor band that also had Ron Asheton and James Williamson (later of the Stooges) as members at various times. The SRC ranks included Glenn Quackenbush, Gary Quackenbush and E.G. Clawson. Jeep Holland, manager of The Rationals, became their manager and suggested Richardson as lead singer. Bass player Robin Dale was added later.

The SRC was one of Michigan’s finest psych bands of the ‘60s and  contemporaries of the Stooges, the MC5 and The Up.

Capacity at the benefit gig is limited to 400 and doors open 6pm.  The bill includes The Reefermen, Frijid Pink and an after-jam with Ray Goodman (SRC) and the Essentials featuring Tosha Owens. Scott Morgan will be the guest MC and will also be performing.

The Dirty Earth - The Dirty Earth (self released)

thedirtyearthThe Dirty Earth is a Sydney band that cites the MC5 as a precursor among others but to be blunt, right now their sound is more Maroubra Seals Club than Grande Ballroom.

The Hard Stuff - Wayne Kramer (Muscletone)

hardstuffOut of print for two years? Shit, hard to believe, but it's good to have this one back in circulation (on Bro. Wayne's new label, with expanded versions of the rest of his Epitaph catalog and even the L-O-N-G gone "Death Tongue" set to follow in its wake - a reissue program long anticipated by true Rock Action devotees, especially those who missed out on 'em the first time). This was, after all, the one that started it all, solo-career wise, as well as serving notice to the world at large that Detroit rock'n'roll was alive and well in the '90s.

The Prescient World of James Baker

james-grinda-pic
Photo by Greg Walsh of Grinda Pics

If they paid musicians retrospectively for being ahead of their time, iconic Australian drummer James Baker would be a billionaire. Picture his teen years growing up in The World’s Most Isolated Capital City (that’d be Perth) at the far end of Australia (that’s Western Australia.)

The Racketeers - Mad For The Racket (Muscle Tone)

racketeersAccuse me of revisionism if you will...but when I caught Mad for the Racket live at SXSW, I was less than optimally stoked with their performance. Coupla months later, in a column, I was making more conciliatory noises.

The Sonic Race - The Sonic Race (The Sonic Race)

thesonicrace epThese boys come outta the blocks right at your face and do their best to tear it off. So you’re dancing like a middle-aged dickhead in the living room (or I am, anyway), loving the sharp, smart changes, the handclaps, the groove, the bounce and bluster.

Given the band and the song this website is named for (it's not Pinky and Perky, nor New Order, nor The Smiths. Give up..?) it’s almost a no-brainer that you’d probably enjoy “The Sonic Race” EP.

In fact, I’d say this: if you’d never heard Birdman, MC5, Stooges, Dictators or the Dolls … or anyone like them, and you heard The Sonic Race… you would go out and buy an instrument and learn how to play it, and drag people in until you could all go out and play like demons and lay waste the countryside.