Harley Flanagan, the godfather of New York hardcore, still gets goosebumps when he recalls being introduced to the Bad Brains and guitarist Gary “Dr. Know” Miller when he was just a pre-teen punk rocker.
“The first time I saw the Bad Brains was in 1979,” Flanagan recalled. “I was 12 and playing drums for the Stimulators. It was on St. Marks Place —at what used to be the Fillmore East — and they blew my mind. I had never seen anything like them. They were so explosive.”
Today, with a relationship that has spanned over four decades, Flanagan’s friend and mentor needs help.
Dr. Know is still recovering from near-fatal cardiac arrest in 2015 in which he suffered multiple organ failure and was on life support. He has no medical insurance and faces rising medical expenses.
In true-friend fashion, Flanagan is offering his time and music to fans of the punk rock pioneer through a recently launched fundraising site.
Flanagan, one of the founding members of legendary ‘80s hardcore band the Cro-Mags, has a new band, Hard Core, and is launchinga European tour in May. He’s using his first single, “With Friends Like You,” two minutes of meticulous metal mayhem that Flanagan fans will quickly appreciate, as a fundraising source to help Dr. Know. Flanagan, who stays in contact with the Bad Brains, says 48 percent of all profits will go to Miller and his family.
Flanagan, whose recently released anthem, “Let’s Go,” a collaboration with musician Chris Clemence, can be heard during Rangers games at Madison Square Garden. It was also played during Super Bowl LI.
Flanagan is offering more than just music on his PledgeMusic website. In exchange for fans’ generosity, everything from signed EPs and posters to a private reading of his recently released memoir “Hardcore: Life of my Own” are for the taking. He’s also offering private jiu-jitsu lessons (Flanagan is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Renzo Gracie).
“It’s something i wanted to do for a long time,” said Flanagan, who is also currently working with rap legend Melle Mel on several new tracks. “And now I have something to offer.”
Flanagan spoke with Metro about his friend, his book, and of course, the Cro-Mags.
Why is helping Doc in this way so important?
I’ve known them since they came to New York from D.C., literally. The Cro-Mags would not have sounded the way they did, musically. The dynamics, we got it from them. Forget hardcore, they were the first punk, pre-hardcore band borrowing elements from other styles of music and bringing it to their own style. That was huge.
Have you been in touch with Dr. Know?
I spoke to Doc just the other day. It was hard to hear him say that he has no feeling in his left hand. It's good to know he’s doing a lot better, but he has a long road ahead of him. He’s not playing [guitar] yet, and that really sucks. We just talked about, well, a lot of memories. I’m there as a friend to listen to him.
What was your first encounter with the Bad Brains?
The first time I saw the Bad Brains was in 1979. I was 12 and playing drums for the Stimulators. It was on St. Marks Place — it used to be called Fillmore East—and they blew my mind. I had never seen anything like them; they were so explosive. This was before I had ever heard of Black Flag or any West Coast band. I saw them all over the country when I was traveling. Everywhere they played they just blew people away.
Touring in a punk band at age 12. What was that like?
It was interesting. As a kid, you don’t realize things are outside the norm. I realized that, yeah, I’m the only kid here, but I didn't think anything of it. That was like, my life. I had a very unique childhood.
It’s been said stage diving was created at a Cro-Mags concert. Any truth?
I don’t know about that. I’d say our  video “We Gotta Know” introduced America and most of the world to it. Outside of the CBGB-type crowds, the rest of the f—ing world didn't know what stage diving or slam dancing was. And then all of a sudden you have a video on MTV getting rotation — and remember, back then everybody had big hair and looked like a chick — and now you got guys with shaved heads and tats throwing their bodies off the stage and getting catapulted into each other. People who’d never seen it before were like, Oh, s— what the f— is that?
The Cro-Mags defined ’80s hardcore. Any chance of a reunion?
I tried to get the Cro-Mags to get back together and do something forDoc, record a song, whatever. I even reached out to John [Joseph], our lead singer, through [Bad Brains members] Darryl [Jenifer] and Doc, about trying to do an actual benefit for him. He shot that idea down, and they went and did this free show with this “fake” Cro-Mags band playing at it. I was happy to see the name Cro-Mags used to raise some money for him but I was upset John excluded me from the benefit because Doc was friends with all of us. I thought it was sad and selfish that he wanted to get the hype for himself. Gary was a close friend of all of ours, and if we couldn't get along in the past this is one thing we should be all like, f— this, let’s do this for Gary. Forget about the bulls— and drama. Do one show give the people what they want. And that didn't happen.
How does a song with the lyrics “With friends like you who needs enemies” becomethe theme to Doc’s fundraiser?
[laughs] When I reached out to John to do a fundraiser for [Doc] [in 2016] he shot it down. I thought about the history between me and him and how he set me up to get jumped at Webster Hall [in 2012] and then still couldn't make amends when I extended myself. That’s all I could think: With friends like you, who needs enemies?” [laughs]
In your book “Life of My Own” you recall of hanging out with the Beastie Boys, Andy Warhol and the Clash as a kid, as well as a ton of fights that were too many to mention here, growing up. Does anything on the list stand out?
S—, read the book and tell me!! [laughs] That’s a large question. To be honest, I can’t believe any of it happened or that I’m still alive and able to talk about this s— and able to look back and reflect on it, that’s the most unbelievable to me.
Did you ever see yourself teaching kids, including your own children, jiu-jitsu?
In a way, it’s not a surprise to me, because I really am a big kid at heart. I just like to have fun. I’ve always had that gift, really, that kids don't feel intimidated by me and feel comfortable around me. And we have fun.