When MC5 Was Dropped by Elektra Records After an Obscene Ad
Subtlety and the MC5 were not the best of friends. That mindset – and a profanity-laced newspaper ad – cost them a record deal in April 1969.
The band had just released their debut album, the classic Kick Out the Jams, early that year. Because they were a popular attraction on the live Detroit rock scene, the decision was made to record the album on concert, so the raw spirit MC5 possessed could be showcased.
The almost unhinged excitement of their live show was captured in full glory, but it was not considered safe for family entertainment. Hudson's Department Stores were based in MC5's Detroit home and famously refused to carry the local heroes' LP because of what they determined to be obscene lyrical content.
That's not surprising, considering the fact that the legendary and infamous battle cry of "Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!" is delivered loud and proud by singer Rob Tyner just before the band launch into the album's most famous tune. There were, of course, no PRMC or warning labels on album covers in those days.
Some bands in a similar situation might have tried to negotiate. The MC5, however, chose another route.
They took out a full page ad in the local Ann Arbor-based magazine, Fifth Estate, that read: "KICK OUT THE JAMS, MOTHERFUCKER! and kick in the door if the store won’t sell you the album on Elektra. FUCK HUDSON’S!"
Though their label had nothing to do with placing it, the band put the Elektra logo in the ad. In response, Hudson's pulled all of the company's albums from their stores.
This action quickly resulted in the MC5 being dropped by the label. They soon signed with Atlantic, who released the band's second and third albums, Back in the USA and High Time. The MC5 then broke up, with only a series of belatedly unearthed live recordings left to mark their initial carnation's first furious years on the scene.
Singer Rob Tyner passed in 1991. Guitarist Wayne Kramer, bassist Michael Davis, and drummer Dennis Thompson later reunited with guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith before his death in 1994.