Dope, Guns And F*cking In The Streets

MC5: A True Testimonial


Forget the Clash and the Sex Pistols. Forget even the Stooges. The MC5 was the most balls-out, super-blammo, proto-revolutionary rock ‘n’ roll band ever to leave a powder burn on the face of the earth. Their rallying cry was “rock ‘n’ roll, dope and fucking in the streets,” and they walked it like they talked it — like a street-walking cheetah with a heartful of napalm. The records don’t really do the band justice, and its mythos is filtered through so much dope haze, hype and competing egos that it’s hard to get a clear picture of what really went down in Detroit in the late ’60s. This exceptional documentary — which ranks up there with Gimme Shelter, Don’t Look Back and Cocksucker Blues in the pantheon of great rock ‘n’ roll films — lays it all out with diamond-like clarity. Basically a paisley-shirted Nuggets’-style Detroit garage band that cut its teeth rockin’ the kids at the VFW halls in the mid-’60s, the MC5’s music soon amped into the teeth-rattling groin thunder of “Kick Out the Jams.” They eventually hooked up with local beatnik-acid-guru John Sinclair, who radicalized them into armed pseudo-revolutionaries. They formed the White Panther Party, which was basically the psychedelic honky version of the Black Panthers. Before long the FBI had them under surveillance and some of the best concert footage in the documentary comes from — of all places — U.S. government surveillance cameras in the crowd at a chaotic performance in Chicago’s Lincoln Park during the apocalyptic 1968 Democratic Convention. Like the ’60s counterculture itself, the MC5 was eventually crushed by dope, paranoia, record-company bungling and 10 soldiers and Nixon coming. Unfortunately, the official release of this documentary is tied up in legalistic red tape, but there are enough promo copies out there that it can surely be procured on the black-markets of the file-sharing networks.