Thursday, December 03, 2009

Evolution of a Cro-Magnon

Not only have I read this book but I read it in like two days or something like that, which is a big accomplishment for me considering as how I rarely have the attention span to finish a book that quickly. Usually I put books down and come back to them later after awhile of occupying myself with other activities. I have also listened to the audio book while on a road trip to Michigan. John Joseph does a good job telling his story in both but the book obviously has more detail in it than the audio book so I preferred reading it as opposed to listening.

I got this book because of a few reasons. First, John was the best frontman Cro-Mags ever had and Age of Quarrel is probably one of my favorite hardcore records ever. Second, John is from the streets and it is well known that he has lived through some insane shit in his life. Third, he was a Krishna monk and I've always wondered what the deal is with being a Krishna. The Evolution of a Cro-Magnon delivers on all counts, and then some.

This book starts off with John Joseph's earliest memories of his father being an abusive bastard and his family falling apart, basically the catalyst for his life in the Foster Care system and probably what defines his life the most. The stories of abuse don't stop there though, as the book goes into some of the terrible shit he and his brothers had to endure in different foster homes. Finally he gets put in a sort of half way house for boys in Rockaway Beach were it seems like he gets more into drugs and all the trouble that goes along with it, but it also seems like this is where his interest in music is piqued. The book goes from his time on the streets as a young kid, to time in institutions, to being in the service, to going AWOL to be part of the hardcore scene and deal drugs with all the ups and downs of a roller coaster. The stories of street violence, dealing drugs, and tragic loss are as real as it gets.

This book definitely gives you a good glimpse into the life of kids in foster care and what they have to deal with but what's more interesting is the story of New York the way it used to be. The hustle you had to have just to make it on the streets and the smarts and cunning to out smart all the other scum bags that were trying to out smart you seems like a lot to handle. Even more interesting for me was the descriptions of the early NY punk scene, when John Belushi was pitboss! The book paints the early hardcore scene as much more tightly knit and at the same time more open to anything. It seems like everyone knew each other from back in the hey day of hardcore. I was surprised to read that Raybeez and John Joseph met in the Navy before Warzone or Cro-Mags were ever bands. They say everything happens for a reason.

I'd say the only slow point in this book is when Cro-Mags starts to become a bigger band and do bigger tours. I felt like the focus was more on how fucked up things got between the members of the band and all the financial problems that arose. At certain points I felt like there was too much shit talking going on and not enough tour stories, though there are a lot of stories it just seems like the shit talk over shadowed all of that.

The Krishna stuff in the book is pretty interesting. I never really knew how that came to be so popular in hardcore, but after reading this book I've gained a bit more understanding about the draw it has on certain people. Reading about some of the hustles these guys would come up with to get money for Krishna Conscious is some serious entertainment.

Hopefully you read this book because it's got some good stories and insight into living on the streets, hardcore, living in a cult, and being an all around hard motherfucker.


Strick said...

maybe I can borrow it?

Matt Wes said...

actually, the guy that got my ex girlfriend pregnant has my copy. never returned it. i do have the mp3's of the audio book. i'll send them through iChat if you want.

Strick said...

That'd be cool. Thank you :)