Rock band the Up issued their first 45 rpm
single, "Just Like an Aborigine," in 1970. Although
they shared the stage with the MC5, the Stooges and
other well-known groups, fame eluded them.
By STEVE SEYMOUR
Pals with the Motor City 5 (MC5) and the Stooges, Michigan rock band the Up didn't achieve the acclaim their cohorts did.
Although they played at the same 1968 concert which earned recording contracts for their two fellow bands, the Up weren't signed.
Formed in Detroit, the Up consisted of Frank Bach (originally Franklin Dedenbach), lead vocals; Bob Rasmussen, lead guitar; Gary Rasmussen, bass; and Vic Peraino, drums.
The band performed regularly at Grande Ballroom, owned by Russ Gibb, where Bach had served as announcer and stage manager.
Early on in their career, the Up played songs by British Invasion groups such as the Kinks and Yardbirds, but they greatly admired the MC5.
Sinclair's brother Dave served as the Up's manager and booked one of their earliest gigs at the Grande on Saturday, July 22, 1967 where they opened for Tim Buckley and the Shaggs.
Coincidentally, as rock fans were making their way home after the show, Detroit's 1967 race riots began with a police raid on an after-hours bar.
In the aftermath of the violence, the Up abandoned the city for Ann Arbor in the spring of 1968.
Drummer Peraino didn't make the move and was replaced by Scott Bailey.
The Up returned to the Grande on Saturday, Sept. 2, 1968 to perform on a bill with the Amboy Dukes, featuring Ted Nugent, and the MC5.
On Sunday, Sept. 22, 1968, they joined with the MC5 and the "Psychedelic" Stooges at the Union Ballroom on the university campus in support of a children's community school. It was at this show that representatives from Elektra Records decided to offer recording contracts to the MC5 and the Stooges, featuring vocalist Iggy Pop.
Although the signings boosted Michigan's counterculture, John Sinclair, who founded the radical White Panthers, became a target of the "establishment."
Even before Sinclair was convicted, the Eastown Theater in Detroit hosted a "Salute to John Sinclair" on Sunday, July 13, 1969. Entertainment included the MC5, Stooges and the Up.
The Grande Ballroom was the location for a "Free John Sinclair" benefit held on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 24 & 25, 1970. Taking the stage were the SRC, MC5, the Up and the Stooges.
The Up finally released their first 45 rpm single in 1970, produced by Dave Sinclair.
Recorded "underground" in Ann Arbor, "Just Like an Aborigine," an original group composition, was issued as Sundance 22190 in April.
Bach sang the song's urgent message: "Let's put an end to this destruction, what we need is a new revolution." Bob Rasmussen added a high-energy guitar break to the track.
The disc boasted a sleeve picturing the Up on one side and an utopian statement from Sinclair, then a self-described "Prisoner of War, Marquette Prison," on the reverse.
"'Just Like an Aborigine' is the song of the post-Western cultural (human) revolution, which is to say the song of our lives," Sinclair wrote.
"I haven't heard the music on this record, I just know the words, and I know the band like I know my own brother, in fact these men are my brothers and they are your brothers too," the imprisoned Sinclair noted.
The record's flipside, "Hassan I Sabbah," was recorded and mixed at SRC Studios in Ann Arbor.
Another group effort, the song is about a band of assassins living in the hills above a city in Persia in ancient times. When the rulers would mistreat the people, Hassan and his men would swoop down and defend the community.
Although the Up moved away from Detroit, they continued to perform at the Grande, which featured many well-known acts, including the Who, Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin.
When Joplin died of a drug overdose on Oct. 4, 1970 at the age of 27, Bach, the Up's singer, was devastated.
He expressed himself in a poem, "It Just Can't Be," which also lamented the drug-related deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Al "Blind Owl" Wilson of Canned Heat.
The Up continued to work for Sinclair's cause, performing at the Grande with Detroit, featuring Mitch Ryder, and Commander Cody on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 1971. The concert/dance was a benefit for the John Sinclair Freedom Fund.
Then on Sept. 20, the Up traveled to Morgan Sound in Ypsilanti to mix a new song for release as a single.
"Free John Now," contained lyrics urging authorities to release Sinclair. "All the people smoke marijuana, we can't let them push us around," Bach sang.
Efforts to free Sinclair reached a peak with a well-publicized rally on Dec. 10, 1971 at the University of Michigan's Crisler Arena.
An estimated 15,000 people attended the affair which also featured a rare appearance by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. John & Yoko, backed by David Peel and the Lower East Side, performed Lennon's "John Sinclair" for the crowd.
Joining the Lennons were Commander Cody, Bob Seger, the Up and radical figures Jerry Rubin, Rennie Davis and Bobby Seale.
The Up came armed with complementary copies of "Free John Now" to distribute to the assembled masses.
Just three days later, Sinclair was released from Marquette Branch Prison on a motion from the Michigan Supreme Court, which declared the state's marijuana law invalid. Sinclair served 29 months of his term.
By this time, the Up's days were numbered.
They performed one of their last gigs at the newly opened Columbus, Ohio, branch of the Agora Theater on Sept. 26, 1972. A number of the songs they played were taped, including the originals "Together," and "Never Say Die," as well as "Train Kept A-Rollin'," written by Tiny Bradshaw, but made famous by the Yardbirds.
Those live tracks, songs from their two 45s and other rare recordings were finally issued on compact disc in 1995 when John Sinclair's Total Energy Records released "Killer Up! 1969-1972."
Their songs are just as raw, just as revolutionary, just as thought-provoking as anything recorded by the MC5 or the Stooges.
Unlike their comrades, however, the Up had to wait decades for an album's worth of material to appear.
The story of the Up is one worth noting, reflective of the tumultuous era in which it emerged.
Their retrospective CD, meanwhile, has fallen out of print.