Kick Out the Jams is the debut album by American protopunk 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. 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 in 2003 was ranked number 294 on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list. The song was included in the music video game Guitar Hero World Tour.
While "Ramblin' Rose" and "Motor City Is Burning" open with inflammatory 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.
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 the only copy was 'Fuck Hudson's.' And it had the Elektra logo". To end the conflict and to avoid further financial loss, Elektra dropped MC5 from their record label. Ironically, band members later alleged that Elektra official Jac Holzman encouraged the use of the epithet on the record itself.
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, however, RCA Records released the album wholly uncensored.
Meaning of "Kick out the jams":
"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. 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.
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. 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".
Upon its release, critic Lester Bangs, writing his infamous inaugural review for Rolling Stone, called Kick Out the Jams a "ridiculous, overbearing, pretentious album". Modern opinion of the album, however, holds it in very high regard, noting its influence on rock music to come. Allmusic called it "one of the most powerfully energetic live albums ever made" in their retrospective review.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."
Its title track has been covered by various bands, including The Presidents of the United States of America, who completely reworked the lyrics to an upbeat form on their eponymous debut album in 1995, post-punkers Volcano Suns on their 1989 double album Thing of Beauty, Michael Monroe on his 1996 album Peace of Mind, hard rock band Blue Öyster Cult on their 1978 live album Some Enchanted Evening, Rage Against the Machine on their album Renegades with Tom Morello also performing the song with Street Sweeper Social Club and Trent Reznor live, Henry Rollins with Bad Brains for the Pump Up the Volume soundtrack, Afrika Bambaataa, Monster Magnet, Japanese rockers Guitar Wolf on their debut album Run Wolf Run, Jeff Buckley (whose version was released on his posthumous "legacy edition" of Grace on the bonus CD of unreleased songs), Entombed on the EP Family Favourites, Silverchair, and Give Up the Ghost (formerly American Nightmare) on their Year One compilation. Poison Idea also covered the song live, and it appears on their live record Dutch Courage. Primal Scream often plays the song live.Pearl Jam began performing it on the Vote for Change tour of 2004. It was also used as one of the musical numbers in the Xena: Warrior Princess episode "Lyre, Lyre, Hearts on Fire", sung by New Zealand actor-musician Jay Laga'aia.
The British band The KLF (also known as The JAMs), who take their name from the Wilson/Shea novel, use a sample of "Kick Out the Jams" in their songs "All You Need Is Love" and "What Time Is Love?"
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.
All songs written and composed by MC5 (Rob Tyner, Wayne Kramer, Fred "Sonic" Smith, Michael Davis, Dennis Thompson), except as noted.
Fred Burch, Marijohn Wilkin
"Kick Out the Jams"
"Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa)"
"Motor City Is Burning"
Fred "Sonic" Smith credited with writing the song although it was written by Al Smith
"I Want You Right Now"
Colin Frechter, Larry Page
MC5, Sun Ra
Rob Tyner - lead vocals,
Wayne Kramer - lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals, lead vocals on "Ramblin' Rose",
Fred "Sonic" Smith - rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals,
Michael Davis - bass guitar, backing vocals,
Dennis Thompson - drums,
Brother J. C. Crawford - "spiritual advisor",
Joel Brodsky - album cover photo