After four previous nominations, Wayne Kramer is “just about out of keen observations and insights and broad, philosophical positions” about the MC5 getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The iconic and influential Detroit troupe, a political as well as musical force, has been nominated for the Class of 2020. Kramer, a co-founder and guitarist — and still leading the MC50 all-star band with members of fellow Rock Hall nominee Soundgarden (guitarist Kim Thayil) as well as Faith No More, Fugazi and Zen Guerilla — considers himself “basically just an observer in the process at this point. I don’t know what to make of it all. I’ve always been suspect about how do you quantify the influence of an artist? It’s not like sports where you hit so many home runs and it’s a number, and that number is more than everybody else’s number. Something like music is so subjective. There’s no kind of yardstick to measure what we call great rock band. It’s not record sales, necessarily, or songs on the radio, necessarily. It’s some mash-up of all that.” Nevertheless, Kramer still feels the MC5, which released three official albums — including the live Kick Out the Jams — during its nine-year tenure and has been considered one of the shrine’s greatest lights, merits a space in the Rock Hall.
“It seems as though all the bands that came after the MC5, or at least a great many of those bands, acknowledge the influence that the MC5 had,” notes Kramer, who with drummer Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson are the group’s only surviving members. His memoir The Hard Stuff was published during the spring of 2018. “The MC5 exists on a level that most modern rock fans are unaware of. It’s only the real hardcore fans, the people that take rock seriously and do their homework who understand the influence of the MC5 on rock as we know it.
“So I guess we wait and see. Again.”
An MC5 induction certainly has the endorsement of ballot “competitor” Thayil, who tells Billboard, “Of course — if the Stooges are in there, yeah, the MC5 should be in there, of course. But I’m a little partial, since it’s my favorite band ever.”
Kramer, who’s “feeling great” after fighting off saliva gland cancer earlier this year, is hardly sitting around while he’s waiting. He and the MC50 recently finished a U.K. tour with Alice Cooper and the Stranglers, and will be headed to Australia and New Zealand with Cooper in February. The quintet is also considering making some music of its own, according to Kramer. “I’m in agreement with all the cats in the band. They all want to see what we can do in a studio,” he says. “I’ve got an idea about how to give it a framework — maybe you could call it a concept album. I’ve got an idea in mind.”
Meanwhile Kramer is also working with Cooper on his upcoming next studio album, which started with the latter’s Breadcrumbs covers EP released last month — which includes a version of the MC5’s “Sister Anne.” Writing and recording is continuing this month in Los Angeles and Detroit, along with another batch of covers. “We’re making a Detroit record,” Kramer reports. “We’re really zeroing in on the influences of the MC5 and of Motown and of Mitch Ryder and Bob Seger. All the good stuff that has come out of our beloved, industrial city is gonna be on this record. It’s a really fun process.”