“A Testimonial”




Rev. Jack Van Impe

Rev. Jack Van Impe


I had seen the band initially at Delta College outside the Tri-City airport near Saginaw in late January. I worked with them for the first time at the “Foxy Lady” in Bay City a few months later. The club had a capacity for eight hundred. Twelve hundred were packed inside. Another five hundred were turned away.

The road crew had arrived hours earlier. A towering wall of Marshall speaker cabinets stood behind five microphones, four guitar amplifiers and a raised drum set. The sound system stretched across the entire length of the stage and from floor to ceiling. The equipment area was surrounded by lighting racks. Scaffolding covered with additional speakers jutted-out from the stage at almost every angle. Directly across the room were mounted three elevated “super-trooper” spotlights, each with a separate operator.

There was no introduction for the first set.

The five member group simply took the stage and detonated an absolutely perfect, astoundingly balanced, forty-minute performance of the greatest early Rock n’ Roll in the history of the music form. Songs by Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley blasted forth with energized rebirth in staggering sequence. Their awesome salute to all which had come before was nearly hypnotic in effect. They finished “Rock ‘n Roll Music” by Chuck Berry and took a break. Their credentials had been more than adequately presented.

After twenty minutes, a tall, blond, long-haired, heavily muscled “freak” jumped upon the stage, grabbed a microphone and began to preach.

J. C. Crawford doubled as road manager and “Spiritual Advisor” to the band.

Jimmy Swaggert, Oral Roberts and Billy Graham, on their very best days, have never reached J. C. Crawford’ s level that night of incomparable, incendiary, crowd-whipping incitement.

“Brothers and Sisters; let me see a sea of hands out there! Let me see a sea of hands! Let me hear a little Revolution out there, Brothers!. A little Revolution out there!”

“Brothers and Sisters, the time has come when you must choose! You must choose, Brothers, you must choose! You must choose whether you will make a difference on this planet! You must choose whether you are going to be the problem or whether you are going to be the solution!”

“You must testify, Brothers and Sisters. You must testify! And I want to know! Are you ready to testify? Are you ready to testify?”

“I give you a Testimonial!:

“THE———M———————C————– FIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The group had quietly and almost invisibly taken their places on stage behind Mr. Crawford. At “Five”, they took total command. A whining, screaming, thundering, supersonic roar literally shook the walls of the cinder-block building as guitar players Fred Smith and Wayne Kramer hit the opening chords of “Ramblin’ Rose”.

Rob Tyner lunged for the microphone and wailed with abandon.

“My love is like a Ramblin’ Rose!”

All the “super-troopers” had been fired directly at Rob upon the utterance of his first shrieked syllable. The decibel level had doubled from the first set and the lighting tree had sprung to life with reds, greens, yellows and blues alternating color illumination every second drum beat. Strobe lights on either side added to visual stimulations hovering at overload.

“The more you feed it; the more it grows!”

Except Rob sang “feel” instead of “feed” and, to emphasize the lyric change, casually reached down and shook his concealed pecker. Did he have a license for that thing? Michael Jackson and Madonna “grab their crotches”. Rob went right for the cock. There is a difference.

The audience was far past mere appreciation or enjoyment. It was all way too much to ever dance or bounce-around to. The crowd was paralyzed! They were captured! Taken! Frozen! Stoned! Zapped! Fried!

For their single “love ballad”,  Rob chose a random female from the throng and pulled her by hand from the floor onto the stage. Fingers caressing her throat, he reached for the top of a very loose blouse and gently and slowly tugged downward until enormous bare, white breasts became plainly visible. They rose and fell, offering full spectacular view ending only a centimeter above nipple-level. Tenderly nestling his microphone into a secure resting place between the now publicly displayed pair, Rob leaned forward and whispered the song title directly into her exposed chest. As the band kicked-in and the lyrics to “I Want You Right Now” were recited with soaring ferocity, the volunteer began erotically swaying back and forth in mesmerized trance. The sexual tension was finally broken only at the end of the song when Rob politely retrieved his microphone, sincerely offered thanks for able-bodied assistance and helped his subject off the stage. He was quite the gentleman!

The MC-5 concluded the night’s performance with their quintessential anthem:

“And right now—right now—right now—right now—it’s time to—–

————-KICK OUT THE JAMS, MOTHER-FUCKER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The song had become a hit across much of the Midwest. The words “Brothers and Sisters” had been substituted on the recording in place of “Mother-Fucker” for radio exposure.

Restraint unleashed, the audience jumped up and down, undulating as one with the pulsating beat. After the group finished and left the stage, raptured applause continued unabated for ten full minutes. The MC-5 did no encores.

John had moved to the Ann Arbor area years before and had attended school at the University of Michigan. When the counterculture first blossomed and love seemed everywhere, John had grown his hair long and recited beautiful poetry in the coffee-houses and parks. He was a peaceful man and worked for an end to the Vietnam struggle and all future wars. He spoke of freedom and tolerance. Of brotherhood and understanding. Of tender thoughts and soft, sweet dreams. He was arrested by the police for smoking marijuana. They threw him in jail. They beat the living shit out of him.

Fuck that.

Establishing a commune of like-minded souls on Hill Street, John founded the “White Panther Party”. This was patterned after the revolutionary “Black Panther Party”, except you could join without actually being Black.
There was “solidarity” between both Panther groups.

John now believed that only a true Revolution would turn things around. Fuck the government. Fuck the “pigs”. Fuck the establishment. Power to the people! Right on!!

Rob Tyner, Wayne Kramer, Fred Smith, Michael Davis and Dennis Thompson hailed from the Detroit area and were archetypical struggling musicians. They had played individually with various bands through time, but had yet to enjoy making it in any significant manner.

John and the band never fucked each other. They had plenty of females, women who waited on the Revolution hand and foot. Despite protestations to the contrary, the Revolution was really coming down as a guys’ kind of deal. “Freedom” for women meant that they would be released from the tyranny and chains of the established social order and become free to serve their men. For the Revolution.

All in all, the musicians thought it all looked like a pretty fair deal. They’d have a place to sleep, food to eat, booze to drink, dope to smoke and women to ball. It beat the shit out of ‘Nam!

They assumed the name “Motor City Five”, being from Detroit and all. This was soon shortened it to “MC-5”. That had sort of a hip, ethereal ring to it, like “MC2”, which was Einstein’s formula expressing relativity theory.
Time! Space! Energy! Light! Cool!! Love it!!! MC-5!!!!!

And what great positioning. Talk about marketing! You want SPIN?

These guys weren’t just a bunch of long-haired dudes playing loud music. No goddamn way! They were fucking Revolutionaries!! They just might jump off that son-of-a-bitchin’ stage and blow somebody’s brains out right in the middle of set!! Who could ever be sure they wouldn’t?

The MC-5 totally got into it. They practiced long and hard, month after month. John Sinclair was a brilliant thinker and thoroughly in touch with both intellect and emotions. John knew music and production and the art of dramatic staging. The MC-5 weren’t just a band. They were theater! The band never knew exactly what the “Revolution” was or how it might involve them or what it might become. Who cared? They were the Revolution. They were the focal point. They were the show. That’s really all that mattered.

They were the best live Rock ‘n Roll band I’d ever seen, bar none.

I wanted them for Sherwood Forest.

John Sinclair had graduated from Davison High School where his mother still taught English. John had earned substantial notoriety from his encounters with the law and his widely publicized comments on how fucked the country was and especially how fucked the “pig/jerk-off/asshole/prick-cops” were in their “blue Nazi uniforms” with their “limp-dick attitudes” and “cock-sucking mentalities”. John was quite the talker. Even though the popular press was restricted to publishing highly edited versions of his pronouncements, the essential message conveyed was abundantly clear. John Sinclair was a cop-hater.

The authorities kept track of such things. The Davison City and Township Police Departments were especially sensitive to the enraged ramblings of this native son. They secretly swore that John Sinclair or his band would never publicly surface in their area of jurisdiction without severe sanction.

Sherwood Forest was in Davison, Michigan.

It was a free country.

One Response to ““A Testimonial””

  1. Bop City Says:

    “MC5 – A True Testimonial” Jailbreak
    Campaign Underway To Unleash Acclaimed Documentary

    DETROIT, Michigan (March 31, 2011) — With all the lingering legal questions now firmly resolved, the highly regarded but embattled “MC5 – A True Testimonial” documentary film is finally poised for release. Warner/Chappell Music, the MC5’s music publisher, has agreed to make the much sought-after synchronization license available to the Chicago based Future/Now Films. A crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds necessary to acquire that license is currently underway via the Kickstarter funding platform and will conclude May 10, 2011.

    Seven years ago, on March 31, 2004, writer Susan Whitall broke the story of the untimely derailment of the lauded “MC5 – A True Testimonial” documentary with an explosive Detroit News article titled “MC5 In Turmoil Yet Again”. 

    At the time, the highly anticipated film had a full schedule of theatrical screenings in place and was set for imminent DVD release before a curious decision was made to deny the requisitesynchronization license for the MC5’s music publishing. 

    That decision, initiated at the behest of Wayne Kramer, one of the two guitarists in the legendary but long-defunct band, ignited a firestorm of controversy, given that Kramer had long supported the film’s production saying “The filmmakers have done a fabulous job of telling the story of the MC5… the story is finally getting told and told right.” The much lauded documentary had been poised to make a major splash, having screened to SRO crowds and widespread critical acclaim at film festivals around the worldwide. There had been one single ticketed public screening, a benefit for radio station WDET-FM held at the Detroit Film Theatre before a sold-out crowd on October 30, 2003.

    Having successfully blocked the film’s release, Kramer would later file suit in federal court in November 2005 over a purported “music producer” position and alleging a variety of copyright infringement, fraud and breach of contract claims against director David Thomas, producer Laurel Legler and Future/Now Films.

    After hearing extensive testimony and reviewing the evidence presented during a week-long trial held October 2006 in Santa Ana, California, United States District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford dismissed all charges against the filmmakers, concluding there was “insufficient factual basis to establish any claim” against the filmmakers. 

    In the decision rendered March 31, 2007, Judge Guilford found “no terms specific enough to form an enforceable contract were ever agreed upon,” that neither Thomas or Legler “had made any actionable false representations” to Kramer, and that the dispute arose only after Future/Now Films “demonstrated that the film they were crafting could be successful” adding “The MC5 is historically significant and its music and story merit being heard today. The film had and still has the potential to spread the music and story of the MC5.” 

    One could argue that, had the film come out as scheduled, it would have boosted the MC5’s profile enough to propel the band into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; whether or not that time has now passed remains to be seen.

    The families of the late Rob Tyner and Fred “Sonic” Smith have been fully supportive of the film’s release from the beginning; Patti Smith has been unequivocal, saying “They were a great band and they should be remembered. And they should be remembered together. This film is a very good opportunity to give them recognition.” With authorizations from the three surviving members now in place, Vincent Cox, attorney for Future/Now Films, has declared “the disputes are water under the bridge, and there’s no point in rehashing them.”  

    With that in mind, the final objective is acquiring the requisite sync license for this brilliant film and a campaign to raise the funds necessary to acquire that license is currently underway via the Kickstarter funding platform. Spearheaded by Detroit music producer Freddie Brooks, Fred “Sonic” Smith’s longtime associate and charge d’affaires, that campaign will conclude May 9, 2011. If successful, theatrical screenings are expected to begin immediately with a worldwide DVD release expected to follow shortly thereafter.

    As USDC Judge Guilford noted, director David Thomas and producer Laurel Legler were “first-time filmmakers who spent eight years of their lives trying to create a documentary film that would be historically truthful, a documentary that would celebrate the talent and creativity of the MC5 band, a documentary that would say something about the 60’s, and would say something about the present.  They succeeded, and the film merits wide distribution for the enjoyment and edification of the masses.”

    In other words… kick out the jams, motherfuckers!!!


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