By the time Flanagan was a teenager, he was already a fixture of the local punk scene, having played drums for the Stimulators since the age of 12, rubbing shoulders with Joe Strummer, Debbie Harry and Andy Warhol. It was a childhood that was not a childhood at all,
“You are throwing a child into the world who really knows nothing but madness,” he said. “I practically grew up in an adult environment. I’m 12 and go to rock and roll clubs where Andy Warhol and Johnny Thunders and all kinds of crazy people are running around doing dirty shit. As a child, adults are supposed to set limits for you. “
Pair that education with the environment he lived in, and that was the recipe for disaster. Fortunately, in the music world, disasters are often celebrated, and when Flanagan founded the Cro Mags, toured the world, and released classic albums like Age of Quarrel, he found a way to make sure that everything works for him. It doesn’t last forever, however, and over the years it has sunk deeper into a hole that many don’t come out of.
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“There were times in my youth when I really wanted to die,” Flanagan said. “My behavior was just an extension of that. You don’t put needles in your arm, you don’t pull things into your body that literally say on the bag, “Body Bag”. It was a heroine brand that I did when I was a kid. You don’t pull that into your body unless you kind of want to die. You don’t smoke five bags of PCP unless you try to escape by any means necessary.
Flanagan recalls a conversation with US Navy SEAL retiree Jocko Willink.
He said, ‘There’s a place in a black hole called an event horizon. Once you reach this point, there is no going back. You left. I have known several people in my life who have gone to this point. He looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘You’ve been to this point at least 20 times.’ He said this very seriously. And I must have laughed because he’s a little right.
The background came in the form of a phone call from an ex-girlfriend.