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Sonically Speaking, a Tale of Revolution and Rock'n'roll

Brett CallwoodBrad Norr

Detroit, Music, Popular Culture

Published: September 2010
ISBN: 9780814334850
Pages: 256 Size: 6 x 9
Illustrations: 16 b&w illus.
Published: September 2010
ISBN: 9780814337110
Pages: 256 Size: EPUB
Illustrations: 16 b&w illus.
Book Images

Horowitz brilliantly creates a multilayered hybrid weave—a story that, like the music it presents, is cultural, aesthetic, and political in its breadth.

— Bernice Johnson Reagon

Along with the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, and the New York Dolls, the MC5 are recognized in music circles as one of the bands that paved the way for punk rock. While the group did not reach the heights of national celebrity or financial success during their seven years together, their musical legacy has never been more celebrated—with recently reissued recordings and documentary footage, as well as an unlikely reunion tour. In MC5: Sonically Speaking, author Brett Callwood delves into the MC5’s story from the band’s beginnings in 1960s Detroit to its 1972 break-up, the post-MC5 fates of its members, and the eventual reunion that cemented its legacy.

Callwood interviews the band’s surviving members and close associates to create a compelling firsthand picture of the MC5’s history and its music. He introduces readers to the band’s original members, Rob Tyner, Wayne Kramer, Fred "Sonic" Smith, Michael Davis, and Dennis Thompson, and links the power of the MC5 phenomenon to its early days as the raucous house band of Detroit’s legendary Grande Ballroom. Callwood also traces the MC5’s revolutionary political bent through their relationship with friend—and later, manager—John Sinclair, their firsthand experience of the 1967 Detroit riots, and the formation of Sinclair’s White Panther Party. Callwood surveys the three classic albums that came out of the band’s blend of political protest and hard driving rock ‘n’ roll, and he details the later projects of the ex-MC5 members, including Sonic’s Rendezvous Band, the influential art-punk band Destroy All Monsters, and Wayne Kramer’s solo recordings. He also recounts their personal struggles with drugs, incarceration, and estrangement from one another, as well as the untimely deaths of Smith and Tyner in the 1990s.

With the remaining members of the MC5 still making music and coming off a hugely successful string of performances as the DKT/MC5 in the last decade, Callwood proves that the band’s story and their music are as intriguing and relevant as ever. Anyone interested in musical history, Detroit rock ‘n’ roll, or American popular culture of the 1960s and beyond will appreciate this candid and fascinating look at the MC5, which was originally published in the UK and is available for the first time in the US in this updated version.

Brett Callwood is a music journalist whose work appears in the Metro Times, Metromix, Alternative Press, and Classic Rock, among other publications. He is also the author of The Stooges: A Journey through the Michigan Underworld, forthcoming in 2011 from Wayne State University Press.

Callwood has done a great job of providing an excellent rendition of an amazing story, and it's high time too."

– Paul Raggity, Rock Sound

Brett Callwood's new book spills the beans with firsthand interviews and an enthusiastic take on their incredible career, from revolution and imprisonment, to drugs, death, and glorious reformation."

– Jo Kendall, Kerrang!

The book is as great a read as it is well-researched-and it puts the era's cast of loonies, trailblazers and stars into proper context. More, Gary Grimshaw and Carl Lundgren did the cover, and Leni Sinclair the photos. It's invaluable to any fan of Detroit rock n' roll."

– MetroTimes

The MC5's story has all the elements of a great rock biography, and author Brett Callwood has done a stupendous job in Sonically Speaking of bringing that story to life.

– Citiation Missing

Brett Callwood has written-and written well-the long-awaited definitive biography of the MC5, nailing down the important information in the correct order, paying close attention to the actual facts, as opposed to accepted myths and legends, and telling the true story of the MC5 from beginning to end. If I enjoyed it this much, how you think you're gonna like it?"

– John Sinclair, former MC5 manager

Sincere and straightforward."

– Iggy Pop, is an American rock musician