Friday, July 3, 2009

Detroit's Grande Ballroom: It done kicked 'em out!

Location, Location, Location.
Unlike San Francisco's Fillmore, which successfully parlayed it's late-sixties, hippie-dippy pedigree into a multi-million dollar franchise under the crafty tutelage of Bill Graham, Detroit's Grande Ballroom was virtually abandoned and left to rot, not unlike Detroit itself.

With the official release of the widely bootlegged Future/Now films documentary, MC5- A True Testimonial still(!) in limbo, it's of particular importance that Louder than Love, the Story of the Grande Ballroom, get completed and released in a timely manner, lest the rest of the world continue under the false impression that California and New York held exclusives on all of the music, revolution, and counter-culture mayhem that went down in the 60's.

The Grande's legacy may have been resurrected in the mid-80's by a new generation of fans hungry for the pure, pre-corporate, high-energy rock music that the venue fostered during its short influential reign, but the building itself has not fared nearly as well; numerous online sources offer photographic evidence of the building's structural decline, and practitioners of the urban exploration movement have produced several video accounts of exposing the decay behind the Grande's exterior walls.

Fun Fact: The debut performance of The Who's Tommy took place at the Grande.
Sour Grapes: Machine Gun Thompson of the MC5 apparently has a bone to pick with Iggy and/or the Stooges.

Even a partial listing of Grande Ballroom Alumni reveals the sonically diverse zeitgeist of the Grande's brief tenure:

The Amboy Dukes, The Animals, Jeff Beck Group, Chuck Berry, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Blood Sweat and Tears, Blue Oyster Cult, Bonzo Dog Band, Brownsville Station, Butterfield Blues Band, Canned Heat, Cream, Detroit w/Mitch Ryder, Bo Diddley, Fleetwood Mac, The Frost, Frut, Genesis, Sir Graves Ghastly, Alan Ginsburg, Golden Earring, Buddy Guy, Abbie Hoffman, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, J Geils-who recorded their breakthrough live album Full House at Detroit's Cinderella Ballroom, The James Gang, Elton John, King Crimson, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, MC5, NRBQ, Pink Floyd, Procol Harum, Shakey Jake, John Sinclair, Sky with future Knack leader Doug Fieger, Sly and the Family Stone, The Stooges, Third Power, T-Rex w/Marc Bolan, Turtles, The Troggs, The Who, Johnny Winter, The Yardbirds.

Kick out the jams indeed.



Anonymous said...

Every word Dennis Thompson said in that film was true. The Stooges admitted they didn't play their instruments very well. They admitted that in the press. Ron (RIP) and Scott excepted.

The producers of the TT documentary used their footage to their own advantage as well. They blew the project themselves and then blamed Kramer. It will live longer as a bootleg cult film anyway.

Anonymous said...

“It’s a great document of the band, it’s a great document of life, and it’s a great document of things ... far and beyond the band.” - Jackson Smith, Detroit-based musician son of Fred & Patti Smith

"Music so extraordinary that it transformed the lives of all who experienced it demands the release of a documentary that does the MC5 justice.  Few bands have ever seen so much go so wrong so quickly and have been so misunderstood in the process. A True Testimonial represents a belated opportunity to set things straight, put things right. The fans deserve it. So does the band. And so does the music." - Don McLeese, author of Kick Out The Jams (Continuum 33 1/3 series)