When you think of American rock'n'roll, chances are Detroit rockers MC5 or Ann Arbor protopunk firebrands The Stooges won't be far from your mind. These founding musical fathers shaped rock'n'roll as we know it (while both found their way into our 50 best punk albums of all time feature earlier this year). Their impact on rock'n'roll and its various offshoots continues to inspire swathes of young bands to this day.
London alt.rockers Thee MVPs are one such band. Fresh from releasing new single American Dreamin', they joined us to talk us through the influence these two bands have had over their career. "MVPs stands for Most Valuable Players, which is the American term for man of the match," the band told us. "But we don't like sports that much, and Men Of The Match would be a terrible band name. As a knock-on effect of wanting to be the best in the game, we listen to two of the best pretty much all the time.
"All four of us listen to all sorts of stuff, but the Motor City 5 and Iggy Pop And The Stooges are two of the common pillars propping up this band's idea of a rocking good time."
Here, the band pick out the essential tracks from both bands' back catalogues. It's time to put that mic in your hand...
MC5 - Ramblin' Rose (Kick Out The Jams, 1969)
Charlie: "The first song of the first LP – cut live over two nights and panned when it was first released, this album got its dues when everyone finally caught up. The album opens with a sermon delivered with that signature conviction Rob Tyner had on every recording he ever put his voice to: a battle cry for everyone who was kicked around and is still relevant to this day. Name checked by pretty much any popular band of the last 50 years, this album was cathartic enough for Lemmy to start Motorhead, so it definitely kicked my arse into shape soon enough. Ramblin' Rose was popularised by Jerry Lee Lewis, this old blues number had Wayne Kramer singing and some fierce guitar work by him on the lead sections. Two minutes, all thrills, no frills."
The Stooges - Search And Destroy (Raw Power, 1973)
Joel: "James Williamson's guitar track on this song is like getting the shit kicked out of you. One second you're taking a barrage of quick jabs to the face, and then without any warning or hesitation, the punches cease and turn into heavy kicks to the gut. Every riff is mean and pushes the song to its limit. Iggy’s lyrics and delivery are great on this one, too."
MC5 - Kick Out The Jams (Kick Out The Jams, 1969)
Charlie: "Sometimes there just ain't any shame in picking the classics. This is obviously their biggest and most influential tune by a long way, and few bands are able to match the power of those opening chords and snare hits (and 12-year-old me spent a good year thinking it was a Rage Against The Machine song). They performed this track on German show Beat Club and the footage shows a great jam with Fred Sonic and Wayne Kramer duelling weird, Sun Ra-influenced solos – something we like to dabble in. It kicks back in after the jam like a mule, and shakes you out of the near stupor the wig-out just put you in. Bonus points for all of their outfits on the recording (and Rob's sequin sweat)."
The Stooges - I Wanna Be Your Dog (The Stooges, 1969)
Joel: "This is the first Stooges track I ever heard. It was on the Soundtrack for Z-Boys and Dogtown, and growing up in Southern California, that documentary was like a bible to me. I used to cover this song all the time with my old bands, I even convinced everyone to play it a few times on our European tour last year."
MC5 - Looking At You (Back In The USA, 1970)
Charlie: "Other than that live video of Shut The Door by Fugazi, the Tartar Field recording of Looking At You is hands down my favourite piece of live footage ever. The MC5 live were untouchable in their heyday and the legions of folks they've influenced is impossible to keep a record of. The guitars have two full stacks each pushing out all sorts of air, Rob Tyner is singing perfectly without any kind of monitor, Michael Davis is holding down some kind of weird Motown bassline and Dennis Thompson is drumming like his kit owed him money. The whole song is two chords! The first use of a non-cringey fist pump was documented in this, too."
The Stooges - Cock In My Pocket (Metallic K.O., 1976)
Joel: "A ridiculous ode to all of the rock'n'roll innovators that came before them. The lyrics have transformed the tongue-and-cheek-ness of late 50s rock'n'roll into all out vulgarity. The message is generally the same, but the thing that really does it for me on this one is that raunchy piano line that would have Little Richard becoming Big Dick."
MC5 - Skunk (Sonically Speaking) (High Time, 1971)
Charlie: "High Time was the last album by the band, and they were pretty much breaking up whilst the recording was going on. The fact that they could put together such a solid record, while batting away the death throes that happened shortly after the tape was cut, is the mark of a great act. Opening with a percussion/drum solo for a full minute, it kicks in with a riff that's about as greasy as it is powerful. The aural equivalent of when you turn up to a hoppin' party and you don't know many people there at all, and all of a sudden your homie sidles up next to you with two beers and the night is young. A high time indeed."
The Stooges - Gimme Danger (Raw Power, 1973)
Joel: "The lyrics and vocal delivery give me chills, the hypnotic piano line puts me in a trance, and no one since has made an acoustic guitar sound so god damn evil."
MC5 - Let Me Try (Back In The USA, 1970)
Charlie: "I struggle with the second record because the production is dreadful (and produced by Springsteen's manager, weirdly enough...), meaning the aforementioned Looking At You operates at about 10% of its maximum power. However, one of the rare quiet moments in the MC5 canon doesn't suffer by any means – a ballad through and through, it touches on the soul music the five of them loved dearly. It just goes to show that you can still make your way through tough times in life, even when the Motor City is burning."
The Stooges - Down On The Street (Fun House, 1970)
Joel: "The production on this one is incredible. I always thought that the Deep Purple tune Space Truckin’ took a lot of inspiration from this chorus, and understandably so. Plus if there’s anything better than a James Williamson guitar solo, it’s two of them going on at the same time."
Thee MVPs' new single, American Dreamin' (opens in new tab), is available now. Catch them live at the dates below:
11 Jul: Two Tribes Brewery, London, UK
12 Jul: Hope And Ruin, Brighton, UK
13 Jul: Tom Thumb Theatre, Margate, UK
14 Jul: Muthers Studio, Birmingham, UK