Here we have a beautiful collage of photographs outlining the bizarrely eventful life of young Harley Flanagan. Scroll down for context.
Harley Flanagan is best known, of course, as founder and bassist of the legendary Cro-Mags, the NYHC band that brought us one of the most impactful Hardcore albums of all time, The Age Of Quarrel. That’s not the only thing people find interesting about Harley though. Harley put out a book last year detailing his life. I haven’t even read it yet, so allow me to use my limited (very limited) knowledge (and diction) to tell you what’s going on (went on) with Harley.
Harley’s mom was a hippie and she was friends with Allen Ginsberg and the beat poets in NY back then (the 70’s I guess). Allen saw Harley as a poet. Somehow Harley gets a book of his poetry and drawings published when he’s like 8 years old with a Foreword by Ginsberg himself. Harley travels to the UK (with his mom or with Allen.. idk.. Allen was friends with Joe Strummer. I know that). Harley meets punks like Getty Getgood from The Outcasts while in the UK. Harley learns about skinhead culture and fashion and he brings it back to NY with him. Some circles actually credit Harley as a pioneer of skinhead fashion in the US. Harley (as a small young boy) is now rubbing shoulders with everyone from Joe Strummer (The Clash), to Debbie Harry (Blondie), to Adam Yauch (The Beastie Boys). Harley gets involved in the CBGB scene at a very young age. Harley becomes the drummer for The Stimulators when he’s like 12 or 13. Harley becomes a Lower East Side street kid. Hearley is living in squats with rats and pitbulls and The Bad Brains. Harley’s got tattoos all over his chest and stuff before he’s even gone through puberty. I could be mistaken but I think Harley lived in the fabled Vats of San Francisco for a time. Harley’s been to prison. Harley stabbed his ex bandmates. Harley is a Jiu Jitsu master. What else has he done? I don’t know. I still have to read the book. I’m pretty sure Harley was in that movie where he was a ghost and Demi Moore can’t see him but Whoopi Goldberg can hear him. I could be thinking of someone else. Look, there’s really no reason you should believe anything I say about Harley. The pictures speak for themselves though.
If you know anything about me (and I hope you don’t), you know (you shouldn’t) that I’m a super-nerd for Lookout! Records and Mutant Pop Records. Most people are familiar with Lookout! but not everyone remembers Mutant Pop, so here’s a little blast from the past.
Way back in the 1990’s there was an influx of, what’s commonly known as, Pop Punk. I don’t like calling it that though, because when someone says ‘pop punk’ the first thing I think of is every band that was on the Survival Of The Fattest comp, and though that stuff was fairly rad, it’s not at all what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about what was on the Punk USA comp. I sometimes refer to it as grease-punk or weasel punk, leather jacket punk (not to be confused with spikey jacket punk), weasel punk, snot punk if you will. Did I say weasel punk twice? That late 80’s/early 90’s Ramones-revival punk, made popular by bands like Screeching Weasel and The Queers. It’s pop punk. Everyone calls it pop punk, but it’s not the same as the other pop punk. It’s Mutant Pop Punk. It’s more like rock’n’roll punk. It’s more Buddy Holly with distortion than it is The Descendents with a skateboard. I know, it all gets very confusing. I still have no fucking clue what the difference is between Crust and Grind.
Mutant Pop Records was a label that came out of Corvallis Oregon, which is where Oregon State University is. It was kind of like a pit stop for a lot of touring bands back then. Like Olympia junior or something. This label was fanatically committed to pumping out the greasy style of punk I speak of. I mean they put out tons of bands, and every one of them followed the exact same formula for punk rock’n’roll. They all sounded exactly the same. I mean they all practically had the same album cover, of the band standing there in leather jackets looking as uncool as possible. It doesn’t matter ok. It doesn’t matter how many bands sound exactly the same. They’re all going to be awesome because it was the most awesome genre of all time ok. That’s what Mutant Pop and I understand and so few other people do. It’s ok though. That’s not what I’m trying to show you with this post.
Really I just wanted to share this cool clipping from the Mutant Pop ‘ZINE’. This was issue #9 from February 1995, and it featured a lot of cool stuff. I do recommend exploring the website. You can find the zines in the Old Catalogs section. If you’re strapped for time though (God you must be important), then at least check out the pic below. It’s from the TOP 10 of ‘94 section which featured submissions from quality dirtbags like Ben Weasel & Joe Queer and (as seen below) the very best person of all time, Blake Schwarzenbach. You know what’s really neat-o is the incomplete submission and apology from Corin Tucker of Sleater Kinney fame, talking about her new band.. Sleater Kinney! Wow cool right! This whole post was leading up to this moment.
“The word “fuck” in a record. You were like, “How did he do that? How’d he say ‘fuck’? KISS doesn’t say ‘fuck.’”
The Dead Kennedys had the ability, that if you weren’t crazy, they made you crazy in 15 minutes. You came in all serene, “I just smoked a joint, I’m cool.” Next thing you know, danana nanana nanana and you were like, “Ahhhh, I’m gonna kill somebody!” That’s what they made you feel like. “Give me something, ahhh!” It’s like my schoolteacher’s on acid and he’s yelling at me!” It’s rad, you’re into it. You’re like, “I’m here. Fuck recess. I’ll pee right here. I don’t need a hall pass!”
I admire Jello. I don’t wanna call him a teacher because that’s probably not what he would want to be referred to as. But his music did that. Like, what the fuck is this? Who the fuck is Pol Pot?” I’m like ten and I can’t listen to a Discharge record unless all the lights are on and my mom’s home, ‘cause it’s scarin’ the shit outta me. A nuclear war? What the fuck? Crucifix is saying 1984, the worlds gonna end, and I’m just like “Ahhh, we got two years to live! I’m 13, I’m never gonna get my wiener sucked.” The things you think about, you know. You got Jello screaming in one ear, Sothira’s screaming in the next. and you’re just like, “Oh fuck. I’m doomed!”
If you were a punk and a Canadian in the 1990’s you were aware of a pubescent band from Vancouver called d.b.s. (always lowercase). There was a great deal of speculation about what d.b.s actually stood for. One of their earliest demo tapes says ‘Dirty Black Summer’ on it, so I’m gonna go with that. I seem to remember the liner notes of their first EP asking people to write to them with ideas of what it might stand for.
None of this is important.
What matters is they were fiercely energetic and a talented band. I used to go to their shows in the gymnasium of a preschool in North Van. Their home audience was not always friendly towards them. Especially after they appeared on MuchMusic, in studio, with Sook Yin Lee (couldn’t find the d.b.s one). They even had a music video in circulation, and they toured with Rancid. Their history as a band took them from adolescent pop punk, to screamy emo through the span of their career from the early 90’s to the early 2000’s.
Someone has been kind enough to create a bandcamp page featuring all of their releases, including some live performances and an appearance on Vancouver CoOp radio station, CiTR. The video below is a skateboarding feature on a Canadian show called Power 30. It has footage of the band skateboarding, and from their performance on CiTR with Nardwaur. If you were a teenager around this time (1994?) this video will be a nostalgia-overload for you. Especially if you had a skateboard or purple hair before everyone and their mom had skateboards and purple hair. Literally, their moms. There are probably more moms with purple hair now than there were punks with purple hair in 1994.
Remember when Crime played a show in a prison? If you’re not familiar, they were one of the OG punk bands from San Francisco. They were on the front lines of the first wave and they made a name for themselves as the band that always dressed like douchebag cops when they were on stage. That’s what they did in the summer of 1978 when they performed at San Quentin State Prison in California. Some say they were wearing prison guard uniforms. Why? Yeah, I don’t know. Apparently their friendly criminal audience couldn’t figure it out either. “Nobody there knew what to make of us” said Hank Rank in an interview. I guess handing out show posters of a bare-assed dominatrix-style female cop to the inmates didn’t win them over, but I’m sure they came in “handy” if you know what I’m sayin’. In the video you do notice a few guys enjoying the show. A lot of confused faces too. I mean, what the hell is this?
FUN FACT: Hank Rank, later in life, produced the beloved Devil & Daniel Johnston documentary.
Lets go back, wayyyyyy… Ok not that far back. Just 27 years. Holy shit 1990 was 27 years ago? What a bummer. I don’t even feel like finishing this post now. sigh..
Alright, well anyways, Crimpshrine was one of the more respected Cali punk bands of the late 80’s /early 90’s. Big whoop. ugh. Ok, so all your favorite characters from the Bay Area hippiepunk scene had some role in Crimpshrine at one point or another didn’t they? Greenday, OPIV… umm, ok maybe that’s it. Wait, there was Fifteen too, and probably Isocracy. I don’t know, who cares, look it up. I’m not fact checking this stuff. The point is they were important. It was a pivotal time for punk. blah blah etc..
Aaron Cometbus was the drummer for Crimpshrine. I think maybe it was his first band. Since then he’s played drums for every band on earth at one point or another, including Bon Jovi (fact check?). Also throughout his entire career of not showering and playing drums, he managed to maintain one iconic zine called Cometbus. It more or less chronicles the lives of himself and various other punks from all over the place as they dive into dumpsters and other such punk stuff. If you missed out on the zine, you should set a month or two aside this summer to read the Cometbus Omnibus because it’s beautiful. sigh.. if you want to.
Oh, the song.. ugh, ok. The Direction Of Things To Come. Jeff Ott’s voice is like a chorus of angels on this one. It first came out on No Reality Records in 1990 as a split EP with G-Whiz called Burning Bridges. I don’t know anything about G-Whiz. It was later released again on The Sound Of A New World Being Born, which I guess was an anthology of sorts. I think these lyrics more or less sum up my mood right now:
Older people I looked up to now just seem so lame
Their idealism is gone just like “the old days”
Burnt out and jaded, their old spirit faded
I hope that in a few years I don’t feel the same way