New York City had been, arguably, the birthplace of punk rock with the Ramones and the scene at CBGB in the mid to late-1970s, but while the next generation of punks emerged in the hardcore scenes in places like Washington DC and Los Angeles in the early 80’s, NYC was initially quiet. A few bands like The Mad and The Stimulators hinted at a new direction. The Stimulators featured Harley Flanagan on drums and attracted some of what would become the NYHC scene to their shows. The Stimulators and the Mad also made friends with Washington, DC’s Bad Brains, and gave the latter places to stay in town.

New York City would come to play a central role in the development of hardcore. An important scene finally emerged in 1981 with the emigration of the Bad Brains. Roger Miretof Agnostic Front asserts that “We started using the term ‘hardcore’ because we wanted to separate ourselves from the druggy or artsy punk scene that was happening in New York at the time … We were rougher kids living in the streets. It had a rougher edge”.The early scene was documented on the 1982 New York Thrash compilation.

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