The Twisted Library — January 9, 2018 at 1:29 pm

A Hard-Core, Fast-Paced Autobiography by One of Punk’s Biggest Legends

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Hard-Core Life of My Own has a somewhat intimidating title and an even more intimidating front cover. Abiding by the withstanding adage about book covers (you know the one—say it with me: you can’t judge a book by its cover), I didn’t let that deter me from devouring the content within.

Besides the black and red picture of a man who appears to be snarling at me from the front page, I didn’t know much about the author, Harley Flanagan. I was chastised for this lack of knowledge in the first line of the book’s introduction, written by Steven Blush: “It’s a damn shame that Harley Flanagan even needs an introduction.” I learned very quickly that Flanagan was one of the major contributors to the modern-day “hardcore” music scene. He grew up amidst a whirlwind of drugs, fame, parties, and rock’n’roll, soon becoming the main member of what is now an infamous hardcore band called the Cro-Mags. He lived fast and hard and never had much guidance or supervision. In the few short pages of the introduction, both the novel’s title and front cover image were explained.

If that didn’t have me hooked, Flanagan’s initial words certainly did. He begins the book in a hospital bed, stab wounds and all, reflecting on the events that had taken prior to its start. Before he was able to get into further explanation, I turned the page and found myself on chapter one: “My Childhood.”

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Harley Flanagan grew up like no other. His parents were both in the music scene, and were both chasers of the lifestyle of the rich and famous musicians of the 70s. His mother was constantly exposing him to the drugs and parties with which she herself was involved. Flanagan reflects that at times it felt as though his mom was trying to live out her own dreams by exposing her son to everything that she was experiencing, in order for him to see as much of the world as possible. Granted, he did see a lot of the world, but at the same time, he was exploring it as if he were twenty years older than he actually was, and well-versed in the language of drugs and alcohol. The first time he got “completely hammered” was at twelve years old. And that is just the tip of the iceberg that is Harley Flanagan’s fast-paced childhood.

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Without giving too much away, it’s sufficient to say that Flanagan paints a picture of his life, from the days of pre-pubescent debauchery in Europe to young adulthood on the streets of New York City, to how he ended up in the hospital bed where he started the story—a colorful, exciting, usually shocking, and at times almost unbelievable picture. Steven Blush mentions in the introduction that Flanagan was one of the few people who never had to exaggerate a story because his stories were already so incredible, and the truth in that statement became very clear with each turn of the page.

Although I’m not a musician, Flanagan captivated me with his tales of what it was like living in the center of the music scene during such a wild time. I was fascinated to learn about the essential birth of the hardcore punk music genre, and how it evolved from then until now. Not to mention, as a New Yorker, it was exciting to read an actual account of what it was like to live in the city then—and this is a real, genuine account, no ribbons or frills. Just pure, gritty, graphic truth. This was a difficult book to put down, to say the least. Flanagan accompanies his writing with photographs, adding an extra dimension to his storytelling. It was as if I were living through it all alongside him, seeing what he saw, and feeling what he felt. The book comes to a head with the incident that led to his hospitalization, and even when it seems as if that was pretty much the end for him…it wasn’t.

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You don’t have to know a thing about music, drugs, rock’n’roll, or New York in order to get a lot from this book. If you are into hardcore punk music or the early hardcore scene, then I can confidently say that this book is a must-read for you.  This is a story of someone who grew up so fast and so hard, with so little help, guidance, or supervision, that it’s both impressive and a little surprising that he is now standing stable on two feet and living “normally” (if there is even such a thing). It seems as if there was never a dull moment in Harley Flanagan’s life and there is certainly never a dull moment in his book.

Twisted Talk: Are you familiar with the hardcore punk music scene? Who are some of your music idols? Discuss below!

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