America used to have sanctuaries across the country where fuck-ups, weirdos and other "marginalized" people could hide out and live without much contact with "straight" America. Places like downtown New York City in the East and West Village, Haight Ashbury in San Francisco, and, of course, Provincetown, that great artistic outpost at the very tip of Cape Cod. All these locations provided affordable living, while tolerating bizarre lifestyles. Hallelujah!
As authors of Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History Of Punk, Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil influenced a lot of people on several levels. Now regarded as the best-selling book on punk rock of all time, Please Kill Me first and foremost described what the heyday of the New York City punk scene was like as according to people that were around it. It cleared up myths about key players in the scene, and also helped readers pick up on some of the era’s underappreciated characters.
They came not to bury punk but to praise it. 20 years ago, Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain published “Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk” with Grove Press. The format was ingenious — no single person could lay claim to know the whole of the sprawling, anarchically creative, drug-riddled scene.
When Gillian McCain was in high school she took an aptitude quiz that told her she should consider a career in "writing with a sociological bent, especially about fringe groups." A decade or so later, she teamed up with writer and editor Legs McNeil for their seminal history of New York's '70s punk scene, Please Kill Me. Score one for the quiz, right?
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. From its origins in the twilight years of Andy Warhol’s New York reign to its last gasps as eighties corporate rock, the phenomenon known as punk is scrutinized, eulogized, and idealized by the people who were there and who made it happen.
Please Kill Me is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with a re-release and a series of readings (well, more like parties with music, alcohol, and Michael Des Barres hosting). BUST spent some time with Legs and Gillian and talked about the book, the evolution of punk, and how the show Vinyl got it all wrong.
As seminal punk saga 'Please Kill Me' gets a 20th anniversary rerelease, we speak to co-author Gillian McCain about why the antiestablishment genre deserves to be preserved just like any other piece of history.