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!”
BY HOLLY STEPHEY VIA RED VELVET RADIO’S INDY CAFE
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. Legs McNeil was the Resident Punk at Punk Magazine, a senior editor at Spin, and currently contributes to Vice. His other works include The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Film Industry as well as Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose, which he co-edited with Gillian McCain. He currently lives in Schwenksville, PA. Gillian McCain is the co-editor (with Legs McNeil) of Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose, and is the author of two books of poetry, Tilt and Religion. A collaborative work called Descent of the Dolls will be published this year by Blazevox Books. Make sure to go to http://pleasekillme.com and subscribe to the newsletter ! Daily news and much More !
BY KATHERINE BARNER VIA BUST
Punk pioneer Legs McNeil, and author and poet Gillian McCain are the masterminds behind Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History Of Punk, a book that is largely regarded as the first and most comprehensive written piece on punk history. 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.
BY LEGS MCNEIL
Leg’s McNeil’s column at VICE.COM
“Wanna go for a drink?” I asked Norman Mailer, standing on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 14th Street, when I realized I’d fucked up. I’d been out all night at the Mudd Club with a skinny Jewish girl with large breasts, drinking, doing coke, and getting my dick sucked, when I suddenly remembered that I had a girlfriend…
“No,” Norman huffed, pulling up the collar of his ski jacket. “Not now…”
BY MICHAEL MACHOSKY VIA TRIBLIVE
Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
What: Book-signing by the authors of “Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk” Where: Ace Hotel, 120 Whitfield St., East Liberty Admission: Free When: 8 p.m. July 18 Details: 412-361-3300 or acehotel.com/pittsburgh
Punk rock didn’t even have a name when Legs McNeil started writing about it in 1975. In fact, he probably gave it the name. Punk magazine was his era-defining publication of comics and music that gave the nascent movement some of its first coverage. “Yeah, when I named the magazine that, it was pretty easy,” McNeil recalls. “It’s what people called me my whole life. Also, it was a real popular term on TV. You had to call the bad guys something, and you couldn’t swear on TV at the time.” Telly Savalas, on “Kojak” was fond of yelling “You lousy punk!” at various miscreants.
BY MICHAEL FRIEDMAN PH. D. VIA PSYCHOLOGY TODAY
Gillian McCain told me, “If I wasn’t an author, I think I’d want to be a therapist.” Source: Annie Watt Should she choose to switch fields, McCain is off to a good start. Because with the book “Please Kill Me,” an oral history of the development of punk rock music, McCain and co-author Legs McNeil have delivered to their readers one of the most important ingredients of effective therapy — unconditional positive regard.
Published in 1996, at a time when much of the world had long overlooked or forgotten punk rock music and culture, “Please Kill Me” tells the story of New York City’s underground punk rock scene of the late ’60s and early ’70s. True to the punk rock tradition of confronting the mainstream, McCain and McNeil presented punk rock artists as real people as opposed to clichéd and easily dismissed stereotypes. And they also sent a message to every marginalized person in the world; namely, they matter.
And that is why for many of us, “Please Kill Me” is just as vital and important today as it was when it came out 20 years ago.