Of The People, For The People: DKT/MC5 Hit London

The Astoria, London
August 25, 2004

"Sonic Reducer" Club
The Boogaloo, North London
August 27, 2004

of Sonic Reducer, Londinium

Last Friday night, North London pub The Boogaloo was steamin’ like a slice of pizza pie. Twas chock-full o’the kind of normal folks you’d find at any of the gigs that the ‘5 have ever played. Y’know, us workin’ stiffs – people with a life, rather than a lifestyle. Yeah, Michael D came and rocked the joint, as our Sonic Reducer nite’s verrrry special guest DJ.

Opening up with a hunk o’Link Wray, yer man proved that he doesn’t need a Fender to bend some ears, winging out picks-to-click by The Who, The Yardbirds, da ‘Stones, der Stooges, The Bob Seger System, The Heartbreakers, The Ramones, and another arm’s length of hip wax. All the while casually tossing out fat nuggets of info regarding the rekkids he was choosing – like that he usedta room with The Underdogs’ bassist, a rich kid who spiked all o’his trust fund inna his arm!

Concurrently, Wayne K was dancin’ in the spot next to the decks, a big grin plastered to his mug, as the 250 souls packed into the pub for this free dance & booze partee went ape ker-ray-zee bonkers to a choice R&B nugget. Yea, and verily, Mike D, wife Angela, and Wayne’s missus Margaret were digging the whole shebang just as much as Mr K, albeit sans his (still) fancy footwork. Endless smiling faces approached the ‘5 posse, offering a handshake and a word of exaltation.

All in all, it was the purr-fect capper to a mind-bendingly righteous musical experience.

Who sez dreams don’t come true? If the gig your neck o’the woods smoked half as much as they did at London’s Astoria last Wednesday, then this whole shebang’s tortuous birth has provided a fitting testament to the original band. After all, that’s what it’s all about? Right? The music and the LOVE, baby. Fuck everything else.

Yet Levi’s should still be publicly gangbanged for being desperate enuff to need the rep of a 30-year-old band to flog their overpriced wares. Ain’t THAT damned straight, brothers and sistas?

Let’s take a time out here, and wind back 18 months, to the shotgun marriage between Levi’s and the ‘5. And guess who was shouldering both barrels? Yeah, quelle surprise, it was Levi’s. Y’see, at the beginning of last year, I found out that Levi’s were bringing out some MC5 T-shirts in Japan (and quite a few other places, as it turned out).

Natchully, like any damn fule, I thought "Fuck, this can't be right", and investigated forthwith. Sure as 'eggs is', when I contacted Mr K's wife, Margaret, she confirmed that they knew nothing about Levi's appropriation of the MC5 legacy. It opened up what Margaret (with some understatement, as it turned out) called "a can of worms". When Margaret investigated, Becky Derminer (Rob Tyner's widow) confirmed that Leni Sinclair (John's ex-wife) and Gary Grimshaw (Grande Ballroom artiste) had approached her about the work they were doing with Levi's, which she had "blessed". Wayne and co. then needed to sort out the situation ASAP, as if the rest of the '5, "did not agree to the license, Gary and Leni would have had to return the
(already spent) paycheck."

Y'know, an international corporation like Levi's ain't dumb, they know their intellectual copyright law. In the US, the '5's name is owned by the surviving band, and the families of the deceased, just as Elvis's folks control the use of his moniker. So why would Levi's think that licensing the '5's logo & image off their ex-manager's former wife (fer chrissake!) and poster artist (as eminent as Grimshaw undoubtedly is) was gonna be peachy? Wall Street arrogance or jus' plain ignorance of the resilience of the band whose legacy they'd decided to hijack? Who knows...

The point is that the ‘5 folks didn’t sell out, ‘cause they didn’t even know it was happening. I just thought that point needed to be re-emphasised here, y’unnerstand …

The ‘5 side then found themselves in rather pressing, David vs. Goliath-type situation – namely, having to find muchos moolah to sue a major corporation, in order to retrieve what’s already yours. Nuff’ said …

Thusly, after regrouping via a coupla weeks playing “phone tag”, the surviving ‘5 siders decided to take the fight to the beast’s lair (“by any means necessary” means just that). And, lo, it came to pass that they got to play together again at London’s 100 Club, at an event organised and HEAVILY stage-managed by Levi’s. And I mean HEAVILY. Like, overkill, kids. Three PR units on the case, invite-only (journos, poseurs, celeb fans, plus some of us lowly wurms), and no other gigs allowed around the event, lest the advent of REAL PEOPLE upset Levi’s promotional applecart.

Still, thankfully, despite all of the media shenanigans, it was an awesome gig which saw ‘nuff respect given to Messrs Smith and Tyner, and everyone with their heart in the thang (i.e. not the poseurs) have a real, brain-busting, O-Mind of a time. Also kool-i-o plus was the news that the ‘5 side had negotiated the rights to film and record the gig themselves, for future release. ‘Not to mention that, as a side benefit, the event also effectively pushed the (then) forthcoming A True Testimonial flick. All this on the back of Levi’s hijacking! As them Dictators lads woulda said, “another chestnut outta the fire”!

Consequently, at the end of the first bout, the Detroit team were ahead on points, albeit spiritual rather than financial ones, as Levi’s were charging £40 for one o’their T-shirts! And just how much do you think the band made off Levi’s MC5 shirts? Judging by the surprise on Michael Davis’s mush when I told him how much they were being sold for, my guess is, not a lot …

Right about now, I know you’re expecting a hothead like me to break a promise and dive into the whole DKT vs. Future Now Films side o’things. Well, I ain’t. I’ve done quite a bit of research, taking-on points from many people involved in that mess, and I’ve come to one conclusion. All the parties involved have their grievances - personal, financial and contractual. All are valid, in some or many ways.

So what did ya expect the return of the ‘5 to be like, a Happy Days special or sumthink? The wider view is that the MC5 and its fans are a family, and as such, we’re bound to fight at sometime or another. Yeah, mostly among ourselves, like they do anywhere else on the globe. Of course (as if you hadn’t worked it out by now), the great dichotomy at the heart of the film disagreements is that the MC5 is ONLY the five guys in the band, BUT also EVERYONE else who holds their spirit in their hearts, souls and groins.

Hopefully, someday, it’ll be sorted out. Until then, us ringsiders will have to take a seat, remain ecstatic at what we’ve recently experienced, and (in all honesty) shut the fuck up. It’s a disagreement between DKT, the Tyner and Smith families, and Future Now Films. It ain’t our business. End of sermon.

So it comes back to the music. And, most happily, seldom has there been such a rebirth of so much splendiferous rock’n’soul noise!

At last week’s gig in London, the defiantly sober Dennis Thompson was a revelation (Michael reckons “he REALLY pushes the tempos”), as fully befits his iconic status as one of the world’s finest sticksmen, with the Motor City Bad Boy stylistically ranging from Gene Krupa to Earl Palmer, and far beyond. Michael Davis rode on top and locked in waaay down below, plus he took a perfect vocal on "I Can Only Give You Everything", just like he wuz belting it out at some Armory gig back in ’66. Wayne Kramer was all over the stage, dancing like Pan, casually tossing out prime fret steak as if toying with Jaws (the shark, wiseass), dishing impassioned vox, and offering a VERY heartfelt tribute to their absent comrades. Most surely, wampum don’t come no bigger, bar none.


The (thankfully) Dando-less guest roster weren’t no disappointment, neither. That malchick Mark Arm wuz a whirling dervish up there; the good-gosh-almightily-talented Lisa BellRay did Tyner proud on the likes of “Looking At You” (especially); and Nicke Hellacopter played as if all his of life was leading up to that night. Which, really, it had – and for more than a few of us.
Honestly, you gotta feel some pity when the dorks at a cruddy company like Levi’s, or those idiot journos who recount & rehash lies (instead of trying to tell the complicated, all-too-human truth) will never grokk the ‘5 as we continue to do on a daily basis. So pray for those motherfuckers, now …

And then get ready for round three. ‘Cause you just KNOW this thing ain’t over yet…