“BROTHERS AND SISTERS, THE TIME HAS COME FOR EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU TO DECIDE WHETHER YOU ARE GONNA BE THE PROBLEM OR WHETHER YOU ARE GONNA BE THE SOLUTION.” For the Motor City 5, there was never any doubt that the band’s unapologetic garage rock anthems would be anything but the solution – the fast-rocking truths, raw and revealing about a culture in turmoil.
Eligible year: 1991
Number of nominations: 5
Nominated in: 2003, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020
Draped in red, white and blue, the MC5 were a high-watt onslaught of musicians: guitarists Wayne Kramer and Fred “Sonic” Smith, bassist Michael Davis, drummer Dennis Thompson, and brain-shattering lead singer Rob Tyner. The Motor City 5 kicked out the jams and politicized every bystander in sight. Their powerful sound was a unique combination of R&B, psychedelia and garage rock with dominant political messages. Invited by Abbie Hoffman to play to the masses of young protestors outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, MC5 were the only band brazen enough to play onstage. They became the soundtrack to a cultural tipping point, played over scenes of tear gas and police brutality.
With proud anti-establishment credentials, the MC5 prefigured much of American punk rock and even influenced heavy metal. After releasing Kick Out the Jams, the band broke new ground with their second album, Back In The USA, produced by then rock critic Jon Landau. The record combined Chuck Berry riffs with lyrics that remain prophetic to this day. Just listen to “High School” and you’ll hear the pop-punk sound that was later perfected by The Ramones. Each album’s relentless qualities drive listeners to the brink of sensory overload while remaining rooted in melody and groove.
Now, over fifty years since the release of the band’s first album, founder Wayne Kramer is back on the road with a super group of musicians playing thought-provoking music during another period of political unrest. The MC50 features members of Faith No More, Fugazi, Soundgarden, and Zen Guerilla, encapsulating the continued broad influence and spirit of the original Motor City 5.
“I Can Only Give You Everything,” “I Just Don’t Know” (1966) • “Looking At You,” “Borderline” (1968) • “Kick Out the Jams,” “Ramblin’ Rose,” “Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa)” Kick Out The Jams (1969) • “Tonight,” “Shakin’ Street,” Back In The USA (1970) • “Sister Anne,” High Time (1971)