John Sinclair: ‘We wanted to kick ass – and raise consciousness’


“I meet John Sinclair in a canalside coffeeshop in Amsterdam, where the vibes are mellow, the air perfumed, and the soundtrack a stream of vintage rock songs of the more laidback kind. Compared to slightly self-conscious young pot tourists skinning up at a nearby table, Sinclair seems utterly relaxed, an ageing hippy blissfully at home in a city that still retains some of the libertarian values he fought so hard for – a fight that cost him his liberty at the tail end of the 1960s. ‘I live here about half the time,’ he says, his voice a low, gravelly drawl that seems to grow even lower and more gravelly each time he inhales. ‘I’m not really an urbanite, but I love it here. Everything is close, public transport works, and it’s OK to get high.’ He grins. ‘It’s my kind of town.’ It is, however, a long way – literally and metaphorically – from Detroit, the city where Sinclair made his name, and that of the rock group he managed, the MC5, in the most dramatic fashion. Almost 50 years after those culturally heady and politically tumultuous days, when he found himself at the heart of the race riots that raged through Detroit, the 72-year-old now keeps the freak flag flying as best he can in a world that has become more liberal, and paradoxically more conservative, than his younger self could ever have imagined. He has just recorded an album of jazz poetry, Mohawk. The rhymes, originally written in the early 80s, have been given a kind of post-modern jazz setting by his musical collaborator, Steve Fly, a soft-spoken young producer and multi instrumentalist who hails from Stourbridge, but now resides in Amsterdam, where his day job is managing another coffee shop near Central Station. …  For all that, Mohawk, sounds out of time, its free-styled beatnik verse dedicated to Sinclair’s musical heroes – Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, – and couched in the language of his other big influence, the Beat poets. … Their only real rivals in the down-and-dirty stakes were that other great Detroit rock group, the Stooges, but unlike them, the MC5 had a radical political vision that was transmitted through the music. It was delivered with a visceral thrust that, even on grainy, black-and-white YouTube footage, is still breathtaking. The MC5’s live sound, described by one rock writer as ‘a catastrophic force of nature the band was barely able to control’, was nothing less than an incitement to revolution. …”
Guardian (Video)
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This entry was posted in Black Power, Bobby Seale, CIA, Ed Sanders, Hippie, Huey P. Newton, Jazz, LSD, Marijuana, Music, Phil Ochs, Poetry, The Beatles, The Fugs, Vietnam War and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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