MC5 Does Not Suck | Letters | Chicago Reader

MC5 Does Not Suck 

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I wanted to ask Brian Boyle of S. Woodlawn [Letters, April 30] (who is the new source as the final word on everything) why everybody from Henry Rollins, Mike Watt, Eddie Van Halen, Patti Smith, the White Stripes, Rage Against the Machine, the Ramones, Social Distortion, Sonic Youth, Green Day, Aerosmith, and quite a few others have all gone on record as saying what a huge influence the MC5 was to them.

I also thought it was amazing that a 34-year-old who, by his own admission, has only heard one MC5 CD, that being Kick Out the Jams, can decide for the rest of us what the Five's legacy is. KOTJ was/is a product of the era: production quality was poor back then, feedback was almost unavoidable, and everybody loved their wah-wah pedals. Admittedly they don't fit in this decade, and the recent MC5 minirevival was clearly a mistake. (Rachel wore one of their T-shirts on a Friends episode, as did a model in a Levis ad.)

High Time and Back in the USA were far more polished works, and all of the critics of the time (Lester Bangs included) gushed about those two records. But the acid test is always the live performance, and the free concert I saw at West Park in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1969 (at age 14) is still one of the top three concerts I've ever seen, and that list includes the Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead, etc. I am also one of the fortunate few to have seen the MC5 documentary (at the Detroit Film Theatre in February), and it is an excellent chronology of the band and the times; the footage from the '68 Democratic convention is still dramatic, even 36 years later.

I'm sorry that you don't like them, Brian, but that doesn't mean that they suck. They were an important band who will continue to draw the praise they so richly deserve. However, I would agree with the critics who suggest that the surviving members of the Five not come back as the DKT/MC5. It was one thing for Iggy and the Stooges to come back with Mike Watt replacing James Williamson, as the heart and soul of the band was still intact with Iggy and the Asheton brothers, but there is no way that you can even come close to replacing Rob Tyner and Fred Smith, so they should let it go. But if they do come back anyway, yeah, I'll still go see them.

Matt Phillips


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