With moves like James Brown and a wardrobe like Marc Bolan he will forever be remembered for his rally cry of ‘Kick Out The Jams Motherfucker’ The band released three albums from ’69 and the classic ‘Kick out the Jams’ through the ’70s ‘Back In The USA’ to the bands final album ‘High Time’ a year later. The band fell apart due to infighting and drug problems but before it turned sour they really blazed a trail and managed to bug the powers that be – Big time!
Their impact cannot be denied and Tyner was a big part of that from his unique afro and his distinctive voice to their political stance in quite volatile times not just in the USA but around the world. The MC5 featured on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine even before they had a record out. The band had strong left-wing political ties and were happy to air their Anti-establishment views through their lyrics. Along with Iggy And The Stooges they were punk way before punk was even a thing. They were loud, energetic and had style but most of all they had songs! Their back-to-basics rock and roll included now classics like ‘Ramblin’ Rose’ ‘Kick Out The Jams’ which must be one of the most covered songs in history. ‘Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa)’ and ‘Looking At You’ (Another that’s been covered by bands such as The Damned and The Mission). They were certainly unique and at the time caused quite a stir to the mainstream who didn’t know what to do with a bunch of young men who were clued up and armed with a voice their spat with Hudsons Department Store being a good example.
Tyner (going by his real name) was first approached by Wayne Kramer via the underground left-wing hipster scene in Detroit and his talent wasn’t on the bass but out front and center via the microphone. It was also Tyner who named the band MC5 which if you didn’t know it’s short for Motor City Five and the legend was born.
They were well known locally as the band to see with their incendiary live shows that were full of energy and it’s well documented that they were already hypnotising audiences in excess of a thousand people with a blistering energy and loud garage rock. It was Danny Fields who signed the band to Elektra at the same time he signed The Stooges but it was the MC5 who was the first hard Rock band signed to the label.
In ’68 the band performed at an anti-Vietnam war rally and allegedly played for eight hours straight! Hold onto that and it might explain how the band were closely tied with LSD and Marijuana usage. They also use to have firearms as part of their stage show brandishing rifles on stage and then a sniper would shoot Tyner as part of their act to end the set.
Controversy was never far from the band’s door as they were embroiled in an ad campaign when a store (Hudsons) refused to stock their album so they took out an ad that claimed the store should go fuck themselves. in response, the store pulled all Elektra artists which led to the band being fired and subsequent signing to Atlantic for their second album so when McLaren thought he was unique engineering the Pistols labels fiascos it had already been done years earlier by the MC5. Imagine being in an audience not having a clue who the band was and hearing Tyner announce Kick Out The Jams and then witnessing the kind of performance seen in the video? It must have been life-changing.
After MC5 split he kept himself busy with a number of acts such as fireworks and then the Rob Tyner Band who played shows with the likes of Cheap Trick and AC/DC but by the end of ’78 the band fizzled out having not released an album. Tyner then chanced his arm in the UK where he worked briefly with Eddie & the Hot Rods before he headed back to the states to work on Detroit legend Scott Morgan’s benefit project. the Guitar Army, which helped to organise and promote the music of Vietnam veterans. There was a solo record released in 1990 entitled ‘Blood Brothers’, but sadly, the singer died from a heart attack a year later, on this very day in 1991.
Several years after his passing, a live release surfaced courtesy of the Motor City Music label/website, ‘Rock and Roll People’, which documented a pair of Rob Tyner Band concerts from 1977 (at the Kramer Theatre and the Embassy Hotel). His legacy might be limited with regards to his recording output compared to many of his peers but never underestimate the influence of the MC5 – Gone but not forgotten Rob was only 46 at the time he passed away Rest In Peace Rob Tyner.