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Music "the View From Nowhere"

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By Alan Goldsmith hed "Somt" Smith: Rock In Peace F red "Sonic" Smith, one of the greatest rock and roll poets and guitarists of all time, and a member of the legendary MC5 as well as Sonic's Rendezvous Band, passed away in early November from heart failure. In the late 60s and early 70s, the MC5 were IT. Under the guidance of radical writer John Sinclair, the Five were DANGEROUS and brilliant, poetic and political, and before they burned out from the intesity of it all, produced three al bums that stand as some of the best music of all time ("Kick Out The Jams," "Back In The USA" and "High Time." At the center stood guitarist Fred Smith. His playing was rooted in the Stones and the Yardbirds, but there was a freshness that no one else could touch. It had the feel of Chuck Berry, but there was something else - a haunting quality, a ghost-like triumph over an unbearable pain, with a laugh-in-the-face-of-death sort of tone to it. A Fred Smith guitar solo UPLIFTED you. It saved your soul. In the 70s, Smith fronted the Sonic's band and did endless gigs at the late, lamented Second Chance, while stili pumping out incredible stuff. The songs were classics and his playi ng got better and better. Only one single, "City Slang" was released. Over the decade the band performed numerous local gigs and searched for"a big-time record deal." The record deal never carne. After Smith's marriage to rock poet Patti Smith in the early 80s, the pair dropped out of sight, forsaking music to raise a family. The two resurfaced on Patti Smith's 1 988 "Dream of Life" CD with the two co-writing the songs and Fred playing guitar. The hit "People Have The Power" showed he still had the hooks and passion. What did I leave out? The MC5 arrests at West Park for playing too damn loud and Smith being smashed around by Ann Arbor cops for wanting to rock and roll? How Smith's solo on the Five's "Over and Over" still nearly brings me to tears, even after hearing itmaybe 1000 times? How one Sonic's song "Do It Again," which I last heard them do live YEARS ago- and which tragically never was released on record - still runs through my brain now and then? Or how, with the death of Fred Sonic Smith, this planet, this city and the music tofollow will be missing something special and beautiful that can 't be replaced? Fred "Sonic" Smith. RIP. TAKING NOTE - Kudos to the corporate media giant-owned Ann Arbor News. A recent Saturday music review section featured five or six reviews featuring local music. A nice start. The Green Room, the new all ages club at 206 W. Michigan Avenue in downtown Ypsilanti is starting to take off. Watch your local telephone pole for upcoming gig posters. Schoolkids Records has announced plans to release a series of CDs featuring music from past Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festivals, including material from Sun Ra, Little Sonny, Boogie Woogie Red and zillions more. Great! Photographer Ken Bawcom has a display of his cool, cool Frog Island and B & J Festival photos from the likes of George Bedard, Sonny Sharrock, John Mayall, Madcat Ruth and many more at Schoolkids and P. J.'s Records, with a portion of the sales going to benefit next year's B & J Fest. In what may be the most unusual new local duo this year, Mantyia and Swickerath play Thursday, Dec. 1 5 as part of P. J.'s Nokickdrums music series. Their new self-titled cassette is bizarrely entertaining. Don Swickerath is a traditional singersongwriter with a grainy, smoked voice and an amazing musical resumé (one of the founders of The Iguanas - hip, the mid-60s preStooges garage band that included Iggy Pop (!), as well as a side man for Robin McNamara of "Lay A Little Lovin' On Me" fame. No, l'm not making this up. . .). Tim Mantyia is a more modem, goofy, twisted writerof warped pop forthetwilight zone. The tape mixes these two, shall we say, musically diverse performers, and sounds like. . .something you should check out. It's folky pop's free. John Hammink's new tape "Night Train to Murmansk" reminds me of Fairport Convention a bit. The singersongwriter has a light, British kind of feel to his voice and you can imagine him busking his way across Europe, which he's done. His guitar isn't as easy to get - sometimes it's a mix of the same sort of folk sounds, at others you get a soft, jazzy, Brazilian air. This is perfect music for dinking a quiet cup of tea, relaxing by a fire or driving around in your car at 3 am and waiting for the sun to rise. If you're driving around at 3 am and you feel like playing Russian roulette, or breaking into a liquor store because the last two bottles of scotch didn't quite do the trick and you need MORE, the new Paxton Hood cassette, "Palace of Pain" is just the soundtrack to your own personal movie. This is heavy, heavy, very heavy metal. Dry ice machines, dramatic, powerful guitar solos, thunder drums, and not a single nod to commercial radio airplay. This is the kind of stuff folkies HATE, English majors look down on, and factory rats love more than life itself. I love it. The production is a little muddy here, but otherwise it's a firstclass effort. Another month is over. Continue to be wary of rock and roll critics, people in the "m usic biz" and ot her agen ts of the devi I, but do continue sending your mail, tapes CDs, and the story of your life in 25 words or less to: AGENDA, The View From Nowhere, 220 S. Main Street, Ann Arbor, Ml 48104


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