Purely on the infectious enthusiasm of Elektra PR Man Danny Fields, who saw both MC5 and the Stooges in the space of a Detroit weekend, Jac Holzman snapped up both groups. Uncharacteristically, Jac agreed to the deal on the phone without having heard a single note. He advanced $15,000 to the MC5 and paid the Stooges $5,000 to sign with Elektra. At the end of October 1968, just two months later, Holzman with Doors’ engineer Bruce Botnick recorded the MC5 live over two days at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom. It was a full-pedal-to-the-metal fusion of hollering, high-energy rock-n-roll, with loud blasts of heavy jazz and blues.
The following day, November 1st, MC5 manager John Sinclair founded the White Panthers, with the MC5 inducted as its house band. Sinclair’s inflammatory politicizing and the group’s penchant for attracting troublemakers created enough of a stir, their debut album, Kick Out The Jams, landed in the Top Forty.
If they MC5 were a disaster waiting to happen, it didn’t take long for the disaster to arrive. Shortly after the release of Kick Out, the group took out an ad admonishing Detroit department store, Hudsons, for refusing to stock their album. The ad also implicated Elektra and barely six months after signing the group, Holzman felt compelled to release them from their contract.
The MC5 quickly re-emerged on Atlantic with a more disciplined sound that lacked the thrills and danger of their Elektra debut. The Atlantic release Back In The USA failed commercially. The group was over by 1972, but their notorious reputation helped ignite the punk phenomenon five years later.