|The MC5, circa 1968. (Image courtesy Bentley Historical Library)|
Born into the social turmoil of Detroit in the mid-60s and nurtured by southeastern Michigan native John Sinclair, the band was renowned for its radical and political stage behavior.
Featured in an exhibition at the Bentley Historical Library as part of the celebration of Detroits 300th anniversary, Kick Out the Jams!: The MC5 Rock Detroit, 1968 chronicles the bands rapid rise and fall.
Although the success of the MC5 was short-lived, says curator Nan Curtis, the energy, power, political message and reckless abandon, all of which were the bands hallmark in 1968, have continued to influence subsequent bands. Most notable is the MC5s influence on the first punk movement of the late 1970s and early 80s, and the neo-punk music of the 1990s.
Prior to Sinclair signing on as the bands manager, the MC5 was reasonably successful as Detroits Grande Ballroom house band, but the group was unable to break into the rest of the rock club scene. They frequently had to borrow equipment and transportation. They were frequently late, if they showed up at all, and were often drunk and played music that was too loud or irrelevant to the audience, Curtis says. So, few club owners would hire them.
Even after Sinclair took over the bands management, the MC5s reputation preceded it. A gig in Jackson was prevented by police order. Police presence at MC5 concerts was the norm, with officers often appearing in riot gear. The MC5 continued to confront the police and drew the audience into the confrontations, Curtis says.
Throughout the summer of 1968, she adds, members of the band and John Sinclair were maced, beaten, fined and arrested for charges including assault and battery on a police officer, and disturbing the peace.
Still the bands popularity rose. Audiences responded to its political message, encouraging the MC5 to become even more outrageous with its music, stage show and pre-show confrontations.
Kick Out the Jams! will continue through August. Admission is free. The Library is open 9 a.m.5 p.m. Mon.Fri.