Sunday, November 11, 2007

Kick Out the Jams 33-1/3 book by Don McLeese

This is the second book in the “33-1/3” series of books that I’ve read and I really dig the concept. Someone who was influenced by the artist writes about the influential album of the band’s career. In this case, Don McLeese, whose mid-west background gives him a connection to the MC5, who he first saw at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. This changed the way he saw r’n’r music from then on.

Coming from the mid-west myself, I can relate to Don’s revelation. I am a few years younger than him, but had the same type of epiphany in my teens. We both were listening to more progressive forms of rock and taking it very seriously. But when we came upon more visceral music – the MC5 in his case, the NY Dolls in my case – we realized that this is what r’n’r – as opposed to “rock” – was supposed to be. These revelations expanded our horizons and opened us to plenty of other amazing music.

Don does a super job researching the history of the band and comes up with facts that I, one of the biggest MC5 fans in the world, never knew. These books are small and compact, so the background is not exhaustive, but he hits upon the important points – how everyone met each other and how the band was formed and how the politics were merged with the sonic rebellion.

The story does unfold throughout the book and we hear of Elektra signing the band, the quick recording of KOTJ, the subsequent hype by the new rock media which then turned on the band after the record was released. While the record was climbing up into the Top 30 (!) the 5 burn their bridges with Elektra by putting out an offensive ad and putting their logo on it – and sending them the bill for it!

After being dropped, they never recover their momentum even as they are signed to Atlantic Records. The next two albums flop, the band goes through many personal problems and eventually just falls apart. A sad legacy for a band that could have – and actually has since - changed musical history.

This book even briefly tells of everyone’s post-band careers and even mentions the fabulous A True Testimonial DVD which was still held up in lawsuits by Wayne Kramer at the time of the release of the book, but apparently has finally been settled. The DVD is a mind-fucker and should be seen by anyone who cares for r’n’r!

KOTJ is a thoroughly enjoyable and informative read and is certainly worthwhile to anyone who is interested in this incredible band!


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