Re: MC5/RA (Long!)

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#1 Tue, 1994-08-02 23:07
Trudy Morse
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Re: MC5/RA (Long!)

Hi Dan. So these are the kinds of lurkers my son at the National Science Foundations talks about. The ones the list was designed for! The quiet ones to like to read other people's messages!

Please be sure to look for us at Yoshi's October 10, at the Coltrane Church, October 9, and Minna Gallery on October 7 or 8, for a Sun Ra Tribute, and sorry you missed the Berkeley Tribute to Sun Ra.

People from the Semiotic Congress say we created a real semiosis, and we are still corresponding. Improvisation works in mysterious ways, and Sun Ra's poetry does a lot for people in the audience, as well as the musicians performing under his skill.

Do find Vijay on the list, he's at Berkeley: Vijay Iyer.

Don't know how to block out passages I want to comment on.

l. Progressive/psychedelic rock music. We are trying to get Vince who plays with the Grateful Dead to perform with us, as well as Glenn McKay who used to do the light shows for Jefferson Airplane. Baby, stop worrying about the genres. I come from classical music, travelled seven years with Cecil Taylor. The stuff is just good sounds, like John Cage would like to describe it. Sun Ra and John Cage collaborated during the last winter years, and we were supposed to go to the Soviet Union before each left the planet and the Soviet Union also cracked up.

  1. The Starship song I don't have exactly that way, but we did play Black Star at the Semiotic Congress (Grateful Dead song) with Sun Ra poetry, and it was sensational. Want to try to get Phil Lesh to try this with me sometime.

  2. There is a land, is the eulogy which I feel Sun Ra wrote for himself and I have used it frequently for the Sun Ra Tributes. I do not have the starship lines, since he called us, the Earth, the Planet Earth Ship.

However, the lines you have are almost correct, and i need not have to give them correctly.

  1. Re Ann Arbor. Didn't realize John Sinclair was such a heretic. The Sun Ra Arkestra played several years ago, and I read the Sun Ra poetry with Marshall Allen, who has always opened the poetry readings (when Sun Ra was on the planet) with the flute before the others chimed in.

  2. John Sinclair. Now in New Orleans, and we tried to get him to perform at the Sun Ra Tribute, May 29-30 at Southern University at New Orleans. He has performed with me on the same evening, as I recall in New Orleans, with either Michael Ray or Kidd Jordan, just forget. Didn't realize he was such a notorious character! Supposed to be with us in Vermont, as I recall, when I was with Michael Ray and the Cosmic Crewe.

  3. 3 month tour, in Tribute to Sun Ra. Leave Aug. 10 for UK, Europe, Germany, return S.F. October 7 for USA Tributes, S. F., Seattle, Oct. 25. Will get the corrected version poem in a few days!

If you play a musical instrument, we are trying to get the electronic musicians as well as "home made" instruments for a concert at David Wessel's Electronic Lab at Berkeley. If you know him, he's a Sun Ra fan, please urge him to start the series. They come from the John Cage tradition, and we just did six performances in Newfoundland Sound Festival, with dancers, home made instruments!

Sun Ra just happens to come from the jazz genre, Cecil Taylor, from New England Conservatory, but the music takes off on its own. Met Anthony Braxton, who wants to do something with the Sun Ra poetry, and he's another one, who steps over the boundaries, to create his own semiosis.

See you at Minna, S. F., October 6. Eddy Gale is organizing the event. He's now in San Jose, and organizing the Tribute to Sun Ra, Aug. 12, at Santa Cruz. Check it out, if you can. Kawamba Club.

Trudy Morse

DATE: Fri, 15 Jul 1994 13:58:10 -0700 FROM: Dan Sullivan sullivan@HAAS.BERKELEY.EDU

Hello Saturnites...I've been lurking on this list for some months now, and enjoy it greatly. I came to Sun Ra's music via an interest in improvised and progressive/psychedelic rock music, and lack much background in jazz. But I know what I like, and it only took a few live Arkestra concert experiences to get me hooked!

The recent discussion regarding the Sun Ra/MC5 connection led me to play my copy of Kick Out the Jams for the first time in ages. The Sun Ra track is not Rocket #9, but rather Starship, and it would seem to be a collaboration, as per the credits. I'd guess it's Sun Ra lyrics set to MC5 music.

The confusion may be caused by the presence of an MC5 tune called Rocket Reducer No. 62 which ends side one of the record. Starship, however, is eight and a half minutes of feedback, proto heavy metal guitar riffing, space noodling, and poetry. Perhaps Trudy or someone else can identify the lyrics, which sound very much like Sun Ra to me...it begins:

   Starship, starship
   take me where I want to go
   out there among the planets...

The final verse goes something like this (it's rather poorly recorded and hard to make out clearly):

   There is a land
   whose _______ is almost unimaginable to the human mind
   clear (?) day we stand there and look further
   than the ordinary mind can see
   _______ far above the roof of this world
   we can emcompass vistas of the world
   there is a land where the sun shines eternally
   Eternally eternally
   out in outer space
   a living blazing fire...

The MC5/Sun Ra connection seems to be via John Sinclair, the Detroit poet/musician/jazz critic/cultural revolutionary. He "managed" the band (after a fashion) and sat in occasionally on saxophone (I'd also guess that it's Sinclair playing sax on the track Robert Campbell mentioned). His 1972 book, Guitar Army, contains a wealth of detail about this period.

Sinclair co-founded the Detroit Artists Workshop in 1964, a collective which produced poetry, jazz and electronic music concerts, film screenings, and so forth, and was a seminal component of the Detroit underground scene of the mid-60s.

After emerging from a six month jail sentence for marijuana posession in 1966, Sinclair says, "...all of a sudden there were hundreds and thousands of teen-age maniacs running around...playing and singing and dancing to rock and roll music which we hadn't even paid attention to before. We had been into John Coltrane and Archie Shepp and Sun Ra...and we had like an elitist attitude" towards rock music. The turning point for him was "when Cecil Taylor turned me on to the [Beatles'] Revolver album." Shortly thereafter he met and began working with the MC5.

He saw himself as bringing "some of the older [neo-beatnik] sensibility and seriousness...to the hippie scene and the rock and roll scene--we could turn them on to some of the things we had been into with the Workshop, and at the same time they could turn us on to what they were into, so we could arrive at some kind of new high energy synthesis." The Starship track, plus the MC5's use of costume, chanting, etc., seem to be examples of this process.

The book contains reproductions of a number of concert posters from this period, including two of interest to Saturnites: Sun Ra and the MC5 live June 18 1967, Community Arts Auditorium, Wayne State University (Detroit); and the epic Detroit Rock and Roll Revival concert, May 30-31 1969 at the Michigan State Fairground. This show was produced by Sinclair and featured MC5, Chuck Berry, Sun Ra, Dr. John, Johhny Winter, the Psychedelic Stooges (with Iggy Pop), Terry Reid, the Amboy Dukes (with Ted Nugent), David Peel and the Lower East Side, the James Gang and many more.

In the wake of massive police harrassment of their Sinclair, the Five, and their co-conspirators moved from Detroit to Ann Arbor in May 1968. I believe the Arkestra were living in Ann Arbor for a period around this time as well...can anyone confirm this?

The collective became increasingly radicalized, forming the White Panther Party, and Sinclair of course became an international cause celebre after he was sentenced to 10 years for posession of two marijuana cigarettes. But that's another story.

Hope this is of interest to some of you, and I look forward to any follow-ups once I return from vacation in a couple of weeks!

Dan Sullivansullivan@haas.berkeley.edu (+1)(510)642-1405