The MC5 was one of the originators of the punk rock sound, as well as being one of the important early hard rock bands in the U.S. The MC5, short for Motor City Five, was formed in 1964 by Rob Tyner, Wayne Kramer, Fred “Sonic” Smith, and Dennis Thompson in Lincoln Park, MI. The MC5 had a very promising early beginning that actually got it on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine before the debut of its first album, Kick Out The Jams.
The MC5 was integral in the Detroit area politics of the 1960s and with the addition of John Sinclair as “manager” (a title he eschewed), it was soon fully involved in the left wing agenda. Sinclair was the founder of the White Panther Party, a militant organization of white people working to assist the Black Panthers. In its early career, the MC5 had a politically provocative stage show: the band members would appear onstage toting unloaded rifles, and at the climax of the performance, an unseen sniper would “shoot down” Tyner.
The MC5 earned national attention with its first album, Kick Out The Jams, which was recorded live in October 1968 at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom. The album is generally regarded as one of the best live rock ’n’ roll records: critic Mark Deming wrote that “[Kick Out The Jams] . . . is one of the most powerfully energetic live albums ever made . . . this is an album that refuses to be played quietly.”
By 1971, the MC5 had fallen out with Sinclair and were conspicuous by their absence at the December, 1971 "Free John Sinclair" rally to protest his incarceration on marijuana possession. The band essentially broke up by February 1972 but did reunite for a farewell show on New Year's Eve, 1972-73 at the Grande Ballroom.