Don’t look now, but it seems that Wayne Kramer, of the legendary MC5, has suddenly discovered his YouTube account and decided to use it to showcase some killer footage of the band from its heyday. Over the last three weeks he’s uploaded a handful of videos on his Facebook presence as well as his YouTube account. It’s going to be worth keeping an eye on his account for the next weeks and months.
The earliest video from a chronological perspective is a short compilation of DASPO-CONUS footage of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. DASPO was the Department of the Army Special Photographic Office, the “CONUS” bit means “Continental United States.” DASPO recorded footage from the Vietnam conflict as well. This is a true compilation—there’s no audio and it’s just a mishmash of different images, quite interesting actually even if the MC5 only pop up for a few moments. Around the 29-second mark there is a clip of a folk singer performing in the middle of a crowd of people—the singer is Phil Ochs—and then a few seconds later, there’s the MC5 in a similar setting. As I said, there’s no audio: unfortunately it seems that the Army was callously insensitive to the needs of audio bootleggers. According to Kramer, this footage has never been published before. The YouTube caption indicates that the footage has been sync’d to “Wayne Kramer’s original underscore musical compositions.”
Fred Smith in his Sonic Smith suit
The second clip, and certainly the most satisfying from the perspective of an MC5 fan who wants to rock out, was shot at Wayne State University’s Tartar Field on July 19, 1970. We actually posted a version of this footage last year. The band plays “Ramblin’ Rose,” “Kick Out the Jams,” being the first two songs off of the MC5’s first album Kick Out The Jams from 1969 and then “Looking at You” from the 1970 follow-up Back in the USA. This was the first-ever live performance of that song, it seems. This concert was recorded by multiple cameras, and it looks and sounds great.
Rounding out the trio is a fan-shot video taken at the Gibus Club in Paris in 1972. The video is pretty muddy but the audio is not so terrible. Noteworthy here is that Fred “Sonic” Smith is wearing his superhero getup—as Kramer writes, “Enjoy Fred in his Sonic Smith suit!” Only two songs here but both are a treat: “Kick Out the Jams” and “Black to Comm,” one of their perennial jams going back to when the band were all still teenagers.
DASPO-CONUS Democratic National Convention footage:
Tartar Field, Detroit, July 19, 1970:
Gibus Club, Paris 1972:
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The MC5 kick out the jams next to a busy Detroit highway in 1970