Back to the history of the MC5 today. Starting at the epicenter, the Grande Ballroom. This is the Grande today. The ‘Kick Out The Jams’ album was recorded here October 1968 over Halloween- 38 years ago almost to this day –
Let me tell you how it started now …
It started on 12th & Clairmount that morning.
It made the big cops all jump & shout,
I said, it started on 12th & Clairmount that morning,
It made the pigs in the street go freak out.
The fire wagons kept comin’, baby,
But the Black Panther snipers wouldn’t let them put it out,
Well, there were fire bombs bursting all around, people,
Ya know there were soldiers standing everywhere.
I said there was fire bombs bursting all around me, baby,
Ya know there was National Guard everywhere.
I can hear my people screaming
Sirens fill the air, fill the air, fill the air…….
-“Motor City Is Burning” MC5 version, originally recorded by John Lee Hooker at United Sound Systems.
This album was recorded at the peak of one of the most unstable periods in our history since the American Civil War: One year after the the 1967 Detroit Riots, two weeks after the Detroit Tigers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, several months after Dr. Martin King was assassinated in Memphis, 4 months after Robert Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles, and just a few months after the 5 played at Lincoln Park in Chicago at the 1968 Democtatic Convention which devolved into a massive police riot.
(Mayor Daley of Chicago uttered this infamous quote about the insane behavior of his police during the convention riots: “The policeman isn’t there to create disorder, the policeman is there to preserve disorder.” Amen. )
“Kick Out The Jams” was recorded over two nights: two free performances and one closed and empty house performance for editing corrections. Electra Records parked its mobile recording unit out in the back alley to create the recordings.
Heres the main ballroom entryway, which led up the stairs into the top floor.
Heres where the GRANDE BALLROOM sign hung on the front corner of the structure.
Current ownership of the Ballroom is a bit vague. Recently it was owned by a nearby Seventh Day Adventist Church (of Branch Davidian/Waco infamy)
Now it appears to have been purchased by a baptist church around the corner on Joy Road.
After recieving an advance on their Electra contract, the 5 paid off some debts, and went to Joe Massimino’s music shop to buy new gear. Massimino’s was an EastSide music store where myself any many of my friends have bought loads of equipment over the years. They were bought out about two years ago.
This is where many of the band and origanization lived in Detroit on West Canfield, actually a charming little apartment building. Constant police harrassment eventually led the MC5 and its John Sinclair Trans Love Commune to flee to Ann Arbor.
They purchased two huge houses on Hill Street, one was Sinclair and the band and their families, and the other was for the rest of the Trans Love commune and hangers-on. The MC5 paid for all of this. This is the main house where the 5 lived. This is now the Luther Co-Operative.
“Hey, is Wayne home??”
Here is the second house which contained the organization and hangers on.
Even more folks were piled into the carriage house in the back.
First Unitarian Church on Cass and Forest. The 5 played a show here called “Dialogue ’68”, and John and wife Leni Sinclair were married by the Pastor here in 1965. There are recordings available on CD of this performance.
In May of 1968, the MC5 played a show here at the former Hideout Club in Harper Woods on the corner of Harper and Lennon Street.
Dennis and John stepped outside to smoke, and were offered a joint by two kids in the parking lot. “Mysteriously” two rent-a-cops immediately appeared, followed by the Harper Woods Police. The cops were antagonistic and tried to escalate the situation, shoving Dennis. Inside the tiny club, word spread that the police were outside harrassing the MC5 – but before the crowd could get out on the street to confront the Harper Woods Police, the police locked them inside. To prevent a small scale riot, the owner negotiated with the police to allow the band to come back inside and to only arrest the kids with the weed. Amazingly the 5 walked away from this altercation intact. The HWPD is not known for their diplomacy.
“United Sound Systems” – the famous recording studio just north of Wayne State campus. Too many famous people recorded here to list, everyone from Jeff Beck to early Motown and John Lee Hooker, to George Clinton and Parliament. The 5 recorded a few early tracks here with minimal success and minimal cooperation from the engineers. The single “Looking At You” was cut and mixed here, inspite of Wayne and John being high on acid.
Formerly “GM Studios” on East Nine Mile Road in East Detroit (now “Eastpointe”)
This is where Jon Landau recorded the bands first studio album “Back in the USA” in 1970.
It is also where a young Bob Seger and the Bob Seger System recorded the massively powerful track “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” which included Glen Frey (graduated from the former Royal Oak Dondero High School) of the Eagles on guitar and backup vocals. (my personal favorite track from those sessions is the B-side “Tales of Lucy Blue”)
If any of this is interesting or news to you, I insist you check out a new book called GRIT NOISE AND REVOLUTION by David A. Carson. An excellent snapshot of the vital Detroit rock and roll scene, it covers not only the MC5 but all the other amazing bands of this era. Bob Seger, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, The Up, The Frost, The Frut, the Stooges – it goes on and on.
Still, a very powerful introduction to what, before this book, was primarily an oral history of our region.
Heres a few links that you should check out pertaining to the MC5~
Waynes website: http://www.waynekramer.com/
The DKT band site: http://www.davis-kramer-thompson.com/
Michaels site: http://svengirly.blogspot.com/