Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk

Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk

A Time Out and Daily News Top Ten Book of the Year upon its initial release, Please Kill Me is the first oral history of the most nihilist of all pop movements. Iggy Pop, Danny Fields, Dee Dee and Joey Ramone, Malcom McLaren, Jim Carroll, and scores of other famous and infamous punk figures lend their voices to this definitive account of that outrageous, explosive era. Fro...

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Title:Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk
Author:Legs McNeil
Rating:
ISBN:0802142648
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Paperback
Number of Pages:488 pages

Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk Reviews

  • Meredith
    May 15, 2007

    i loved this book. i picked it up on a whim, thinking "hm, i don't really know enough about punk," and i couldn't put it down. (which became amusing: what's LESS punk than opting out of a crazy fun party on a friday night to stay in and read a book about punk?)

    the book is compiled entirely of excerpts from interviews with all the people who were involved in the New York punk scene. Leggs McNeil, the author, was one of the founders of

    magazine, and was actually the person who came up with t

    i loved this book. i picked it up on a whim, thinking "hm, i don't really know enough about punk," and i couldn't put it down. (which became amusing: what's LESS punk than opting out of a crazy fun party on a friday night to stay in and read a book about punk?)

    the book is compiled entirely of excerpts from interviews with all the people who were involved in the New York punk scene. Leggs McNeil, the author, was one of the founders of

    magazine, and was actually the person who came up with the term 'punk' to begin with. the structure of the book is the best part; there isn't a single word added in by the authors. they took interviews over the years and then from them pieced together a chronological account of the evolution of punk from its origins in the mid-60s in the andy warhol scene with the velvet underground, up through the heyday of new york punk at CBGBs, and finally through to its meltdown as the music went corporate and everyone started dropping left and right from herion addictions (on a side note, if you want a reason not to do smack, read this book and you'll be convinced).

    it's like one long chat over coffee the night after an amazing show: just stories from everyone involved. gossip, sex, drugs, music, love, prostitution (dee dee ramone hustled guys! a fun fact for your next dinner party), fights, record deals... the whole 9. the interviewees include iggy pop, angie bowie, william burroughs, all the ramones, danny fields, bebe buell, patti smith, richard hell, and everyone you never knew was involved. you'll end up knowing all kinds of crap about punk, but mostly having loved the book.

  • matt
    Jul 22, 2007

    As an avid reader (and subsequent loather) of "punk rock" history, I was excited to get into this. And although I didn't get exactly what I was looking for, it's certainly worth a read for those who can stomach it.

    I can't claim to not like oral histories having only previously read the "People's Oral History" by Zinn which is a blood orange compared to Wayne Kramers' red delicious. That being said, I found this book far too gossipy and "sceney" making me think that cliques in music existed long

    As an avid reader (and subsequent loather) of "punk rock" history, I was excited to get into this. And although I didn't get exactly what I was looking for, it's certainly worth a read for those who can stomach it.

    I can't claim to not like oral histories having only previously read the "People's Oral History" by Zinn which is a blood orange compared to Wayne Kramers' red delicious. That being said, I found this book far too gossipy and "sceney" making me think that cliques in music existed long before the internet came and quantified it for the world to see/read. You fucked Johnny thunders? Great! He vomited on your couch!!? NO WAY!

    For those who want the shortened version, I'll sum it up. Patti Smith was a delusional bitch. Lou Reed had tons of gay sex and was mean to everyone. Dee Dee Ramone was a prostitute and hated the rest of his band. The Dead Boys and The Heartbreakers did a lot of drugs. Iggy Pop manipulated people for smack. The New York Dolls were popular for a year, tops. MC5 were sexist and full of shit. A few people OD'ed, and the Sex Pistols came along and ruined the fun for everyone.

    Sound good? Kind of. But a few major gripes here. This book, first and foremost should be about the history of NEW YORK punk. Or "people Legs McNeil was friends with." It is embarrassing that the Talking Heads were completely excluded from this because the writers thought that they were "yuppies." How you can talk about Blondie, Television and Patti Smith and completely leave out David Byrne (for better or worse) to me seems ludicrous. It's the same with the British movement. Malcolm Mclaran is of course given his due here but the raging prejudice put against the UK bands ("The Damned were posers! The Clash didn't know what they were talking about!") seems more like territorial squabbling than actual criticism.

    Perhaps this book serves as an interesting antidote to the idea that it was "better in the old days" although I'm sure that the author (and the few that survived) probably believes otherwise. It certainly doesn't seem that way. Too many knife fights and junkies shooting up in the bathroom, thanks. Yes, Iggy might have been electrifying rolling around in glass but nihilism, as it turns out, isn't all its cracked up to be.

  • Mike DaRonco
    Sep 02, 2007

    Man, Lou Reed is such a dick.

  • Jessica
    Sep 29, 2007

    I read most of this one night while working the graveyard shift at a very institutional group home in the real methy part of SE Portland. I was the only person awake and not severely mentally-ill in the whole building, except for the parole guys, who I was pretty sure were faking it, or at least greatly exaggerating. There were these big sliding glass doors where of course the methhead psychos lurking in the dark could watch me mopping, all lit up, but I couldn't see out, and most nights I'd be

    I read most of this one night while working the graveyard shift at a very institutional group home in the real methy part of SE Portland. I was the only person awake and not severely mentally-ill in the whole building, except for the parole guys, who I was pretty sure were faking it, or at least greatly exaggerating. There were these big sliding glass doors where of course the methhead psychos lurking in the dark could watch me mopping, all lit up, but I couldn't see out, and most nights I'd be really on edge and ready to run for the parole guys' room if any of the scary noises I heard outside turned out to be some twisted someone smashing through the glass and grabbing my spleen as an ingredient to use in his basement meth lab.

    Anyway, that one night I didn't have time to worry about getting chopped into pieces by violent, spun-out hicks, because I was too busy drinking Vanilla Coke after Vanilla Coke in the office, not mopping the place and absorbing (naturally) this very absorbing oral history of the seminal New York City punk scene. The best part by far -- and I wish I had my copy still, so I could quote directly -- was this desciption of Richard Hell, who'd rip all those holes in his shirt and then go around all moony-eyed and moaning, "Oh, poor me, my life is so hard, here I am, with all these holes in my shirt!" You'll have to find the book to get the actual verbatim, which is better phrased, but if you don't have time for the whole book (though you should make the time), that's the passage that brilliantly sums up the gist of that whole glorious punk rock movement.

    From an educational standpoint, this book really made me appreciate the ladies who intervened in the years after the era it described. Not that things ever got great, but reading this paints a pretty horrifying picture, from a female perspective. With the exception of Patti Smith, and to some extent Debbie Harry, the early punk scene was pretty damn limiting if you were a woman. Basically if you were amazingly gorgeous you were Bebe Buell, and you were considered a "muse," which meant you'd pick some hot rock star and be a highly coveted, specialized, and respected version of what most of the other girls around seem to have been considered during this time, which was interchangeable fuck-hole groupies. It might've been worth it to see these bands live in their heyday at CBGB's, but I don't think being a lady hanging around that scene sounds very fulfilling. This book makes for an interesting contrast with his newer porn oral history, from a feminist perspective. I mean, I'd rather be Marilyn Chambers any day of the week than most of these punk chicks. This is not to say it was bad for all of them, but that's one of the impressions this book left me with.

    In any case, it's a great read, and anyone who cares at all about classic punk has doubtless read it already, or should have.

  • Noel
    Jan 11, 2008

    I absolutely inhaled this. Legs' view is that punk was a strictly American phenomenon with its roots in The Doors, The Velvet Underground, The MC5, & The Stooges, and that the British got it completely wrong and basically killed the movement. And he presents that argument well.

    Pretty much everyone in the book appears to be exactly what I already thought:

    * Jim Morrison was often drunk and frequently terrible live, and wrote really bad high school-grade poetry.

    * David Bowie was a rather uptigh

    I absolutely inhaled this. Legs' view is that punk was a strictly American phenomenon with its roots in The Doors, The Velvet Underground, The MC5, & The Stooges, and that the British got it completely wrong and basically killed the movement. And he presents that argument well.

    Pretty much everyone in the book appears to be exactly what I already thought:

    * Jim Morrison was often drunk and frequently terrible live, and wrote really bad high school-grade poetry.

    * David Bowie was a rather uptight guy until he fell in with the New York crowd.

    * The MC5 were phony revolutionaries, using it as a marketing gimmick.

    * Lou Reed is not, as you will see constant reference to, a scat-munching asshole. No, Lou Reed is a scat-munching douche.

    * Patti Smith was a truly creepy girl with a tenuous grip on reality, who stalked the stars of the underground scene until they invited her in. (OK, I didn't know that before, but FUUUUUUUUck!)

    * Everybody was SO. FUCKED. UP. I can't BELIEVE that more of them did not die...

    * Almost everyone in the NY punk scene turned tricks at one time or another to make ends meet.

    * Musicians are assholes, or so goes the refrain from the label A&R guy that signed a lot of these bands.

    * Of course, so are label execs.

    * Despite being just as fucked up, selfish, and self-absorbed as everyone else in the book Iggy Pop is the only guy that comes out looking good. I'm not even that much of a fan, but it's hard to hate Iggy.

    So, highly recommended, is what I'm getting at here...

  • Laura
    Nov 12, 2008

    If you love gossipy oral histories, this is the book for you. It's probably better if you're familiar with the music, but that's not a prerequisite. And it's often hysterically funny, depending on who's being interviewed -- Richard Lloyd and Richard Hell both made me laugh out loud a number of times.

    One of the best parts: several people are talking about how Jim Morrison was an 18-carat prick, and Ray Manzarek comes along saying, "Jim was a shaman." I'll let Danny Fields have the last word on Mr

    If you love gossipy oral histories, this is the book for you. It's probably better if you're familiar with the music, but that's not a prerequisite. And it's often hysterically funny, depending on who's being interviewed -- Richard Lloyd and Richard Hell both made me laugh out loud a number of times.

    One of the best parts: several people are talking about how Jim Morrison was an 18-carat prick, and Ray Manzarek comes along saying, "Jim was a shaman." I'll let Danny Fields have the last word on Mr. Mojo Risin', as he said it far better than I ever could:

    "Patti Smith was a poet. I think she elevated rock & roll to literature. Bob Dylan elevated it. Morrison's wasn't poetry. It was garbage disguised as teenybopper. It was good rock & roll for thirteen-year-olds. Or eleven-year-olds . . . . There has got to be a reason why women like Nico and Gloria Stavers, the editor of

    Magazine, fell so deeply in love with him, because he was essentially an abusive man to women. But it sure wasn't his poetry. I've got to tell you, it wasn't his poetry. He had a big dick. That was probably it."

  • Thomas
    Dec 26, 2008

    when i was a kid and i would whine about not getting new shoes or some stupid shit my mom would sing that old Rolling Stones song, "You can't always get what you want" only she wouldn't sing it she would talk it like it was some ancient wisdom from the lips of Plato inserting pauses to let the complicated cadence of his words sink in, "but if you try some time...you just might find... you get what you need." It always pissed me off and made me embarrassed that my mom thought she was being cool q

    when i was a kid and i would whine about not getting new shoes or some stupid shit my mom would sing that old Rolling Stones song, "You can't always get what you want" only she wouldn't sing it she would talk it like it was some ancient wisdom from the lips of Plato inserting pauses to let the complicated cadence of his words sink in, "but if you try some time...you just might find... you get what you need." It always pissed me off and made me embarrassed that my mom thought she was being cool quoting some stupid ass song by some guy with a drippy face. Guess what mom...that song was about heroin.

    bad music often good sometimes great noise made by terrible people.

    kick out the jams

  • Cynthia
    Sep 08, 2009

    Punk rockers would make terrible dinner party guests. They will break your good china and roll around in the shards. They will defacate on the dessert. They will shoot up in your bathroom. They will hit on your grandmother. They also should make for interesting reading and, for the most part, the book delivered. I learned:

    *Nico drank good wine.

    *Phil Spector drank bad wine.

    *Nancy Spungen was advised to go to England to clean up and kick her serious drug habit. That's where she met Sid Vicious.

    *Ev

    Punk rockers would make terrible dinner party guests. They will break your good china and roll around in the shards. They will defacate on the dessert. They will shoot up in your bathroom. They will hit on your grandmother. They also should make for interesting reading and, for the most part, the book delivered. I learned:

    *Nico drank good wine.

    *Phil Spector drank bad wine.

    *Nancy Spungen was advised to go to England to clean up and kick her serious drug habit. That's where she met Sid Vicious.

    *Even though Nancy was very disliked, everyone thought it was terrible that the police stopped investigating her murder after Sid died. Many people thought their drug dealer actually did it.

    *The Stooges got the IRS to stop bothering them about back taxes by explaining they were drug addicts and, therefore, bad with money.

    *The Sex Pistols were afraid to meet the Ramones after their show in England because they thought they would beat them up.

    *Debbie Harry thought the record companies gave them lots of drugs, not because they liked them, but to keep them compliant.

    *And, best of all, Iggy Pop, known for his terrible habit and dangerous excess had an ephiphany. He realized he "was the product". He cleaned up and he started saving his money. That's right. One of the most famous punks of all time, saved his life, by replacing nihilism with captalism. Isn't that fantstic?

    Overall, interesting. I was disappointed that this book is billed the history of punk rock and really only covered New York punk and English punk as it pertained to the New York scene. They barely touched on the key differences between the two. (New York being a prodcut of the art scene and England being a product of working class hopelessness.) The LA scene wasn't touched and other East Coast punk bands of great importance, such as Black Flag, didn't get a mention.

  • Erika
    Jan 13, 2015

    Things I learned from this book...

    -Everyone involved in the early American punk scene was one big incestuous relationship. Everyone had sex with everyone else at one point or another. Male, female, transsexuals, johns, etc.

    -Everyone was on drugs. How did punk even get started? I mean really, it amazes me that punk even remotely got off it's feet, everyone was so messed up.

    -Patti Smith still kind of freaks me out, but you have to respect her determination.

    -Lou Reed is a douchebag.

    -Even comple

    Things I learned from this book...

    -Everyone involved in the early American punk scene was one big incestuous relationship. Everyone had sex with everyone else at one point or another. Male, female, transsexuals, johns, etc.

    -Everyone was on drugs. How did punk even get started? I mean really, it amazes me that punk even remotely got off it's feet, everyone was so messed up.

    -Patti Smith still kind of freaks me out, but you have to respect her determination.

    -Lou Reed is a douchebag.

    -Even completely drugged out of his mind, I still love Iggy. He's so perfectly strange.

    -They consider Jim Morrison to be a forerunner of punk because of his stumbling drunk performances seemed to be a fuck you to the buttoned up squares going to the shows to be "cool". I love the Doors and Jim to a fault, but let's get real. Those performances were less fuck you's and more I'm wasted out of my mind and don't know what is going on. But hey, it gave Iggy motivation too do the Stooges so I'll take it.

    -Nancy Spungen went to England to clean herself up. Well that worked out well.

    -to quote William S. Burroughs "I always thought punk was someone who took it up the ass". I find it interesting and a little amusing that this was the term that was used to coin this movement. I respect that they took a derogatory term and flipped it on it's head though. It's very punk of them.

    -No one liked Steven Tyler. Well, that isn't really new, but it needs repeating.

    -Malcolm McLaren is still one of the worst things that happened to punk.

    I'm a little torn on my feelings on this book. It was incredibly interesting, but less an "oral history of punk" and more of an oral history of the absolute sex and drugged fueled insanity that was NY/Detroit punk. How the albums that came out were even remotely decent is shocking, much less as game changing as they were. It was interesting to see the NY scene's take on the origins of punk, obviously they lay claim to the title for themselves rather than the UK scene. I see it as more of feeding off each other, they both used the same nihilistic anarchy and general fuck off feeling put out through simple but heavy guitar riffs. They both brought music away from the heavily synthesized embellishment that came out of the late 60s/early 70s rock and took it back to the basic 50s rock with a twist. It was garage rock with a flair of fuck you. I guess a majority of the hate towards UK punk seems to come at the heels of the fashion statement that came along with them. Like so many other genres, people latched on to a fad to follow and then they lost their way with the music. It doesn't make [some of] those bands any less influential under all of that crap though.

    Anyway.

    I loathed to enjoy most of this book. While the antics of the scene had it's moments of enjoyment, the fact that the same scene played a part in destroying so many lives makes it hard to read about it. They did it to themselves, yes, but that doesn't make it any less sad to see how they ended up. They definitely lived the sex, drugs & rock n roll lifestyle full tilt though and created amazingness in their wake. No matter whether it was the NY or the UK scene who started punk, they created something amazing and in turn influenced so many others to create even more.

    Now I need to find a book on the Cali punk scene to finish my journey of punk off.

  • Rebecca McNutt
    Jul 08, 2016

    This is the most extensive book I've ever read on punk culture, from the fashion to the music. It even briefly mentions similar styles, like goth.