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Reviewed by Ed Murray
'd played my drums in front of eighty thousand screaming fans and passed out in my own puke. I'd toured in private jets, rode in limos, and had just about any girl, at any time, for anything. I also lived in rat-infested, shithole apartments, got caught in a burning car where I sustained third-degree burns all over my body, racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, and watched my father die a slow, agonizing death. But I had never felt anything like this depression that brought me to Steps...This time, there was only me and my pain, and I didn't see any way out.” – Joey Kramer, from the introduction to “Hit Hard: The Story of Hitting Rock Bottom at the Top”
By the end of the first couple of chapters of “Hit Hard,” it's pretty obvious why Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer is battling clinical depression. The drug-addled story of the entire band's run-up to sobriety has been recounted plenty of times, in other books and in other mediums, and Kramer recounts plenty of it in this book, to be sure. But the real story here, as you'd expect in a book about coping with depression, are the real demons and terrors and hard work that still lay ahead of him after kicking his various addictions.
The seed for the book was actually planted in 1997, amid Aerosmith's sold-out globe-spanning Nine Lives tour (circa “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” mega-stardom), when Kramer revealed his ongoing struggles with depression in an interview. The response from fans and people battling those same internal demons was overwhelming, and now the drummer tells the complete story. Along the way, he includes his family life, the band's formative years, the success and drugged-out albeit glamorous events leading up to eventual sobriety, battles both within his family and among his bandmates, and the volatile internal dynamics in Aerosmith that have resulted in no shortage of commercial and artistic success over the past four decades.
The front cover proclaims this “a story of hitting rock bottom at the top,” and that's accurate. While Kramer and his two co-authors (William Patrick and Keith Garde) unearth some scintillating anecdotes about the early days of the band, if you're looking for a history of Aerosmith, you'll be much better served by picking up “Walk This Way” or some other typical band bio. “Hit Hard” focuses on Kramer's depression and mental health issues, with a solid two-thirds of the book devoted to rehabs, counselors, psychoanalysis (his love/hate relationships with his father, his wife and, interestingly, bandmember Steven Tyler) and Kramer getting to the bottom of his despair. Ultimately, it's about how he finally recognized his confusion between love and abuse, awakening to the kind of self-acceptance and compassion that make relationships possible in the “real world,” and as a member of one of the biggest bands in American history. While the almost non-stop recounting of booze, drugs and despair can get a bit much, and the writing style a bit, er, thin, Kramer doesn't pull any punches here, and if his tale helps even one young skins beater avoid the same fate, then bravo!