Detroit's MC5 was not only the best rock band to come out of the Midwest in the 60s, but arguably the ultimate inspiration for the whole punk rock movement nearly a decade later: if you're looking for pissed off, revolutionary lyrics and an uncompromising garage rock sound, you can't do much better than this. The group recorded precious little before its 1972 meltdown and never sold a lot of records. But together with "baby brothers" and fellow Detroit rockers Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the MC5 had a direct, undeniable impact on the New York underground bands like the New York Dolls, which eventually made them the grandfathers of punk rock.
After a raucous, out-of-control live debut record that put them squarely in the heaviest possible acid rock territory (Kick Out The Jams, 1969), the group did a surprising about-face with a sharply written, intentionally retro-sounding ode to mid-60s rock and R & B (Back In The USA, 1970). Their third and last album (High Time, 1971) retreated again to acid rock experimentation, but sported enough proto-punk masterpieces like "Over And Over" to make it a classic. When talented, over-the-top vocalist Rob Tyner left the group, guitarists Wayne Kramer and Fred "Sonic" Smith tried to keep things going for a few months and then threw in the towel.
Kramer soon landed in prison on a drug charge and spent the rest of the 70s behind bars, while Tyner and Smith drifted in and out of the music industry, failing with their solo careers. By the end of the decade Smith had ended up meeting Patti Smith and becoming her husband; he spent the 80s and early 90s living in retirement with her, before dying in 1994. Around 1980 Kramer briefly worked with ex-New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders in a band called Gang War. He kept a fairly low profile during the 80s, but did apparently show up on some records by Was (Not Was). By the time Kramer finally got started with a serious solo career in 1995, he'd cycled back to the high-volume, bread and butter rock sound of the MC5, so most of his easily available recent records are worth a spin.