Talking revolution with John Sinclair, discussing the state of Ypsilanti schools with Superintendent Ben Edmondson, and exploring the bummercore world of Cash Harrison … on this weekend’s edition of the Saturday Six Pack

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After our long vacation, the Saturday Six Pack will be back on the air this weekend with poet, activist John Sinclair, the former manager of the MC5. While I’m sure we’ll talk at length about both his time with the “The Five”, and the ten year sentence he received for selling two joints that made him a household name in the late ’60s, I’m hoping that a good deal of our hour together can be spent discussing the founding of the Detroit Artists Workshop, his work at the Fifth Estate, his co-founding of the White Panther Party, and the evolution of Trans-Love Energies, his commune which moved from Detroit to Ann Arbor in the late ’60s. [The buildings which housed Trans-Love Energies, still stand at 1520 Hill Street, and are now known as Luther House.]

And, of course, I’ll also be sure to ask him about this recent exchange I had with Brendan Toller, the director of new documentary about Danny Fields, the man who signed the MC5 to Elektra.

MARK: In ‘68 or so, Danny became a DJ at WFMU, and it was there, according to legend, that he was told by another DJ that he had to check out the scene around Detroit, setting in motion a chain of events that would bring both the MC5 and The Stooges to the national stage. I’m curious as to what he may have told you about that first trip he took to Ann Arbor / Detroit.

BRENDAN: Danny had actually been out to Ann Arbor previously. He wrote a bad check to follow the Velvet Underground. Danny saw the Velvets play the Student Union Ballroom at the University of Michigan, where, just years later, he would see the Stooges for the first time. He was tipped off by Bob Rudnick and Dennis Frawley, who had a show called Kokaine Karma on WFMU, that the 5 were a hot band. I know Danny was taken aback by the energy and endless will of John Sinclair and the 5; barking orders off the toilet, women serving men food, pounding on the tables like Vikings, printing presses. It was its own self-contained focused, politically-driven, hype machine years before bands did all their copy and publicity..

LeniHillTo give you a sense of what was happening at the time in Ann Arbor, here’s a clip from a September 4, 1971 article written by Leni Sinclair for the Ann Arbor Sun, the anti-establishment newspaper of the White Panther Party. [See right.] At the point this article was written by his wife and collaborator, John Sinclair was a little over two years into his ten year prison sentence. Little did anyone know, just a few months later, thanks in large part to the intervention of John Lennon, who had come to Ann Arbor to appear at the now legendary John Sinclair Freedom Rally, the Michigan Supreme Court would step in and order that Sinclair be released. Here, with more on that, is a clip from a much more recent article, also written by Leni Sinclair on the subject of their legal troubles at the time.

…On December 10, 1971, John Lennon and Yoko Ono came to Ann Arbor to headline the historic John Sinclair Freedom Rally at Crisler Arena. And just three days later, on December 13, 1971, John walked out of Jackson Prison after having served two and a half years already. But he was not yet a free man, because in the fall of 1969, shortly after he was sent to Marquette Prison in the Upper Peninsula to start his 9-1/2 to 10-year sentence, John and two other White Panther leaders were indicted by the Federal Government for conspiracy to blow up a clandestine CIA recruiting office in Ann Arbor. A conviction on that charge could put him back in jail for another 15 to 25 years. And our little band of White Panther hippies on Hill Street, which was just beginning to organize the fight to free John Sinclair from his 10-year marijuana sentence, was suddenly faced with an even bigger Goliath in the form of the CIA, the FBI, the US Justice Department, and the whole Nixon administration.

Paranoia struck deep. We believed that our house was bugged, and that our phone was tapped. So we started holding our important meetings to plan our defence strategy under a tree in the park, thinking that we were safe from the uninvited ear. Only 20 years later did we learn that there was one among us, living with us at 1520 Hill Street, who regularly wrote reports about us to the FBI. To this day we don’t know the identity of that informer. But just knowing that the government planted an informer among us certainly puts a big chill on the idea of ever wanting to live in a commune again.

With the help of some of the best lawyers in the country we won that case in the US Supreme Court, too… The unanimous decision of the Supreme Court in that case ensured that the 4th Amendment to the Constitution that protects citizens against warrantless wiretapping or searches remained the law of the land. This was a pivotal case for the future of American Democracy, because without the protections guaranteed by the 4th Amendment, the Constitution would not worth the paper it’s printed on.

After losing this case, the Justice Department dropped the charges against the indicted White Panther Party leaders, and John was finally a free man. To all the people who lived and worked together in the 1510/1520 Hill Street commune, whether I can remember all your names or not, I want to say that you are every bit as important as John Sinclair and John Lennon. Without you it could not have been done. To you and to all of our supporters far and wide I want to say, “Thank you for helping free my husband and for helping keep our country free.”

So, if you’ve enjoyed my conversations over the years with the likes of Alan Haber, the first president of Students for Democratic Society (SDS), and Tom Hayden, be sure to tune in during the first hour of the show, during which we’ll be going deep on the subject of ’60s Ann Arbor.

Oh, and if you get a chance before then, read Sinclair’s original liner notes from the Kick out the Jams album. Here’s a taste. It should give you a pretty good sense of what his politics were at the time, “mother fuckers”. [Read page one. Read page two.]

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And, during our second segment, we’ll be having a few beers with YCS Superintendent Dr. Benjamin Edmondson, who bet me a six pack during episode 22 of the program that, within a year, Governor Snyder would be visiting Ypsilanti Public Schools. While I didn’t intend to hold Edmondson to it, he called me a little while back, acknowledging that I’d won, and offering to come in and make good on his promise. So, at 7:00, we’ll be catching up over beers, discussing the current state of our schools. So, if you have any questions, please feel free to call in. [The studio number is at the bottom of the page.] I’ve got a few things to ask him about… but we’ve got time to get into a lot of other things.

Then, during our final segment, if all goes according to plan, we’ll welcome Cash Harrison into the studio to play a few songs, and chat with us about whatever it is that’s going on in his life right now. I wasn’t able to attend, but I’m told that he did a great job a few weeks ago at our mutual friend JT’s porch show, and I’m looking forward to hearing him play for myself… As for what his stuff is like, JT describes it as having an “almost old school country singer songwriter sensibility”. Harrison, when asked to describe what he does, refers to it, however, as “bumercome.” I guess we’ll see.

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE NEVER TUNED IN TO THE SIX PACK BEFORE, HERE ARE THE DETAILS ON HOW TO LISTEN:

Unless you live inside the AM 1700 studio, chances are you won’t be able to pick the show up on your radio. As that’s the case, I’d recommend streaming the show online, which you can do either on the AM1700 website or by way of TuneIn.com.

And for those of you who aren’t yet familiar with the show, and need to get caught up, you can listen to the entire archive on iTunes.

Oh, and if you’d like to tell your friends and neighbors about the program, feel free to share the Facebook event listing.

And, here, thanks to AM 1700 senior graphic designer Kate de Fuccio, is this week’s poster, in case any of you want to print copies and leave them at one of your favorite highway rest areas.

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And do call us if you have a chance. We love phone calls. So please copy down this number and slide it into your sock – 734.217.8624 – and call us between 6:00 and 8:00 this Saturday evening. The show is nothing without you.

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4 Comments

  1. anonymous
    Posted August 20, 2016 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    I read an interview with Sinclair not too long ago in which he said some interesting things about the band Pussy Riot, who he compared to the MC5. It might be interesting to ask him to elaborate.

  2. Kate
    Posted August 20, 2016 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    You could ask Dr. E to respond to this comment left by Jay Walker in response to your recent post about taxes. I’m not saying that I agree, but it’s important to note that this perception about Ypsilanti schools exists.

    “Close the terrible school that we have and send the kids to the better school districts that surround us. Forcing these children stay in these terrible schools because their parents can’t afford transportation to Ann Arbor or surrounding areas is shameful. Everyone has a basic human right to have their kids safe and educated. Collapsing Ypsi schools would be the best for the kids and the citizens. Our home values would go up and because of that the city would get more taxes and our problems could start to go away. Our kids would be safe with better educations.”

  3. Kit
    Posted August 20, 2016 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    I know you’re booked tonight, but I just heard that John Doe and Exene Cervenka of X are in Detroit this afternoon for a book signing at Third Man.

    https://www.facebook.com/events/1593760407596339/

  4. Posted August 20, 2016 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    I’m sure that both Pussy Riot and perceptions about Ypsi Public Schools will come up during tonight’s conversations. As for X, I think they’re going to have their hands full, as they’ll be performing their album “Los Angeles” in its entirety this evening at the El Club in Detroit.

    For what it’s worth, we spent our summer vacation in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, and that’s all we listened to in the car.

    http://elclubdetroit.com/event/x-performing-los-angeles-night-1/

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