Free The MC5 Documentary…

It’s our monthly Rock Doc night up here in the woods, and I’d promised my friends something they can’t find on the shelves… MC5: A True Testimonial was briefly shown on the festival circuit and DVDs were distributed for review purposes (including to myself) in 2004, only to be withdrawn once the filmmakers were hit with a lawsuit by MC5 founder Wayne Kramer. In other words, it’s a rarity.

It is, also, a thrilling testament to a hugely under-rated band, whose live show, judging by the footage included in the documentary, stomped all over just about anybody else from 1967-69. And the footage of them as the only band ballsy (or dumb) enough to play live in ‘68 at the DNC Convention protests in Chicago is truly historical. I rate it one of the best rock documentaries I’ve seen.

Unfortunately, I can’t find it on my shelves either. Against my better judgment, I know now that I loaned this DVD to someone who surely promised to return it straight away. Except that they didn’t, I can’t for the life of me remember who it was and I’m not about to start asking people. Damn.

The MC5. Their legacy would be greatly served by the release of A True Testimonial.

I would be even more upset about this loss except that, in the past two weeks, a ruling has been issued in the court case brought by Kramer – and it appears to completely exonerate the film-makers. The full text of the judgment can be found at the Detroit Tango website, but this paragraph perhaps explains why, though documentaries are all the rage, producers should approach them warily:

“Disputes between the Plaintiffs and Defendants arose only after Defendants demonstrated that the film they were crafting could be successful. The MC5 is historically significant and its music and story merit being heard today. The film had and still has the potential to spread the music and story of the MC5. Plaintiffs persisted in continuing to encourage Thomas and Legler to complete the film. Thomas and Legler took action in reliance on that encouragement. Further, no terms specific enough to form an enforceable contract were ever agreed upon between any plaintiff and any defendant, and no defendant made any actionable false representations to any plaintiff.”

Meantime, this finding will not be sitting well with the plaintiff:

Much of this case rests upon the credibility of witnesses, and the Court finds that Thomas and Legler were far more credible than Kramer on key issues concerning alleged promises, representations and commitments.

I interviewed Kramer, by phone, later in 2004 (though only on the subject of Pete Townshend) and found him perfectly friendly. I’m not sure why the documentary ended up in such a legal mess. But based on the above legal findings, we may yet all get another chance to see it. In the meantime, if you’re reading this and recall borrowing my copy, can I have it back now?

Wayne Kramer interview at iJamming!

MC5: A True Testimonial review at iJamming!
Wayne Kramer/DKT website
Detroit Tango website

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September 2022