Song of the Day: “Kick Out the Jams” – The MC5



The MC5 are one of those bands that I constantly forget about until something happens to bring them back into my consciousness. This time, it was the fact that guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith would be celebrating his 67th birthday this week, had he not died of heart failure in 1994. This is as good of a reason as any to devote a little bit of time to “The Motor City Five,” who spent their annoyingly brief existence in the late 60’s-early 70’s laying the wrought iron tracks that would eventually bear the weight of the punk explosion. “Kick Out the Jams” is a song that can shift meanings depending on the situation. If you’re at a rock concert, you’d better believe that “Kick Out the Jams” means that the music should start immediately. If you’re into radical leftist politics, (you know, like the MC5 were), this might mean a total breakdown of the American archetype. Regardless of what the groups of that age hoped to accomplish (vs what they actually did), “Kick Out the Jams” remains an oft-covered rock classic that lends the band performing it a sort of instant credibility. At the very least, these artists are going back to the beginning of their movement. This was a bizarre and long-past time when the term “rock” wasn’t exclusively used to sell soda. Above is the original version, (which is actually a live version) and below is the Rage Against the Machine version, which I feel is pretty sharp.

BTW, Fred Smith and Patti Smith actually had a fairly successful relationship for a while, siring a few kids. I would imagine that at least part of the appeal came from the fact that she could potentially take his last name and sacrifice nothing in the way of her unique brand of feminism.

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