When the Motor City 5 stormed the stage, the band combined the kinetic flash of James Brown on acid with the raw musical dynamics of the Who gone berserk. It's a unique band that can land itself on the cover of Rolling Stone, a month before the release of its debut album and then be booted from its record contract just a few months later. Rock had never before seen the likes of the MC5 and never will again. Many of us who were floored by the 5 in concert were convinced that this was the most transcendently pulverizing rock we would ever experience, while many more who heard or read about the band dismissed the 5 as a caricature, a fraud, White Panther bozos play-acting at revolution. There was always plenty of humour to the 5 - visionary knuckleheads - though the question was whether they were in on the joke. Frequently ridiculed during their short career, they've since been hailed as a primal influence on everything from punk to metal to Rage Against the Machine to the Detroit populist resurgence of the White Stripes, Kid Rock and Eminem.
Don McLeese wrote about rock for the alternative weekly Chicago Reader, as the award-winning pop music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and Austin American-Statesman and as a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone, Request and other national music magazines. He is now an associate professor of journalism at the University of Iowa, where he continues to contribute to national music, literary and general-interest publications.