Listen to this track by Detroit proto-punk progenitors MC5. It’s “The Motor City’s Burning”, a song that appears on their 1969 album Kick Out The Jams. The song was written by Al Smith, and previously recorded by no less than John Lee Hooker, making an appearance on Hooker’s Urban Blues live album in 1967.
That was the year that the riots which inspired this song occurred, in July and indeed at the corner of Clairmont and 12th street in Detroit. Given that both Hooker and The MC5 called Detroit home, this was more than just a blues tune full of violence and sadness, which it certainly is. It’s not even a protest song as such. It’s more like simple a view of the action, with no sides taken, but with a personal stake in the outcome all the same.
What is that personal stake? Well, it’s all tied up in the value of home, and from a band who are not only from Detroit, but who had attached their identity to it. Read more
Here’s a clip of dual-drummered, dual bass guitared Detroit demolitionists The Dirtbombs with a live take of the song “Candy Ass”, taken from the 2005 album If You Don’t Already Have a Look. This looks as though it was filmed at a gig at a bowling alley. But, whatever the venue, they bash this thing to pieces and then set fire to them.
The Dirtbombs formed in Detroit, being a part of the raucous rock scene that also bred the White Stripes, and of course out of the same city that also gave birth to the MC5 and The Stooges decades before. The band punch out the type of rock you’re hearing in this clip, yet also place some emphasis on classic R&B and the blues which is also seems to be a mark of Detroit rock bands, both now and in days of yore.
I’m not sure what it is about Detroit that spawns bands like this, with a particular emphasis on bringing out the rhythm of rock, as opposed to just straight riffage. Yet, here they are, with two basses and two drum kits, punishing their instruments for the glory of all as if on some kind of vendetta.
The Dirtbombs most recent record We Have You Surrounded is out now.
For previews of new music and old and more information, check out the Dirtbombs’ MySpace page.