“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.
Legs McNeil was the co-founder of Punk magazine, the first publication to document the punk rock scene in the 1970s. He was also the senior editor for Spin magazine and, later, founder of Nerve magazine. But he is perhaps most well known for being co-author (with Gillian McCain) of the book Please Kill Me, widely considered the definitive history of punk rock. Published in 1996, Please Kill Me documented the events that made up the punk rock era, and helped create a legacy for bands that were in some cases largely unknown to the world. As McNeil puts it, “I’m not saying that we were responsible for breaking these bands but we helped mythologize them. When we did Please Kill Me no one had heard of the Dead Boys before. No one had ever heard of Johnny Thunders.”