#13 August 2002 ETERNITY BLAST SPECIAL edited by Cary Loren PAGE 5 of 13



Photos by Leni Sinclair

Albert King
Alice Coltrane
Alice Cooper
Black Panther Party, Detroit
Bobby Seale
Bob Marley

Charles Mingus

Fela Kuti power salute
Fela Kuti war paint

Portrait of Fred "Sonic" Smith

"Sonic" Smith waving
Iggy Pop, arms akimbo
Iggy Pop smiling
Jimi Hendrix in Detroit
John and Yoko

Joseph Jarman

MC5 in front of freak flag
MC5 live at the Grande Ballroom
MC5 blowing up the stage
MC5 freak out

MC5 shirtless

MC5 all smiles
Miles Davis
Rob Tyner
Rob Tyner, 1969
Ron Asheton with the Stooges
Roscoe Mitchell
Wayne Kramer blesses the USA
Sonic with gun




“is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of… slavery?… I know not what course others may take, but for me, give me liberty, or give me death!” – Patrick Henry  

In 1963 a 22 year old John Sinclair ate a portion of peyote buttons (it was legal then) and had his first psychedelic experience. In the moment of the peyote experience he chronicled this trip in a small student notebook and called the work: THE REALIZATION OF PEYOTEMIND AND AFTER. Sinclair wrote, “Under peyote I realized the most profound truths of my life and I know that the realizations will stay with me and influence the course of my life.”[i] This psychedelic passage would have a profound effect on energizing his consciousness and forging his self-determined approach in the arts. Already primed with an appreciation of beat era poetry, literature and jazz, within the year, Sinclair would help define the landscape of the unfolding sixties and stake his commitment within a support group of unified artists, musicians and writers. Peyotemind became an interior outline of thought and manifestation. 


One year later, John and Leni Sinclair became founding members of the Detroit Artist Workshop, a small bohemian artist colony near Wayne State University, which flourished between 1964 and 1966.  The Artist Workshop produced a series of publications and free poetry journals such as CHANGE, WHE’RE, WORK, FREE POEMS/AMONG FRIENDS, COLLECTED ARTISTS’ WORKSHEETS, along with many individual monographs of poetry. Produced on mimeograph machines in small numbers, (usually 100-500 copies), these journals were THE important vehicles of counter-culture dissemination in Detroit at the time. The journals also reviewed the “free jazz” movement which included SUN RA, ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO, CECIL TAYLOR, JOHN COLTRANE, ALBERT AYLER, etc… They included musician interviews, poetry by the avant-garde and ran free ads for ESP disks (one of the first artist-run labels of the day)—The Workshop journals brought a sense of togetherness and purpose to the community. 

John Sinclair’s first book of poetry was THIS IS OUR MUSIC, and combined his love for music and black culture into a language and poetics that echoed the riffs and feelings of jazz and the blues. This small chapbook was the blueprint of Sinclair’s cross-wiring of politics and music. Published by the Detroit Artist Workshop in 1965, this book had the rhythms and pace of beat culture with the underpinnings of a radical political awareness.     

precious love, black america,

I wd have drunk gasoline, &

all I wanted was a little

water. Where I come from

mysterious ofays of the imagin-

ation. why you aren’t here

with me, old gang, beer-

drinkers, bullshitters. Where did

you go[ii]

The Artist Workshop produced free jazz concerts and poetry readings every Sunday afternoon and on Friday evenings at their headquarters on West Forest in Detroit. John Sinclair gave a reading the day the workshop opened on November 1st, 1964. They worked in state of innocence and compassion, learning by doing. Being influenced by Charles Olson’s “Projective Verse” and the NEW AMERICAN POETRY anthology; they sensed the comradeship and ideals of a “national community of artists”—these open community “rap sessions” and poetry discussions would develop into an identifiable “Detroit School”—but that was furthest from their minds at the time.    

“The beautiful thing about the whole “movement” here in Detroit is that we all started equally—we were literally “nowhere,” and we have somehow been able to make a very precise place for ourselves in this city, solely through our efforts, making all the “mistakes” we had to make, taking all the chances we didn’t even know were chances…”[iii] 

To follow the beginnings and roots of the avant-garde is a difficult task, there are simply too many side streams and diversions dotting the way. THE BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLAGE (1931) was certainly an important juncture of experimental education in the arts. It gathered a strong reputation as a unique environment where the arts could flourish. In the early 1950s Charles Olsen, Robert Creely and Robert Duncan replaced Josef and Anni Albers (of the European Bauhaus). The direction of the college shifted with art educators such as Buckminister Fuller, Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauchenberg, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, William DeKooning.


One of the students at Black Mountain was the poet/photographer and publisher Jonathon Williams, who began THE JARGON SOCIETY (founded 1951). Jargon published important and influential literature such as Olsen’s MAXIMUS POEMS, and authors such as Levertov, Loy, Dawson and Zukovsky.

Poet and artist Dick Higgin’s began THE SOMETHING ELSE PRESS is 1964. Closely associated with the FLUXUS movement, his press produced some of the first mass-produced ARTISTS BOOKS. Unaware of who his audience was, Higgin’s often published these imaginative book-works in large numbers. Many of these artist books functioned as beautiful objects, sometimes putting into question their existence as books.       

Similar scenes like the Detroit Workshop sprung up around bookshops in other major urban centers. Some of these included: Lawrence Ferlenghetti’s CITY LIGHTS in San Francisco, THE POETS PRESS, and FLOATING BEAR (run out THE PHEONIX BOOKSHOP by Diane DiPrima and Leroi Jones in New York City), THE FUCK YOU PRESS (issued out of Ed Sander’s PEACE EYE bookstore in New York City) and THE ASPHODEL BOOK SHOP in Cleveland. The thriving poetic scenes of these cities helped support the various small presses and  journals despite the odds of difficult distribution and financial instability.

Contributions would flow between these major city journals, and travelling poetry readings across country were not uncommon. Radical developments were occurring in jazz as this exciting period of experimental and free-verse poetry was flowering and mixing with sound as well as the visual arts and opening up new possibilities – absolute freedom was colliding with the birth of a new culture.

The Artist Workshop presented a communal MANIFESTO at its foundation, dated and signed November 1st, 1964. In a statement of action and support the 16 original members called for a community of artists to support each other: “(i.e. create some poetry (read: beauty) “out of the garbage of their lives” (LeRoi) and communicate it to others)…achieve and maintain the state of consciousness Henry James called “perception at the pitch of passion…. We sincerely believe that our Artists’ Workshop can and will succeed: the time is overripe. The people are ready to convert their ideals into real action, there is no real reason why we can’t make it.”[iv]  

Leni Sinclair’s early photographs documented the avant jazz/rock scene in Detroit and were first published in the Artist Workshop’s journals. No other photographer has so well captured the intense, creative, high-energy spirit and times of Detroit in the 1960s and 70s. Escaping from communist East Germany when she was 18, Leni made her way to family in Detroit and fell into the inner nucleus of Detroit’s avant-garde. In 1964 she met her future husband John Sinclair, then Detroit’s Downbeat correspondent. She began photographing the great Jazz musicians of Detroit, and those who made their way through town; John Coltrane, Yusef Lateef, Pharoah Sanders, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Roland Kirk, etc. She had a   gift for being a sensitive and thoughtful photojournalist. She was a photographer that her subjects easily trusted, steady and sure with an energetic, honest eye; an essential ingredient to her success.  

A second Artist Workshop MANIFESTO was written in 1965 by Ron English. This expressed the important idea of community clearly and precisely: “The real revolution that is forthcoming will be a bloodless one…  Armies of artists and students are invading slum neighborhoods… should the revolution succeed it will usher in a golden age of arts and letters… What will be revolutionary about the new community is that it will be to some extent co-operative and communal… The possibilities are amazing; all we (as individuals) have to do is organize enough de-brainwashed people and start DOING IT...”[v]

The hotbed Jazz and poetry scene of the early sixties laid the groundwork and was the template for a new stage and level of creativity. By 1966 rock and roll had injected the literary based “workshop” scene with a much larger base of support. TRANS LOVE ENERGIES became the new name attached to this evolution of expression. It eclipsed the Workshop by broadening into a more diverse “loving community” – where artists and the growing youth culture become further intertwined into a multi-media TRIBAL unit grounded in spiritual awareness—a rock n roll community. . The connection to this tribal society or “hippie culture”  was an important distinction— PSYCHEDELIA was fast becoming popular culture.

Where as beat culture was only laughingly parodied, the wave of the “love generation” was an unstoppable force. Day-glow posters, love beads, and incense were marketed on nearly every main street across America and the world. Even Betty Crocker produced advertisements for her “far-out” brownie-mix.

 Leni’s photography turned to primarily documenting rock and roll and the political climate. Her image of John Sinclair with the words POETRY IS REVOLUTION made the immediate connection between politics and culture. Her photographs echoed the movement and became iconic images in the underground news.

Detroit’s “Cass Corridor” art movement slowly grew and fed off the energy drumming out of the Artist Workshop and in Detroit’s first alternative artist space THE RED DOOR GALLERY which opened in 1963. Leni Sincalir, Harvey Columbus, Carl and Shelia Schurer, and George Tysh were the founding members of The Red Door.

The distinct raw style of the corridor group was clearly influenced by music. “I suspect the music scene, particularly the MC5, created a kind of frenzy that the artists wanted to emulate. There was a song “Kick Out the Jams.” I think that’s what the artists of Detroit were trying to do—to kick the bottom from under established art.”[vi]

Trans-Love Energies was a conglomerate of various bands, light shows, artists, underground newspapers, and headshops based in Detroit. Sinclair saw the burgeoning potential for rock music as a vehicle for radical change and left-wing political action. As full-time manager of the MC5, “the most radical band on the planet”, and with the anti-war movement in full swing, John recognized this time as being a prime opportunity to “indoctrinate” “turn-on” and “freakize” American youth. Fusing a strange brew of politics, poetry, free-jazz, and dope with rock and roll became Sinclair’s primary focus. His efforts went toward educating and radicalizing the growing youth movement. The MC5 was the perfect vehicle to express the message.

The WARREN/FOREST SUN and later THE ANN ARBOR SUN were weekly underground newspapers, spreading the word on politics and the counter-culture. Propaganda and information were both interchangeable, language was an op-art discotheque of moving images and rapid-fire seduction. Pop oracle MARSHALL McLUHAN wrote the incantation of the new tribal rhythms, in his manifesto THE MEDIUM AND THE MESSAGE.   

The GRANDE BALLROOM in Detroit kicked the mid-west psychedelic movement into high-gear. In early 1966 rock entrepreneur “Uncle” Russ Gibb saw the possibilities of the exploding hippie movement in a visit to Bill Graham’s San Francisco Fillmore ballroom. After that visit he commissioned one of the first and largest strobe lights ever to be built, and brought it to the Grande. Sinclair saw a partnership in the offing and installed the MC5 as the “peoples” band. The MC5 played almost every weekend and would open for many of the national acts, often “blowing them off-stage.” Gibb supplied the space and bookings and Trans-Love Energies created the scene and the light-shows, tapping into an explosion of teenage baby-boomers herding into the city. PLUM STREET (Detroit’s bid for a flower-power neighborhood) and the Grande ballroom offered suburban kids an exotic destination –a place of one’s own. Artist GARY GRIMSHAW was a crucial element and backbone to the Trans-Love/Grande experience. His artwork via Grande posters, cartoons and typography was the visual equivalent to the music.

“The music of the MC5 is the city

The city is meat and energy in motion

and sound

and the sound is the MC5”[vii]

The trans-love group left Detroit for Ann Arbor soon after the race riots of 1967- mainly because of the continual police harassment. KICK OUT THE JAMS, MOTHERFUCKER! –was the slogan and MUSIC IS REVOLUTION[viii] --the cosmic equation.

The WHITE PANTHER PARTY evolved out of the extremist, high-energy, electric madness of the MC5 and their manager John Sinclair. The idea came about during meetings at their Hill street commune. Their “ten point program” and statement of November 1st, 1968 included:  “We demand the end of money…  Free food, clothing, housing… free access to the information media—free technology from the greed creeps! Free the people from their phony “leaders”… Total assault on the culture by any means necessary, including rock n’ roll, dope and fucking in the streets.”[ix] This high-powered, LSD-fueled, red-hot guerilla fighting rock ‘n roll unit used dadaist technique, satire, rants, situationist detournement, and post-modernist terminology in their all-out BLAST to crush the rancid walls of hypocrisy and the repressive war-mongering authority control.

The shocking antics and revolutionary message of the WPP made Ann Arbor, Michigan a central locus for this wild ride and futurist ballet. Ann Arbor had a large and active youth contingent thanks to the University of Michigan. The electronic  revolution of WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS saw its “wild boy”  ideal in the White Panther Party. Their soft-machine commune was a big house at 1225 Hill street, filled with music, pot and a beehive of activity. The story is as compelling as science fiction, more real than reality, and well told inside GUITAR ARMY, but it soon became a movement too extremist for its own good, a party with no direction, and soon lost its support base. John’s incarceration helped to dilute the energy and effectiveness of the White Panthers, and the end of the Vietnam war fractured the united protest movement into various elements. The Women’s movement and environmental concerns moved to the forefront.    

The rise of the RAINBOW PEOPLES PARTY, was organized while John was in prison doing ten years, railroaded for possession of two joints. The idea was to coalesce all the various “tribes” across the country into one strong, vibrant, united front. WOODSTOCK NATION via Abbie Hoffman had been in common usage, but it was decided that the term RAINBOW PEOPLE was the most inclusive and descriptive of the new inter-tribal band of brothers and sisters.

The legendary “Free John Now” concert in Ann Arbor brought John Lennon and Yoko Ono together with a large coalition of supporters including: Archie Shepp, Bobby Seale, Jerry Rubin, Allen Ginsberg, David Peel, Bob Seger the Up and many others —all there to demand Sinclair’s freedom. This historic concert was largely responsible for springing Sinclair out of prison, who walked out three days after the rally of 15,000 people in Ann Arbor. The power of music was grand. THE RAINBOW PEOPLES PARTY was an experiment with large aspirations. It included a bakery, food co-op, walk in clinic, band booking department, graphics department and various other subsidiaries. It reached too far with too little capital and folded its colored tent as the last of Sinclair’s collectives.     

Leni was a fundamental force in putting together not only the Free John concert, but the collection of John’s writings which would become GUITAR ARMY.  This is a phenomenal, hip, irreverent book of reviews, politics, rock and roll, photography, and cartoons, wonderfully designed by GARY GRIMSHAW. Printed in 1971 on stunning multi-colored paper, GUITAR ARMY is easily one of the most beautiful artifacts of the era. Filled with Leni’s vast archive of photographs, the book tells the complete story of the revolutionary MC5, and the early history of this root Midwest alternative culture.

Leni’s work has been well documented from stories in the Fifth Estate to record albums, posters, CDs, the book Guitar Army, and in her own book, The Detroit Jazz Who’s Who. Her work was featured recently in a small retrospective at the Boijman’s museum in Rotterdam, Holland in 1998. The Book Beat gallery held a successful exhibition in 1999 and is currently putting together a limited edition portfolio and book collection of her best images. In addition a DVD of Leni Sinclair’s MC5 footage is soon to be released, and she is now working on a film history of the White Panther Party. She now resides in Detroit.

John Sinclair now lives in New Orleans where he hosts a radio program on the blues, and is also editor of Blues Access Magazine. For the past three decades he has released recordings of his poetry on various labels and has also released many archival recordings of the MC5 on his TOTAL ENERGY label. John travels incessantly, spreading his blues scholarship through poetry readings across country and internationally.   

John and Leni were both dead-center in the sixties maelstrom, and carved out the movements that helped define not only Detroit culture, but what we identify and define as “alternative” culture today. It is hard to believe all the magic and creativity that have occurred around Detroit, and this couples dynamics, but thanks to the documents they helped create, we can celebrate their vision and freedom quest in all its fullest expression and beauty. The Bentley Library at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor now houses the papers and documents of THE JOHN AND LENI SINCLAIR LIBRARY. It is overflowing with gems and treasures, and the richness of this vast archive is now accessible to the public. I would like to thank the Bentley Library and especially John and Leni for making this legacy available.   

[i] John Sinclair, PEYOTEMIND, The End is Here CD 2002 also PEYOTEMIND (booklet) Book Beat Gallery/The End is Here 2002, from the original text dated October, 1963, poems on peyote, a student notebook/manuscript.

[ii] John Sinclair, THIS IS OUR MUSIC Detroit Artist Workshop WB/3 1965, reprinted facsimile, Book Beat Gallery, 2000 edition of 500

[iii] John Sinclair, editor THE COLECTED ARTISTS’WORKSHEET, p- 1965  Detroit Artists Workshop, 1967,

[iv] THE ARTISTS WORKSHOP SOCIETY MANIFESTO, signed November 1st, 1964 by John Sincalir, Charles Moore, Larry Weiner, James Semark, Gayle Pearl, Ellen Phelan, Bill Reid, Joe Mulkey, Robin Eichele, George Tysh, Danny Spencer, Richard Tobias, Allister McKenzie, Paul Sedan, David Homicz, Bob Marsh, ibid,

[v] ibid, Ron English, p.17-19 Artists Worksheet #4 MANIFESTO

[vi] Sam Wagstaff, p.17, KICK OUT THE JAMS: DETROIT’S CASS CORRIDOR 1963-1977, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, 1980

[vii] David Sinclair, editor WORK /5 Quote by John Sinclair,  p.94, Detroit Artist Workshop/ Trans-Love Energies, 1968 

[viii] A collection of sixties speeches, rants, White Panther Party meetings, etc.. was released on the spoken word CD, MUSIC IS REVOLUTION, 2000 The End is Here/Book Beat Gallery

[ix] John Sinclair, Minister of Information, first printed in the Fifth Estate, Nov. 14-27, 1968, reprinted in GUITAR ARMY, A Rainbow Book, 1971 p. 105. 



#13 August 2002 WEB OF ETERNITY edited by Cary Loren PAGE 5 of 13

End is Here I was a Jack Smith love slave Infinite Black Darkness, Infinite White Darkness Buried Alive Rock and Revolution, photos by Leni Sinclair Aesthetics of UFOs by Mike Kelley Wallace Berman Angus MacLise Father Yod  Ira Cohen Akira Ikufube Swampy Lagoon Index Ray Johnson




#13   August 2002  BLASTITUDE  ETERNITY BLAST SPECIAL  edited by Cary Loren  PAGE 5 of 13

End is Here I was a Jack Smith love slave Infinite Black Darkness, Infinite White Darkness Buried Alive Rock and Revolution, photos by Leni Sinclair Aesthetics of UFOs by Mike Kelley Wallace Berman Angus MacLise Father Yod   Swampy Lagoon Index Ira Cohen Ray Johnson