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

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  15,098 ratings  ·  680 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 DylanOur Band Could Be Your Life by Michael AzerradLove is a Mix Tape by Rob SheffieldPsychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs
Best Non Fiction About Music
1st out of 763 books — 613 voters
No One Here Gets Out Alive by Danny SugarmanThe 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 432 books — 741 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mike DaRonco
Man, Lou Reed is such a dick.
Jessica
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
matt
Dec 31, 2012 matt rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
Noel
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
Laura
Nov 30, 2008 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars
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 completely talentless Jim Morrison was, and Ray Manzarek comes along saying, "Jim was a shaman." Hahahahahaha what an ass. I'll let Danny F...more
Cynthia
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
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
Nate
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
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
Meredith
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
Rachel
It is an inside look into the New York punk scene during the late seventies. It's foul so don't read it!
Kevin
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
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
Ryan
Nov 06, 2007 Ryan rated it 5 of 5 stars
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!
courtney
i learned not to leave a member of the dead boys alone with a guinea pig.
Hoezodanbooks
This is NOT the complete history of punk rock, not every band is mentioned, classic albums are not discussed in detail, and the book ends (apart from an epilogue) in 1979 with the death of Sid Vicious. So no details about the making of Rocket to Russia, no LA punk scene, The Clash and Talking Heads are hardly mentioned and Blondie comes along more as a social factor, than a musical one.
But perhaps precisely because of this choice, this IS a great book.
The book is constructed around the stories,...more
Jack
This is a history book, but not like the ones you read in high school. There are plenty of names and dates and first hand accounts - primary sources, my professors would say. The authors conducted hundreds of interviews over a number of years and the transcriptions make up the bulk of the text.

It is an oral history of sex, drugs. rock and roll and the Punk generation in New York City.

If you are at all squeamish about sex and drugs - don't read this book. It's chocked full of sex and drugs. It is...more
Tuck
i've read quite a few books on this topic, the best being about 80's and 90's underground music like Rites of Spring, Minor Threat, mission of burma, Big Black etc, azerrad's book is superlative in its history and writing
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53...

and then the more typical punkwriting of bangs et al
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46...
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/91...
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35...
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11...
http://www.goodreads.com/bo...more
Larissa
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
Patrick
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
Nycdreamin
Considered by many to be the authoratative history of the rise of the U.S. Punk music movement of the 1970's, beginning with it's early origins, centering heavily on the New York scene(touching briefly on the U.K. scene as well), this is an exhaustively researched "oral history," as told by those who lived within the punk scene and created the music. It was compiled by Legs McNeil (along with Gillian McCain) who, as co-founder of "Punk Magazine," was there to witness it all as it took place. Ess...more
Matt
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
Rod
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.
Zack
Please catch my review of this excellent book, called by Wm. S. Burroughs "the only book to tell it as it was" right here: http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-83...
John
I enjoyed this book thoroughly. It's great that you can pick it up and start reading from any spot in the book.
Ettore Pasquini
Jun 03, 2014 Ettore Pasquini rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Chriso
I've been on a bit of a music memoir/documentary kick lately and a friend expressed shock that I hadn't read this yet. I had always meant to but somehow never did. First and foremost let me say that reading books that are, among other things, about people doing tons and tons of drugs always stress me out. I often read as a way to unwind at bedtime and I'd put this book down, turn out the lights and realize I was totally on edge and unable to relax. That being said, it's a totally fascinating boo...more
AthenaTheOwl
Make no bones about it, 'Please Kill Me' is sleazy, gossipy fun. A chronological history of the American pre-punk/protopunk years in interview form, there are plenty of fantastic trashy anecdotes to interest even the most casual music fan.

From Dee Dee Ramone to Bebe Buell, the variety of talking heads covers members of Andy Warhols 'Factory', The New York Dolls and The Velvet Underground. With so many contributions from the scenes movers and shakers, the book builds a fascinating and vivid portr...more
Kurt
My hands-down favorite book on Punk. I like the way that it's told in interview sequences, (now a format cliche for this type of book, for good reason) with sometimes conflicting or corroborating views of the same stories (just like in real life). The cool thing about it, and what makes it transcend just being "another book about Punk" is that it tells a linear story. You follow these characters through their lives, through their triumphs and tragedies. By the end of it, when the players are dwi...more
Adam
Please Kill Me puts stories to the music of 70's American Punk. A lot of this is just party stories--albeit good ones—and they do a great job of illustrating the scene as well as the society at large it was counter to. I sometimes forget that society at large was still shaping the scene, not least of all, the ghetto of hard drugs. Today's punk scenes are so different, so much more positive, and healthier, in fact. You know, when art kids and punks slum it today, it's just not the same. Kids toda...more
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Hey, how come I can't add any books to my list? 1 11 Jun 04, 2013 08:32AM  
  • We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk
  • From the Velvets to the Voidoids: A Pre-Punk History for a Post-Punk World
  • 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
  • England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond
  • Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-Punk 1978-84. Simon Reynolds
  • Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs
  • Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
  • We Owe You Nothing: Punk Planet: The Collected Interviews
  • Lobotomy: Surviving the Ramones
  • Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, the Indie Label That Got Big and Stayed Small
  • Punk Rock: An Oral History
  • Passion Is a Fashion: The Real Story of the Clash
  • Get in the Van: On the Road With Black Flag
  • Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution
  • Punk: The Definitive Record of a Revolution
  • A Riot of Our Own: Night and Day with the Clash
  • Let it Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic
9097
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
More about Legs McNeil...
The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry Mate-me por Favor: Please kill Me - Vol. 2 Pop Culture:  100 Stories From Pepsi Cola's First 100 Years Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose Lobotomy: Surviving the Ramones

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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)” 6 likes
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