The album contains such songs as the proto-punk classics "Kick Out the Jams" and "Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa", the spaced-out "Starship" (co-credited to Sun Ra because the lyrics were partly cribbed from one of Ra's poems), and an extended cover of John Lee Hooker's "Motor City is Burning" wherin Tyner praises the role of Black Panther snipers during the Detroit Insurrection of 1967. The album is generally regarded as one of the best live rock and roll records: critic Mark Deming writes that it "is one of the most powerfully energetic live albums ever made...this is an album that refuses to be played quietly." The album has gained a considerable cult following in recent years.
Its title track has been covered by various bands, including The Presidents of the United States of America who completely reworked the lyrics to an upbeat form on their eponymous debut album in 1995, by hard rock band Blue Öyster Cult on their 1978 live album Some Enchanted Evening, Rage Against the Machine on their album Renegades (2000), Henry Rollins with Bad Brains for the Pump Up the Volume soundtrack, Africa Bambaataa, Monster Magnet, Japanese rockers Guitar Wolf on their debut album Run Wolf Run, Jeff Buckley (whose version was released on his posthumous "legacy edition" of Grace on the bonus CD of unreleased songs), Entombed on the EP Family Favourites, Silverchair, and Give Up the Ghost (formerly American Nightmare) on their Year One compilation. Primal Scream often plays the song live. Pearl Jam began performing it on the Vote For Change tour in 2004.
In March 2005, Q magazine placed the song "Kick Out the Jams" at number 39 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks.
Making matters worse, Hudson's department store refused to carry the album. Tensions between the band and the chain got to the point where the department stores refused to carry any album from the Elektra label after the MC5 took out a full-page ad that, according to Danny Fields, "was just a picture of Rob Tyner, and the only copy was 'Fuck Hudson's.' And it had the Elektra logo." To end the conflict, Elektra dropped the MC5 from their record label. Ironically, band members later alleged that Elektra official Jac Holzman encouraged the use of the epithet on the record itself.
In the end, the album is widely considered a vital step in the evolution towards punk and a variant upon what would later be referred to as garage band rock. The album, along with fellow Detroit band the Stooges' first two albums, until after the punk movement traced its lineage back to it. Now on CD, the remastered live version is kept in its original uncensored state.
Later the same year, Jefferson Airplane recorded the song "We Can Be Together" for their Volunteers album, a song containing the same objectionable word as the MC5 track. Unlike Elektra, however, RCA Records released the Airplane's album wholly uncensored, following pressure from the band.
And in Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea's classic counterculture novel Illuminatus! the title is said to have been created by the Illuminati as a jibe against a rival sect, the Justified Ancients of Mummu (or JAMs for short). The British band The KLF (also known as The JAMs), who take their name from the Wilson/Shea novel, use a sample of "Kick Out the Jams" in their songs "All You Need Is Love" and "What Time Is Love?".