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mc5

  • 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.

  • mc5 blind pig
    It will be a gathering of the faithful when some of Michigan’s most respected and enduring rock and roll acts take to the stage at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor for “A Tribute to The MC5” on June 9.

    A fundraiser for the late Wayne Kramer’s Jail Guitar Doors Foundation that uses music to rehabilitate jail inmates, it was instigated by former Scott Morgan’s Powertrane bassist and current Mazingamember, Chris “Box” Taylor after the recent passing of the Five’s last man standing, drummer Dennis Thompson.

  • mobile homelandNo introduction needed for the onetime spiritual leader of the MC5 so here’s a personal note about meeting John Sinclair:

    It was on a night off during a business trip that involved a flying visit to Ann Arbor, Michigan in the early 2000s. Sinclair was in town for that city’s annual Hash Bash and had just played a show at The Blind Pig. I’d been drinking at the Eight Bar Saloon with some locals, including Scott Morgan who did the introduction.

  • wayne kramer yt“Heavy Lifting” – which is being marketed as the first MC5studio album in 53 years – is out on October 18.

    Led by late founding member Wayne Kramer (pictured right) and recorded with iconic producer Bob Ezrin (Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, KISS), the album features original Five drummer, also late Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson,on two tracks along with special guests including Slash, Tom Morello, William DuVall (Alice in Chains), Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Don Was, and Tim McIlrath (Rise Against).

    "Heavy Lifting" will be on LP and CD with a bonus disc of live tracks by MC50, the band Kramer fronted on a world tour to showcase MC5 songs for the 50th anniversary.

    earMUSICwill release the album a  day prior to the MC5’s induction into 2024’s Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.

  • Out Of Time LPOut of Time – Sonic’s Rendezvous Band (Easy Action)

    Some bands defy objective assessment and Sonic’s Rendezvous Band is one of them. So let’s not even try to pretend.

    How can you be objective about a band that issued just one single in its lifetime when it happens to be “City Slang”, inarguably the greatest rock and roll seven-inch of all time? Can you really question the worth of a band whose lineage is former MC5, Rationals, Stooges and The Up members?

    Yes, you could. But that’s just you.

  • amazing androidsIf you are just surfin' around the net on the lookout for this week's dime-a-dozen Richie Rich, aggression free, smiley-faced, redundant, Ramones tribute band with the obligatory Lewis leather apparel and Betty Page hair-do's, this might not really be your thing. But if your chakras are open to some really far-out psychedelic, cosmic consciousness, vibrating at a higher frequency, maan, this might be your new trip-room soundtrack.

    Junkyard Prog, Freak-Jazz, Magic Mushroom instrumentals from other solar systems, other dimensions, other times. Kooky, Otherworldly, Stoner-Pop reminiscent of the Hendrix Experience, Blue Cheer, MC5 jams, King Crimson, solo Steve Vai records, it has an interplanetary sensibility, this guy obviously still communicates telepathically with Sun Ra, and Captain Beefheart, and Brian Eno and Lee Scratch Perry, ya know what I'm sayin'?

  • 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. 

  • schizos minivan photographyCredit: Minivan Photography.

    They formed in 2009 but it's in the last few years that San Diego’s Schizophonics have convincingly cemented their reputation as one of the world’s hardest-working and most dynamic bands.

    Gymnastically-inclined singer-guitarist Pat Beers, drummer (and his wife) Lety Beers, plus a series of bass players, have been wowing audiences around the world with their unique brand of explosive garage rock. They’re poised to pay Australia and New Zealand their second visit in a year in February and March, before hitting Japan for the first time.

    The Schizophonics have been likened to a cross between James Brown and the MC5. Local bands have been lining up to join them on bills. Aussie all-female combo, The Fangin’ Felines, are lucky enough to be joining them for two support spots - in their own hometown Wollongong (Lalalas, March 12) and Sydney (Marrickville Bowlo, March 13).

    Strong females are integral to both bands, so it made perfect sense for the I-94 Bar to host a pre-tour conversation between Lety Beers and Fangin’ Feline singer Carrie Phillis. The ladies spoke over Skype earlier this week. Pat Beers joined them and uber fan Russell Hopkinson (You Am I, ex-Radio Birdman) made the whole thing happen.

  • silver space machineIt’s fuzz-laden and filthy rock and roll and the antecedents of two of Purple Urchin’s three members tells you why.

    Guitarist-vocalist David “Spiff” Hopkins was in herbally-inclined Sydney skate-surf punks The Hellmen and treble-toned but righteous Perth rockers The M-16s, while Shayne Macri played bass in aptly-named West Australian band, The Fuzz, in which stellar-throated vocalist Abbe May also cut her teeth.

    Purple Urchin come from Dunsborough, a surf town 250 kilometres south of Perth that serves as the gateway to Western Australia’s Margaret River wine region. Like everything else in that part of the world, it’s a long way from anywhere else. Purple Urchin have clearly brought their influences with them.

  • 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. 



  • 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.

  • 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.

  • subversionsRevisionism is a wonderful thing. If you’d suggested listening to an album of cover songs by UK Subs as a useful way to spend some time 30 years ago, I’d have told you to check yourself into a psych ward.

    I never “got” the UK Subs, despite their membership of the first wave of English punk…probably because I’d never bothered to try. There was just too much other stuff on the same block. Time marches on and you can't ignore band leader Charlie Harper’s indefatigable nature (he’s 73) or the 26 original studio albums (one for each letter of the alphabet) as testament to their durability.

    “Subversion” is good. Better than good. It’s capital ‘F’ for Fun, underlined by great playing and a collective “we don’t give a fuck” attitude. Which should be what punk rock was - and is - all about. Fuck the fashion.

  • groovies cretell france 1972The Flamin' Groovies in Paris in 1972 with James Ferrell at right. 

    Long obscured in the Flamin’ Groovies behind Cyril Jordan, Roy Loney, Chris Wilson and even tight-lipped man of mystery, George Alexander, guitarist James Ferrell is a key player in the band’s story. Along with his best pal Danny Mihm, James served in both the Loney-fronted and Wilson-fronted incarnations of the Groovies, and in Loney’s brilliant subsequent band, Roy Loney & The Phantom Movers.

    James climbed aboard the Groovies train, replacing Tim Lynch, in Roy’s final days – he plays on the classic 1971 Fillmore recording that’s been released on both Voxx and Norton as well as other labels – and lasted through to 1976. He took part in the early European sojourns, their time with UA in London and the prime days of their relationship with Dave Edmunds and Rockfield Studios. That relationship produced game-changing 45’s, including “Slow Death” and “You Tore Me Down”, as well as the landmark and hugely influential "Shake Some Action" album.

    James was there for the band’s legendary shows with the Ramones – on the 1976 Bicentennial bill in London and in LA - before departing the band and ultimately falling back in with Roy and Danny.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Stooges Grande AsthmaAttack 1969 MatheuA Stooges Asthma Attack at th Grande Ballroom in1968. Robert Matheu photo. 

    time tunnel logoThe year 2006 was something of a watershed for fans of high-energy rock and roll of the Detroit variety. The reformed Stooges were in full flight and an historic six-CD, eponymous Sonic's Rendezous Band box set came out on UK label Easy Action.

    The box set's executive producer of the box was ROBERT MATHEU, a Detroit-raised and former Creem magazine staff photographer. Sadly, Robert passed away in 2018, but a dozen years before, he told the back-story of the box set to the I-94 Bar - and of course regaled us with stories about the MC5 and the Stooges. 

    We're revisiting many of the stories originally published on the I-94 Bar that were archived when we moved virtual location a few years ago. This is one of the trips back in The Time Tunnel. 

  • 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.)

  • primitive 1969 76Sonny Vincent: Primitive 1969-76. Diamond Distance & Liquid Fury - Sonny Vincent (Hozac Archival)

    Some would hide their earliest bands’ recordings in a dark place and hope nobody found them. Thankfully, not Sonny Vincent.

    As one of the last New York punks still standing, Sonny Vincent criminally remains a well-kept secret. The music he’s made under his own name, and with a string of bands - most notably, Max’s Kansas City and CBGB graduates, Testors - is some of the best primal sound around. This collection of songs from his pre-punk bands, spanning 1969-72, does nothing to detract from that track record. 

  • 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.

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