Kick Out the Jams: Five Essential MC5 Songs

The MC5
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If you’ve been following the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations, then you already know that The MC5 are among the nominees for possible inclusion. Do they deserve to be within the Hall? Of course they do. But do we really need to offer up a list of specific reasons why? Well, maybe, but rather than go that route, we’re instead just going to offer up five songs that best exemplify the sort of music that The MC5 brought to the table with their Elektra releases in the late 1960s and early 1970s. If this doesn’t sell you on the worthiness of their inclusion, we don’t know what will.

“Kick Out the Jams” (1969): To say that this is the band’s signature song hardly does it justice, since it’s a song that grabs you by the throat with its opening howl – “Kick out the jams, motherf***ers!” – and never lets up. As guitarist Wayne Kramer told Songfacts, “We were using the expression for a long time, because we would be critical of other bands that came to Detroit that The MC5 would open for. They'd come into town with this big reputation, and then they'd get up on stage and they weren't very good. So, we used to harass them. We'd yell at them, ‘Kick out the jams or get off the stage, motherf***er!' Finally, one day we said, ‘I like that expression. We should use that as the title of a song.'"

READ MORE: October 1968: The MC5 'Kick Out the Jams' in Detroit

“Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa)” (1969): In a 1994 interview with the fanzine Swill, Kramer revealed that the title of this track came from the name of a paint remover that was utilized nasally in much the same way one would sniff glue. Go figure. As for the parenthetical addition to the title, Kramer shrugged and said, “Just sounded good, like a rock lyric.”

“Teenage Lust” (1970): Described by PopMatters as “an easy-to-swallow (and more subversive) three-minute capsule articulating the band’s hedonistic politics,” this track is definitely one of the highlights of the band’s sophomore LP, Back in the USA.

“Shakin’ Street” (1970): When talking about compiling his set list in 2018, Kramer told the Detroit Metro Times that this was one of the “great Fred Smith songs” that he was contemplating including in the mix. Can’t argue with that description: it is indeed pretty great.

“Sister Anne” (1971): The lead track from the band’s 1971 album High Time, this is another number penned by Fred “Sonic” Smith, and as LouderSound describes the track, it “rattles along with righteous fury.” In addition, it’s a song that numbers among its fans both Lemmy and Alice Cooper, and that’s some solid hard rock street cred.

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(Mike Lewis Photography/Redferns)
"In some ways, you kind of think it’s God’s way of telling everybody, ‘Slow down. Everybody get back with your families.’"
(Cyrus Andrews/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
The Stones' first #1 song was released in America on June 6, 1965.
Alfred A. Knopf
The book will be available Nov. 1.

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