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 !
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.
“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…”
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.
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.
Holy shit, has it really been 20 years since Gillian McCain and I published Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk? Seems like just yesterday we were doing interviews around the clock, getting nearly three hundred folks to tell us the most delicious stories we’d ever heard, and writing and editing those stories into one, tight, entertaining, and chronologically-correct narrative. Please Kill Me has become a classic read. It’s one of the few things I’ve done that doesn’t make me shudder with embarrassment whenever I pick it up. Gillian McCain is also very proud of the book, as she should be, since it was an extreme team effort.
But people keep asking me what we left out of the book. There isn’t much, with the exception of a back-story about Patti Smith that I think you would enjoy. It’s a tale of love, betrayal, and—believe it or not—a muddy puddle of redemption.
Story and drawings by Legs McNeil.
Originally published in the Nov 78 issue of Hit Parader
“Ah, summer in New York,” I sighed, swatting giant flies that were dive bombing my head as I sat sipping my first beer of the day at Manny’s pool hall. It was a scorcher of a day, temperatures rising to about 102 and it was so humid you had to cut the air with a chain saw in order to get a hunk to breathe. It was so hot, Manny, owner and proprietor of the dive pool hall across from my private detective office, a big black Jamaican, had a block of ice perched on his fat stomach. He grunted. It was an explanatory grunt. He explained that he keeps the ice on his stomach to keep the case or so of beer he’d already consumed this morning cold in his stomach while he was waiting to digest it.
I opened another beer thinking what a primitive genius Manny was, when just then a short male, Caucasian, about 30 or 35, bursts into the pool hall exposing piercing sunlight into the dimly lit bar. The intruder sort of resembled a rat and talked just as fast. “Where’s Leg’s McNeil? Is he in here, huh? Come on, I don’t got all day, what uh?” the mystery man shot out with a cockney accent. I tried to answer but he wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise.