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New York Punk Rockers Take Dispute to Court

Feuding bandmates from New York City’s 1980s hardcore punk scene have taken a long-running trademark beef from the streets to federal court. 

MANHATTAN (CN) — Feuding bandmates from New York City’s 1980s hardcore punk scene have taken a long-running trademark beef from the streets to federal court.

Founding bassist Harley Flanagan sued his former Cro-Mags bandmates, singer John “Bloodclot” McGowan and drummer Maxwell “Mackie” Jayson, seeking to bar them from using the Cro-Mags name for performances, touring and merchandise.

Jayson and McGowan, who goes by the handle John Joseph, tour regularly as the Cro-Mags, mostly performing songs from the Cro-Mags’ 1986 debut album, “The Age of Quarrel.”

According to the complaint, the “Faux Mags” as Flanagan calls them, are selling unauthorized bootleg Cro-Mags merchandise and profiting from his likeness in promotional materials.

Flanagan is represented by Glenn Spiegel from Becker & Poliakoff; Flanagan’s wife Laurie Flanagan is an attorney there.

The 13-page complaint seeks treble damages for the deliberate and fraudulent use of Flanagan’s Cro-Mags trademarks.

Flanagan, 51, is a black-belt instructor of Brazilian jujitsu at Renzo Gracie Academy.

According to the complaint, Flanagan came up with the name Cro-Mags in 1981 and played all the instruments on a Cro-Mags demo recording in or around 1982 or 1983; John Joseph did not join until 1984.

“There has never been any question that the Cro-Mags was, is, and has always been Flanagan’s invention,” the complaint states.

Internal tensions led to Joseph becoming an on-and-off frontman during 1990s, with Flanagan the only constant member during that period, taking over the frontman and vocalist role.

Flanagan and Joseph briefly made peace and performed together again from 2001 to 2002, after which Flanagan stepped away upon the birth of his son.

According to the complaint, Flanagan renewed the Cro-Mags merchandise trademark, which he registered in 2009 and had lapsed for one month.

Flanagan performs today as “Harley Cro-Mags Flanagan,” playing songs from the band’s 30+ year repertoire.

The dispute drew blood in 2012, when Flanagan was arrested and charged with stabbing two people backstage during a Cro-Mags show at Webster Hall in the East Village. He was charged in Manhattan Supreme Court with criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree and two counts of assault in the second degree.

At least one of the assault victims was a member of John Joseph’s lineup of the Cro-Mags at the time.

In response to the 2012 stabbing, John Joseph told the defunct New York Natives website: “Look if you got beef, a show with women and children on stage ain't the place to bring it.”

Invoking the violent tone of the 1986 “Age of Quarrel” record and one of the songs in particular (“Street Justice”) John Joseph added: “We have a way of dealing with matters — it's called street justice. You pull a knife, I pull a pipe and smash your face in. And I did have a pipe on stage, by the way, knowing this dude can't really fight and always has a weapon, as I said.”

John Joseph, an Iron Man triathlete and author, responded to the lawsuit in a bitter Instagram over the weekend, saying: “I am NOT the ex Cro-Mag member who has snitched on anyone to the Government for being AWOL, or the cops, putting someone in prison for a long period of time just because i hate the crew he is with … I have never had an order of protection. I roll with "Street Justice". “

John Joseph staked his claim to the album that his current band performs, adding: “Also as lyricist for over 80% of the words on Age of Quarrel that entitles me to 50% of all publishing — I have never tried to recover a cent from that but to say I never wrote anything for the Cro-Mags is a blatant lie.”

John Joseph’s publicist did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres.


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