This book brings together quite a few things:
For a start, it is being published by Feral House, which is owned and operated by Adam Parfrey.
Founded in 1989, Feral House has established itself as a publishing house, championing innovative and celebrated non-fiction books– books that planted seeds for the development of what were to become cultural trends that eventually invaded mainstream culture and, in a nutshell, centered on unusual, extreme or “forbidden” areas of knowledge.
Claiming that Parfrey’s EXIT Magazine, his Amok Press releases, Apocalypse Culture or the comprehensive compilation of Answer Me! and Jim Goad’s literary canon had a massive impact on your humble narrator in his formative years, would be an understatement par excellence.
Feral House has been on the forefront of counterculture and exposed generations of curious youths to new ideas, concepts and ultimately the people behind them, some of which have become companions and collaborators of mine. Parfrey continued his path by co-founding the Process Media imprint, joining forces with Dilettante Press and thereby unearthing the writ of Robert deGrimston’s Process Church.
The other thing is the author of Hard-Core: Life of my own: The New York City institution, Mr. Harley Flanagan and his band, the seminal hardcore band the Cro-Mags.
Chances are that if you are remotely into hardcore, you are familiar and infatuated with their oeuvre. If not, rest assured that your favourite bands are, as “hardcore” as most people know it was coined by characters like Harley.
What really got me into the Cro-Mags back in the day was the re-release of their original demo as bootleg 10”. Age of Quarrel had already established itself as a milestone, but the original demo recordings showed nuances of rawness that gave the songs a new dimension. It is still one of my Top 5 hardcore recordings of all time.
With its 444 pages, Hard-Core: Life of my own is a hefty tome that details the life and times of Harley Flanagan.
In the comic-dramatic movie Forrest Gump, the protagonist’s life story intersects with many significant social, political and cultural events in American history and with special-effects technology, Forrest appears to be interacting with historically significant movers and shakers, from US presidents to John Lennon.
No such thing is needed with Flanagan’s life as he has actually been there and done that. From the tender age of eleven years, he was an integral part of what was to become the very fabric of modern counterculture, mingling with the likes of Andy Warhol, The Clash, Lemmy, Stiv Bators, Debbie Harry, Allen Ginsberg and being taught to play bass by one of the founding fathers of punk and hardcore, the Bad Brains, while already drumming in his aunt’s punk band The Stimulators.
The Book, partly history book, partly real-life Clockwork Orange on steroids, details Harley’s upbringing, his feral and violent youth, his influences and the context of the 1970s urban jungle Lower East Side that eventually spawned the Cro-Mags, a band that epitomized the blueprint for what was to become known as New York Hardcore and whose history became riddled with feuds fueled by animosity amongst its constituents.
What makes Harley’s book a great read is that it is not merely a self-indulgent victory lap or recountings, but it offers perspective and humility.
It shows the evolution of a man and is a story of survival, personal transformation and how times eventually changed.
Apart from bluntly shedding light on the history of punk rock and hardcore, the immediateness of Flanagan’s memoir with its detailed first-person depictions of all the violence and catastrophes he endured, at times perpetrated and not always came off unscathed, makes it a page turner and essential resource for anyone interested in learning about the roots and intensity that spawned hardcore punk and New York Hardcore in particular.
8.0 / 10
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