I Wanna Be Literated! #136

I Wanna Be Literated! #136

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Wednesday, 30 November 2016
COLUMN

Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk
by Legs McNeil, Gillian McCain

Having done my fair share of biography readings I have come to appreciate the oral history format more and more as the years go by. It just took a book like Please Kill Me to make me realize what a fun and thorough and effective experience it can be. I like to think of myself as a punk, but since it’s a badge of honor in the scene I suppose the moniker has to be attributed to someone before they can claim it. Let’s say I’m a punk enthusiast and it’s the music as well as the history that I find so interesting.

You might have seen the likes of Legs McNeill and Gillian McCain’s Please Kill Me hidden in the scenes of the Gilmore Girls but it really is much more than that. As McNeill has said so himself, you have to have a good idea of what happened and what kind of story you want to tell so that you know who to interview about these events. These subjects will embellish the events with their perspective and anecdotes assuming they are willing to follow your framework. And these stories are most definitely the blood that flows through the veins of Please Kill Me.

I consider the present to be the best time for punk rock, but of course I am curious about the history of the scene. What exactly was going on in New York City? Who were the players? What were their relationships to one another and the music? I’ll never be able to experience it myself, but the way McNeill and McCain choose these colorful people to tell their story, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the movement as it’s happening. You feel like you know these people and you definitely get to know some of them on an intimate level. This book basically covers the decade before punk rock “started” and ends with the death of many of its icons in the 80s, and there are simply too many stories to tell. From the Velvet Underground to the Stooges to the New York Dolls to Patti Smith and the Ramones you see it all happening right in front of you. And although I was a little bit thrown on McNeill’s hard focus on Lou Reed, Patti Smith and Johnny Thunders, McNeill’s pedigree (the guy came up with the name “punk”) carries a lot of weight and perhaps these characters deserve all the credit bestowed upon them.

Please Kill Me is an undeniably powerful and important book. It’s funny and sad and sweet and disgusting and scary all at once. It’s real life, man.

Buy your copy here.

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