Sunday, May 30, 2021

The rescue that took place

I love this passage from Michael Davis's 2018 autobiography I Brought Down the MC5 (a book I'll write about more later). With equal parts pride and astonishment, the MC5 bass player writes about his band's tendency to fuck up while playing live, mostly as a result of the deafeningly loud volume at which they detonated their songs. Onstage, "it was impossible to hear the vocals unless we were playing softly, which rarely happened," Davis acknowledges. "Things would get so confused at times that we would look at each other with panic and frustration, trying to get back in sync. I can’t think of a single show that didn’t include some form of musical derailment. Some were momentary, while others were extended lapses into musical chaos. [Drummer] Dennis [Thompson] would become completely unhinged when none of the instruments were playing on the same beat. Yet at times, he was the reason for the fault. Who could hear what was going on?"
...In spite of our inconsistent stage work, we somehow managed to transport audiences into magical experiences through our sheer unmitigated gall. You couldn’t deny the results; something was lifting us up and giving the audience a dose of euphoria. Perhaps the mistakes were actually a key part of our act, unintended, but nonetheless a part of the show. The desperation and drama that was created, and the rescue that took place must have had an emotional value that made seeing the MC5 unparalleled. I can’t say, being one who was on the stage.
Desperation. drama, rescue: a hell of a definition of rock and roll, which I'll add to my list. If there are any musical derailments in this astonishing performance from July 1970, I can't hear or see them (apart from Thompson's projectile drumsticks), so amazed am I by the band's power and the sonic and visual spectacle that it creates. Which I guess is Davis's point.

Photo of the MC5 by Leni Sinclair/Getty Images


planckzoo said...

I really enjoyed I brought Down the MC5.

Joe Bonomo said...

It's an honest account. Good read.