Review: MC5*: A True Testimonial
So, ya see, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers started a band and...
This 2002 documentary isn't on dvd yet, a surprise. MC5*: A True Testimonial is a band-friendly history that tells a one-sided story fairly well. With a band few people remember you can't have a rise without a fall so the last third details the destruction of the band and the self-destruction of its members. Behind The Music made it ok for Wayne Kramer to choke up at what went wrong and could have been, but there's so much more negative craziness to the story it would have obliterated the happy nostalgic message. Rest assured whatever is hinted at was a lot worse in reality.
Kramer hosts the film, taking us on a scenic tour of the MC5's Dee-Troit. He's well spoken and the best preserved of the remaining band members. It's beyond strange that he refers to the MC5 wanting to "kick out the jams" 35 years ago, as if Gene Simmons would remember a time they couldn't play and all KISS wanted to do was "rock and roll all night and party every day".
Early on the MC5 played psychedelic hard rock driven by heavy use of LSD and pot. In the studio they could sound like the Grateful Dead. Some of it is really good and the MC5 were immensely inspirational to bands more directly related to punk rock as it's done today. Has their sound aged well?.....
MC5*: A True Testimonial is also a slice of the hippie revolutionary 60s, and what Kramer and the rest don't seem to get is that the revolution was a crock of crap. Nihilistic Marxism and LSD truly are a deadly cocktail, and between the gun-loving White Panther Party and John Sinclair's Trans Love Energies hippie commune the lessons of this film can only be to learn from other's mistakes. Why it's revisited as if it were a great thing is a mystery, at least to me. That's where Kramer butters his bread, but at some level, under the dogma and ego, he has to know the MC5 never had a chance and had only themselves to blame.
Drummer Dennis Thompson is as bitter and angry a person can be without their head exploding. He sits, surrounded by MC5 memorabilia and an unloaded rifle, raging against the machine that stopped the MC5 from being the most popular band in history. When asked why anyone should care about the MC5 story since it's only rock and roll, he verbally stumbles, gasps for words and then aims his unloaded rifle at the director and pulls the trigger. That's telling 'em, Dennis.
In music, history is not always written by the winners.