Iggy and the Stooges, or the MC5… Who were the real runaway sons of the nuclear A-bomb?

Iggy Pop had some nice words to share today about Michael Davis, the bass player for the MC5, who just passed away a few days ago. Here’s what Pop, who got his real start in the music business opening for the MC5 in Detroit, had to say:

For me, Michael was the original cool guy. He was a tall, handsome man who looked great on stage with his bass strapped on, and I always admired his poise and showmanship. He played with a fluid, effortless style that rolled under the beat. The lines he played were always distinctive, like somebody singing. He had a lot of positive energy. Michael had a wonderful smile, and a kind of unflappable manner. I never saw him too upset about anything. He was a nice guy, and although he had plenty of attitude, he wasn’t a prick about it like so many musicians can be. Check out his playing on Lookin At You (Original A-square release). Especially the bass note he plays just before the end. Wow. He belongs in the Hall Of Fame, along with his whole group, for their contributions to American music and its politics. He was and they were hugely charismatic and influential. Their beliefs and approach had to do with things much larger than music and these things are coming to light more and more today on the world revolutionary stage. There is no band that I know of as dangerous as the MC5 and their manager, John Sinclair. I loved Michael. My condolences to his family, friends, and group and my thanks to him and the MC5 for their generosity and inspiration to me and The Stooges.

As the Stooges probably owe their career to the MC5, who were responsible for drawing Danny Fields, the representative from Elektra Records who would end up signing both bands to contracts, to Detroit in 1968, it’s not surprising that Pop would be so effusive in his praise for the influential band of self-described political radicals. Unfortunately, it would seem that the respect doesn’t flow both ways, at least when comes to MC5 drummer Dennis Thompson, who had this to say about their “little brother” band, Iggy and the Stooges.

It’s a weird statement for a few reasons – not the least of which because Thompson played in a few bands post-MC5 with the Stooges’ Ron Asheton, and I’m pretty sure the two were friends. But, I guess, this kind of thing is to be expected when upstart bands eclipse their guitar-slinging mentors. The MC5 ran the scene in Detroit for years, and I can see how it might irk them a bit that the filthy punks in Stooges, who couldn’t even really play their instruments when they started out, kept on rising through the ranks, ultimately making their way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with a legion of fans behind them, crediting them for creating punk rock, and worshiping them as gods.

Oh, and here’s a little piece of advice… If you’re tryng to make a point about how irrelevant and untalented anther band is, don’t quote their most brilliant lyrics in your attack, suggesting that it would have been more appropriate if your band, and not their’s, had said them… I’m sure that Thompson has his good qualities, but he just comes across as pathetic when he whines, “We were the runaway sons of the nuclear A-bomb. Not Iggy Pop. (That) faggot.”

[Sorry to sully the memory of Michael Davis with this bitter, homophobic nonsense from his MC5 bandmate, but I’ve been wanting to share this video for a while now, and discuss the relationship between the two bands, and this seemed like a good opportunity.]

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  1. Edward
    Posted February 23, 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    The MC5 were supposed to e a great live band. I don’t think it ever translated to vinyl though.

  2. Tommy
    Posted February 23, 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Mark – could you let me know if this clip is from a longer documentary?

    If you are ahead of your time, you are outcast, if you are behind the times you are a copycat, and if you are on time you get the credit.

    Who knows? Maybe the lack of formal recognition and … money … are at the root of the bitterness. For what it’s worth, as groundbreaking as the MC5 were, they can thank the Yardbirds, the Who, Jeff Beck, and others who can in turn thank the black ‘Bluesmen’. It is all related.

  3. anonymous
    Posted February 23, 2012 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Everyone says stupid shit. Iggy’s said stuff about his Stooges bandmates that’s just as bad. I remember him saying, for instance, that the other guys in the band couldn’t build a birdhouse without him. Ego goes with the territory. And, for what it’s worth, I suspect that Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson regrets having said this. He was probably just caught up in the moment. I suspect it’s not too often that people treat him like a rock star, and pay attention to what he has to say these days.

  4. Eel
    Posted February 23, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    According to what’s he’s written on his blog, he and Asheton were friends and admired one anothers work. My guess is that this has less to do with him thinking the band sucked, and more to do with Iggy’s ongoing fame and the bitter taste it left in his mouth. And, at some point along the line, I’m sure that Iggy stole a woman or two from him.


  5. Eel
    Posted February 23, 2012 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Speaking of Detroit music scene deaths, Bob Madigan from Slaughterhouse died a few days ago as well. He was 47.


  6. Meta
    Posted February 23, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Tommy, the movie came out in 2002.

    MC5: A True Testimonial, also written as MC5 * A True Testimonial, is a 2002 feature-length documentary film about the MC5, a Detroit-based rock band of the 1960s and early 1970s. The film was produced by Laurel Legler and directed by David C. Thomas; the couple spent more than seven years working on the project


  7. Mr. X
    Posted February 23, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Somehow, I don’t get the sense that Iggy gives a shit about being called a faggot.


  8. Posted February 23, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I really don’t think Iggy cares what anybody calls him.

  9. Bob
    Posted February 23, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Dennis is kind of crazy, by all accounts. I would argue the point about MC5 not “translating to vinyl” is ridiculous. The pre-KOTJ singles are devastating and still the blueprint for garage-punk bands around the world. High Time is a great fucking album start to finish. I would argue that Back In The USA is also a great album, despite Jon “Mr. Bruce Springsteen” Landau’s terrible production. It has great songs and energy that gets through even the tinny recording. It’s beloved by the Stiff Records crew in England.

    My friend Brendan Toller has been painstakingly making a documentary on Danny Fields that will hopefully be done soon. It will be full of mindblowing stuff, including Stooges and MC5 material that probably has never been seen outside of Danny’s pack rat collection. The guy saved everything. The Ramones stuff he has told be about alone will make some jaws drop. Can’t wait until it comes out.

    He made a real good doc on the death of independent record stores a few years ago called “I Need That Record.” Look for it. http://www.ineedthatrecord.com/Site/I_Need_That_Record!.html

  10. Anonymous Mike
    Posted February 23, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    It’s not like Iggy didn’t pay his dues. He’s not Justin Bieber.

  11. Posted February 23, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    Bob, if you’d be up for it, I’d love an introduction to your friend. I’d really like to find out more about the project.

  12. Suzy Q
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Huh?? Back In the USA terrible production? In my (and many of my contemporaries) opinion, their absolute best album by a country mile. Every single song is stellar. One of my favorite albums of all time. Completely, utterly underrated.. as is typical for anything MC5 related. I love The Stooges but I will always love MC5 more for that album not to mention there live footage. Absolutely mind blowing. As cliche as it sounds it really rings true for them: They were so before there time it’s almost tragic.

  13. Posted March 5, 2015 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mark,
    This story is missing some vital information. First of all Machinegun was being baited by the film makers of True Testimonial to provide tabloid sensationalism. His beloved mother had just died and he wanted to reschedule his parts. They insisted and he resented them for their inconsideration. He was battling alcoholism which I can say he has been sober now for almost 14 years. That clip does not represent him as a man or a musician.

    YES he is friends with Jim Osterberg and was very close friends with Ron and Scott Asheton…He hung out with them at their Funhouse more than with the band at Hill St.

    I feel to single out this out- take clip is biased and very one sided. He meant what he said however rough the comment was at the time. If you see the entire film, Dennis is by far the most eloquent and polished of all. Certainly the most positive. This clip was posted on youtube 6 years ago to tarnish his reputation. I know Dennis extremely well and love him dearly..there is nothing but love and generosity of spirit in this man. KIM MAKI ANN ARBOR MI

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