Kick Out the Jams

Kick Out the Jams is the debut album by American proto-punk band MC5. It was released in February 1969, through Elektra Records. It was recorded live at Detroit's Grande Ballroom over two nights, Devil's Night and Halloween, 1968.

Kick Out the Jams
MC5 - Kick Out the Jams.jpg
Live album by
ReleasedFebruary 1969
RecordedOctober 30–31, 1968
VenueGrande Ballroom, Detroit, Michigan
ProducerJac Holzman, Bruce Botnick
MC5 chronology
Kick Out the Jams
Back in the USA

The LP peaked at No. 30 on the Billboard 200 chart, with the title track peaking at No. 82 in the Hot 100. Although the album received an unfavorable review in Rolling Stone magazine upon its release, it has gone on to be considered an important forerunner to punk rock music, and was ranked number 294 in both 2003 and 2012 editions of Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" lists,[5][6] and at number 349 in a 2020 revised list.[7]


The album peaked at number 30 on the Billboard albums chart, "in the wake of a publicity blitz", wrote Robert Christgau in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981).[8]

While "Ramblin' Rose" and "Motor City Is Burning" open with the band's typical leftist and revolutionary rhetoric, it was the opening line to the title track that stirred up controversy. Vocalist Rob Tyner shouted, "And right now... right now... right now it's time to... kick out the jams, motherfuckers!" before the opening riffs. Elektra Records executives were offended by the line and had preferred to edit it out of the album (replacing the offending words with "brothers and sisters"), while the band and manager John Sinclair adamantly opposed this.[citation needed]

The original release had "kick out the jams, Motherfuckers!" printed on the inside album cover, but was soon pulled from stores. Two versions were then released, both with censored album covers, with the uncensored audio version sold behind record counters.

Making matters worse, Hudson's department stores refused to carry the album. Tensions between the band and the Hudson's chain escalated to the point that the department stores refused to carry any album from the Elektra label after MC5 took out a full-page ad that, according to Danny Fields, "was just a picture of Rob Tyner, and all it said was 'Fuck Hudson's.' And it had the Elektra logo".[9] To end the conflict and to avoid further financial loss, Elektra dropped MC5 from their record label.

Later the same year, Jefferson Airplane recorded the song "We Can Be Together" for their Volunteers album, a song containing the word "motherfucker". Unlike Elektra, RCA Records released the album wholly uncensored.

Title meaningEdit

"Kick out the jams" has also been taken to be a slogan of the 1960s ethos of revolution and liberation, an incitement to "kick out" restrictions in various forms.[citation needed] To quote MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer from his interview with Caroline Boucher in Disc & Music Echo magazine on August 8, 1970:

People said "oh wow, 'kick out the jams' means break down restrictions" etc., and it made good copy, but when we wrote it we didn't have that in mind. We first used the phrase when we were the house band at a ballroom in Detroit, and we played there every week with another band from the area. [...] We got in the habit, being the sort of punks we are, of screaming at them to get off the stage, to kick out the jams, meaning stop jamming. We were saying it all the time and it became a sort of esoteric phrase. Now, I think people can get what they like out of it; that's one of the good things about rock and roll.[10]

Kramer also claimed during a 1999 interview that was excerpted for Goldmine magazine that the phrase was specifically aimed toward British 1960s bands playing at the Grande who MC5 felt were not putting enough energy into their performances.[citation needed] The title has also (jokingly) been reinterpreted as an establishment message masquerading as a revolutionary anthem. David Bowie sings in the song "Cygnet Committee": "[We] stoned the poor on slogans such as/Wish You Could Hear/Love Is All We Need/Kick Out the Jams/Kick Out Your Mother".

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [11]
Chicago Tribune    [12]
Classic Rock9/10[13]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [14]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [15]

Upon its release, critic Lester Bangs, writing his inaugural review for Rolling Stone, called Kick Out the Jams a "ridiculous, overbearing, pretentious album".[17] In contrast to this view, modern opinion of the album generally holds it in very high regard, noting its influence on rock music that has followed. Mark Deming of AllMusic called it "one of the most powerfully energetic live albums ever made" in a retrospective review.[11] PopMatters reviewer Adam Williams wrote, "For my money, 'Kick Out the Jams' is one of the greatest records ever pressed. It is a magnificent time portal into the past, a fleeting glimpse of a band that actually had the balls to walk it like they talked it" and that "no live recording has captured the primal elements of rock more than the MC5's inaugural effort."[18] Bangs himself would change his mind about the album, writing in a footnote in his Troggs essay "James Taylor Marked for Death":

Incidentally, I'm not trying to run down the Five, or write them off as some Troggs trifle. When I reviewed their first album in Rolling Stone, I finished by mentioning "The Troggs, who appeared with a similar sex-and-violence thing a couple of years back, and promptly sank into oblivion, where I imagine they are laughing at the MC5," and that of course is as snottily unkind to the Troggs as to the Five. But then, it was the first review I ever had published, and even if more death threats came in after that review than any other save Jann Wenner's Wheels of Fire massacre (and most of them from sweet home Detroit), I can see why people privileged enough to be part of the apocalyptic birth of the Five would be enraged. And to compound the irony, Kick Out the Jams has been my favorite album or at least one of the two or three most played for about three months now.[19]


The album cover is briefly visible in the 1986 music video of "Don't Want to Know If You Are Lonely" by Hüsker Dü.

In March 2005, Q magazine placed the song "Kick Out the Jams" at number 39 in its "100 Greatest Guitar Tracks" list. The same track was named the 65th best hard rock song of all time by VH1.

Track listingEdit

All tracks are written by MC5 (Rob Tyner, Wayne Kramer, Fred "Sonic" Smith, Michael Davis, Dennis Thompson), except as noted.

Side one
1."Ramblin' Rose"Fred Burch, Marijohn Wilkin4:15
2."Kick Out the Jams" 2:52
3."Come Together" 4:29
4."Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa)" 5:41
Side two
5."Borderline" 2:45
6."Motor City Is Burning"Al Smith6:04
7."I Want You Right Now"Colin Frechter, Larry Page5:31
8."Starship"MC5, Sun Ra8:15


Additional personnel


  1. ^ Moskowitz, David V. (2015). The 100 Greatest Bands of All Time: A Guide to the Legends Who Rocked the World. ABC-CLIO. p. 411. ISBN 978-1-4408-0340-6.
  2. ^ Peart, Neil (2004). Traveling Music: The Soundtrack to My Life and Times. ECW Press. p. 77. ISBN 978-1-55490-795-3.
  3. ^ Marsh, Dave; Bernard, James (1994). New Book of Rock Lists. Simon and Schuster. p. 391. ISBN 978-0-671-78700-4.
  4. ^ Talevski, Nick (2010). Rock Obituaries: Knocking On Heaven's Door. Omnibus Press. p. 665. ISBN 978-0-85712-117-2.
  5. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: MC5, 'Kick Out the Jams'". Rolling Stone. December 11, 2003. Archived from the original on July 5, 2012. Retrieved February 17, 2012.
  6. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. May 31, 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
  7. ^ Rolling Stone (September 22, 2020). "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  8. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "The Guide". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor and Fields. ISBN 0-89919-026-X. Retrieved March 30, 2019 – via
  9. ^ McNeil, Legs; McCain, Gillian (1996). Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk. Penguin Books. p. 62. ISBN 978-0802115881.
  10. ^ Boucher, Caroline (August 8, 1970). "MC5 Problem". Disc & Music Echo. Retrieved February 17, 2012.
  11. ^ a b Deming, Mark. "Kick Out the Jams – MC5". AllMusic. Retrieved February 17, 2012.
  12. ^ Kot, Greg (February 12, 1995). "Still Risky, Still Real". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 29, 2020.
  13. ^ "Best of the Rest". Classic Rock. No. 273. April 2020. p. 95.
  14. ^ Larkin, Colin (2006). "MC5". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195313734.
  15. ^ Evans, Paul; Scoppa, Bud (2004). "MC5". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 528. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  16. ^ Kirsch, Michele (January 1992). "MC5: Kick Out the Jams". Select. No. 19. p. 81.
  17. ^ Bangs, Lester (April 5, 1969). "Kick Out The Jams". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 26, 2015.
  18. ^ Williams, Adam (September 4, 2003). "MC5: Kick out the Jams". PopMatters. Retrieved February 17, 2012.
  19. ^ Bangs, Lester (1971). "James Taylor Marked for Death". Who Put the Bomp. No. 8.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit