BY LEGS MCNEIL AND GILLIAN MCCAIN VIA VICE
It was while Gillian McCain and I were working on sixty-nine: An Oral History, our new book on the 60s music scene, that we got the idea to create chapters where we hadn’t done any of the interviews ourselves. Rather, the material came from a variety of secondary sources that we edited together, such as interviews from magazines like Rolling Stone and books like Peter Fonda’s Don’t Tell Dad. Not many chapters were created this way—just two or three—and since LSD played a major role in the music scene, we chose for one of our “experimental” chapters in the book to use this bricolage style to detail the first time the Beatles willingly experimented with acid on their own. Some quotes have been edited for length and clarity.
The Beatles took their first acid trip by accident. In the spring of 1965, John Lennon and George Harrison, along with their wives Cynthia Lennon and Patti Boyd, were having dinner over their dentist’s house when they were first “dosed” with LSD.
BY LEGS MCNEIL AND GILLIAN MCCAIN VIA VICE
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!
Now most of these sanctuaries have been wiped out by yuppies and gentrification, or in downtown NYC’s case, fucking idiot students who’ve made the East Village their own private frat party. Gone are these special places to live out your life exactly as you wanted to, so we thought we’d provide a reminder to all those kids who have told us they were born too late and look fondly to the past—Quaaludes, 45 records, black beauties, 16 millimeter movies, and when “making art” was not just a hobby. You lived it.
BY DARREN PALTROWITZ VIA DOWNTOWN MAGAZINE
Photo by David DuPuy
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. On a commercial level, the book went on to be published in 12 languages and undoubtedly popularized the oral history format. Time Out and the Daily News were among the book’s early champions.
BY STEVE PALOPOLI VIA PLAYBOY
Legs McNeil reads books about punks, but not the kind you’d expect. “I don’t read rock ’n’ roll books,” says the co-author of the best rock ’n’ roll book of the last 20 years, Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk. “What I was really influenced by were these gang books in high school, like Run Baby Run and The Cross and the Switchblade. They always found Jesus in the end; you never read the last two chapters. You just wanted to read about the gang stuff.”
McNeil also writes books about punks. Please Kill Me is his most famous; in it, he and co-author Gillian McCain let the most important figures in punk rock—from Iggy Pop to the Ramones to Malcolm McLaren to Patti Smith—tell the definitive history of the music in their own words. Please Kill Me’s success set off a landslide of imitators, but as the 20th anniversary edition of the book is released this month, no one has been able to replicate its deft balancing act between journalistic integrity and mosh-pit attitude.
BY GILLIAN MCCAIN & LEGS MCNEIL
Billy Name was a magical guy who had a profound affect on Andy Warhol, and therefore, the entire culture. Billy was the one who decorated Warhol’s original Factory in silver. Billy was a fantastic photographer who captured those beautiful 60s moments seen on a US Post Office commemorative stamp of Andy Warhol, as well as the first two Velvet Underground album covers.
Billy was many things to many people, but everyone considered him a friend.
Billy was so much fun that when Gillian McCain and I went to interview him in Poughkeepsie, New York in the mid 1990s, we had to go to Friendly’s to have an ice cream–eating contest. Billy and Gillian both gobbled down a “Reese’s Peanut Butter & Cookie Dough Hot Fudge Sundae,” of which the results of the contest are still being tallied.
By Legs McNeil
(Unedited VICE column)
“Really Arturo, ABBA?” I shake my head in disbelief, as I enter the
loft where the Swedish rock band is blaring from the record player next to the table that holds the entire Ramones silk screen operation—one long counter equipped with a wooden silk screen, cans of white acrylic paint, and stacks of black T-shirts. Arturo is busy making another pass with the squeegee over the latest model of the new Ramones logo, the one with the names of Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, and Tommy encircling an American Eagle that’s clutching a baseball bat in one talon and an apple tree branch in the other. It will become their most famous design ever.
BY CAROLYN KELLOGG VIA L.A. TIMES
RICK LOOMIS/LA TIMES
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.
Not even McNeil, Punk Magazine’s “resident punk” from its founding in 1976 through its 1979 end, who couldn’t bring himself to write a memoir. “I thought, how boring,” he says. “My story?” It took the help of McCain, a friend, fellow lover of oral histories and patient co-conspirator, to make the project come together.
1. Over The Edge (1979) — Matt Dillon’s first movie about kids in some suburban California town that rebel against the cops is fantastic, though it didn’t really get much attention when it came out.
BY NAOMI FRY VIA PARIS REVIEW
Painting by Lucien Rudaux, ca. 1920–30.
In Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s oral history of punk, Please Kill Me, the ’70s LA groupie Sable Starr recounts the excitement she felt the first time she slept with David Bowie:
Upstairs at the Rainbow they have just like one table. Me and David were sitting there, with a couple of other people. And to have all your friends look up and see you—that was cool. That was really cool … Back in the hotel we were sitting around. I had to go to the bathroom, and David came in and he had a cigarette in his hand and a glass of wine. And he started kissing me—and I couldn’t believe it was happening to me, because there had been Roxy Music and J. Geils, but David Bowie was the first heavy. So we went to the bedroom and fucked for hours, and he was great … I became very famous and popular after that because it was established that I was cool. I had been accepted by a real rock star.
BY ELYSSA GOODMAN VIA NOISEY
Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil at the Ace Hotel. Photos by the author.
“And whenever I tried to put on the records I liked, everybody thought I was so adolescent. You know, immature and freaky. But I was thinking, ‘Why?’ Just because I like good music? Just because I’m trying to turn you on to good rock and roll? I’m trying to get through to you and you think I’m flaky? Well, I think you’re bourgeois, and I don’t like you. Bye.”
—Bebe Buell, Please Kill Me
The first time I met Legs McNeil, earlier this year, a cigarette was hanging from his mouth as he scrawled with a slim pink highlighter the words “I’m God!” into my well-worn copy of his book, Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk.
To be fair, I prompted the inscription. He did a reading at a gallery in the East Village and was standing outside afterward having a smoke, informally signing some books. “Your book is the closest thing I’ve ever had to a bible,” I said when I walked up to him, shaking his hand. “Thank you.” He laughed and flicked ash onto the sidewalk. Easing his cigarette into his mouth, he took my withered and beloved book into his hands, and flipped open to the title page, pink pen poised at the ready. “Well, if this is your bible,” he said, “then I must be God!”