Underground Greats: MC5

I might be kind of stretching the definition of underground to include the MC5, but a band that I’ve never heard on the radio, and is probably still best known as a band that other bands reference still feels underground to me.

I first listened to the MC5 the way most people probably did, by getting their first album, Kick Out the Jams, mainly because I’d heard the title song before.  This was a mistake.  There are a few good songs on the album, but all the junk on it turned me off from the band for about a decade.

“Kick out the jams” was meant to be understood as – kick out the jam bands.

I know how you want it

You want it hot, quick and tight

THIS IS EXACTLY HOW I WANT MY ROCK AND ROLL.  HOT.  QUICK.  TIGHT.

Sadly for the MC5, there’s not a whole lot of HOT QUICK AND TIGHT on here.  Even the title song kind of drags.  And it takes some nerve to complain about jam bands when the MC5 were a jam band.  The final song on the album is 8:15 and is called Starship.  I rest my case.

I followed up the mistake of buying their first album by buying their third album.  More of the same.

I know how you want it

You want it hot, quick and tight

STOP TEASING ME WITH THIS

Even Sister Anne, a righteously badass song, goes on too damn long.

So I had no interest in the MC5 for about ten years until I was at a friend’s house and he had a CD on of some great good time rock and roll.  Who is this band?

The MC5

THEIR SECOND ALBUM

How was I to know?  Their 2nd album is one of the greatest offerings of HOT QUICK AND TIGHT ever committed to vinyl.

Even the cover photo, which looks like it was taken in the shower says hot quick and tight.

(am I overdoing it with the hot quick and tight?  I just think it’s a perfect description of the music I like)

28 minutes of mostly expertly played blasts of rock and roll. Listen to the whole thing- there’s only one real dud (Let me try).  Even their covers of Chuck Berry and Little Richard are worthy of the originals, something few bands can claim.

Apparently there was some controversy among fans as the production was totally different from their first.  Jon Landau, who would later go on to fame as Bruce Springsteen’s producer kept the band on a tight leash.  Jon Landau is my hero for doing this.

Since I listened to this record I’ve somewhat reevaluated my view of their other two records.  Their third has some good songs and I listen to parts of it at times.  The first one still sucks- it’s hokey and self-indulgent and didn’t age well at all.  They should have taken their own advice and kept it hot, quick and tight.

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