Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Rock 'n' Roll in America's Loudest City

Steve Miller

An oral history of Detroit and its music told by the people who were on the stage, in the clubs, the practice rooms, studios, and in the audience, blasting the music out and soaking it up, in every scene from 1967 to today.

Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Rock 'n' Roll in America's Loudest City

Publisher: Da Capo
Price: $16.99
Author: Steve Miller
Length: 336 pages
Format: Paperback
Publication date: 2013-06
Excerpted from Detroit Rock City by Steve Miller. Reprinted by arrangement with Da Capo Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2013. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or printed without permission in writing from the publisher.

Bobby Hackney (Death, bassist, vocalist): When we went to rock shows, we were black hippies. Michigan Palace was our hangout. We saw a lot of Wayne Kramer shows; Kiss were always there, Blue Oyster Cult. David Bowie played there, and we walked out—he was terrible, this soul revue.

S. Kay Young (photographer): We used to go to the bar at the St. Regis Hotel, where all the bands stayed. After Bowie played at Michigan Palace in 1974, we were there and he was drunk; he was actually collapsing. I don’t know why, but I remember that this was before he had his teeth fixed, because they really looked bad. Mark Norton and I had to take him up to his room.

Mark Norton (Ramrods, 27, vocalist, journalist, Creem magazine): We were riding up to his room in the elevator and he passed out again. The guy’s this big. I could pick him up and put him over my shoulder. I was 150 pounds at the time, and he weighed about 98 pounds. I took his room key out, I opened the door, I took off his shirt, I took off his pants—he had orange underwear on—I tucked him into bed, made sure he was fi ne, sleeping on his side so he didn’t barf and choke, and left his key there and walked out of the place.

S. Kay Young: First, though, Norton started going through his stuff, and he goes, “Oh my God, David Bowie’s wallet!” I made him put it back. We were not about to steal David Bowie’s wallet.

Mike Murphy (The Denizens, the Rushlow-King Combo, the Boners, drummer,

vocalist): Our parents were dropping us off at these shows, and we were seeing these subversive bands. But they didn’t know it. The New York Dolls, New Year’s Eve 1973. There was a guy climbing on the light stand, and David Johansen kept trying to get this guy off the light stand. The crowds were Detroit crowds, and they were untamed.

Vince Bannon (Bookie’s, City Club promoter, Coldcock, Sillies, guitarist): There were a lot of people going to the same shows, this seventies-glam stuff that was going over real big in Detroit. The New York Dolls, Bowie—you’d see the same people at the shows. Things were going on organically, because a lot of bands that were Detroit bands had broken up. You’d see Jimmy Marinos, Mike Skill, and those guys, in one corner. So you would start noticing familiar faces.

Mark Norton: We were trying to figure out what was next. I called CBGBs in ’75 or early ’76; there was a girl who tended bar there named Susan Palermo, she worked there for ages. And she would tell Hilly Kristal: “hey, there’s this crazy guy from Detroit—he’s calling again.” I’d say, “could you just put the phone down so I could listen to the groups?” I heard part of a set by the Talking Heads like that. It sounded like it was through a phone, but I was getting all excited, you know—this sounds like what I like. My phone bill was incredible, $200 bucks. In the summer of 1976 I went to New York City. I saw the second Dead Boys show at CBGBs. I saw the Dictators. Handsome Dick and his girlfriend at the time, Jodi at the time, said, “who are you?” I said, “I’m from Detroit.” They said, “have you ever seen the Stooges?” “Yea man, I saw them millions of times, the best shows, the ones in Detroit.” I was thinking, “none of these people have seen shit.’

Don Davis (producer, Stax, Motown musician): Detroit was so full of talent at that point, the mid-seventies, that I didn’t need a band telling me what the deal was. I was working with a lot of the people who were coming from Motown Records and a lot of the people who were at the front of the disco movement. And rock was still just as much a part of Detroit as anything else, but a lot of these guys were getting attitudes that were hurting them. I would work with Jim McCarty, and he was great. But then there were the stories about what Iggy Pop was up to in Los Angeles and how the MC5 had disintegrated.

Doug Banker (manager, Ted Nugent): In the mid-seventies I was promoting things like Bob Seger for $500, Kiss for $750. The first Kiss date I did was in ’74 at the Thunder Chicken in Grand Rapids. They put on the full show with all the fireworks and the outfits and the makeup, and they acted like they were already superstars. Here are the rules: no pictures of the band without their makeup. They would do sound check without makeup, but nobody was allowed to see them. Nobody could have a camera. At the time I thought that was really silly because hardly anybody knew who they were. I was like, “Why would you do that? No-body knows who you are—they’re just going to try to take pictures. You want to promote yourself?” They said, “Strictly not!” It didn’t take me too long to realize they were way ahead of the game. They knew they were going to make it big, and even back in ’74 at that club, that was part of their plan. I figured all that out later and realized how genius the whole plan was.

Stirling Silver: There was huge promotion for Kiss’s debut show in Detroit at the Michigan Palace. Aerosmith was also on that bill—spring ’74. Harmony House organized a party with two hundred–plus people invited at the Hilton Hotel in Grand Circus Park after the show for the record industry, retailers and people on the front lines that had to interact with the customers. I got good access as a guy working at Harmony House, so I had met the Kiss guys backstage briefly. We get over to the Hilton, and it’s a huge bash with food and tons of alcohol and everything else you could want. It was a private party, and all of Kiss were there. Aerosmith were not because it was specifically a Kiss launch, industry party. Kiss kept their outfits on, and as the night wore on, they slowly shed items. The make-up got smeared, a lot people wanted to kiss them. I ended up staying until the very last person. There was a portable record player at one end of this room all night long, which I didn’t really notice until later on in the evening. I sat down with Peter Criss. People are drifting off ; there might have been twenty people left. We started talking, and he said that his hero was Gene Krupa, and he whipped out six records that he carried with him on the road. Of course he put a Gene Krupa record on the turntable that was sitting there. He stopped talking and sat there just listening, because he’s a total freak nerd.

Mark Parenteau: I didn’t like Kiss. I thought the music was lame. So Larry Harris at Casablanca made me a deal that if he paid for a whole concert and the crowd went crazy, I would play Kiss on the air. They really, really wanted Detroit; it was predetermined in their mind that they had to have Detroit and that if this band didn’t go over in Detroit, it wasn’t going to go over anywhere. It was true, actually, and they knew it. It was fi re breathing, black leather, loud and over the top and just what Detroit was all about. Except the songs were really lame. Larry did this concert at Michigan Palace. Bob Seger opened, and then there was a long wait because Aerosmith was also on the bill, and here were big arguments between Aerosmith and Kiss. Kiss didn’t want Aerosmith to use any pyrotechnics, and there was a fistfight backstage amongst the road crews. Then Kiss played, and I’m with Larry Harris, and he’s trying to make sure his bet goes well. So far we had been playing the album, but it really hadn’t caught on fi re. But people hadn’t seen Kiss. It wasn’t like now, where there is unlimited access to visual representation anywhere. It took a while for magazines to get pictures of a band, so the album hadn’t done much. When Kiss went on stage, for the first song the audience just sat there and watched them. But the second song or third song was “Firehouse,” and Gene Simmons breathed fi re, and the place went out of their minds in full Detroit fashion. Suddenly they were deep into it and on their feet and it was all about Kiss for a long time. Kiss went on to do their live album there, and then did “Detroit Rock City,” and it became the city they had needed.

Steve Miller is a journalist and the author of several books including the Edgar-nominated true crime Girl, Wanted: The Chase for Sarah Pender. He is co-editor of Commando: The Johnny Ramone Autobiography and editor of Touch and Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine '79-'83.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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