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Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk
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Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk

4.15  ·  Rating Details  ·  19,137 Ratings  ·  800 Reviews
A Time Out and Daily News Top Ten Book of the Year upon its initial release, 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. Fro ...more
Paperback, 488 pages
Published April 13th 2006 by Grove Press (first published 1996)
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Please Kill Me by Legs McNeilChronicles, Vol. 1 by Bob DylanLove Is a Mix Tape by Rob SheffieldOur Band Could Be Your Life by Michael AzerradJust Kids by Patti Smith
Best Non Fiction About Music
1st out of 886 books — 801 voters
No One Here Gets Out Alive by Danny SugermanThe Dirt by Tommy LeeThe Heroin Diaries by Nikki SixxScar Tissue by Anthony KiedisThe Long Hard Road Out of Hell by Marilyn Manson
Best Books on Rock and Roll
8th out of 533 books — 920 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mike DaRonco
Sep 02, 2007 Mike DaRonco rated it it was amazing
Man, Lou Reed is such a dick.
Jessica
Sep 29, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: little punks
I read most of this one night while working the graveyard shift at a very institutional group home in the real methy part of SE Portland. I was the only person awake and not severely mentally-ill in the whole building, except for the parole guys, who I was pretty sure were faking it, or at least greatly exaggerating. There were these big sliding glass doors where of course the methhead psychos lurking in the dark could watch me mopping, all lit up, but I couldn't see out, and most nights I'd be ...more
Noel
Jan 11, 2008 Noel rated it it was amazing
I absolutely inhaled this. Legs' view is that punk was a strictly American phenomenon with its roots in The Doors, The Velvet Underground, The MC5, & The Stooges, and that the British got it completely wrong and basically killed the movement. And he presents that argument well.

Pretty much everyone in the book appears to be exactly what I already thought:
* Jim Morrison was often drunk and frequently terrible live, and wrote really bad high school-grade poetry.
* David Bowie was a rather uptigh
...more
matt
Dec 31, 2012 matt rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people taking tallys on the amount of STD's the MC5 acrewed
As an avid reader (and subsequent loather) of "punk rock" history, I was excited to get into this. And although I didn't get exactly what I was looking for, it's certainly worth a read for those who can stomach it.

I can't claim to not like oral histories having only previously read the "People's Oral History" by Zinn which is a blood orange compared to Wayne Kramers' red delicious. That being said, I found this book far too gossipy and "sceney" making me think that cliques in music existed long
...more
Laura
Nov 30, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Jessica Gutteridge
If you love gossipy oral histories, this is the book for you. It's probably better if you're familiar with the music, but that's not a prerequisite. And it's often hysterically funny, depending on who's being interviewed -- Richard Lloyd and Richard Hell both made me laugh out loud a number of times.

One of the best parts: several people are talking about how Jim Morrison was an 18-carat prick, and Ray Manzarek comes along saying, "Jim was a shaman." I'll let Danny Fields have the last word on Mr
...more
Cynthia
Sep 08, 2009 Cynthia rated it liked it
Punk rockers would make terrible dinner party guests. They will break your good china and roll around in the shards. They will defacate on the dessert. They will shoot up in your bathroom. They will hit on your grandmother. They also should make for interesting reading and, for the most part, the book delivered. I learned:
*Nico drank good wine.
*Phil Spector drank bad wine.
*Nancy Spungen was advised to go to England to clean up and kick her serious drug habit. That's where she met Sid Vicious.
*Ev
...more
Thomas
Dec 26, 2008 Thomas rated it it was amazing
when i was a kid and i would whine about not getting new shoes or some stupid shit my mom would sing that old Rolling Stones song, "You can't always get what you want" only she wouldn't sing it she would talk it like it was some ancient wisdom from the lips of Plato inserting pauses to let the complicated cadence of his words sink in, "but if you try some time...you just might find... you get what you need." It always pissed me off and made me embarrassed that my mom thought she was being cool q ...more
Meredith
May 15, 2007 Meredith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
i loved this book. i picked it up on a whim, thinking "hm, i don't really know enough about punk," and i couldn't put it down. (which became amusing: what's LESS punk than opting out of a crazy fun party on a friday night to stay in and read a book about punk?)

the book is compiled entirely of excerpts from interviews with all the people who were involved in the New York punk scene. Leggs McNeil, the author, was one of the founders of Punk! magazine, and was actually the person who came up with t
...more
Erika
Jun 26, 2015 Erika rated it liked it
Things I learned from this book...

-Everyone involved in the early American punk scene was one big incestuous relationship. Everyone had sex with everyone else at one point or another. Male, female, transsexuals, johns, etc.
-Everyone was on drugs. How did punk even get started? I mean really, it amazes me that punk even remotely got off it's feet, everyone was so messed up.
-Patti Smith still kind of freaks me out, but you have to respect her determination.
-Lou Reed is a douchebag.
-Even comple
...more
Troy
Mar 02, 2015 Troy rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, read-in-2015
After the horrendous disappointment that was American Hardcore, I decided to pick up this book, an old favorite, to see if my younger self was delusional. Maybe this book, which I loved so much, was a steaming pile of dog shit?

So I picked it up, trepidatious, and started randomly. And I was hooked. After careening through many chapters and completely losing myself in the crazy panoply of deranged and contradictory voices, I stopped reading and started from the beginning. And read the book straig
...more
Nate
Sep 12, 2015 Nate rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, owned, music
One of the most purely entertaining books I've ever read. I can't count how many times I've read this book, whether it's cover to cover or just skimming through for particularly hilarious/bizarre/noteworthy parts. I love all of the 70s New York bands and artists that get covered in this book, so this definitely fulfills the role of the historical retrospective and sated all of the curiosity I had about the era. The other awesome facet of this book is the pure lurid and gross realism of the stori ...more
Erik
Mar 08, 2010 Erik rated it it was amazing
At times I can't help but think that Legs McNeil gives himself a little too much credit in terms of defining what came to be known as "punk" or "punk rock." However, one thing you could never take away from Legs is this amazing book. Out of all the same old rehashed books on the history of rock music, "Please Kill Me" is not only refreshing, but it may be the definitive source on the underground rock and roll culture from the '60s onward. It was wise for the stories to be told in an oral history ...more
Larissa
Dec 28, 2013 Larissa rated it liked it
This book is chocked full of fantastic anecdotes--the types of stories that make you proud to have such crazed, self-destructive icons, and also really comforted that you'll probably never be that bad. Some favorites include: the Warhol Superstars insisting that Jim Morrison copped the leather pant look from them and that David Bowie was nothing but a wierd English hippie in a dress before they made him over; Iggy Pop inciting a riot with a bunch of bikers in Detroit while wearing a tutu and a G ...more
Rachel
Jan 19, 2009 Rachel rated it it was amazing
It is an inside look into the New York punk scene during the late seventies. It's foul so don't read it!
courtney
Mar 15, 2007 courtney rated it it was amazing
i learned not to leave a member of the dead boys alone with a guinea pig.
Kevin
May 09, 2013 Kevin rated it it was amazing
As any decent music fan will testify, punk was not an English invention. It started in the suburbs or Detroit and New York in the 60's. Bands like The Velvet Underground, The Stooges and The MC5 fired up a generation that included The New York Dolls and The Ramones. The fact that the movement was named Punk long before the Sex Pistols and the Clash came on the scene should give punk fans a decent history lesson.

Nevertheless, this is an oral history so the history is told through quotes from such
...more
Dr. Detroit
Jan 26, 2015 Dr. Detroit rated it it was amazing
Along with Dave Marsh’s “Before I Get Old,” Ian Hunter’s ”Diary of a Rock N’ Roll Star,” and Tony Sanchez’s “Up and Down With the Rolling Stones,” “Please Kill Me” is right up there on the Mount Rushmore of Rawk Tales from the Naked City but if you come here in search of Malcolm McLaren, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Generation X, or The Stranglers, look away now.

Although, inevitably, there is a bit of overlap with old-school Brit punk, just beginning to take seed across the pond somewhere along this
...more
Nestor Rychtyckyj
This is really the definitive history of punk (at least in the USA) and covers the pre-history (VU, Stoohes, New York Dolls) as well as the birth of the New York scene with the Ramones, Talkking Heads, Blondie etc. The book is a great read - almost everybody that was part of the scene and was around is in the book and the stories they tell are incredibly hilarious and fascinating. If you're interested in the music (as I most certainly am) it's impossible to put this book down. This actually came ...more
Patrick
Jul 01, 2013 Patrick rated it it was amazing
Thought this was exellent. One of the reasons was that although it was an oral history, it was structured so that each bit moved the overall narrative forward. I don't think I've ever read any other oral history that has done as good a job with that. Usually, they will present multiple perspectives of stuff, but I don't think i've ever read one where the oral history is constructed so skillfully to move the story forward.

I thought it was interesting in that it showed the throughline from Jim Mor
...more
Matt
Aug 08, 2007 Matt rated it it was ok
The explicit redundancy of the punk scene is offensive. While some of the stories are interesting and the first hand account of it all is better than most, it's just boring. Listening to how f'd up people get has become tiresome. It isn't awesome anymore.

That said, some of the stories are pretty ok. If you're a disillusioned person looking for something to hang on to look no further. Your rebellious ways are all documented and ... shockingly enough ... they happened more than 30 years ago. It's
...more
Shannon
Dec 29, 2007 Shannon rated it it was amazing
There is an important lesson to be learned from this tome, and that lesson is that no matter how cool your punk-rock idols may be, most of them would make terrible roommates.

Everything here is either a first-hand account from the people who were there or directly quoted from old newspaper and magazine articles. McNeil did the same thing in "The Other Hollywood," and it was a little frustrating in that book, but here, it's like listening to a bunch of your drunk, trouble-making uncles tell you st
...more
Rod
Apr 30, 2016 Rod rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Goodreads defines the five-star rating as "It was amazing." I've given books five-star ratings before, then asked myself, "Was it amazing?", and then had to admit to myself that the answer was "no" and changed my rating accordingly. In the case of Please Kill Me I don't even have to think about it. It was amazing. I've read it three times and I'm sure before long I'll probably make it four. Greatest rock 'n' roll book ever and one of the greatest oral histories ever.
Veleda
Nov 16, 2015 Veleda rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, music
The main message of this book is that just about everyone involved in the origins of punk rock was a total asshole.

As an oral history, Please Kill Me is excellent. It always maintains a coherent, engaging narrative. It could have been a mess and it isn't.

Throughout the book I was torn between wishing I could have been there to see it all, and being, really, really glad I was nowhere near it.

The book both benefits and suffers from Legs McNeil's inside status. On the one hand, he was actually ther
...more
Jime
Aug 13, 2015 Jime rated it liked it
If copies of this book rest on any high school library shelves, principals should strongly consider throwing them into the furnace. If in the interest of free speech this book must be allowed into schools and put before the eyes of our young people, this should be done under the supervision of a real adult – preferably a retired Sergeant-Major of the US Army with zero tolerance for this kind of nonsense. From the first page to the last it is a record of a life-negating aesthetic that corrupts an ...more
Ryan
Nov 06, 2007 Ryan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: if you want to hear it from their mouths.
man, what a crazy book. these people were NUTS!! i love the way it was told, perfect technique. i still cant believe what sleazeballs some of my favorite people are!
Katherine
Jun 10, 2012 Katherine rated it it was amazing
the most important book you'll ever read in high school.
Laura Shannon
Jun 08, 2015 Laura Shannon rated it really liked it
Overall, this is a very enjoyable and engrossing book. Some of it is laugh-out-loud funny and some of it is, of course, incredibly sad and sometimes even repulsive. As a life-long punk fan, this a subject matter that I already knew a lot about going into this read, and I really didn't learn anything new history-wise, but some of the personal details and behind the scenes stuff was either new information for me or it really fleshed out a lot of details that I was sketchy on. I enjoyed that aspect ...more
Bill
Apr 03, 2015 Bill rated it really liked it
I fear that when I read this book I was somewhat burned out on oral histories of punk rock. See, not too long ago I read both the 924 Gilman history as well as the oral history of the SF Bay Area punk scene, both of which are far more germane to my interests, so reading another oral history of what was going on across the country before I was born just wasn't quite as much what I was looking for. Still, having said that, it was a pretty fascinating read nonetheless.

I learned a lot about the birt
...more
Androo
Dec 29, 2014 Androo rated it really liked it
Definitely presenting an unromanticized view of punk rock, Please Kill Me is part American history, part American tragedy. The book covers the range from 1968-1992 and presents a unique sort of "behind-the-scenes" look. While reading, you almost feel like you have to worry about whose side you're on. As other reviews point out, it's a bit gossipy. Some readers may not like that about a history, but I think it's an essential dynamic that helps explain the confused, interrelated chaos that was cir ...more
Ettore Pasquini
Jun 03, 2014 Ettore Pasquini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone into punk rock
Shelves: music
I have to say this is one of the most entertaining books I ever read. The only reason why I didn't give it 5 stars is because sometimes it's hard to understand exactly when each interview was taken. It would've been helpful to put a year timestamp next to each blurb. Actually, I wonder if this was a deliberate choice, because many of the things reported here are just timeless. Still, I often felt the need to know.

Anyway, if you are into punk rock or anything that descended from it, you'll love t
...more
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Hey, how come I can't add any books to my list? 1 17 Jun 04, 2013 06:32PM  
  • We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk
  • England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond
  • Gimme Something Better: The Profound, Progressive, and Occasionally Pointless History of Bay Area Punk from Dead Kennedys to Green Day
  • Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991
  • From the Velvets to the Voidoids: A Pre-Punk History for a Post-Punk World
  • Rip it Up and Start Again
  • Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader
  • Punk Rock: An Oral History
  • Lobotomy: Surviving the Ramones
  • Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs
  • Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century
  • We Owe You Nothing: Punk Planet: The Collected Interviews
  • Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic
  • American Hardcore: A Tribal History
  • Cinderella's Big Score: Women of the Punk and Indie Underground
  • I Need More
  • Punk: The Definitive Record of a Revolution
  • Passion Is a Fashion: The Real Story of the Clash
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Roderick Edward "Legs" McNeil (b. 1956 in Cheshire, Connecticut), is the co-founder and a writer for Punk Magazine. He is also a former senior editor at Spin Magazine, and the founder and editor of Nerve magazine (print only; 1992).

At the age of 18, disgusted with the hippie movement that seemed to be going nowhere, McNeil gathered with two high school friends, John Holmstrom and Ged Dunn, and dec
...more
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“Rock & Roll is so great, people should start dying for it. You don't understand. The music gave you back the beat so you could dream. A whole generation running with a Fender bass...

The people just have to die for the music. People are dying for everything else, so why not the music? Die for it. Isn't it pretty? Wouldn't you die for something pretty?

Perhaps I should die. After all, all the great blues singers did die. But life is getting better now.

I don't want to die. Do I? - Lou Reed (1965-1968)”
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“The old sound was alcoholic. The tradition was finally broken. The music is sex and drugs and happy. And happy is the joke the music understands best. Ultra sonic sounds on records to cause frontal lobotomies. Hey, don't be afraid. You'd better take drugs and learn to love PLASTIC. All diffrent kinds of plastic- pliable, rigid, colored, colorful, nonattached plastic. - Lou Reed (1965-1968)” 7 likes
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