ROCK & ROLL DOPE
We've been hearing a lot of weird talk lately from some people who are supposed to be hip to what's happening in the music biz - it seems that the recent popularity of the so-called "soft rock" solo artists like Elton John and the Taylors has got music critics buzzing off into the ozone about a big "new trend" that's supposed to sweep us away like a storm any day now. In the trade magazines like Billboard, in the rock papers like Rolling Stone, even (and especially!) in the straight news rags like Time magazine you see predictions of the "death of rock and roll, " "people are turning away from hard acid-rock and getting back into their heads now, " and shit like that.
This kind of babble is really alarming to us here in Michigan - after all, this is the high energy rock and roll center of the planet; hard rock is what we are, what we've been doing most of our lives. I mean, are we going to let Billboard and Rolling Stone and Time tell us we just ain't hip any more, that the music that gets us blasted and makes us want to dance and scream and holler with joy is just a "fad", another passing fancy for the teen-age kiddies?
We have been raised on rock and roll, it's gotten us together in the ballrooms and the parks, it's helped make us what we are today and we know too much to be fooled by the slick "trend setters" of the pop scene - the chomps that want to tell us that our music is obsolete and we should just throw it away and buy some of this groovy sweet soft stuff. Unfortunately, though, soms of us here in Michigan have been fooled and are down-rapping our music, and as recently as one month ago an article appeared in the Detroit Free Press under the heading "Rock Revival Over" that asked "Where has Michigan rock gone?"
The answer to that question is, of course, that Michigan rock didn't "go" anywhere - it's still here and it's very much alive, and, to those that are hip to it, it's growing as fast as ever. As a member of the UP, one of the longest standing Michigan rock bands around, I know it's important to understand that high energy rock and roll is still full of the life and excitement that people need to exist, and that it's going to be with us as long as people are here to dig it.
Now I'm not here to brag and run my mouth about the UP, but I think if you'll check it out you'll see that we are indeed a high energy rock and roll band - and, because the UP came together for the specific purpose of being the hardest, highest energy unit it could possibly be, our history can be a useful example of how the high energy music came about and what keeps it going.
But before I get into the UP I want to stress the fact that the music we are talking about is no more than a reflection of all of our lives and what we want to do with them. Our lifestyle is, first of all, the product of tons of energy and sweat and blood and years of hard work that men like Ford and Chrysler bought dirt cheap from us and our mothers and fathers and used to build places like Michigan - and our music takes all the energy we have, all the blood, the sweat and the pain we've felt, it takes all that and the good times we've had and the happiness we create and puts them together and works them into something totally new. Something that belongs to us. Something that is us, us and our vision of the future that we want to build for ourselves. So the music is alive as we are, and brothers and sisters we are, so let's get on with it.
So now what I want to tell you is that Bob and Gary Rasmussen, the guitar player and the bass player for the UP, are sons of a Detroit truck repairman and his wife; Bob was born in 1949 and Gary in 1952 and sometime in the late 50s (a few years before the Beatles and the Stones made it big) they started fooling around with guitars, and ever since then, for ten years or more, they've played everything they've played together. Along with drummer Dave Palmer (who later became a mainstay with Ted Nugent's Amboy Dukes) they found a couple more musicians who lived in their neighborhood out on Detroit's northwest side and formed some bands they called (at various times) the Citations,the Galaxy 5, and the Brand X. And on weekends they loaded their amps and guitars in Bob and Gary's dad's station wagon and went out and got drunk and played at high school dances and weddings and disk jockey hops - and that was all that they had in those days, and the rest of their time was spent sitting around in junior high and high school waiting for the blessed weekends and the holy rock and roll to happen.
And I was born in 1948, and my daddy was a tooL and die maker at a local shop (later at Ford's) and my ma became a clerk at Pershing High School and they saved their money so that I could "go to college. " I went to the all-boys' Catholic college prep University of Detroit high, got plenty hard up, and one day heard the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and was never the same again. I was going to Wayne State when I got a job as the first announcer/manager of the Grande Ballroom so that I could be near rock and roll and some friends I hung out with who were in the MC5; and I dropped out of college and eventually quit the Grande gig after I met Bob Rasmussen there one night and, together with Gary and a drummer named Vic Peraino, formed the UP. Our first job was at the Grande, late in the summer of 1967.
It was just before and during those early days that we met John Sinclair and the people who lived with him downtown at Trans-Love Energies - and it was through Sinclair that we learned to define the music we wanted to make. Our close association with bands like the MC 5 that played regularly at the Grande was what gave us the idea that if we took the most exciting, meanest, hardest, fastest, tightest, juiciest, most moving music that we heard and put it together and made it our own, if we did that then, shit, we would really have something - something we saw was amazingly like the "new music" that Sinclair turned us all on to, the music of black musicians like Archie Shepp, Ornette Coleman, Pharoah Sanders, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, and John Coltrane, something we had to call high energy.
That was the idea we started with, that, and the knowledge that if any bunch of musicians, any band, stuck together long enough and worked together hard enough they could eventually achieve their highest goals and get where they wanted to go. And where we were at around that time wasn't very hip, admittedly. I mean, I was sleeping on the floor of a downtown apartment along with four-fifths of the MC 5 and friends and we ate Coney Islands at the corner Dairy Queen for dinner every night -that was where our economic scene was at. But one day Sinclair decided to help us and found us a house and got us some jobs and got his brother, Dave, to become our manager. And that made us an "official Trans-Love band" along with the MC5 (and later the Stooges for a while, too) and when Trans-Love moved to Ann Arbor the summer after the Detroit riots (1968), so did we.
Until we moved to Ann Arbor the UP had never lived together as a total unit -Bob and Vic and Dave Sinclair and our equipment man and myself all shared the same crumbling, leaky stone house overlooking the grimy John C. Lodge-Edsel Ford Freeway interchange, but Gary was so young that his parents wouldn't give him up until we got our nice "new" place on Hill Street. Once we were all under one roof in A-Square we grew to see that our drummer did not share the same vision of high energy/hard working tightness that we had, and Vic went his own way (and is still kicking out the jams somewhere in Detroit) and we found a real freek (as John put it) named Scott Bailey who got us moving again.
Scott was born in 1951 in Texas, had a variety of fathers and moved around the country with them a lot, and eventually settled up north in Elk Rapids, a small Lake Michigan cherry picking town just outside of Traverse City. He went to military school for a while in what was a futile attempt by his parents at giving him a career in the "armed services", and his mother sent him to the classical music school at Interlocken until she found out that he was playing drums in a awful rock and roll band! in his spare time. After that (when he was 15) Scott split for Ann Arbor, became a hippy, and eventually joined with us.
Scott's moving in with us late in the summer of 1967 was the biggest step the UP had taken since its birth in Detroit a full year before. For the first time we were able to begin to get organized in a very real sense - we lived together as closely as possible and all of us were finally able to work together on a closest possible term, too. And the organization of our music and our lives into a single, whole, powerful thing is what made it possible for us to stay together and play the music that we knew we had to play.
After another year together (by the summer of 1969) we had seen first hand some of the most important changes in the history of Michigan music. Trans-Love became the White Panther Party as they saw the righteous need to organize all our people to bring about the changes we wanted to see in our lives - just as we and the MC5 had begun to organize ourselves to play our music. The MC5 became the most powerful force on the whole music scene and forced people to start checking out the entire high energy midwest music phenomena. John Sinclair got sent to prison for 10 years for possession of 2 joints. And the MC5 split from the W. P. P. and slowly began to lose the force and power that had made them famous as they got manipulated by the pop star scene and started to lose sight of their original high energy purpose. The W. P. P. people closed down their house next door and combined forces with us.
And, as the UP got tighter within itself and within the Party, we kept on playing, more than ever, wherever people wanted to hear us - we played roughly 5-10 times a month and nearly a third of the time it was for free at concerts in the park or benefits for people's community organizations. We saw that the most important aspect of our music had to be its relationship to the people - the energy generated by crazy dancing rock and roll maniacs is what our music has to have to exist at all. The refrigerator was empty a lot and we've smoked lots of sticks and stems, but we've always done whatever we could with what we had to play the music for the people - because that's what it's all about.
And in the nearly 3 years that we've been together like this (nearly four years since the start of the original UP) we've played at a lot of halls and schools and churches and clubs and ballrooms and pop festivals and, along with the people, we've learned how to make the music better. And harder, and faster. Tighter. Higher energy.
And we know we still got a long way to go. We're glad of that - there's still plenty of room to move, plenty of ways to make the rock and roll grow. And growth is life and that's what I'm talking about. This music is plenty alive and will be as long as there are people to hear it.
Anybody who can really hear the music knows in a minute that it ain't about to "die" - the music itself is what life is all about. I'm sorry to say that we've only made one record, the "Just Like an Aborigine"/"Hassan I Sabba" single on our Sun/Dance label (released in May, 1970), that you can listen to right now on your record player, but we're getting ready to change that, too.
Until we do the music critics will just have to take the words of the hundreds of people that have squeezed with us into the Canterbury House and the Union Ballroom, and jammed with us on stage at Detroit's Tartar Field and at Bowling Green and even at Lincoln, Nebraska - ROCK AND ROLL IS HERE TO STAY!!!
All Power to the People!!
Long Live Rock and Roll!!