I’m a child of the 70s from Detroit, so drinking Stroh’s and getting down with good-time rock-and-roll on the FM radio were rights of passage for me and my crew. Guitar, bass and drums is what it was all about – the kick drum thumped us in the solar plexus and the bass guitar rattled our bones. I learned air guitar on the hill at Pine Knob, one of the original outdoor venues on the shed circuit, where me and the boys would bring in as many beers as we could get our under-age mitts on. We’d pop another pull-tab and raise our fists to the sky.
It’s Detroit booze rock — a groovy brand of blues rock that’s hot, heavy and sweaty, born in stuffy garages, dank basements and cramped barrooms. It’s stomping and slithering and grinding, fueled and cooled by ice-cold long necks and half-barrels of local suds.
I myself was born a little late to appreciate the MC5 and The Stooges, the early icons of Detroit booze rock, in their heyday. But the power and spirit of those bands coursed through the music of Bob Seger, Ted Nugent and Alice Cooper, who we heard play live at places like Cobo Arena, the Olympia and Joe Louis Arena. I remember hearing the words, “Hey Detroit! Are you ready to party?” before I even knew what partying was. I figured it out quick enough.
There were lesser-known local acts like The Rockets and Bittersweet Alley that lived out the “workin’ hard, playin’ hard” ethos. National acts like KISS and J Geils Band adopted Detroit Rock City as a second home. The Who, a booze-rocking band if ever there was one, had their first hit in America (“Happy Jack”) on Detroit radio. Jack White grew up on Detroit booze rock. And Bob Richey from Romeo, Michigan (better known as Kid Rock) has carried the booze rock torch into the new millennium.
So as we get ready to sweat through another hot August across America, grip some of Michigan’s finest brew from the likes of Short’s, Atwater and Founders and rock out to a dozen classic Detroit booze rock cuts:
Ted Nugent – “Motor City Madhouse” (live in 1977… somewhere)
Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” (live at Cobo 1975)
Alice Cooper – “School’s Out” (1972)
Kid Rock – “I am the Bull God” (1998)
J Geils Band – “Detroit Breakdown” (live at Cobo, 1975)
KISS – “Cold Gin” (live at Cobo, 1975)
The Rockets – “Turn Up the Radio” (1979)
Bittersweet Alley – “Time to Move” (1981)
White Stripes – “Hello Operator” (2000)
The Stooges – “Search and Destroy” (1973)
MC5 – “Kick out the Jams” (live in 1969)