Cult heroes: Five cult bands involved in actual cults!
4. Cro-Mags – Hari Krishna
Anyone who’s ever been to the airport in the 70s will remember the Hari Krishnas. A Hindu sect formed in the US in 1966, the Krishnas recruited the young and idealistic. They were well known for their shaved heads, saffron robes, ecstatic street dancing (with finger cymbals!), ‘free vegetarian feasts’ (aka recruitment drives), and their incessant chanting.
They were most popular, not surprisingly, during the hippie era, where they could be found making a nuisance of themselves in most major metropolitan areas. With their message of peace, vegetables, and celibacy, they were reasonably benign, as cults go. Essentially, they were just flower children with bad haircuts. While the Hari Krishnas are still practicing, their public displays dwindled as the 70s wore on, and by the 1980s they were all but forgotten by the culture at large. And then, out of nowhere, they returned… in the form of angry New York hardcore punk.
You really couldn’t find a tougher crew then the Cro-Mags, a gang of inner-city New Yawkers who were boxers and martial artists and who plied a macho, head-thumping strain of punk-metal thrash. Cro-mags founder and vocalist Joseph ‘Bloodclot’ McGowan first encountered Hari Krishnas in a health food store, and liked what he heard. He also liked being a violent skinhead, but the various tenets of Krishna – including abstinence from sex, drugs and booze – appealed to his sense of disipline. The rest of the band adopted his stance, and Krishna became the band’s guiding philosophy throughout the 80s. It also influenced a whole ‘Krishna-core’ movement.
Since then, just about everybody involved has harrowing tales of brainwashing and betrayal to tell, and for a band based on a straight-edge philosophy, there’s way more sex, drugs, and raging violence in the Cro-Mags’ history than vegetarian feasts and airport dancing. Most recently, former Cro Mags bassist Harley Flanagan showed up at the band’s CBGB reunion show with a hunting knife and went on a stabbing rampage backstage. Surely, that can’t be in the Krishna manual?