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The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, The MC5, and My Life of Impossibilities

Wayne Kramer

Wayne Kramer, legendary guitarist and co-founder of quintessential Detroit proto-punk legends The MC5, tells his story in The Hard Stuff.

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Wayne Kramer, legendary guitarist and co-founder of quintessential Detroit proto-punk legends The MC5, tells his story in The Hard Stuff.

‘As gripping as it is sobering.’

‘Voyerustically dramatic.’


‘One of rock’s most engaging and readable memoirs.’

‘Inspiring and redempetive.’

‘An endearing read.’

Led by legendary guitarist Wayne Kramer, The MC5 was a reflection of the times: exciting, sexy, violent, out of control – assuring their time in the spotlight would be short-lived.

Kramer’s story is a revolutionary one, but it is also the deeply personal struggle of an addict and an artist. From the glory days of Detroit to the junk-sick streets of the East Village, from Key West to Nashville and sunny Los Angeles, 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.

Critic Reviews

The MC5 and Brother Wayne have inspired me and given me spiritual strength with both their music and religious belief in the power of rock and roll as a transformative and revolutionary force. Read this book and be inspired!

Bobby Gillespie
Critic 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
Critic Reviews

‘The MC5 are the ultimate cult band . . . 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 . . . Being a regular working-class Detroit guy in a band who could never quite
get their act together, Kramer doesn’t mythologise. He simply tells it like it is, painting a portrait of American
life far bleaker than you might expect . . . All of this feeds into a far more likeable and engaging rock memoir
than most . . . Kramer brings to his writing a quality so many rock stars lack: self-awareness. Clearly written and
imbued with a hard-won, common sense strain of wisdom, Kramer’s tale of a life in street-level rock’n’ roll is as gripping as it is sobering.

Will Hodgkinson, The Times
Critic Reviews

Eye-opening . . . His journey from fatherless child to musical maverick to junkie to upstanding survivor reads like a history of the late twentieth century, or possibly a gritty paperback . . . He’s a fascinating bunch of guys: a seeker, a musician’s musician, a straight-talking, working-class Midwesterner who figured out early on that the police were lawless and the land of the free was racist, sexist and opposed to mind-expansion . . . This journey through the hard stuff is admirably hard on Kramer himself. The self-portrait that emerges here is of an intelligent man of no little principle, slugging it out with his inner thug, losing battle after battle before finally, painfully, winning both career and respect.

Kitty Empire, Guardian (Book of the Day)
Critic Reviews

If a prize had been offered for the mid-Sixties American teenager most likely to start a left-field rock and roll band, Wayne Kramer would have effortlessly edged the shortlist . . . his credentials stack up from one page to the next . . . Kramer is winningly candid . . . wryly circumspect, full of neat deadpan touches and razor-sharp street slang . . . heart-warming.

D.J. Taylor, Times Literary Supplement
Critic Reviews

[Kramer took] so many rare, and revealing, side-trips, he wound up writing a book as suited to the sociology section as the music side.

Jim Farber, Guardian

Wayne Kramer is an American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, and film and television composer. He was co-founder of the Detroit rock group MC5, and Rolling Stone named him one of the top 100 guitarists of all time. His memoir The Hard Stuff was a Rough Trade Book of the Year.

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