The Austin Chronicle

You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

MC5 leader rolls five books into one

Reviewed by Tim Stegall, December 21, 2018, Music

There's good reason for the four-layer title here. Leader of the MC5 (1964-72), Wayne Kramer led several lives beyond the fire-breathing revolutionary marrying the Yardbirds' explosive R&B to radical leftist politics and free jazz. So much so, in fact, that the Hard Stuff contains several books in one: the Detroiters' planting the seeds of punk and heavy metal prior to imploding before harvesting their efforts' fruit; the author's long, post-breakup criminal/narcotic spree; a prison memoir; the years-long search for life beyond jail and the MC5; elder statesmanship, riding Epitaph Records' commercial punk revival of the Nineties; salvation in hard-earned millennial sobriety plus a successful marriage and even late-life fatherhood. It's a hard-bitten tale for the most part, with the only real sense of joy coming from the music: an electric guitar's sonic release, the transcendence of rock & roll and jazz, the MC5's rise, and learning at the knee of "prison father" Red Rodney, Charlie Parker's former right-hand man. Fifty years after asking the world if they were ready to testify, Wayne Kramer delivers his testimonial.

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

by Wayne Kramer
Da Capo Press, 320 pp., $28

Copyright © 2024 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.