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Holy relic of Detroit high energy rock: Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith & the mysterious lyrics of ‘City Slang’

“City Slang,” the punk single Sonic’s Rendezvous Band released in 1978, is every bit as good as “Search and Destroy,” “Kick out the Jams” and “Sonic Reducer.” A summer day that doesn’t end with the cops confiscating your wading pool and scratching the needle across your priceless copy of “City Slang” is a summer day wasted. We’re all going to need a lot more priceless copies of “City Slang” around here.

Around 1975, after the breakup of the MC5, guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith put together a supergroup with former members of bands from the MC5’s Detroit scene. Sonic’s Rendezvous Band comprised Smith, Stooges drummer Scott Asheton (a/k/a “Rock Action”), Rationals guitarist and singer Scott Morgan, and Up bassist Gary Rasmussen. The “City Slang” single (“City Slang” in mono on one side, stereo on the other) was the only thing the band released before breaking up, though there are now several compilations and live records, including a (mostly live) six-CD box set.

Fred “Sonic” Smith in his spacesuit, onstage with the MC5
The words to the song have always been a mystery. Seven or eight years ago, I wrote Rasmussen through the Sonic’s Rendezvous Band MySpace page to ask for the lyrics to “City Slang.” He replied: What lyrics? In the live version of the song on Sweet Nothing, Smith does seem to be giving voice to pure glossolalia:

On the other hand, there’s this interpretation posted on Yahoo! Answers, where it is (perhaps dubiously) attributed to Scott Morgan himself:

Some dirt in my hand
A part of the land
Slip and slide communication
Downtown on the street
They measure the beat
To understand the situation
A taste on the tongue
And no place to run
With all the chances to be taken
The stranger he buys
The angel she flies
My heart is cold just like the nation
Like a dog they kick at night
Gypsy laughin’ but that’s alright
Momma’s cryin’ sister thinkin’
Well you know it’s just city slang

We rode in the car
Slept in the car
All the way to the citadel
Slept on the floor
Surfed on the floor
All the way to the Coronet
Rock was pissed in Paris
Mad in Madrid
Took the sonic European way
Gary and Rock
Sonic and Scott
Meet again up in Ishpeming
When you hear that hammer fallin’
Ain’t no reason to feel left out
Ain’t no reason to call any names
Well you know it’s just city slang

With Funky and Dog
To Minni and Mad
All the way to the Aragon
Cleveland and Chi
Ann Arbor, Detroit
All the way back to the Second Chance
Je suis un son
Un autre son
Qui n’entend qu’une cloche n’entend qu’un son
Je suis le son
Je suis son son

Hey what kind of fool do you think I am
Keep a-talkin’ those city dreams
Well you know alright you know what I mean
Detroit, Chicago now New York to L.A.
They all been talkin’ bout city slang

The first verse matches the single very closely, but the second and third don’t match at all aside from a few lines and phrases. These lyrics don’t match any live recording I’ve heard, either, and yet they seem credible enough. They mention a number of contemporary Midwestern landmarks—the Aragon Ballroom in Cleveland, the Second Chance club in Ann Arbor, the tiny township of Ishpeming, Michigan—and the passage in French, which consists of a proverb bookended by puns on the French word for “sound,” seems like the sort of thing Patti Smith’s husband might sing. Or am I the naive victim of a cruel hoax perpetrated by a teenager? You be the judge.


Face-damaging footage of SRB playing “City Slang”

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Gorgeous psychedelic handbills and posters from Detroit’s Grande Ballroom, circa 1967-68

Simply stunning vintage handbills for Detroit’s historic live music venue The Grande Ballroom. The majority of these trippy handbills and postcards were designed by Gary Grimshaw (who died in January of this year) and Carl Lundgren. Historically significant, yes, but from a design perspective, these are just jaw-droppingly, face-melting goodness, aren’t they?





More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The RAPID deterioration of Detroit according to Google Street View is both shocking and sad
11:50 am

Current Events


The Tumblr GooBing Detroit shows the utterly jaw-dropping deterioration of neighborhoods in Detroit using Google Street View and Bing Street View. What’s shocking is how rapidly the decline happened! A lot of these examples only span five years!

Eastside Detroit: Arndt between Elmwood and Ellery: 2009, 2011, 2013

Northeast Detroit: Boulder between Liberal and Novara: 2009, 2011, 2013

Northeast Detroit: Hoyt between Liberal and Pinewood: 2008, 2011, 2013

Northeast Detroit: Hazelridge between Celestine and Macray: 2009, 2011, 2013
Below, Google Street View video of apartments on Houston Whittier in northeast Detroit:

More images after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Bad Graffiti’: Vulgar, juvenile, misspelled & ignorant wall scrawlings from Detroit (NSFW-ish)
11:02 am



The book Bad Graffiti by Scott Hocking is a celebration of craptastic graffiti spotted in and around abandoned properties in Detroit, Michigan.

“Bad graffiti can be vulgar, juvenile, poorly scrawled, misspelled, ignorant, sexist, racist and ridiculous,” Hocking writes in the prologue from the book. “Yet, it can also be… so bad, it’s good.”



More photos after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
All that scratchin is making me itch: Awesome mid 80s DJ sets by The Wizard, Jeff Mills
08:27 am


Jeff Mills
The Wizard

In celebration of Detroit-based DJ Jeff Mills aka The Wizard’s 50th birthday today, Nerdcore lovingly posted his groundbreaking DJ sets from “The Electrifying Mojo” radio show on WJLB from the mid 1980s.  When it came to beat juggling and scratching, Mills was in a class by himself. He was also an early member of the “militant” Detroit techno outfit, Underground Resistance at the end of that decade.

When Mills DJs, he most often uses three turntables (or now CD players), a Roland TR-909 drum-machine and utilizes (I guess “plays” is the wrong word) up to seventy records an hour.

If this doesn’t make you wanna get up and shake yer ass, nothing will!

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Haunting images of Detroit’s decline through past and present photos
10:42 am

Current Events


Once what was full of life and thriving, is now forgotten, abandoned and graffitied. These haunting images of a Detroit high school from when there were still students in the classrooms are composited with what the abandoned, decaying building looks like today.

The unions know what they’re fighting for in Michigan: their lives.

Images by Detroiturbex.


More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Bang The Box’ mix: 44 808 & 909 tracks in 52 minutes

This mix is a bit of a departure in my djing style, featuring as it does hardly any disco (gasp!) and instead quick cuts and layered mixes of drum-machine based tracks. NOLA Bounce, Miami Bass, Chicago House, Detroit Electro… you know, that kind of thing. Mixed fast and constantly moving, this is like aural caffeine. So if you are just waking up, hit play and get energised.

Oh, and can we start the hip-house revival now?

Tracklist [yes, some of these tracks are NSFW]:

BIG FREEDIA - Azz Everywhere
PRINCE - 1999 (New Orleans Bounce Edit)
SOUL SONIC FORCE - Looking For The Perfect Beat
KRAFTWERK - The Man Machine (live)
DEREK B - Rock The Beat (Bonus Beat)
RUFUS & CHAKA KHAN - Ain’t Nobody
FUNKADELIC (Not Just ) Knee Deep
SNOOP DOGG Who Am I? (Acapella)
THE NIALLIST Dance Club (Haunted Edit)
THE NIALLIST Dance Club (acapella)
SISSY NOBBY Lay Me Down (DJ Sega Mix)
ADONIS Two The Max
JJ FAD Supersonic
HANNAH HOLLAND Transexual Bass
LONE Pineapple Crush
THE 2 BEARS Bear Hug (acapella)
T-TOTAL & FERAL Phearsome Bitch
MASTER AT WORK The Ha Dance (KenLou Mix)
CUNT TRAX Beats Werkin’
THE 2 BEARS Bear Hug (Niallist Acid Mixx)
ELECTROSEXUAL Discolition (Niallist RoboVogue Edit)
STEVE POINDEXTER Work That Motherfucker
CHERIE LILY Werk (Nita’s Battle Ready Mix)
SPANK ROCK Put That Pussy On Me (Diplo Mix)
2 LIVE CREW Throw That D
MURK If You Really Love Someone (Murk Groove)
CAJMERE Percolator
LIPPS INC Funkytown
THE NIALLIST Work It (acapella)
SEX BAND I Have Got The Answer

BANG THE BOX Mix by Theniallist on Mixcloud

As Soundcloud seems to be cracking down on dj mixes and non-creator owned content, I am migrating all my mixes over onto Mixcloud - including the previously DM’d Skool Of Rock, Disco Argento and Disco Argento 2 mixes, and my ‘Best of 2011’ mixtape. You can follow me, The Niallist on Mixcloud, here

If you like 808s going boom and some funky dancing in a fly late-80s fashion, then check out Detroit’s The New Dance Show, clips of which have been uploaded to YouTube by the excellent Caprice87. This one is a particular fave, featuring Jesse The Body and some slick mixing (you can see more of these via Shallow Rave.)


Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Download the new album by Detroit techno legend Moodymann for free

In the worlds of deep house and techno, artists don’t come more revered than Detroit’s Kenny Dixon Jr, aka Moodymann. Releasing records for almost two decades now, his music has attracted a devoted, almost cult-like fan base.

This is due largely to his unique sound, a blend of minimalist Detroit soul with spaced out disco, jazz and abstract electronics, not to mention the lashings of found sound, disembodied voices and crowd noise he weaves in and out of his hypnotic and, yes, moody tracks.

But it also has a lot to do with Moodymann the character. Staying true to his Detroit techno roots, Dixon tends to shy away from the press and the music industry at large, and on the rare occasions he does make a pronouncement, his Afro-centric and iconoclastic views can draw criticism. His releases follow the same ideological path, with regular 12"s and albums coming out independently through his umbrella organisation Mahogani Music. Often the only marking to distinguish these releases from an anonymous white label is the recognisable afro-and-shades Moodymann logo.

So it’s a surprise to see him releasing a new 8 track album digitally and for free through the website Scion A/V. Not that these guys don’t know their shit, with past free releases from the likes of Dam Funk, Skream & Benga and The Melvins, but more that Dixon has decided to persue this avenue of free digital releasing at all. Well, the times they are a’changin’. 

If you are new to Moodymann and his work, this might not be the best place to start (I would recommend starting by checking out the sinlge “Joy Pt II” and the album A Silent Introduction) but at the very least this release gives you a taste of his work, and you can always ask for your money back. For the Moodymann fan who has not yet downloaded Picture This, well, what are you waiting for? The download widget for the free release is below, and here is the video for the album’s opening track:

Moodymann “9 Nites 2 Nowhere”




Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
‘Detroit: City On The Move’

The 1965 promotional video Detroit: City On The Move captures the city before everything went to shit.

Since this film was made, Detroit’s population has dropped by more than 60% and the future couldn’t look bleaker. There are some glimmerings of hope though. Artists and entrepreneurs are heading to the city to take advantage of cheap real estate and an atmosphere that is conducive to new ideas and energies. When you’ve got nothing left to lose, people and places will embrace anything that offers even the slenderest thread of hope. Creative people thrive in such conditions. I’d thought about moving to Detroit and buying a house for $8,000. But, it’s just too damn cold.

The film is narrated by then-mayor Jerome P. Cavanaugh with the enthusiasm of a man who has been taking bong hits of carbon monoxide. Maybe he saw what was coming.

Art can save neighborhoods. The Heidelberg Project is an example of the restorative energy that artists and the creative spirit can bring to a community. Detroit is at the crossroads of an absolutely ugly death or a beautiful re-imagining. It’s time to take the money spent on wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, drugs) and use it to resurrect America’s dying cities. There are people ready and waiting with ideas and dreams to make things happen - people like Tyree Guyton.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
High Tech Soul - The Creation of Techno Music
04:04 pm


Pop Culture
Techno Music

Described as the first documentary film on the creation of Techno Music, High Tech Soul is also an examination of the cultural history of Detroit, its birthplace.

From the race riots of 1967 to the underground party scene of the late 1980s, Detroit’s economic downturn didn’t stop the invention of a new kind of music that brought international attention to its producers and their hometown.

Featuring in-depth interviews with many of the world’s best exponents of the artform, High Tech Soul focuses on the creators of the genre—Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson—and looks at the relationships and personal struggles behind the music. Artists like Richie Hawtin, Jeff Mills, Carl Craig, Eddie Fowlkes and a host of others explain why techno, with its abrasive tones and resonating basslines, could not have come from anywhere but Detroit.

With classic anthems such as Rhythim Is Rhythim’s “Strings of Life” and Inner City’s “Good Life,” High Tech Soul celebrates the pioneers, the promoters and the city that spawned a global phenomenon.

The film features: Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Eddie (Flashin) Fowlkes, Richie Hawtin, Jeff Mills, John Acquaviva, Carl Cox, Carl Craig, Blake Baxter, Stacey Pullen, Thomas Barnett, Matthew Dear, Anthony “Shake” Shakir, Keith Tucker, Delano Smith, Mike Archer, Derrick Thompson, Mike Clark, Alan Oldham, Laura Gavoor, Himawari, Scan 7, Kenny Larkin, Stacey “Hotwax” Hale, Claus Bachor, Electrifying Mojo, Niko Marks, Barbara Deyo, Dan Sordyl, Sam Valenti, Ron Murphy, George Baker, and Kwame Kilpatrick.

The film’s soundtrack includes: Aux 88, Cybotron, Inner City, Juan Atkins, Mayday, Model 500, Plastikman, Rhythim Is Rhythim, and more.

“Bredow’s cast of alumni—the holy trinity of Atkins, May & Saunderson at the front—fill out this tale with passion, pride and, oddly for music of the future, nostalgia too.”
- Dazed and Confused

‘An enjoyable education into the music, the city and the main players past, present and future.’
-DJ Magazine

‘Defines the myths and the magic of Detroit techno from its beginnings right up to how it has evolved to become High Tech Soul.’
-Derrick May



Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
DETROITROCKSAMPLER: Arch-Drude Julian Cope drops some knowledge on you
09:34 am


Julian Cope

Arch-Drude Julian Cope, dropped an appropriately pagan seasonal gift for the world’s music fans when he posted his insanely great DETROITROCKSAMPLER online last month. If you haven’t listened to any of Cope’s various erudite ROCKSAMPLERs, you’re really missing out, because they’re ALL great. What’s not to love about a mixed tape put together by one of the world’s greatest music heads? There is EVERYTHING to love with this new one, I can assure you.

DETROITROCKSAMPLER consists of thirty-eight of the finest slabs of guitar-drenched music to come out of Detroit Rock City from the mid-60s to the late 70s, with all the bands you’d expect to see represented and plenty that you’ll probably be hearing for the first time. The tracklisting features the original 45 version of the MC5’s “Looking at You,” some Alice Cooper, The Amboy Dukes, The Bob Seger System (pictured above), a demo from Mynah Birds (Motown’s integrated rock act with Rick James and Neil Young! (James was incarcerated for deserting the army, breaking the band up), the under-rated Grand Funk Railroad, SRC, Frigid Pink, Iggy and the Stooges, Funkadelic’s “Cosmic Slop,” a Brother Wayne Kramer solo single from 1975, Stooge Ron Asheton’s decidedly un-PC band The New Order, Destroy All Monsters, and a rarity from the sessions for the first Stooges album called “Asthma Attack.” The “liner notes” are, as you might expect, classic Cope. He’s the best and most passionate rock writer since Lester Bangs (there is no close second in the rock prose department, none).

There was a time when gourmet fare like this was available only on expensive import CDs. No more. Now everyone with an Internet can be musically enlightened. What are you waiting for, brothers and sisters? Smoke a joint, crank up the speakers and kick out the jams, motherfuckers.

I love Julian Cope. Long may the Arch-Drude thrive.

Below, The MC5 performing an absolutely furious live version of “Looking at You” in 1970:

Thank you Chris Campion!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre: The Ruins of Detroit

French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre have documented the decline and decay of Detroit through its buildings and structures that were once source of civic pride (schools, churches, hotels, stations), but now “stand as monuments to the city’s fall from grace.”

Over the past decades, Detroit has suffered a post-industrial decline far worse than any other American city. The once booming city has seen its population fall from 2.5 million in the 1940s, to just over 1 million today, with 1 in 3 people unemployed.

Marchand and Meffre have published a book of their stunning and quite beautiful photographs. Each plate reveals a hidden history of Detroit, detailing an evolutionary process, where:

Ruins are the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies and their changes, small pieces of history in suspension.

The state of ruin is essentially a temporary situation that happens at some point, the volatile result of change of era and the fall of empires. This fragility, the time elapsed but even so running fast, lead us to watch them one very last time : being dismayed, or admire, making us wondering about the permanence of things.

Photography appeared to us as a modest way to keep a little bit of this ephemeral state.

More images from this collection can be viewed here.
More Ruins of Detroit by Marchand & Meffre, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The Ded Dave Show: A show about what zombies do when they are not eating you
02:51 pm


The Ded Dave Show

The Ded Dave Show is a local TV/webcast comedy show from the Detroit area that’s “about what zombies do when they are not eating you.”

The Ded Dave Show really pushes the envelope of how good an “amateur” production can be. In fact, its very existence goes to show how the line between the two gets erased further with each passing year due to better video equipment finding its way into the hands of eager and talented young filmmakers who don’t feel that they need anyone’s permission to make what they want to make. About the only thing separating “amateur” from “professional” these days seems be getting paid… which can still be an issue of course! Let’s hope Hollywood notices the talents on display here.

In this special Holiday episode—a yearly classic for the entire (Manson) family—join Ded Dave, Bog and a host of undead characters in their X-mas adventures in the land of the dead!

On Christmas night of 2009, The Ded Dave Show aired its very own Holiday special. Broken into two separate segments, the episode began with a gruesome telling of the “true” story of Santa Claus. The second half showed one of The Land of The Dead’s most sacred of ceremonies for Jesus’ birthday, its annual X-Mas Pageant.


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Cleveland’s Black Rock Legacy: Purple Image

Today’s resurgence in black rock and Afro-punk has been accompanied by a boosted interest in obscure post-Hendrix black rock from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, as shown by the rediscovery of Detroit bands like Death and Black Merda.

Elsewhere in the heartland, Cleveland’s late-‘60s soul and R&B scene (a role-call of which can be found in this bio for the Imperial Wonders) also boasted a clutch of guitar-centered rock bands, including the excellently named Purple Image. Rising from the 105th St. & Superior area (which took a big hit during the unrest resulting from the 1968 Granville Shootout), PI traded on a thumping, harder-than-Parliament psychedelic sound fortified by powerful group vocals and the two-guitar attack of Ken Roberts and Frank Smith. Unfortunately Purple Image’s excellent self-titled 1970 debut would be their one and only, becoming a rare black-rock nugget before it was re-released by the UK’s Radioactive label in 2007.

It would take another Midwestern black rocker to pick up the


but that’s another story…

Get: Purple Image - Purple Image [CD]


Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment