Lo-Fi Mojo: Gang War

Written by Lo-Fi Mojo, Music

Ed Murray is back with another chunk of lo-fi goodness, and this time, he’s cranking up some live recordings from Wayne Kramer and Johnny Thunders’ short-lived Gang War.

Lo-Fi Mojo

When Detroit proto-punk rockers the MC5 broke up in 1972, the five original band members went their separate ways. Bassist Michael Davis left first – he went on to form Destroy All Monsters with ex-Stooge Ron Asheton. Drummer Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson attempted a handful of unsuccessful solo ventures. Singer Rob Tyner made some post-MC5 progress, as a producer, songwriter, bandleader and photographer, before his untimely death in 1991.

Guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith formed the excellent Sonic’s Rendezvous Band, a Detroit rawk supergroup of sorts, featuring Scott Morgan of the Rationals, Gary Rasmussen of the Up! and Scott Asheton of the Stooges. Unfortunately, SRB only released one “official” single in the late ’70s, though UK label Easy Action released an excellent six-disc box set of live and studio material that fans of high-energy ’70s rock will love. “Sonic” Smith met and married singer Patti Smith (coincidentally they had the same last name), retired from music to raise a family, and died tragically in 1994.

Gang War, featuring Johnny Thunders and Wayne Kramer

MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer went to prison, after getting caught selling coke to an undercover federal agent. Upon release after a couple years in the joint, Kramer formed a short partnership with ex-New York Doll and ex-Heartbreaker Johnny Thunders called Gang War.

Two ’70s rock and drug casualties do not a lasting group make, and Gang War was no exception. They had about a year in ’em, they didn’t release any official recordings, they barely cut some demo material in the studio. But over the years, some documentation of several live sets have been unearthed, one of the best being the Gang War! import on the UK Jungle-Freud label (why is it the Brits who are always unearthing this stuff?), taken from a couple of shows recorded live in Toronto and Boston in 1980.

Gang War, the live album

Instead of writing a whole bunch of new songs, Kramer and Thunders worked up a set of material taken from their respective back catalogs, as well as a bunch of covers of rock & roll standards and classic fare.

While the guitar interplay can be downright thrilling at times, it’s pretty obvious listening to Thunders’ stage banter why the group didn’t last. He’s a freakin’ mess. Kramer was trying to clean up, especially after a two-year stint in prison on drug charges, and Thunders was on the same slow train to hell he’d been on for years (though he kicked around for another decade after these recordings were made before dying in ’91, and event as mired in controversy as Thunders’ life).

Since then, Wayne Kramer’s been pretty active in the music business, both as a producer and player. He was the first guitarist for Was (Not Was) in the early ’80s, reformed the MC5 for a memorial concert in ’91 after Tyner’s death, and began a solo career that’s seen the release of five albums to date. In 2003, he teamed up with Davis and Thompson, the other two surviving members of the MC5, and toured for a few years under the name DKT/MC5, featuring numerous special guests on guitar and vocals.

Gang War – These Boots Are Made For Walking
Gang War – The Harder They Come
Gang War – Around & Around
Gang War – Do You Love Me