MC5 in 1967 featuring on bass Michael Davis who passed on Friday
Michael Davis, who was bassist in the influential and heavily politicized, proto-punk Detroit band the MC5 and later played with Destroy All Monsters as well as other bands, died on Friday (Feb 17th, 2012) as a result of liver failure. He was 68. After dropping out of art school, he joined the MC5 in 1964 and played on all three of the band's original albums -- High Time (1971), Back In The USA (1970), and their controversial debut Kick Out the Jams (1969). So controversial was that album that a large hometown department store (Hudson's) refused to stock the major label release due, they stated, to its "obscenity" (those infamous lyrics "kick out the jams motherfuckers"). Never ones to allow an opportunity to make a political statement pass by, the MC5 took out a full page advertisement in the Fifth Estate writing "Stick Alive with the MC5, and Fuck Hudson's!" Hudson's in turn responded by pulling off their shelves all of Elektra Records' releases (MC5's label whose logo they had prominently included in their ad). This did not sit well with Elektra who then dropped the band from their label.
MC5 "Over And Over"
After the MC5 disbanded, Davis joined another Michigan noise rock/proto-punk outfit, the Ann Arbor based Destroy All Monsters. He stayed with them for seven years in which time he wrote such early under-the-radar punk hits as "Nobody Knows." He later would play with other groups and produce music. In the spring of 2003, he reunited with fellow surviving members Wayne Kramer and Dennis Thompson for an MC5 reunion tour. In addition to making music in the years after MC5, he returned to his first love -- making visual art. One of his paintings (“White Panther/Big World”) was used as the cover art for the collection MC5: The Very Best of MC5 issued by Cleopatra Records. A few years ago, he collaborated with Shepard Fairey on a limited line of MC5:OBEY merchandise. Shepard Fairey was also among those to work alongside Davis in recent years on The Music Is Revolution Foundation, which he and his wife set up, following a serious motorcycle crash in LA in May 2006, to support music education in public schools.
Destroy All Monsters "Nobody Knows"
In one recent era interview, Davis spoke of the time and environment in which MC5 arrived on the music scene and how he saw his personal role, as well as that of his unique Detroit band's role: "For me the important thing was to be original, because I came from an art background. Copying someone else’s stuff wouldn’t get the attention that I wanted. Originality was the key to any kind of long-term recognition. I wanted us to be totally original. I thought what we were doing was totally unprecedented, at least not in rock and roll. There was plenty of jazz music, Sun Ra, where people improvised and played free. When we started doing it with electric instruments I just felt the energy levels that we achieved were so profound." In that same interview Davis conceded that not audience member loved the MC5 (they "absolutely hated it or went crazy") and that their music wasn't widely marketable nor could it be hugely popular. "It wasn’t like The Beatles. But I actually did have a kind of a suspicion that it would be long-term. Having said that, I am really surprised it did turn out that way,” he said
MC5 "Kick Out The Jams" (1969)