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Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  26,808 ratings  ·  1,080 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.
Paperback, 20th Anniversary Edition, 479 pages
Published July 10th 2016 by Grove Press (first published 1996)
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Mike DaRonco
Sep 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Man, Lou Reed was such a dick.
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
Jan 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 22, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dr. Detroit
Oct 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
BAM The Bibliomaniac
4.5 stars just not a 5 because I don't think a reread will affect me the same way

Little did I realize that the punk movement started as early as 1968 with the Velvet Underground and amphetamine usage. Thus begins Please Kill Me, a compilation of interviews with some of the most influential talent in the industry and on the streets through the early 90s. Photos throughout

The book is broken into chapters that follow a timeline that flow through music progression and drug prevalence. I'm seriously
Nov 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Dec 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 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 ...more
Satyros Brucato
There's a lot to like about this book. But is it a "definitive history of punk rock"? Fuck no. Not even close.

Although PLEASE KILL ME features tons of great material from the people who were there at Ground Zero during the Factory and CBGBs scenes, I wound up fucking pissed at this book's contention that punk began with the Velvets and ended with the deaths of Sid Vicious and Johnny Thunders.

Bull fucking shit.

There was zero mention of the West Coast scene (which had already birthed the
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read this book many times before and will often pick it up and reread chunks here and there. It is simply the best book you will ever find on the birth of punk rock. Everyone who was in the scene adds fascinating, fun and often outrageous stories you won't find elsewhere. From musicians, poets, artists, groupies, friends, management.... Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain knew where to go to get the goods. Super informative and so much fun. Very highly recommend!
Rebecca McNutt
This is the most extensive book I've ever read on punk culture, from the fashion to the music. It even briefly mentions similar styles, like goth.
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.
Michael Jandrok
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometime in the late 1960s, a bad mojo was beginning to well up within the ranks of the flower power movement. There were quite a few disaffected outsiders that seemed to have figured out that the revolution was not destined to last, that it was in fact quickly becoming a sham. As corporate America began to swallow and repackage the '60s, some of the folks left behind by the peace and love generation began to vent their anger and shape a new vision. Proto-punk bands like the MC5 and The Stooges ...more
Jan 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ben Winch
Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, problematic
Am I the only one who thinks Legs McNeill is a pretentious tosser and the omnipresence of the so-called 'blank generation' is the next-worst thing to the previous media-takeover by the boomers? The amount of marketing/repackaging that's gone into this shit has just about reached utter absurdity, accelerated by the internet beyond anything anyone could have dreamed of. And yeah, some of it was good. But I'm supposed to care about who sucked Stiv Bators' dick when his band is maybe 50% the ...more
May 15, 2007 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
Oct 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jul 06, 2010 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.
Mar 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i learned not to leave a member of the dead boys alone with a guinea pig.
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining and informative.
Definitely gives you the feeling of being there.
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The title kinda speaks to how I feel after reading this book.

I know, I know. It's not really fair to go there, but man is this book a real piece of work. I mean, it starts off pretty cool, and has some interesting stories from time to time. It just gets old and depressing when well over half the book is just variations on how trashed so and so was and what stupid thing they did because of it. It's like reliving every inane conversation I've ever had with my old college roommates or the people I
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A few weeks ago I was in a crowded thrift store when the Ramones came over the sound system. I glanced around and saw every teenager in the place (and there were nearly a dozen) start bopping their heads in time with the music. I was reminded of the first time I heard them, back in 1977. Two-and-a-half minutes of Sheena is A Punk Rocker completely rewired my brain, unleashing enough of my inner brattiness that I began pushing back against the world and all of its unreasonable demands. Since then ...more
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 ...more
Feb 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is an inside look into the New York punk scene during the late seventies. It's foul so don't read it!
Ted Prokash
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was like candy. And the first chapters on the Velvet Underground, et al were like the first sweet taste of the candy and as the book went on you sort of got a little sick of the candy, but you were sure as fuck going to keep eating it! Or maybe junk would be a more appropriate metaphor.

Anyway I hope you don't have any illusions that Lou Reed or Johnny Thunders were 'cool guys'. Spoiler alert: most of your favorite rock stars were self absorbed assholes The greater their genius, the greater
May 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Fans of the spiked-hair school of British punk, be forewarned. This is a history of the roots of punk from a decidedly American perspective (and punk rock is one of the few things I think we as Americans can be proud that we did better than anyone else), from the earliest rumblings in New York and Detroit up through the raggedy-assed end, Dee Dee Ramone getting stopped by a cop who let him go when he realized he was frisking one of his childhood heroes. The good vibes fade, the drugs get ...more
Dec 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
“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)”
“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)” 9 likes
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