Tuesday, February 19, 2013

MC5 -- "Teenage Lust" (1970)

Baby, baby, help me, 
Feel like I'm gonna bust
I need a healthy outlet 
For my teenage lust!

Sorry to hear that, dude.  I've had the same problem for the last 40 years or so.  So get used to it!

MC5 was formed in the Detroit suburb of Lincoln Park, Michigan, in 1964.  It traces its origins to the teenage friendship between Wayne Kramer and Fred "Sonic" Smith.  

Patti Smith and Fred Smith
I'm guessing Fred Smith is the MC5 member most responsible for "Teenage Lust."  After all, he married Patti Smith.  The only thing that I can think of that would explain such a desperate act is a terminal case of teenage lust.  Poor Fred must have really felt like he was about to bust.

(We kid because we love, Patti . . . )

When I was in college I was one of several college students featured in a Houston Post story about politics on campus.  I was described by the reporter as a "self-styled liberal," which greatly amuses people who know me now.  

A lot of sixties bands might be described as "self-styled revolutionaries."  But most of them talked the talk a lot better than they walked the walk (to use a cliché that I seem to be using on an almost daily basis these days).

By contrast, the MC5 most definitely walked the walk.  They talked the talk, too.  (Actually, it would be more accurate to say they shouted the talk -- or even screamed the talk.)

You think Rage Against the Machine was politically radical?  The MC5 made RATM look about as radical as your local chapter of the League of Women Voters.

Cambridge and Berkeley were full of left-wing crazies in the sixties, but Ann Arbor (which isn't that far from Detroit) had more than its fair share of young radicals.  For example, the Weather Underground -- a hardcore revolutionary group that specialized in bombing government buildings and banks -- was founded on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan.   

The MC5's first manager, John Sinclair, was a co-founder of another far-left Detroit-Ann Arbor group, the White Panther Party.  (When asked by an interviewer what white people could do to support the Black Panther Party, Huey Newton had said they could form a White Panther Party -- so Sinclair did just that.)

Here's the White Panthers Party's ten-point manifesto, which they titled the "White Panther State/meant:
  1. Full endorsement and support of the Black Panther Party's 10-point program and platform.
  2. Total assault on the culture by any means necessary, including rock and roll, dope, and f*cking in the streets.
  3. Free exchange of energy and materials -- we demand the end of money!
  4. Free food, clothes, housing, dope, music, bodies, medical care -- everything free for everybody!
  5. Free access to information media -- free the technology from the greed creeps!
  6. Free time & space for all humans -- dissolve all unnatural boundaries!
  7. Free all schools and all structures from corporate rule -- turn the buildings over to the people at once!
  8. Free all prisoners everywhere -- they are our comrades!
  9. Free all soldiers at once -- no more conscripted armies!
  10. Free the people from their phony "leaders" -- everyone must be a leader -- freedom means free everyone!  All Power to the People!
I think you will agree that this is a fascinating document.  I've been trying to decide which of these demands is the most outrageous and unlikely to be attained, but I can't pick just one.  

The White Panthers were accused of bombing the CIA office in Ann Arbor and throwing a Molotov cocktail through the window of the Selective Service office in Portland, Oregon.  White Panthers chapters remained active in San Francisco and Berkeley well into the 1980s.  In 1984, the San Francisco White Panthers led a petition drive to recall Mayor Dianne Feinstein after she proposed to ban handguns in the city.  (The White Panthers and Black Panthers opposed gun control for the same reason that many right-wingers do today -- because they view the Second Amendment as the last defense of the citizenry against government tyranny.)

Dope is mentioned twice in this "State/meant," while sex is mentioned only once -- which tells you something about John Sinclair's priorities.  Sinclair was sentenced to ten years in prison in 1969 after giving two joints to an undercover narcotics officer.  

A number of musicians (including John Lennon -- who later recorded a song titled "John Sinclair" -- Stevie Wonder, Phil Ochs, and Bob Seger) joined an all-star cast of counterculture figures (including poet Allen Ginsberg and five members of the "Chicago Eight") appeared at a "John Sinclair Freedom Rally" in Ann Arbor in 1971.  

Three days after the rally -- the timing was purely coincidental -- Sinclair was released from prison when the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the state's marijuana statute was unconstitutional.  

The MC5 eventually split up with Sinclair because not all the band's members agreed with his extreme political beliefs, but they agreed with Sinclair that marijuana and LSD were peachy-keen.  

John Sinclair now
"Teenage Lust" has nothing to do with radical politics or marijuana.  It's an unapologetic paean to premarital sex.  It's also as misogynistic as any rap song out there:

Surrounded by bitches 
Who just wouldn't give in
Who thought that getting down 
Was an unnatural sin

The singer tries every trick in the book to get some stank on his hang low, but the women he approaches prove maddeningly uncooperative:

Moved into the city 
To improve my chances
I chased them at the bars 
And grabbed them at the dances
They'd huggy, snuggle, kissy 
But they'd never go all the way

Finally, the proverbial light bulb goes on over the singer's noggin, and he turns the tables on all those uptight little b*tches who have refused to give it up to him:

Then one day I had one perfect plan
I shake my ass and scream in a rock 'n' roll band
From now on there'll be no compromising
Rock 'n' roll music is the best advertising
"Baby, I can help, you know I got the guts
I'll be your healthy outlet for your teenage lust"

Here's "Teenage Lust" by MC5, the pride of Lincoln Park:

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

1 comment:

  1. I've seen photos of Patti Smith over the years, and I understand she's a talented songwriter/poet. But even if Susanna Hoffs were not in the previous post, I have to say that Ms. Smith has more of a radio voice. "Foxy lady" is not a term that comes to mind. Moving on, in my world of "free association", "Teenage Lust" segues to the more innocuous "Teenage Crush" by Tommy (no relation to Evie) Sands. Back in 2005, both Tommy and Evie performed at Art Fein's Elvis Birthday Bash (at different times in the show), the only time they were ever together except in Joel Whitburn's "Top 100" book. That show also featured Obediah "Young" Jesse, who once sang with the Coasters. The term "teenage" shows up in a lot of songs: for examples, "Teenage Letter" by Joe Turner (recorded when he was in his 40s) and "Teenage Prayer" by Dolly Cooper. Then we have Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers (Mr. Lymon's life story is a sad tale) and Betty and Rosie Collins, the Teen Queens. I still remember seeing the Six Teens featuring Trudy Williams on TV in the 1950s, singing "A Casual Look". Tommy Sands might be grouped with Fabian and Frankie Avalon as a "Teen Idol". For a really obscure number, we'll wrap up with "We Teenagers" by the Emanons (spell it backwards, it's a very appropriate group name).