Album Dust-Off: MC 5’s Kick Out The Jams

Todd Easterbrook, sonic archaeologist, brings you his latest finds from his excursions into ancient record bins–every week, only on Album Dust-Off.

Todd Easterbrook, sonic archaeologist, brings you his latest finds from his excursions into ancient record bins–every week, only on Album Dust-Off.

By Todd Easterbrook

Music matters. It matters culturally; it matters politically; it matters because it separates us; it matters because it brings us together; it matters because art matters; because creativity matters.

Music matters to me, and music should matter to you.

Because the history of music is just as important as music itself, it is my privilege to hereby bring you my weekly Album Dust-Off column. Every week I will be looking back through the years—combing back through the decades to find hidden gems and forgotten classics; landmark albums and songs that have served to rock and groove generations, and to define and shape what contemporary music is (or isn’t) today. It is my hope that every album featured will serve as a modicum of discovery for you to expand your musical horizons eclectically and contextually.

Welcome to the inception of Album Dust-Off.

So that being said it’s time to “kick out the jams,” as it were, with my first choice, a seminal protopunk album released almost 42 years ago in early February of 1969: MC 5’s first album—and a live album at that—appropriately titled Kick Out the Jams. Recorded over two nights at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom, MC 5’s energetic debut album still packs a punk-punch, ranking #294 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

“Kick out the jams motherfucker!” Rob Tyner screams before the opening guitar riff of the title track, the first curse word ever recorded on a live or studio album (intended for commercial release) and arguably the birth of punk ethos. And although Tyner’s hallmark sentence was edited off the album upon release despite protest from the band and its manager, controversy still spread when the original liner notes contained the infamous line on the inside album cover—Oops! The album was immediately pulled from shelves and banned in a Detroit department store upon the discovery, thus inadvertently laying down the groundwork for the punk ethic of snarling civil disobedience. This fast, anarchic mentality would later culminate to sweep Britain and America in the mid to late 70s with bands like the Sex Pistols and the Clash—not to mention the influence they had on the spawn of garage rock. It all started with MC 5’s raw, race-riffed and thunder-drummed “Kick out the Jams.” And when Tyner—the man with arguably the coolest afro ever, sings, “Well I feel pretty good and I guess that I could get crazy now, baby/ ‘Cause we got in tune when the dressing room got hazy now, baby,” grab your long board, your rollies, and paper-bag it while you dig this flippantly in-your-face classic. Take it from me.

Play it loud. Play it proud.

Notable covers of “Kick out the Jams” include: Pearl Jam and Mudhoney (live), Rage Against the Machine (from Renegades), Jeff Buckley live at Sin-e (“Put your fucking cameras away and let’s just be together”).