The way that I met Greg Ginn was through his younger sister, Erica, while I was working at this record store, Rubicon, on Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach in 1975. The gentleman who owned the record store, Michael, had a mad crush on Erica. So Greg Ginn would walk down to the record store with his sister—and Erica and Michael would go off to do whatever young lovers do—hold hands and watch the seagulls fly or the surfers on Hermosa Beach. You know, they’d get lunch or beer or cigarettes, and I would be left to run the record store while Greg Ginn hung around, waiting for his sister.
“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…”
I never paid much attention to GG Allin when he was alive because I thought he was a talentless bottom feeder who’d do anything to get attention. Consequently, I never bothered with his music, and stayed away from reading about him. I mean, compared to my pals in the Ramones, what could Allin possibly have to offer? GG seemed like a spectacular mess who was just taking up space until he killed himself. I didn’t really need any more garbage heaps in my life. But after he died, my best friend Tom Hearn told me he’d hung out with GG a few times in New Haven, Connecticut, and that he was a nice guy.
“Really?” I asked Tom, intrigued that I let my preconceived notions keep me from checking Allin out. I love it when my prejudiced ideas get shattered and I have to take another look.
Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain hope to get the juicy inside stories of ’60s SoCal rock, as they did for its putative anthithesis, punk.
Wavy Gravy, who coined the axiom “If you remember the ’60s, you weren’t there,” has a lot of explaining to do. Another refutation of that old saying will be coming in the form of a new oral history about the late-’60s Southern California rock scene by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain. According to this piece in LA Weekly, the authors, most famous for 1996’s Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk (Grove Atlantic’s publishing a 20th anniversary edition next year), are in the process of interviewing several major players from that music-biz Mecca for a book they’re titling 69: An Oral History. (I’ll pause while you crack some jokes about how much this will suck or how you find the premise hard to swallow.) McNeil and McCain hope to have the volume finished in two years. “The book’s a lot about the counter culture not just rock & roll,” McCain told LA Weekly’s Lina Lecaro. “LSD, Black Panthers, Watts Riots… In this music scene, there’s like six degrees of separation to everything. So we’re using that as a bounce off.”
The oral history book — which gathers numerous voices to tell one story, usually of a pivotal time in pop culture — remains one of the most compelling forms of non-fiction. It’s particularly illuminating when it comes to music. Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain is widely regarded as one of the most revealing and well-done examples of the genre. It’s been published in 15 languages since its release in 1996 and continues to inspire rebellious music lovers to this day.
The 4th Annual L.A. ZINE FEST
is happening this Sunday February 15
in Los Angeles
KEYNOTE SPEAKERS An interview with Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
(co-authors of Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk) facilitated by DM Collins and Daiana Feuer of L.A. Record.
FREE TO ATTEND L.A. Zine Fest celebrates self- publishing and
D.I.Y culture in the community. This year’s Fest will feature OVER 180 ZINESTERS writers, illustrators, comix creators, photographers and artists/makers selling, trading and sharing their work, all in one place, for one amazing day!
“The more we fear the future, the more we recycle the past.” Legs McNeil
Growing up, my knowledge of punk rock music was limited to dancing to the Ramones’ “I Want To Be Sedated” at United Synagogue Youth events and watching videos of the Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” on MTV. Later in life, as I became more familiar with punk I was struck not only by the creativity of the confrontational music of bands like the Velvet Underground and Patti Smith, but also the do-it-yourself innovation of bands like the Ramones and hardcore punk bands like Minor Threat. My discovery of punk coincided with a societal fascination with creativity; people were touting creativity and innovation as the key factor in everything from a thriving economy to good health and well-being. It was for this reason that I hoped to learn the secrets of punk rock innovation by interviewing a true “punk” original, Legs McNeil.