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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

City Slang: What's in a Name?

Posted By on Tue, Jun 14, 2011 at 5:57 AM

It’s not easy to come up with a great name. A lot of time was spent trying to come with a name for this column / blog and the thing was nearly called Schizophonic (after a song by Brit rockers the Wildhearts), until features ed Brian Smith had the brainwave. The answers had been in front of us the whole time.

“City Slang” is a song by Sonic’s Rendezvous Band, the band that Fred “Sonic” Smith formed after the breakup of the MC5. Stooges drummer Scott Asheton, the Up bassist Gary Rasmussen and Rationals singer Scott Morgan were also in the band, as was Ron Cooke for a short while (the bassist in Mitch Ryder’s Detroit band), as well as MC5 bassist Michael Davis. Don’t call them a super-group out loud, but they really fucking were.

Sonic’s Rendezvous Band never released a full-length record, and they only put out one single, “City Slang”. But here’s the thing – it’s a really, really important song. It’s certainly the best song that any ex-member of the MC5 put their name to after the breakup of that most notorious and spectacular of Detroit rock bands.

There are few rock vocalists in Detroit (or certainly elsewhere) that could ever match Rob Tyner’s perfect mix of rock energy and soulful passion, but Morgan came damn close (Seger and Ryder are up there too). Asheton is obviously a bad ass drummer, and he formed a killer rhythm section with Rasmussen. And then there was Smith, the factory rat with magic in his hands, constantly battling internally with his blue-collar tough guy side and his sensitive, artistic side. If there was turmoil on the inside, he channeled it into his guitar and made the fucking thing weep.

“City Slang” is a rock ’n’ roll masterpiece, sexually charged, noisy, filthy and beautifully under-produced. Despite the aforementioned lack of recorded output, there are a host of Sonic’s Rendezvous Band bootlegs and even a boxed set available now, featuring a ton of live material and demos. It all sounds scratchy, some of it tinny, all of it rough as fuck. And yet it all sounds spectacular.

See for yourself:

A scratchy but awesome live performance of City Slang

Smith’s legacy is alive and well too, in the shape of his son Jackson, seen here playing with Amy Gore’s Valentines:

Amy Gore & the Valentines video

Jackson is a guy who likes to create his own glory, but I’m sure he won’t mind a nod in his direction when talking up his dad.

So cheers to Sonic’s Rendezvous Band. Fred is forever in our hearts. And thanks for the name.

Remember to join City Slang on Twitter: @City_Slang

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