When the MC5 Were Dropped by Elektra Records for an Obscene Ad
Subtlety and the MC5 were not the best of friends, and in April 1969 that mindset — and a profanity-laced newspaper ad — cost them a record deal.
The band released their debut album, the classic Kick Out the Jams, in early 1969. Having been a popular attraction on the live Detroit rock scene, the decision was made to record the album live to capture that raw spirit the band possessed. The almost unhinged excitement of the band’s live show was captured in full glory, but it was not considered safe for family entertainment.
Hudon’s Department Stores were based in the band’s Detroit home and famously refused to carry the local heroes’ LP because of what they determined to be obscene lyrical content. After all, the legendary and infamous battle cry of “Kick out the jams, motherf—ers!” is delivered loud and proud by singer Rob Tyner just before the band launch into the album’s most famous tune. Remember, there was no PRMC or warning labels on album covers in those days.
Some bands in a similar situation might have tried to negotiate. The MC5, however, took another route. They took out a full page ad in the local Ann Arbor based magazine, Fifth Estate, that read “KICK OUT THE JAMS, MOTHERF—ER! and kick in the door if the store won’t sell you the album on Elektra. F— HUDSON’S!” Though their label had nothing to do with placing it, the band put the Elektra logo in the ad.
In response to the ad, Hudson’s pulled all Elektra product from all their stores. This action quickly resulted in the MC5 being dropped by the label. They soon signed with Atlantic, who released their second and third albums, Back in the USA and High Time.
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