The black-and-white photo on the cover is both menacing and contemplative. To some, the face cradled by folding hands and caressed by shadows looks ready to jump out of the photo and throttle your head to the pavement–Just Because™. To others, the lined face and strong hands show a spiritual strength to match the brawn. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the various sides of John Joseph: thug; criminal; street urchin; punk rocker; Cro-Mag; ...Krsna devotee.
The Evolution of a Cro-Magnon starts with a bang, not a whimper. The reader is immediately sucked into a world where family abuse, drugs, and crime rule. Joseph goes through his family history and introduction to street crime, as well as various foster homes and incarcerations all within the first 50 pages. What follows is 400 more pages of stories that are alternately frightening, enlightening, and unbelievable.
While Cro-Magnon may seem suited only for adherents of punk music and whatever philosophy they may ascribe to it, it is more. Much more. The chapter detailing Joseph's experience with the Valenti family is not only reminiscent of Dave Pelzer's A Child Called "It", but warrants a movie script of its own. This chapter, in and of itself, is terribly hard to digest. Not for the writing, but for the content. It's extremely difficult to not put the book down, as the tale being told is repugnant and worthy of ire and disgust in even the most passive of readers.
Simply put, the emotional and physical abuse endured by Joseph and his brothers is more than enough to fill anybody's nightmare closet. Locked on/in a patio and/or garage? Check. Eating Alpo? Read all about it. Spit-up Oreo sandwiches? The recipe is in there. And just when you think the book is falling into a "woe is me" tome, Joseph also explores his Krsna faith throughout. Reconciling his own earthly desires with Krsna philosophy, his internal struggle is fascinating. He shares just enough dirt on the Cro-Mags and the nascent hardcore scene of the early-to-mid-'80s to make readers continue turning pages– as well as stories of searching for his own spiritual faith to make the hardest person soften and begin to look within.
John Joseph's story is one filled with trash, dirt, poison and, most importantly, inspiration. Fans of his music should seek this book out. Non-fans should find it and pass dog-eared copies along to others to Inspire. Whether you know John Joseph, or notice the book on a shelf, you can't help but be drawn to its candor. Recommended.