Review of Hard-Core: Life of My Own by Harley Flanagan


Harley Flanagan


Feral House 

Harley Flanagan has been on my radar for years. Less for the music of the Cro Mags and more for the fact that for as long as I can remember, he has shown up in pictures and been mentioned in articles ranging from Hardcore to 70s/80s NYC to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to tattoos. His name has been mentioned in discussions I’ve had with fans of punk rock to the dude who taught me how to properly deadlift (Yo Ben, dat be you) and more.

So many instances of reading a quote or seeing a snippet of an interview made me think, “Huh, this guy is alive and intact. He’s clearly a survivor. I bet he’s got some shit to say,” and then filing away those thoughts.

Now, remember, all I mentioned above is over the course of 20 years. And I think with a name like Harley Flanagan…. Well shit, you can’t tell me that name doesn’t ring out. If I wasn’t aware of punk rock, etc I’d think he was some old school Irish gangster from the 70s. How can you not remember a name like that?

Wurzel,Stiv, Lemmy, Harley

“Sole survivor Harley Flanagan, Renzo Gracie black belt, my daughter’s Jiu Jitsu professor, and the author of a terrifying and frankly amazing upcoming memoir. Pictured here with some greats who are no longer with us: Wurzel, Stiv and Lemmy.”

I’m not a “fan boy” by any means but there is one guy out there (who will remain nameless) who I’m a massive fucking fan of and he has an Instagram (this has nothing to do with that particular person, he just happens to be the vector that got me to here). So about 6 months ago, I’m scrolling through my Instagram feed and I come across a picture this guy posted of Lemmy (Saint Lemmy) and Wurzel from Motorhead with Stiv Bators (Dead Boys) and motherfucking Harley Flanagan. Picture was, I’m guessing, circa 1986-7 cause that’s when Motorhead had the 2 guitar line-up and released Orgasmatron.

The picture caption said something about how Harley Flanagan just wrote a terrifying new memoir……

And at that point 20 years of hearing that name slammed home.

I wanted to read this book bad. And I mean it when I say it had nothing to do with Hardcore or the Cro Mags or newspaper headlines. Yes, Hardcore fascinates me but more from a historical stand point.

Mr. Flanagan as a boy, flanked by Andy Warhol and Joe Strummer, lead vocalist of the Clash, backstage at the Palladium in 1979. Photo: Marcia Resnick

Mr. Flanagan as a boy, flanked by Andy Warhol and Joe Strummer, lead vocalist of the Clash, backstage at the Palladium in 1979. Photo: Marcia Resnick

I wanted to read this book because I knew this would be the first time I’d get a hold of a book written by somebody who came from places and been a part of things I wanted to learn about. NYC in the 70s/80s-the open air drug spots and the people lining up, the crime and the places the cops wouldn’t go, the music, the streets from the burned out wasteland of the Lower East Side to the Grindhouses of 42nd street; all of the shit I saw in movies I love and read about for years. That’s the first part. I love learning. This is history and I am a student of history.

The second part is about being a survivor. I like survivors. Survivors fucking survive. They go against the grain, they prevail. I don’t want to read about people that gave up. I want to learn about how people keep going when others quit.

This book delivers on every level I hoped for. At 444 pages I believe, it’s got some weight to it; not just physical, but emotional and mental as well. It’s not for everyone. Some lives are about endurance and as Harley tells you his life story, you are enduring it along with him.

Yeah, countless moments where I stopped reading and thought to myself, “And he got up, dusted himself off and kept going….. Fuck”.

Flanagan Morocco, North Africa

In Morocco, North Africa

Harley was born in 1967 to a wandering hippie mother and a criminally inclined father. Went all over the world with his mom who got him into punk rock. By the age of 12, he was drumming in The Stimulators with his aunt Denise. At the age of 16 he was probably the first skinhead in the punk rock scene. At 19, was playing bass in the Cro Mags, arguably one of the most important bands in the history of punk/metal/hardcore. At 26 he was close to dead.

Now at almost age 50, is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu blackbelt under Renzo Gracie and teaches the kid’s classes at Renzo Gracie’s academy in NYC.

This is a life story I needed to read and I’m thrilled I did. I will be going back to it many times, that I am certain of. There is so much content that cannot be absorbed from one reading. These are the best kinds of books.

Flanagan and Bourdain at Renzo Gracie NYC

Mr Flanagan grappling with Anthony Bourdain at the Renzo Gracie Academy in NYC

You know this is another case where I’m not sure how to condense a life like this into review form. It’s a bitch to attempt because there is a fine line between saying who the person was and regurgitating the whole book. And especially with a life like this where I still can’t quite understand how he made it. The life Harley led…..

You haven’t endured shit compared to this guy.