Kick Out The Jams
by MC5

Album: Kick Out The Jams (1969)
Charted: 82
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  • The signature song of the MC5, "Kick Out The Jams" was also their rallying cry and credo. The phrase was often taken to mean "overcome obstacles," but it wasn't written as a song of perseverance. In a Songfacts interview with guitarist Wayne Kramer, he explained: "We were using the expression for a long time, because we would be critical of other bands that came to Detroit that the MC5 would open for. They'd come into town with this big reputation, and then they'd get up on stage and they weren't very good. So, we used to harass them. We'd yell at them, 'Kick out the jams or get off the stage, motherf--ker!' Finally, one day we said, 'I like that expression. We should use that as the title of a song.'"
  • This song is notorious for the line, "Kick out the jams, motherf--kers," shouted by lead singer Rob Tyner before the music kicks in. This line appears on the uncensored version of the album; a clean version where it is replaced with, "Kick out the jams, brothers and sisters," was used on the single and later made available on censored versions of the album.
  • Along with the rest of the album, this was recorded live at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit on October 30 and 31 (Mischief Night and Halloween), 1968. By this time, the MC5 had gained a fervent live following in the Detroit area, but had not released any material. By the time the album was issued a few months later in early 1969, they had stirred up lots of controversy for their revolutionary stunts and associations: they sometimes brought unloaded rifles on stage, and their manager, John Sinclair, founded the White Panther party, devoted to upending political and cultural norms. The song peaked on the Hot 100 on April 5, 1969; In July, Sinclair was given a 10-year prison sentence for possession of two marijuana cigarettes. He became a cause célèbre, as many rockers voiced support for him. In 1971, John Lennon lionized him in the song "John Sinclair."
  • Elektra Records president Jac Holzman is listed as the co-producer on this track along with Bruce Botnick, as they handled the live recording. Botnick was the engineer for The Doors.
  • Many bands benefit from controversy, but the kerfuffle over this song did not go well for them, and when they pushed the provocation too far, it got them dropped from their label.

    Many retailers refused to stock the album, including a local chain called Hudson's. The band took this as an affront and placed an ad in an underground newspaper called the Fifth Estate that read, "F--k Hudson's." Hudson's responded by threatening to pull all Elektra albums (Judy Collins and The Doors were among their artists), so on April 16, 1969, the label dropped the MC5, recalled the Kick Out The Jams albums still in stores, and replaced them with clean versions.

    Atlantic quickly signed the band and teamed them with producer Jon Landau, but their two albums on the label flopped, and by 1973 what was just a few years earlier the most promising band in Detroit was out of action.
  • This was likely the first rock song on a major label to use the word f--k in the lyrics (it was also printed in the liner notes, written by John Sinclair). It proved very provocative, but also drew attention away from other storylines, like their furious live shows and role in defining the Detroit rock sound.
  • The entire band was credited as writers on this song, per custom on their first album. Lead singer Rob Tyner, who died of a heart attack in 1991 at age 46, did most of the work on this one. Wayne Kramer told Songfacts:

    "We were going through a very creative period. The band had just moved in together for the very first time. There used to be a building in downtown Detroit that was a dentist's office on the second floor, and we all moved into different rooms in the dentist's office as our bedrooms. And then downstairs was a storefront. I covered the walls with egg crates and made it a rehearsal studio, so for the first time we could rehearse whenever we wanted to - all day, all night if we wanted to - and we all lived there.

    So, it became possible to really develop some songs and some music. And Tyner and I developed a little habit of sitting down at the kitchen table with a couple of joints of reefer, a little amp, my electric guitar. He'd have a notepad, I would just play guitar riffs, and he would listen and say, 'Wait, wait... play that one again. No, change that a little bit. OK, play that again. Play that four times.' And then we would start to cobble the songs together. That was where 'Kick Out The Jams' was born."
  • "MC5" stands for Motor City Five (Detroit is the "motor city"). The name was derived from The Dave Clark Five, otherwise known as the DC5. The group went through a few managers, including Bruce Burnish, before John Sinclair took them on.
  • Jeff Buckley was a huge fan of this song and often performed it at his live shows, injecting a burst of primal rock into graceful setlists.
  • Rage Against The Machine covered this on their 2000 album Renegades. On August 27, 2008, Rage performed the song with MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer at the Denver Coliseum during the Democratic National Convention, which was being held nearby. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • This was the first song played on XFM's launch as a Londonwide commercial station on September 1, 1997. 23 years later, it was the also the final track broadcast by XFM before its re-branding as Radio X on September 21, 2015.

Comments: 24

  • Tom from Macomb,miThe MC5 played at my catholic High school dance. When they did this song, the intro was "KICK OUT THE JAMS, MOTHER SUPERIOR !!"
  • Bob from Southfield, MiThe album was recorded over two nights (Oct. 30th and 31st) at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit. Just like Woodstock, there are lots of people who swear they were there that night but who probably weren't.
  • Mike from Matawan, NjDidn't the Starland Vocal Band do a cover of this as well?
  • Maria from Des Moines, Iathere is a great book "Kick Out the Jams" from Continium 33 1/3 series by Don McLeese. It's all about the MC5.
    Buy it Motherfu***'s
  • Ziggy from HellI got the CD version the other day, and it has the "motherf*cker" line in it. Brilliant song.
  • Matthewz from Corpus Christi, Txa great version is also to be heard on THE ROB TYNER BAND, LIVE AT THE KRAMER THEATER, 1977.
    this version is about 50% faster, even...
  • Joey from Nowhere Land, Caman I'm happy, I have the version, "Kick out the james mother f******" the song is so brilliant
  • Jaym from The Dark Side Of The Moonkick a$$ it may be, rob, but no one will EVER match the original version
  • Rob from Vancouver, CanadaA kick-ass cover by Blue Oyster Cult on 'Some Enchanted Evening".
  • Vic from Wheeling, IlFred "Sonic" Smith was married to Patti Smith.
  • Robert from Santa Barbara, CaMC5 was part of a large communal group in Detroit headed by a man named John Sinclair, who founded a group called The White Panthers. He expressed solidarity with The Black Panthers. The group's music was meant to be revolutionarily political.
  • Daniel from Perththe band entombed covered this song in their own "death rock" style on their cd sons of satan praise the lord.
  • Geordie from BarcelonaKick Out The Jams have been covered for many artists. Michael Monroe from Hanoi Rocks did an incredible one at his 1997 album 'Peace of Mind'. Also, in the MC5 reunion gig, March 13th 2003 at the 100 Club in London, this song was performed by Ian Astbury (The Cult) on vocals, Nick Royale (Hellacopters) on guitar plus the surviving MC5.
  • Tom from Washington, DcThis past weekend ,Wayne Kramer ,from MC 5, kicked out the jams at the anti war concert on the Mall. I met him in a mueseum later and he and his wife were sweet as could be,he even signed a CD for me.Check out the new Box Set of their material recently released on Rhino.
  • Zachary from Charlotte, NcIf there ever was a band ahead of its time it was The MC5 and the sad thing is they don't get any credit for laying the foundation of what would later become the punk rock scene we all know and love today....
  • Dominick from Concord, NhBlue Oyster Cult also covered this song on their Spectres (1978?) tour. It can be found on their 1980 live release entitled "Some Enchanted Evening".
  • Luke from Manchester, EnglandPUSA, even
  • Luke from Manchester, EnglandThe PSUA version isn't a cover, it has different lyrics
  • Andrew from TorontoA band definatly ahead of it,s time.Too much for the masses in 1969,cult and and music freaks only(myself included).Awesome early angry music and innovators although they would,nt know it.If you like this check out Stooges- 1969 debut album,Velvet Underground-Sister Ray,Heroin,dark music but brilliant.
  • Darren from Sydney, Australia.some songs should never be touched, this is one of them!
  • Matthew from Colorado Springs, CoIt was also covered by the Presidents of the United States of America about 5 years before Rage did it.
  • Billy Ross from Hagerstown, Mdyeah it was on renegades
  • Janelle from New York City, Nywhat a great rocking song!
  • Steve from Cheshire, CtThis song was also covered by Rage Against the Machine, and i believe it was put on the Renegades album.
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