DODGE MAIN

 

 

 

"Dodge Main" was a band made up of Detroit and Ann Arbor musicians from the old days. The band was a loose and variable collection of players, but each lineup and project that Dodge Main did was notable and worthy. Kim Maki (www.retrokimmer.com) recently sent me some cool snapshots I had not previously seen of the band in rehearsals in Detroit. This gave me the incentive to revisit the Dodge Main history:

In the early '90s Patrick Boissel began a crusade to resurrect the late 60's-early 70's Detroit Sound through a series of reissues and new releases of obscure live performances, outtakes and other material, doing for the MC5, the Rationals, the Up, and John Sinclair what had already been done by Revenge and Skydog Records for the Stooges. Patrick managed Alive and Total Energy Records, offshoots of Bomp! Records, the label created by Greg and Suzy Shaw in 1974. 

 

There is only so far you can go with old outtakes and poorly recorded live performances. Rather than honoring or respecting the bands, this approach often has the opposite effect. Putting the last dregs of material out, most of which was rejected in the first place, degrades the quality of the catalogue and the integrity of the band's name - not the best outcome, if one looks beyond a small, immediate payout of dollars and cents, taken from a small group of avid fans and collectors.

 

Patrick had the idea of forming a "Detroit Super Group" of surviving players who were still active in music. Wayne Kramer was asked to lead the effort. I'm not sure how I was chosen to participate, but it was probably Patrick's idea and I suppose that he convinced Wayne to bring me onboard. (Maybe Marshall Crenshaw was unavailable?) I had recently done a national tour of Australia with the newly reunited Radio Birdman. Wayne's trio opened for us so he was familiar with my playing and attitude. Wayne even jammed with Birdman on the Stooges classic "TV Eye" during a Melbourne encore. I had a solid appreciation of Wayne's style, and knew that he had a terrific rhythm section behind him - Paul Ill on bass, and Brock Avery on drums. Prior to that tour, I had only run into Wayne once on a personal level. The first time I met him was at a studio jam session with Dennis Thompson and Ron Asheton in 1976. Wayne showed up, newly released from prison, wearing combat boots. I later saw him with Johnny Thunders in Gang Wars. That gig was a disaster, with Johnny too smashed to play, and Wayne playing well but obviously distressed by the situation.

 

In the summer of '96, I went on tour with The Deniz Tek Group, spending a month criss crossing back and forth across Italy. Less than a week after that tour finished and still jet lagged, I flew from my home in Montana to LA to record this new project with Wayne and his band. I checked into a motel in Burbank and caught a cab to a small studio in East Hollywood called the Music Box. It was in a dangerous area, the engineer said. He told us the story of a shootout on the opposite street corner which happened just a week before. On arriving at the studio that evening, I found Wayne at the console, with a can of Coca Cola, doing a rough mix of a take of "Future/Now". (In the days to come, Wayne would often joke about "doing some coke" and pop open another can) That take sounded finished to me but Wayne said to get out there and put a guitar part on it - so I pulled out my Epiphone Crestwood, got set up with an amp and headphones and recorded a guitar track. That's how we got started, although I don't think any of my guitar part on that song made it into the final mix of "Future/Now". Wayne was clearly the boss. He was in the producer's chair, and that was perfectly fine with me.

 

I was stoked to find out that my old friend Scott Morgan was in LA visiting his brother. Scott is a fellow Ann Arborite who had been in The Rationals, Sonic's Rendezvous Band, and many others. I believe Scott to be one of the four great white Soul singers from the Detroit area - the others are Rob Tyner, Bob Seger, and Mitch Ryder. (They should put up a Mount Rushmore for these guys!)  So, lucky for us, Scott was around and was invited to sing on the sessions.

 

Song selection was a mix of new originals and old standards. The MC5 songs that we did were "Future/Now", written by Rob Tyner, and "Over and Over", written by Fred Smith - both from the great "High Time" album. I think Wayne wanted to do the other guy's songs as a tribute to them - may they rest in peace. Wayne chose "I-94" as the Radio Birdman song, and the Jimmy Cliff tune "The Harder They Come". Because Scott Morgan was there, we did "City Slang". I suggested that we do the Stooges tune "I Got A Right". Some songs were written on the spot, others in my motel room. The new originals were Wayne's "Citizen Of Time", my newly penned "Fire Comin" and a co-write, "Better Than That". I also contributed "100 Fools". The band rehearsed minimally, and the songs went to tape with very little preparation. The entire album was done in less than 5 days. Wayne told me that the album, and the group, was going to be called "Dodge Main" - named after the huge, abandoned Chrysler assembly plant in Hamtramck, the burned out heart of north central Detroit. I flew back home to Montana, to resume work at my hospital job. Wayne stayed to mix the album we had just recorded.

 

The self titled album "Dodge Main", with a stunning cover by Detroit artist Mark Arminski, was released in CD and vinyl LP formats by Alive in November of 1996 to rave reviews, even getting a 4 star treatment in Rolling Stone magazine. 

 

Various line-ups under the name "Dodge Main" have gotten together for occasional live performances since then. The first, in February '97, was a benefit concert at the State Theatre in Detroit held to help pay fellow Detroit musician Greasy Carlisi's medical bills incurred following a heart attack. The band played free, and we paid our own expenses getting to Detroit for the show. The lineup was Wayne and myself, with Dennis Thompson and Gary Rasmussen on drums and bass, respectively; and Scott Morgan on guitar and vocals. Now this, truly, was an all-star Michigan lineup ! We rehearsed at Dan Hurley's house, in his basement. Wayne had brought  his Stratocaster, but Dan pulled out a beautiful mid-60's Epiphone Wilshire that had once belonged to Wayne. I guess Dan had been keeping it since the old days, and it was a happy sight to see it back in the hands of Wayne Kramer. With only the one brief rehearsal, the show was rough and chaotic, but the energy level was high and the crowd of about 2000 people lost their minds.

 

The second show was a gig at the Euclid Tavern in Cleveland, in conjunction with the release of the paperback version of Please Kill Me, the oral history of punk by "Legs" McNeil and Gillian McCain. After a book reading at the R&R Hall of Fame museum, the gig went down, this time with Scott Asheton from the Stooges on drums. It was at this show that the band hit its full potential, causing a near riot in the tiny, packed club. Despite Gary Rasmussen repeatedly complaining about my guitar volume, I had a great night. We were joined on stage for the last four songs by a very loose Jimmy Zero, guitarist for the Cleveland legends The Dead Boys. Tapes of this show were reviewed by Wayne and Don Was. Because the performance was so wild, and in retrospect, historically significant, there were tentative plans to produce and release a recording from them. But the tapes remained unreleased in the archives of Muscletone Records - and for all I know, they may still be there. 

 

Exhausted but glowing, with my heart and soul on fire, I drove back to Ann Arbor in the headache sun of the next morning, wondering what the next Dodge Main event would be ... and how we could ever exceed the energy of the previous night. I had no way of knowing that that show in Cleveland would be my last with Dodge Main. At some point, the band got together and played more concerts, but I wasn't invited - and the rest of the Dodge Main story will have to be told by someone who was there. I went on to other lineups and other musical adventures, and it turned out that my history with Wayne Kramer and Dennis Thompson was not yet over - as I went on tour with them and their band mate Michael Davis, on the DKT-MC5 tour of 2004. That, also, is another story !

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