Detroit Rock Metropolis: the 10 best bands from America’s rock’n’roll capital
There is no city in America – or in the world – that is more rock and roll than Detroit.
In its heyday in the boomtown, not only Motown but also groundbreaking rock legends such as Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent and Bob Seger were guests. All at the same time. Rock and roll is so ingrained in its DNA that even when the city collapsed economically and packs of damn wild dogs roamed its streets, it managed to give birth to the White Stripes.
The look, sound, and sulfuric smell of rock music would be completely different without Detroit’s sinewy, fearsome influence. It should be praised, celebrated, exalted, anchored. And here’s why.
Had they continued to play leaf blowers and vacuum cleaners, we might have shoved them into the schizoid noise rock bin after the hippie with Silver Apples or Simply Saucer, but between guitarist Ron Asheton’s sudden discovery of rough, guttering riffs and Iggy Pop’s peanut butter smear. Loose Chimp Stagecraft, Punk Rock – and our new life – began.
With three incredible albums and countless buckets of blood, they changed rock’n’roll forever. Seriously. You probably wouldn’t even have been born without her.
MC5, pseudo-revolutionaries and drug-sucking criminals were an outlaw gang as well as a band, but Christ, could they play? Perhaps the most muscular rock and roll outfit ever, their music literally sounds like homemade fire bombs hitting through panes of glass, and let’s face it, every energetic rock band has been eating its dust since then.
You were the subject of many mythologies over the decades that followed, but the evidence lies in the pudding, and even after 50 years, Kick Out the Jams will still knock your head off your shoulders.
Always opportunistic Alice sensed Motor City’s relevance to the cause and dragged his boys out of the desert to Detroit at just the right time. During their tenure as the city-based uber freaks, they managed to create some of the biggest and daring shock rocks of all time. Alice also wants to remind you that he created punk, glamor and metal along the way and he’s at least half right.
From his humble beginnings as a garage rocker in Last Heard to the muscular hard rock of the Bob Seger System and the radio-baiting Silver Bullet Band, Seger cleverly represented the “normal guy” in rock’n’roll, the working class, blue-collar, beer-eating factory worker, who only wanted to destroy his weekend with a mixture of rotating engines and high-octane rock music.
There was a time when Seger was on every radio station in America all the time. Those were good times.
Although she made her bones (and discovered leather overalls) in London a few years later, Rocks Proto-Proto-Riot-Grrrl Suzi Quatro was born and raised in Detroit where her first sister rocker bands, the Pleasure Seekers and the Harders , were at home. rocking cradle. But even in her career-defining British glitter-rock days, she carried the fire and boast of Detroit at every turn.
The white stripes
Just when it looked like the US had ceded the garage skirt we invented to Scandinavia (and Australia), the White Stripes came to life, proving that Detroit still had the goods.
The Stripes rocked so hard that they didn’t even need a bass player. And let’s not forget that they were a stripped-down, primitive, blues-based two-part pub band that ended up selling millions of records and packing stadiums around the world. This is a serious strength of Detroit.
Though its musical legacy has been dwarfed (and, as some would say, weakened) its musical legacy in recent decades by its far-right political screeds, the wang-danging guitarism of the nuge should not be absent in any history of Detroit rock and roll.
From his time with pioneering psychedelic hard rockers Amboy Dukes to his flamboyant solo career, Nuge’s gymnastic, pounding guitar heroism and continued fascination with his own sexual prowess paved the way for any 80s cock rocker who cleaned up in his entourage.
Gories / dirt bombs
Mutating from 1986 as the shockingly primitive blues punk skronker and finally a decade later as the sweaty soul shaker of the Dirtbombs, guitarist Mick Collins and his fluid band of collaborators have jointly created some of the greatest garage rocks this side of 1965. They were also life changing live performers. Mick Collins could very well be the living embodiment of Detroit Rock City.
Grand Funk Railroad
Ok, they were officially from Flint, but the Stooges were officially from Ann Arbor, so let’s not split our hair this late in the game.
There was a point about 40 years ago when Grand Funk was literally the best-selling rock band in America, and while they don’t have the same cool cache as MC5, Frigid Pink, or The Up, they played Bone Crunching Hard Rock on top of the whole Land echoed. And we’re an American band is still one of the greatest songs ever written.
In an attempt not to get murdered the next time I’m in Detroit, a quick rundown of some of the other major players in the history of Detroit Rock: Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels have the city halfway up the rock ‘n’Roll card set’ 60s and their ’66 hit Devil With The Blue Dress On is directly responsible for each of your boomer uncles with a blues band on the weekend.
The Detroit Cobras are the greatest cover band of all time. The Electric Six essentially invented dance punk. Question Mark and the Mysterians (96 tears) are eccentric and still active garage rock legends. The Ramrods were Detroit’s answer to punk rock in 1977. Brownsville Station are the guys in charge of smokin ‘in the boys room. Marshall Crenshaw (Someday, Some Way) is a power pop genius.
Sponge were one of the better alt rock bands of the 90s. The Laughing Hyenas were amazingly wild noise rockers. ’70s folk rocker Rodriguez had one of the wildest comeback stories of all time a decade ago. The first African American punk band, Death – another stellar comeback story – came from Detroit.
And let’s not forget that Creem magazine started in Motor City too. I could go on, but you have the idea. It’s a hell city.