...a far more likeable and engaging rock memoir than most. Kramer is not famous, he doesn’t have a big house in Malibu, and with singer Rob Tyner and guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith dying young, the MC5 never had a chance to cash in on their belated cult appeal. It means Kramer brings to his writing a quality so many rock stars lack: self-awareness.
Clearly written and imbued with a hard-won, commonsense strain of wisdom, Kramer’s tale of a life in street-level rock’n’roll is as gripping as it is sobering.
Kramer has written one of rock’s most engaging and readable memoirs. He was certainly the one who wanted the MC5 the most, the one who, along with playing music and living the rock & roll life, was willing to put in the work to find gigs, learn something about the music business, and try to think strategically. And while it’s clear that he’s not anything more than the band’s titular leader – his respect for Fred Smith is evident — Wayne’s the one that’s scheming when the others are content to be dreaming. For him, the band’s failure is more than a bitter pill: without the locus of the MC5, Kramer’s life spun wildly out of control. Busted with 11 ounces of cocaine, he spent three years in the Federal prison at Lexington, Ky.
Also unmentioned is his long campaign to shut down a documentary film, MC5: A True Testimonial, which took two fans more than seven years to compile. They eventually prevailed, but were unable to afford the music rights after a long lawsuit.
For a man who so readily admits his faults, it would have been nice to learn why he so vehemently fought its release, but I suspect that if you have paid attention to The Hard Stuff until the end, you will make an educated guess.
It would not be far-fetched to call the man born Wayne Kambes in Detroit in 1948 a career criminal who once dabbled in music. As this wide-ranging, matter-of-fact memoir makes clear, though, the goal was always “to capture joy” through a visionary strain of rock music, laced with radical politics and free jazz extemporisations... 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 back both career and respect.