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The Hard Stuff

The Hard Stuff

Dope, Crime, the MC5, and My Life of Impossibilities

The first memoir by Wayne Kramer, legendary guitarist and cofounder of quintessential Detroit proto-punk legends The MC5

In January 1969, before the world heard a note of their music, The MC5 was on the cover of Rolling Stone. The missing link between free jazz and punk rock, they were raw, primal, and, when things were clicking, absolutely unstoppable.

Led by legendary guitarist Wayne Kramer, The MC5 was a reflection of the times: exciting, sexy, violent, chaotic, and out of control, all but assuring their time in the spotlight would be short-lived. They toured the country, played with music legends, and had a rabid following, their music acting as the soundtrack to the blue collar youth movement springing up across the nation. Kramer wanted to redefine what a rock ‘n’ roll group was capable of, and there was power in reaching for that, but it was also a recipe for disaster, both personally and professionally. The band recorded three major label albums but, by 1972, it was all over.

Kramer’s story is (literally) a revolutionary one, but it’s also the deeply personal struggle of an addict and an artist, a rebel with a great tale to tell. The ’60s were not all peace and love, but Kramer shows that peace and love can be born out of turbulence and unrest. From the glory days of Detroit to the junk-sick streets of the East Village, from Key West to Nashville and sunny L.A., in and out of prison and on and off of drugs, his is the classic journeyman narrative, but with a twist: he’s here to remind us that revolution is always an option.
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Genre: Nonfiction / Music / Genres & Styles / Punk

On Sale: July 21st 2020

Price: $17.99 / $22.99 (CAD)

Page Count: 320

ISBN-13: 9780306921520

What's Inside

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Reader Reviews


"Wayne Kramer's story is an incredible tale of rock 'n' roll redemption. The MC5 crystallized the '60s counterculture movement at its most volatile and basically invented punk rock music. But Wayne's life proved to be as chaotic as his groundbreaking guitar playing. Rogue, rascal, rebel, revolutionary, artist, addict, inmate, poet, prisoner, and now proud papa, Brother Wayne Kramer is one of the wisest people I know, and he has earned that wisdom the hard way. The world needs to know this man's story. Here it is."--Tom Morello, guitarist of Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, and Prophets of Rage
"Wayne Kramer is the biggest badass in rock 'n' roll. Period. And The Hard Stuff proves it. Between these covers is a story of survival, talent, madness, dope, guts, and a sheer, fearless commitment to bringing straight-up enlightenment to this fascist, prison-happy nation we happen to inhabit--even if it meant putting his own freedom, and his own unbelievably epic life, on the line. This just may be the best memoir of the year."--Jerry Stahl, author of I, Fatty and Permanent Midnight
"A rollicking account...from his rough upbringing in post-war Detroit, to his transformation from greaser guitarist to rock 'n' roll revolutionary."—MOJO
"Relives those energising days of the late '60s, when Detroit's MC5 mixed rock and revolution with free jazz and exceptional hair...An inspiring and redemptive tale."—Uncut
"MC5 fans will relish the opportunity to hear Kramer's version of events from the band's history...The Hard Stuff's lesson is an inspirational one: no matter how far you fall, circumstances can arise which lead you to a better place. Plus it's just wildly entertaining."—Midnight to Six
"A gritty rock memoir detailing a cult American band's fall from grace and its subsequent determination not to get up...Gripping and sobering...A manual of how not to be in a band."—Wanted Online
"Often harrowing, sometimes hilarious and always compelling."—Buffalo News
"The MC5 are the ultimate cult band: a rebellious group from late-1960s Detroit whose raw, proto-punk take on rock'n'roll influenced everyone from the Sex Pistols to Primal Scream. They never made it, though, and when you read this memoir by the guitarist and leader Wayne Kramer, you begin to see why. The Hard Stuff can be read as a manual of how not to become a rock star. Drugs, band feuds, jail and radical politics all combined to prevent stardom. This is a story of bad luck and bad behaviour in equal measure."—Times of London
"He defied death, drugs and detention. Now MC5 legend Wayne Kramer has written an equally full-on memoir...Eye-opening...Wide-ranging...His journey from fatherless child to musical maverick to junkie to upstanding survivor reads like a history of the late 20th century."—The Observer
"There's nothing like an autobiography when it comes to really digging deep. Kramer's The Hard Stuff does exactly that. It's simultaneously brutally honest, heartbreaking, hilarious, and life-affirming...It's a frankly wonderful read."—Detroit Metro Times
"Rock has a special place in its heart for the almost-made-its, and the MC5 is up there with the best... You'll learn a lot about the MC5 in this book."—Financial Times
"It should need no spoiler alert to state that Mr. Kramer eventually beat his addictions; memoirs are rarely written with a needle between one's toes. But that doesn't make The Hard Stuff a feel-good story...The book comes alive when bringing the reader into the heart of the late-'60s scene, where revolution seemed not just possible but plausible...The Hard Stuff is rarely poetic, but in its brutal honesty Mr. Kramer may succeed in deterring future musicians from contemplating serious drug abuse."—Wall Street Journal
"A thorough examination of his life, including musical adventures and drug misadventures that ultimately landed him in jail... The Hard Stuff covers the entirely of Kramer's life, with no attempts to hide any warts."—
"The Hard Stuff is a raw account of Kramer's life growing up in the increasingly mean streets of post-World War II Detroit, the glorious rise and precipitous fall of the MC5, and his decades-long addiction to drugs that led to his two-year bid in a federal penitentiary."—Vice's Noisey
"In The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5, and My Life of Impossibilities, Kramer documents his descent into his self-made hell and his reemergence into the world of the living. The book offers no excuses, just frank reflections on his own mistakes, misdeeds, and his path out of the darkness."—Omnivoracious: The Amazon Book Review
"320 pages of raw revolution and intoxicating inspiration."—Merry Jane
"Chronicles [Kramer's] upbringing in suburban Detroit and the rise of the MC5-a band that exploded onto the scene and seemed to fall apart just as suddenly-but he also attempts to provide a cautionary tale of sorts, detailing his struggles with addiction and his time in prison resulting from an arrest for selling cocaine to an undercover officer in 1975."—Spare Change News
"A book as suited to the sociology section as the music aisle."—The Guardian
"By the time he turned 30, Kramer had been the lead guitarist in a legendary but star-crossed rock band, a playacting Detroit gangster, and a guest of the American carceral system. All this living is covered in his new memoir The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5 and My Life of Impossibilities, along with Kramer's roundabout path to the life he leads today."—NPR Music
"For all the hardness of his life, his insights into addiction-drawn from his own, and his absent father's alcoholism-are shot through with an enduring, thoughtful empathy that makes The Hard Stuff such an endearing read."—MOJO
"Hard-hitting, raw, unflinchingly honest, thought-provoking, inspiring and highly recommended."—Classic Rock
"The Hard Stuff navigates drugs, violence, and the politics of loud guitars."—The Georgia Straight
"The arc of dizzying ascent, steep fall and hard-won redemption is a familiar one. Few, however, have pushed those contours to such vivid extremes as the MC5 guitarist."—Uncut
"Kramer was not just at the heart of the post-hippie revolutionary movement of the late Sixties but, a decade later, would also be an important influence on the punk generation. This is his turbulent, engrossing life story."—Choice (UK)
"Kramer has written one of rock's most engaging and readable memoirs."—Rolling Stone
"Kramer writes with a self-lacerating clarity about life in The MC5 and their chaotic slide into drugs, disorder and prison. Every grim inch of the trip from boundary-smashing idealism to dingy realty is here, with a twist of redemption at the end."—Q Magazine
"[An] uncompromising memoir...Kramer recounts his journey through addiction, prison, and rock music in an unflinching fashion."—Discogs
"The book, while detailing the struggle of an addict and an artist, is layered with the optimism of a man committed to seeing past impossibilities."—South Florida Sun-Sentinel
"[A] terrific memoir."—Please Kill Me
"Kramer intertwines the history of the group with the political climate of the late 1960s and his own struggles with addiction and imprisonment. The disparate anecdotes that comprise this confessional memoir form a mosaic of the music industry, race relations in the United States, the criminalization of drugs, and a musical revolution rising from the country's industrial core...By blending his own narrative with the trials of MC5 and by merging musical rebellion with social justice, the author has penned a contemplative diatribe against political authority."—Library Journal
"The Hard Stuff goes into depth about his 'life of impossibilities,' and in reading this book, it quickly becomes apparent why Kramer has been influential to countless major artists including Henry Rollins, Tom Morello and Jeff Buckley."—The Hype
"A lively autobiography filled with anecdotes and what sound like honest admissions from a life on the edge."—Milwaukee Shepherd-Express
"Kramer recounts a story that is revolutionary, but it's also the deeply personal struggle of an addict and an artist, a rebel with a great tale to tell...Kramer shows that peace and love can be born out of turbulence and unrest."—Music Connection
"Kramer's life has been a raging roller-coaster of euphoric highs and bottom-feeder lows. The now-sober superstar talks about all of it-the student demonstrations, police riots, crazy concerts, drug-fueled debauchery, wiretapping, marriages and divorce, prison time, therapy, recovery, and redemption-in his new memoir...Sure, we've been awed by other rock autobiographies...but we've never encountered a tale as turbulent and gritty as Kramer's. The Hard Stuff is a brisk, brutal page-turner wherein the Motor City 'white boy with the wah-wah' candidly chronicles the formation of one of rock's most outrageous ensembles."—
"A jaw-dropping memoir that is at turns hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking. It's a gonzo read about a gonzo life."—Phawker
"A true redemption story."—Columbia Daily Herald
"As Kramer's book documents, his life was one of absolute reckless abandon."—
"Throughout The Hard Stuff, Kramer refuses to shy away from his mistakes and puts most of the blame on himself. Despite the near-universal knowledge of the line 'Kick out the jams, motherfucker!' the band is still criminally underrated. Kramer delves deep into the band's founding and their role of mixing racial politics into their music's message...A fascinating read."—Innocent Words
"[An] astonishing book...which is essentially the memoir of a criminal who moonlighted as a rock star...It's an amazing tale, from one of the sharpest guys in rock."—Rock Cellar
"Detail[s] his years in the legendary Detroit band, MC5, an eventual decline into the criminal underworld, prison, the slow climb back out and the arrival of a child into his life...Kramer has a presence and, more importantly, he has heart...His strong-voiced, concise and, at times, uncomfortably sincere...Kramer spends little time dissecting the finite details of his storied former band and, instead, focuses on the internal goings-on within his head and life...With each turn of the page, The Hard Stuff peels away his well-known brash facade, revealing an intelligent and damaged man looking for some kind of redemption."—No Recess!
"A rollicking read...The Hard Stuff takes us through the rise and fall of the 5, Kramer's slide into crime, his imprisonment for drug dealing, ongoing battles with booze and smack, career revival and personal redemption through hard work and love."—I-94 Bar
"There's no hyperbole in saying that The MC5 were one of the most important bands to emerge from America during the 1960s, which is why it's so great that Wayne Kramer, one of the founding members of the band, decided to sit down and write himself a memoir...The end result-The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5, and My Life of Impossibilities-turned out spectacularly."—Rhino
"Kramer doesn't hold back...[A] brutally frank new memoir."—San Diego Union-Tribune
"A read as gritty, raw and in-your-face as the MC5's uncompromising songbook."—Las Vegas Review Journal
"[Kramer] goes into great detail about his struggle to make it in music."—NeuFutur
"This book...will keep Priest fans on the edge of their seats."—Classic Rock Revisited
"Kramer recounts [his] days and a lifetime as a musician, activist, federal drug prisoner and, late in life, family man...A vivid new memoir."—Los Angeles Times
"An honest accounting of everything the title states, from the rapid rise and fall of the MC5 over the course of three albums, the heroin addiction and drug dealing that landed him in prison, and ultimately the defeat of those demons, redemption, and late-in-life fatherhood that he calls 'the most meaningful thing I've ever done.'"
Orange County Register
"An impossible-to-put-down autobiography."
Vintage Rock
"Well worth checking out."
The Indypendent
"The Hard Stuff is really candid and open."
"[A] thoroughly engrossing memoir."
Cincinnati City Beat
"Chronicles the band's formation against a violent, racially divided Detroit backdrop as well as Kramer's prison stint, addiction battle, and late-in-life career resurgence."—Yahoo! Entertainment
"The 1960s rocker and (sometimes) revolutionary pulls no punches in his autobiography, delivering a detailed look at his life good (leading the rock powerhouse MC5, political activism during the late 1960s and early '70s) and bad (drugs, prison) in a voice as clear as the vocals on MC5's 'Kick Out the Jams.'"—Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
"Voyeuristically dramatic."—New York Times Book Review
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