A final blow was Atlantic dropping them leaving them with no record company no manager and no John Landau or Danny Fields to support them. The only thing holding it together was Ronan O’Rahilly ostensibly their manager from 1972 and owner of pirate ship Radio Caroline. The man according to Wayne Kramer who ‘almost saved the MC5.'
It was all going wrong; there no money, they were disconnected from home, their fan base, country and they had lost the spiritual connection to the music and each other. Fred smith and his wife lost a baby in a crib death. Michael Davis got involved and lived with a gangster and a watched murder being committed in his living room. Add to that a nice line in addictions - Dennis had a junk problem as did Wayne . The band would play a gig then drive 250 miles back home just to cop some more dope. For the more straight edge Rob Tyner watching this dissatisfaction was welling up.These weren't fun times. Then the five became 4 as Michael got fired from the band for yes junk. They got an English bassist in Derek Hughes and went off to do some German gigs. 3 months later he went over to the states to join the band.
And then the Five/Four were back in the UK for perhaps their strangest gig. A massive gig at the Wembley stadium on a rock 'n' roll show that was full of 1950’s Teds. There were 60,000 people there. So the MC5 unveiled their next move for the future! Fred came out as Sonic Smith super hero, Kramer had painted all his skin gold and Rob was in a gold lame jacket, massively backcombed afro with glitter and tons of makeup. The teddy boys didn't like it and threw cans and Rob made the fatal error of throwing one back which heralded the onslaught of a rain of cans. “It was us versus them and there was way more of them! Sometimes we made tactical mistakes (laughing)” Wayne Kramer
Back to the US for more gigs then on the next visit to Europe Rob bailed out and at the same time Dennis bailed out. The band got in another drummer – Ritchie Dharama and they went over to Scandinavia and did the gigs as the MC5 except there was four and really in all respects it was the MC2. Footage from the time show Fred and Wayne looking at each other wearily knowing it was neither right or righteous.
Getting back to Detroit they were offered $500 to play the Grande on New years Eve and the other guys came back and played. Wayne Kramer recalls wistfully the night in 'A True Testimonial'.
The scene of the great triumphs of the MC5, the wonderful gigs, the huge crowds 3000 people would show up...the coloured lights and the promise of the future, youthful enthusiasm, spirituality, John, White Panthers and now ...same room...there might have been 250 people there and I had a heroin habit.
As Wayne Kramer played everything he hated about the band welled up and midway through the gig he upped and walked out offstage and went to the dope house.
And that was the end of the MC5...
Fed Smith formed Sonic Rendezvous and married Patti Smith. He died on Nov 4th 1994
Rob Tyner formed a new MC5 and even recorded a single with the Hot Rods. He died in September 18th 1991 and was buried in an MC5 Tshirt.
Michael played with Ron Ashton in Destroy All Monster and served 2 years for drug possession
Dennis Thompson joined New Order
Wayne Kramer formed a number of bands including Gang War with Johnny Thunders and is releasing solo records to this day.
In 2006 the surviving member have been playing as DKT/MC5 and ripping venues up still!
When the shit was hitting the fan, at its most intense, when the police were at the door, when the firebombs were flying when the riots going off , when the Grande ballroom had 30000 crazed youths in it ...this was big fun, this was fun...you don’t know fun until you’ve just finished having the wildest most bizzarrest sex of your imagination to go downstairs and see your van being firebombed! We’re talking fun! Wayne Kramer
Radical activist band or band caught in a moment where their electric playing and act synergise with the time? The below from Charles Shaar Murray gig at The Fox Croydon in 1972 captures it perfectly. The band had that indefinable magic and music was the weapon for change not allied to guns.
'The important thing in any revolutionary activity' says Fred Smith, 'is the communication of the real values'.'What we're concerned with is not so much a revolutionary consciousness', continues Tyner, 'I think the consciousness that we're concerned with, if you summed it up in a word, would definitively encompass revolutionary in the sense of the change in the sense of values that is needed right now, and that would be something that we would term loving awareness, as opposed to a defensive awareness, which is what most of the world functions in today, and always has. That was a prime example of where John Sinclair's head was at, and that's why we didn't agree with it. We knew it wasn't right, we knew it wasn't gonna change things...''The most important thing for us to do', says Smith, 'is to try to project a loving awareness attitude. If I come to you and I'm projecting a defensive awareness attitude, then I'm totally blocked off to you, and there is no communication. In our situation as a group, in our music, in our stage show, in the things we say on stage, we wish to project this openness, this loving awareness, this sensitivity towards a higher level of communication.' 'Vibrations, the art form we are dealing with is literally vibrations', says Tyner, 'because we produce sound vibrations. These sound vibrations come out of us, through the circuitry of our instruments, out into the air and into you. You don't have to know that rock and roll's being played, you just open the door and walk in and immediately it comes into you. If it says something to you on a vibrational level, you stay and you become more opened up by it.'
In theory, the MC5 are just another multi-megawatt heavy band. Kramer and Smith seem to concentrate on playing with all the speed and volume they can muster Tyner's range is minimal, and bassist Mike Davis and drummer Dennis Thompson are just about adequate. Technically it sucks, and the whole thing is crass as hell. But it works, I'm dancing. Something happens when the MC5 get it on that only happens when the very best bands get it on. What makes it happen is that the MC5 understand rock and roll, and they understand it well. They are masters of kinetic excitement, they know how to open a song at maximum power and then build from there, and that is what makes them a better show than many a band whose technical ability may be infinitely higher. Charles Shaar Murray http://makemyday.free.fr/cream.htm
Remember the MC5 like below and if don't fail to move you - you really don't understand music
MC5 - John Sinclair
As Rock and the counter culture developed through the Sixties it didn't take a genius to work out that with the right band and message you had all the ingredients needed for a powerful vehicle of change. So when John Sinclair hooked up with the MC5 the possibility was there as his 1968 article below shows
Rock and Roll Is a Weapon of Cultural Revolution by JOHN SINCLAIR
"The duty of the revolutionary is to make the revolution." The duty of the musician is to make the music. But there is an equation that must not be missed: MUSIC IS REVOLUTION. Rock and roll music is one of the most vital revolutionary forces in the West-it blows people all the way back to their senses and makes them feel good, like they're alive again in the middle of this monstrous funeral parlor of western civilization. And that's what the revolution is all about-we have to establish a situation on this planet where all people can feel good all the time. And we "I not stop until that situation exists.
Rock and roll music is a weapon of cultural revolution. There are not enough musicians around today who are hip to this fact. Too many of your every-day pop stars feel that music is simply a means by which they can make a lot of money or gain a lot of cheap popularity or whatever-dollars and ego power, both of which are just a killer ruse, in fact I would have to say the killer ruse of all time. Money is the biggest trick of all, next to the so-called ego, which comes out of the same scene as money anyway. I mean the ego developed strictly as an economic function, when there got to be too many people on the planet for the planet's natural resources and there wasn't enough for everybody any more. Then people had to start separating them- selves out from the tribe and see themselves as individuals, because if there ain't enough for everybody then everybody's got to try to make sure he or she has got enough, and there's always somebody else around who wants to take it away from you....
Think about it. If all the kids in high schools who can't stand that shit would stop going-all of you-then where would the schools be? They have to have you there. If you aren't there they won't be able to eat-they won't have a job any more. Your parents will go crazy too....
If you're living at home, start planning for what you'll be doing when you split. Get together with your people who are waiting to split and plan a scene for when you can be together. Start practicing now, on your parents' money and time. Save up your money if you get any so you can buy your supplies and equipment when you split.
Don't waste your time pissing and moaning about how shitty every- thing is. Start getting it together so you can change it. Everybody knows what a drag it is. You're not telling anybody anything they can use. Exchange information. Get down. And when you have split, get your thing together so you'll be able to have a better time than just sitting around smoking bogus dope, dropping bogus speed-filled acid, shooting smack, and listening to brainwash low-energy jams. Tripping out is a dead end and a drag. You always come down. If you engage yourself in a total revolutionary program of self-reliance and serving the people any way you can, you will have a guaranteed good time forever (except for when they lock you up from time to time) and will help other people get it together too.
It isn't enough just to drop out though-you have to create new forms which will enable you to sustain yourselves while you're doing your work. The commune is the life-form of the future, it is the revolu- tionary organizational life-form, and the communal relationship must be realized in everything you do. Rock and roll is the best example. That's why I said at the beginning of this rant, that MUSIC IS REVOLUTION-because it is immediate, total, fast-changing and on-going. Rock and roll not only is a weapon of cultural revolution, it is the model of the revolutionary future. At its best the music works to free people on all levels, and a rock and roll band is a working model of the post-revolutionary production unit. The members of a rock and roll family or tribe are totally interdependent and totally committed to the same end-they produce their music collectively, sharing both the responsibility and the benefits of their work equally. They work on the frontiers of modern technology to produce a new form which is strictly contemporary in all its implications. There is no separation. And that's what it's all about....
Capitalism is obsolete-it is based on the two horrible notions of private property and competition, both of which have to go right now. And the point is, that it's time for them to go, because there's no more room for that old-time shit in the world today. People have got to get it together, not apart. People are now stuck in builshit jobs, bullshit schools, bullshit houses, bullshit marriages, bullshit social and economic scenes, and there's no need for it anymore. Most of the jobs that presently exist are useless and anti-human, and they'll be done away with immediately once the people are in power and the machines are freed to do all the work.
Likewise most of the products of the present consumer economy they're bullshit and will no longer exist. Eighty-seven different brands of toothpaste! Millions of junky automobiles! That's all they are--junk-that people have been hooked on by the junk pushers of capitalism. The whole thing is ridiculous!
Everything has to be free or else!
It is extremely important for urban groups to organize themselves around some form of popular cultural activity like a rock and roll band, a community newspaper, guerrilla theatre groups, a health clinic, or whatever you can put together. The cultural forms will give you access to the mass media and to mass audiences of pre- revolutionary youth who are just sitting around waiting to get totally turned on. High school groups can organize around newspapers and posters and bands and present a united front in their dealings with administrators and other old creeps.... It's time to turn on, tune in and take over! Up against the ceiling, motherfucker!