MACHINEGUN THOMPSON: THE MC5 LEGEND
There is no subtlety here. This is loud, angry, in-your-face music meant to move the bodies of the audience with a blazing spontaneous release of compressed energy. Unlike the spiritually searching nature of so much of the music of 1968, the MC5's music reflected back the violence and political turmoil of the times. This is confrontational music and a full frontal attack on the powers that be. Rebellious and exhilarating, this performance proves just how devastating the MC5 could be in concert during the summer of '68. Full Review HERE
Many people have asked me the same question in the last 40 years. I have done my best to answer this question without prejudice.
What does it feel like being a member of a legendary, almost mythical band like the MC5? When Time and Newsweek magazine call your band the “Vanguard of the Revolution”, it sticks, trust that. This has always been a tough question for me to answer.
It usually depends on my mood and station in life at the time of the question.
You see, being a member of the band makes it almost impossible for me to be objective. So I will do my best to be justly subjective.
It made me feel great. It made me feel totally complete as a drummer and as a person. They were my second family, and I felt loved and respected. What more could a person ask for? We were one bad to the bone team. Period.
I have at times said I hated it, loved it, was ambiguous about it, tired of being asked about it, but at most times I can run on about this band till the cows come home. For what we stood for, for the impact we had on both music and politics of the day. Hell, we could use a new MC5 right now! Honestly, it all boils down to one fact. We were the REAL THING!
It is what I know best after fielding hundreds of interviews all across the globe. Just ask all the young bands that are influenced by us. I can hear it in hundreds of these bands’ music.
I suppose when we are all dead and gone they will finally vote us into the Rock N’ Roll hall of Fame. But I don’t really care about that any more. F**k ‘em for being so ignorant.
There are so many people now who are just discovering us. They are amazed that a band with this much force and power could even have existed. Another main reason the legend grows is the memories of those who were there, back in the lat 60’s, and early seventies.
With this band they felt connected, a full part of the music, a part of the show, and they forgot their loneliness and fears for one and a half hours. We were the loudest band on the planet during our prime. We blew our audience’s brains out literally, and their ears. Need a band to play for your police riot? Just ask the MC5, they’ll do it!
You loved us or you hated us, and even if you hated us, we would eventually grow on you. Why? Because it’s all there. Powerful music, elaborate costumes, choreography, violence, sex, and love, and an attack style still being copied today. We were as close as anyone will ever come to being the complete rock band, forever. They are now studying this band at the college level. There are textbooks. The legend grows…
We took on the establishment while other groups of the day hid behind their lyrics. We fought with our bodies, hearts, and minds. We lived our lyrics, and the people knew that. Hell at times we led with our chin, and got popped more than a few times. You know who you are out there…
They knew. They knew…The people were ready for it. They also knew we never sold out. We never did a 180 on our philosophy of self-determinism. There were costs attached to our stance and we paid dearly for them. Not always so willingly I must proffer. I still bear the emotional and intellectual scars.
We also did some very good things, and some not so good things. The police, the FBI, and the US Signal Corps knew we were a threat to the powers that be. So they spied on us, tapped our phones, infiltrated our lives and did their best to break us up without killing us.
That is because we did our best to tell the truth and rather intensely I might add.
The music is another area that adds fuel to the Mythical MC5. No one has come close to duplicating it yet. They never will. You would have to have our history and library of chops to even understand how we played the way we were able to play. Then you might be able to get on the right track.
We were the penultimate American band, (sorry Grand Funk). So, being the real thing in those days was a monumental task, and I personally think we handled it okay. Not great, okay. We made tactical errors business-wise that could have been avoided. But we weren’t up for the big compromise. We tried to have a hit single but the public never heard of us, we got so little radio airplay. The first band to use “obscenity” cost us a great deal indeed. Ask Lenny Bruce.
A friend of mine referred to the term, “High Performance Team”, a biz phrase. That is exactly what we were. Five guys the universe threw together to make this fierce music, and to give people a chance to feel they belonged to something greater than just themselves. We told them that they were not alone, that there was a better way to live and let’s get with it, and bring about the change that was extremely necessary in those halcyon days.
I also believe that as time goes by, hyperbole and embellishment add to the power of the memory of the Five. Yes, I know our legend has grown to mythical proportions, but mythology does not pay the bills. We three remaining members still must work for a living. Maybe it is a good thing that we broke up when we did, and did not become rich and famous. I probably could not have handled the excess of it all. Might have killed me…So I will write the book instead.
Finally, to place a little topical perspective on this paradigm, we stood for a new America, a new Music, and a new life-style protected by a devil may care attitude about it all.
As time goes by, I’d rather have our position in history than buckets of money. I am humbly and deeply flattered at the respect so many people give to me and the MC5. We were just about everything they say about us, and that fact alone still blows me away. Thank you everyone. Wayne and Michael thank you just as well even if they do not agree with me.
DKT/MC5 was a fabulous touring band and I loved playing the music of the MC5. Hell, we are the only MUSICIANS who could do it justice right? My, oh my…
Do not forget we started out as naïve young boys who became men well before their time. We listened and we learned. You should too.
The world wanted it so. What is a boy to do?
Photos by Charlie Auringer
Purchase Prints From the Back Stage Gallery HERE
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