Here is the MC5’s infamous hometown performance by a Detroit highway in July 1970. Thirty-four years later I finally got to see them play for myself.
I was in Los Angeles one evening in 2004 when my friend Mickey Bee told me that Wayne Kramer and Michael Davis from pre-punk legends MC5 were playing a live show. So off we went.
We jumped in his car and he drove through the worst thunderstorm I’ve ever experienced, scarily aquaplaning along the 101 until we reached Studio City.
Right beneath the freeway on Cahuenga there was a tiny little jazz club called The Baked Potato. It seemed an unlikely place to find a pair of punk legends.
The five-yard dash from our parking place outside a burger joint to the door of the venue soaked us to the skin and we entered, dripping, to find the gig had already started.
It was a small, intimate kind of place, so we settled ourselves on the only chairs we could see in the dimly lit room – in the front row, a few feet in front of the band – and ordered drinks.
I remember nothing about the music they played that night except that after half an hour or so of entirely unfamiliar solo material, Kramer inquired whether anyone had any requests.
I glanced around at the meagre crowd sitting silently behind me and, by now fully refreshed, decided to help out by referencing the legendary opening words of his legendary band’s most legendary song. And, for that matter, the only song I really know by them.
“KICK OUT THE JAMS MUTHAFUCKAS!!” I yelled enthusiastically.
You could have heard a pin drop.
The audience remained resolutely silent. When I looked around for support no one met my gaze. The band members looked embarrassed by the sudden intrusion and played yet another unfamiliar tune.
Then we drove home.