Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
Penguin, 0140266909, 1996, 1997
Ultimately, I liked the book, but I was also disapointed; it didn’t quite deliver what it set out to.
The testimonies are broken up into small sections and run in a roughly chronological order and are interesting because it’s the memories and lives of people who were there. The people who lived in the scene. Very personal, very gritty and occasionally contradictory to each other – I liked that. It’s got everyone from Lou Reed, to Iggy Pop, to Richard Hell big names on the music scene, as well from photographers, whores, groupies – the works. Uh, oh yeah, only if they’re in America.
What it is lacking is anything covering the UK punk scene. The Damned were mentioned in one passing comment. I don’t even recall if the Clash – one of the biggest and most influential bands to come out of it – I don’t even think they were mentioned at all. Souxie Souix was graced with a passing negative comment. There is a mention of the Sex Pistols, but mainly in regards to there failed tour of America and and the comments are predominantly derogatory. Of course a few pages were dedicated to the death of Nancy and Sid Vicious and surrounding scandal. Very little on the UK punk scene and invention of the image the word retains today.
I think the reason for the lack of references to UK punk stems from a personal prejudice that Legs McNeil mentions at some point in the book – how he and the other founders of the Punk magazine took the word and applied it to the scene. Perhaps he feels as though he invented it, when really all he did was apply a label that the scene embraced.
Whatever, it’s worth the read if you’re interested in the American punk scene – hearing it from the people who were there, your idols, their idols, their sex lives, their drug problems and adventures. Read it.