“Ranks up there with the great rock & roll books of all time.” Time Out New York
“Lurid, insolent, disorderly, funny, sometimes gross, sometimes mean and occasionally touching . . . Resounds with authenticity.” The New York Times
“No volume serves juicier dish on punk’s New York birth . . . Tales of sex, drugs and music that will make you wish you’d been there.” Rolling Stone
A contemporary classic, Please Kill Me is the definitive oral history of the most nihilistic of all pop movements. Iggy Pop, Richard Hell, the Ramones, and scores of other punk figures lend their voices to this decisive account of that explosive era. This 20th anniversary edition features new photos and an afterword by the authors.
“Utterly and shamelessly sensational.” Newsday
|Edition description:||20th Anniversary Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Legs McNeil lives at the “Schwenksville Narrative Oral History Institute.” He was the former Resident Punk at Punk magazine , a senior editor at Spin , and regularly contributes to Vice online.
Gillian McCain is the author of two books of poetry. Legs and Gillian’s most recent book is Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose , and they are currently at work on a new book about the California music and counterculture scenes of the 1960s.
Read an Excerpt
Please Kill MeThe Uncensored Oral History of Punk
By Legs McNeil Gillian McCain
Grove PressCopyright © 1996 Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePoetry? You Call This Poetry?
Danny Fields: When I wasn't getting laid elsewhere l went to Max's Kansas City every night. It was a bar and restaurant two blocks away from where I lived and you could sit there all night and bring yourself coffee. It was free. And you always signed the check and never paid the bill. I felt so guilty, I had an unpaid bill of about two or three thousand dollars. I guess that was a lot in the sixties. I had friends that would sign the check "Donald Duck" and "Fatty Arbuckle." It was just so wonderful and all the waitresses were beautiful ... and all the busboys ...
You could have sex with all the busboys. I mean, not right there, but later. And anybody who walked into the room, you could luck, because they all wanted to be in the back room. And you would say, "You'll have to luck me and I'll let you sit at a good table."
So it was wide open, but it wasn't gay, thank god. We hated gay bars. Gay bars? Oh please, who wanted to go to gay bars? At Max's you could fuck anyone in the room, and that was what was sweet about it.
Leee Childers: Danny was the company freak at Elektra Records. His job was to keep the stupid record company executives somehow in touch with the street. That was an actual job title then: "company freak."He told them what was good and what wasn't, but mostly what was cool.
The record companies were wise to actually admit that they weren't cool. In the sixties, they had to admit they didn't have a clue. So they hired people whose job it was to be cool. It was a wonderful idea.
Danny Fields: They hired someone at a low level who wore bell-bottoms and smoked dope and took LSD in the office-me. And I really would take LSD in the office. I would sit around and just lick it. My hands would be all orange.
Steve Harris: I was working for Elektra Records and was in California with Jac Holzman, the president of Elektra, when he went to see the Doors at the Whiskey for the first time. He came back and said, "I saw a really interesting group and I think I'm gonna sign them." And he did. Then they came to New York to do a show at Ondine's, on Fifty-eighth Street, under the bridge.
Danny Fields: I remember Morrison did "Light My Fire" that night, because it was the only good song that he did.
Tom Baker: I sat with Andy Warhol and his entourage at a long table near the stage. Pam Courson, Morrison's girlfriend, sat alongside me and was very excited. She said to me, "Jim's really up for tonight's show. Forget that shit at Gazzari's, now you're going to see the real Jim Morrison."
When I saw them at Gazzari's, the club on Sunset Strip, Jim was high on LSD and staggering drunk. His performance was unspectacular, except for one moment-while stumbling through a song early in the set, he suddenly let out with a deep-throated, bloodcurdling scream. Pam was furious with him and kept telling me I wasn't seeing him at his best. I told her he was a good guy, but he should keep his day job.
But when he finished the show at Ondine's, I sat there stunned. I looked over at Pamela. She leaned toward me and said, "I told you so."
Afterwards, the Doors gave a party in a club to celebrate their success. When it was over, Jim and I stood talking at the bottom of the stairs that led up to Forty-sixth Street. It was late, and the area was full of various cops and creeps. Suddenly, Morrison started throwing empty glasses up the stairs.
I grabbed him by the arm and yelled, "What the fuck are you doing, for Christ's sake?"
He ignored me and threw another glass up the stairs, simultaneously letting out one of his bloodcurdling screams. I expected a small army of cops to come charging down. After one final glass and one final scream, Jim turned and was gone. I was frustrated because I wanted to tell him that finally I had met someone who was truly possessed.
Danny Fields: The next day I had to go to the record company, so I told them there was this song about fire, and, "If you're putting out a Doors single, put that one out."
They said, "Uh uh, it's too long."
Then other people started to tell them to do that. At first they thought it was impossible, but after deejays reported back to them that they had a potential hit here, without that pretentious nonsense in the middle, they started to listen. It was a catchy tune.
So they sent Paul Rothchild into the studio and said, "Paul, cut it." And Paul did. You can hear the separation in the middle. And it worked. It went to number one.
Steve Harris: I think Danny had problems with Jim Morrison because Danny thought he could lead Jim around. They had a falling out at the Castle in California, when Jim was fooling around with Nico. They were hanging around in the Castle and Jim was very drunk, and very high, and Danny was afraid that he would die if he drove. So Danny took the keys to Jim's car. And Jim got really pissed at Danny for that.
Danny Fields: I was in L.A. staying at the Castle with Edie Sedgwick and Nico, who were in Hollywood for some reason that I can't remember. The Castle was this two-story house, owned by some old Hollywood queen who rented it out to rock bands. Everyone had stayed there-Dylan, the Jefferson Airplane, the Velvets. The owner would rent it out to rock & roll bands because it was in such a state of ruin that it didn't really matter what happened to it.
Just before I arrived in L.A., I was in San Francisco to see the Doors play at the Winterland. After the show I'd gone backstage and Morrison was surrounded by very slovenly and ugly groupies. I thought that was bad for his image. So I decided to fix Morrison up with Nico. It was a shiddach, which is Yiddish for a fix-up. I wanted him to meet Nico so that he would fall in love with her and see what kind of girl he should hang out with. I mean, it was a lot of nerve on my part. It was really none of my business to meddle in, but ...
I've never had any respect for Oliver Stone, but after seeing his version of the Morrison/Nico meeting in the Doors movie-"Hello, I am Nico, would you like to go to bed with me?"-the reality of it couldn't have been more different.
What really happened was that I met Morrison at the Elektra office in Los Angeles and he followed me back to the Castle in his rented car. Morrison walked into the kitchen and Nico was there and they stood and circled each other.
Then they stared at the floor and didn't say a word to each other. They were both too poetic to say anything. It was a very boring, poetic, silent thing that was going on between them. They formed a mystical bond immediately-I think Morrison pulled Nico's hair and then he proceeded to get extremely drunk and I fed him whatever was left of my drugs that Edie Sedgwick hadn't stolen.
In those days, I never traveled without my little supply of everything. My father was a doctor, so I had access to reds, yellows, blacks, Tuinals-everything. But since I had lived with Edie in New York, I knew she was a kleptomaniac of extraordinary skill, especially when it came to drugs. Edie just had a bloodhound's nose for prescription drugs. So the minute I got to the Castle, when I knew Edie's back was turned-she was kissing Dino Valenti good-bye in the driveway-I'd snuck upstairs and hid my drugs carefully in what I thought was a safe place, under a double mattress in a back bedroom.
When I went back to them later, sure enough, they were decimated. Edie had found them. So I took what was left, some acid, and gave it to Morrison, and he got so stoned and so horrendously drunk that he wanted to drive away.
So I took the keys out of his ignition and hid them under the mat of his car. I was afraid he would drive drunk and you know, go off a cliff and kill himself, and I'd be fired from Elektra. I was there on Elektra's money and it wouldn't be seemly to lose the lead singer on account of the publicist getting him so stoned, so I kidnapped him.
There was no phone in the Castle. He couldn't get outta there. Morrison knew that I had taken the keys, but he was so stoned ... finally I went to bed.
While I was sleeping, Nico came into my room, crying, "Oh, he's going to kill me! Oh, he's going to kill me!"
I said, "Oh, leave me alone, Nico! I'm trying to sleep!"
She was. sobbing, "Whoo hoo hoo." She went back outside, and then I heard her screaming. I looked through the window into the courtyard, and Morrison was just pulling her hair, so I went back to bed. Then David Numan, who was also staying at the Castle, came running into my room and said, "You'd better check this out."
So I got up again and Nico was out in the driveway, still sobbing, while Morrison was naked in the moonlight, climbing around the rooftop. He was jumping from one turret to the other, while Nico sobbed.
I went back to sleep, and that was the affair-he pulled her hair, he walked naked, she screamed, and I kept his car keys hidden for a day or two until he straightened up.
And of course he hated me from that moment on for kidnapping him.
Nico: I argued with Jim. He asked if I would walk along the edge of the Castle. I said to him, "Why?" and he couldn't answer.
It was not a positive act, and not a destructive act; it didn't change anything. So why should I do something that is so vain, just to follow him? It was not spiritual or philosophical. It was a drunk man displaying himself.
Ronnie Cutrone: I loved Jim Morrison dearly, but Jim was not fun to go out with. I hung out with him every night for just about a year, and Jim would go out, lean up against the bar, order eight screwdrivers, put down six Tuinals on the bar, drink two or three screwdrivers, take two Tuinals, then he'd have to pee, but he couldn't leave the other five screwdrivers, so he'd take his dick out and pee, and some girl would come up and blow his dick, and then he'd finish the other five screwdrivers and then he'd finish up the other four Tuinals, and then he'd pee in his pants, and then Eric Emerson and I would take him home.
That was a typical night out with Jim. But when he was on acid, then Jim was really fun and great. But most of the time he was just a lush pill head.
Ray Manzarek: Jim was a shaman.
Danny Fields: Jim Morrison was a callous asshole, an abusive, mean person. I took Morrison to Max's and he was a monster, a prick. And his poetry sucked. He demeaned rock & roll as literature. Sophomoric bullshit babble. Maybe one or two good images
Patti Smith was a poet. I think she elevated rock & roll to literature. Bob Dylan elevated it. Morrison's wasn't poetry. It was garbage disguised as teenybopper. It was good rock & roll for thirteen-year-olds. Or eleven-year-olds.
As a person, I think Morrison's magic and power went beyond the quality of his versifying. He was bigger than that. He was sexier than his poetry-more mysterious, more problematic, more difficult, more charismatic as a performer. There has got to be a reason why women like Nico and Gloria Stavers, the editor of 16 magazine, fell so deeply in love with him, because he was essentially an abusive man to women.
But it sure wasn't his poetry. I've got to tell you, it wasn't his poetry. He had a big dick. That was probably it.
Gerard Malanga: I was walking down Eighth Street and I heard these two girls behind me say, "Isn't that Jim Morrison?" Ha ha ha. I felt like saying, "No, my jaw is a bit more angular." I felt a little eclipsed but I didn't give a shit, really.
Danny Fields: The ultimate rock star is a child. How can you not be spoiled by everything that's going to come along? For most rock stars, what's in store for them, realistically, is a lot of spoilage, denting and banging around, exploitation, being used up, and ruination.
And what happens if you get fat like Jim Morrison? You don't look cute in those clothes anymore.
Jim Morrison really had it on his first trip here, which was the winter of 1966. Even when the first album was released in 1967, he looked wonderful. That's when he was at his best. He became a teen idol about a year later and then started putting on weight. His genes had an unfortunate tendency to send all the weight to his cheeks, so his eyes, which were never his best feature, disappeared.
Then he grew a beard and became fat and drunk and sloppy.
So my thinking was, Bring me another one. Bring me that one's head on a plate. Bring me a new one.
Chapter TwoThe World's Forgotten Boys
Ron Asheton: My younger brother, Scotty, and our neighbor Dave Alexander were stone punks. I was just the weird guy. In school, I was either the complete oddball, the herd, or the freak, and then they always called me "the Fat Beatle" when I used to wear Beatle suits on dress-up day.
I didn't have a lot of friends. I was mostly into Nazi stuff. I took German class and did Hitler speeches. I'd wear SS pins to school, draw swastikas all over my books, draw Hitler mustaches on everyone's pictures, and draw little SS bolts on my arm. So I wasn't so much a stone-punk-kinda-hoodlum-guy as Scotty and Dave.
We just didn't fit in. I remember one year we all tried to go back to high school on the first day. I made bets with Scotty and Dave about how long they were gonna last. I said, "Dave, you'll probably make it three hours, and Scotty, you'll probably make it half the day, and I'll probably make a whole day."
Dave turned to me, he had a sixty-ounce-a big can of Colt 45 in his hand. He already had drank two of them, it was like nine in the morning, and he said, "You lost. I'm leaving now."
Scotty wanted to get thrown out, so he went up to some kid at his locker, grabbed him by the back of the arms, and squeezed and twisted him with a pair of needle-nose pliers. So the kid runs down to the office, and we heard over the PA, "Scott Asheton come to the office!" He went down and got thrown out.
Iggy Pop: These guys were the laziest, delinquent sort of pig slobs ever born. Really spoiled rotten and babied by their mothers. Scotty Asheton-he was the juvenile delinquent. His dad had died, his and Ron's, so they didn't have much discipline at home ... I mean, Dave Alexander and Ron Asheton had skipped school and gone to Liverpool, to be near the Beatles.
Ron Asheton: Me and Dave Alexander were supergeeked on bands. We were always sitting around listening to records and talking about the Beatles or the Stones.
We even had a band-well, sort of a band. We were called the Dirty Shames. We would play along to records and say, "We're great!" Then we'd take the record off and say, "Whaaa? Hey, maybe this isn't sounding too good."
We built up the reputation that we were a great band, because we never played. We were actually called down to Discount Records one time, to meet this guy who was promoting the first Rolling Stones show at the Olympia Stadium in Detroit. He wanted the Dirty Shames to open for the Stones. We were all excited, until we realized, Wow, we can't even play! So we told the guy, "I think we're going to be auditioning out in L.A."
A little while after that Dave tells me, "Hey, I'm going to England, you wanna go?" So I sold my motorcycle. I had a Honda 305 that I got instead of getting a car, when I got my driver's license. So we sold the bike and flew to England.
We went to see the Who at the Cavern. It was wall to fucking wall of people. We muscled through to about ten feet from the stage, and Townshend started smashing his twelve-string Rickenbacker.
It was my first experience of total pandemonium. It was like a dog pile of people, just trying to grab pieces of Townshend's guitar, and people were scrambling to dive up onstage and he'd swing the guitar at their heads. The audience weren't cheering; it was more like animal noises, howling. The whole room turned really primitive-like a pack of starving animals that hadn't eaten in a week and somebody throws out a piece of meat. I was afraid. For me it wasn't fun, but it was mesmerizing. It was like, "The plane's burning, the ship's sinking, so let's crush each other." Never had I seen people driven so nuts-that music could drive people to such dangerous extremes. That's when I realized, This is definitely what I wanna do.
When Dave and I got home we got kicked out of school because we had superlong hair. I'd also grown the giant sideburns. I had knee-high Beatle boots-the big leather kind with the big Cuban heels-a leather vest, and a turtleneck. The counselor completely freaked and said, "This won't do!" So I said, "Fuck it," and started hanging out in front of Discount Records, where Iggy worked inside.
Excerpted from Please Kill Me by Legs McNeil Gillian McCain Copyright © 1996 by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
One of the best books on punk rock origins out there. Most lit in the punk history genre focuses on the birth and death of punk rock with the rise and fall of the Sex Pistols, which is historically inaccurate.A definitely recommended read for anyone interested in the real origins of punk rock from its detroit conception with Iggy and the Stooges to the 80's pop take-over by the likes of the Talking Headsand Blondie.
In Please Kill Me, interviews with over 100 musicians, promoters, artists, and groupies overlap each other to paint a graphic picture of the punk movement in the U.S., from the rise of The Velvet Underground at Andy Warhol¿s Factory in the early `70s to the fall of Dee Dee Ramone from The Ramones in the late `80s. Along the way, inhuman amounts of drugs are ingested, everyone has sex with everyone else, and some amazing music gets created and played¿and largely ignored by the general public.It was hard to find anyone likeable in the pages of Please Kill Me¿most of them came off as sexist, racist, self-absorbed, self-destructive asses¿and I was often flat-out horrified at what these people did to themselves and each other. If even a tenth of what they said is true (and I think everything related in the book needs to be taken with a grain of salt), it¿s not the high number of early deaths that come as any surprise, but that people like Iggy Pop and Richard Hell are still alive. Please Kill Me is fascinating and disturbing. It¿s hard to look away. While I would recommend it to anyone interested in the punk movement and the `70s underground scene in New York, be prepared to see your idols shattered. In a warts-and-all portrait, this book is mostly warts.
The best book about music I've read. Worth the time.
read it twice.
Great read its so great yo hear from the people who lived that crazy and inovatove time. If you loved this era, music or kust find the movment fasinating this is a great read.
Please Kill Me is a great read. It tells of the endeavors of the creators of punk rock and evokes all human emotions. It's a book that could be read over again and bring about new information and reactions every time. I highly recommend for lovers of punk and anyone beyond.
As a (very young) child of the 70s, it was interesting to read more about the influences of the time. As a lover of music of many kinds it was cool to hear about the origins of the Punk movement from first hand accounts. Don't misunderstand the book, like the music has no real direction. There is a basic structure, but like the music it is not "your parents history book". One thing this book lacks is context. There is nothing really referencing what is going on in the world during these times. The Punk movement is about saying "#@&! you world". I can respect the authors/editors of the book keeping the events of the world out.
Punk started in America. Too many people assume the originators were English bands like the Sex Pistols, but no it started right here in 60's when times were changing and the book Please Kill Me by Legs McNeil fully celebrates this. The book is constructed with interview after interview of several famous and infamous names in punk's history. Jim Morrison was the creator. He was crazy! He was punk. The only things he did were sex, drugs, and rock & Roll. That's it. This man started a revolution that inspired people like James Newell Osterberg, Jr. (Iggy Pop) all the way to punk bands in the 70's, like the Ramones. This book simply gets down and nasty to discuss the true lifestyle of punk as it swept through America. There was one theme and one theme only, and that was change. Yes music changes all the time, but punk started a type of music where there are no rules. The people did not give a damn about anyone or anything, they just did things. It was a massive teenage revolt that shook America. You could do what you want. You could be what you want and no one would judge. It was just about the music and the lifestyle that came with it. From the interviews, there was just so much chaos that occurred. One interview especially really provided the crux moment of Punk. It involved Jim Morrison and Nico at a hotel. Jim Morrison was hyped up on LSD, alcohol and marijuana, which was actually a typical night with Morrison. Anyways Danny Fields (his manager) woke up to the sound of Nico crying, so he looked outside and Jim was climbing the hotel yelling animal noises as Nico was face down in the dirt screaming. That stuff just didn't happen in 1966. Jim was an authentic man doing actions that were unheard of at the time. He cursed at the crowds, and did things his own way. People didn't know how to react to such vulgar and abuse. So what happened? Teenage revolt and Punk happened. Through the pure honesty of the book, I award the novel 5 out of 5 stars. From the beginning to the end, it was just a rollercoaster ride through the eyes of many. It was hard to stop reading because you new that the next page would be better than the last. It was raw material that truly expressed the culture. It was entertainment, but it was all true. That is what surprised me the most. All the stories of sex, drugs and chaos were all true. It was a pure thrill; I did not dislike it at all. I highly recommend it to anyone that likes Rock and Roll, but I especially recommend it to teenagers. As they find there place in life, this book really connects to how they are feeling. Every teenager feels the want to revolt and this book shows how that feeling really originated in the 60's.
The book Please Kill Me is a first hand look into the punk era. We get to sit down and have a one on one with people such as Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Dee Dee Ramone, and Patti Smith who were some of the major idealists that made punk happen. They go through explaining the start of punk and how they were all outcasts and the weird group. Eventually, their abnormal behavior sparked a huge trend which swept through the whole teenage generation. They were into music and drugs and against authority. All about partying and having a good time, without working or even going to school. This book gets you upfront and center with how punk was going on all over the country, and even other parts of the world. I very much liked the way the authors gave it the impression that the reader was sitting right there as each individual told their stories and views as the punk scene was going around. Also, they didn¿t hold back. Every gruesome detail and all the foul language gave you ability to see everything exactly how the musicians and real punks saw it. They put you there with them at the parties and concerts. As far as themes or messages go, there really was none. Honesty was what the book was written on. To show how the people being interviewed lived in the late 70¿s and 80¿s. They didn¿t preach against or for drugs they didn¿t show their opinions about government, outside the anarchist characteristics a lot of punks had. They just told it how it was. I would very much recommend someone to read this book for a better understanding of what the teenagers went through in the punk era. It shows how depressing a life of playing music and partying could even be, while at the same time, how much of a blast it was. Also, it shows the lack of control teenagers really have over themselves, which could be good for most teenagers to learn from. I feel it would be impossible to pick one passage as a crux for this book. So many things were going on through those few years and so many things were constantly changing that you can¿t pick just one passage. You could pick one about the insane amount of drugs and drinking people would do and the extent they would go to just get high or get their hands on some drugs. You could also pick the first time people had seen The Doors and how groundbreaking they were. This book was full of important parts that effected the outcome of the punk era that even effects us today.
an interesting read, highly recommended for anyone into punk music and even if you're not, it's well written and worth a look
i started reading this book just for fun in college, i wanted to learn a little bit of history on 'punk' so i picked up a copy in the school library and started reading it; soon i went out and bought my own copy that's how good it is. i remeber my teacher saw me reading it once in class and she told me to wite an essay on the book as a 'punishment' and to present it to the entire class, i did and everone was really astonished by the reality of it, it was really great, i had people afterwards telling me that they read the book themselves and that they enjoyed it. i passed the class thanks to that book, thats another reason why i liked it so much if you read it you will find yourself not able to put it down. well hopefully by reading this you can be inspired as i was and go out and get yourself a copy its worth it really!!!!!
im reading it right now and its one of the greatest most interesting books ive ever read. i have a hard time putting it down!
the best, every true punk will enjoy this
this book was amazing. i loved how it read. it skipped around a lot, which was so cool because you could always tell what everyone was doing at the same time and what everyone's views were about the same topic. this book is such an awesome fast pace novel, that i want to read it a million times.
It will make you cry, it will make you laugh, it will make you wish you were born earlier(if you didnt already live their.) It was told by the people who lived their. Dee Dee, Joey Ramone, Richard Hell, Sid Vicouis, ..ect. A great eddition to the growing population of punk books and a great add to you libary. A great overview of punk era with those who've been their.
The title says enough. The most comprehensive book documenting the New York punk movement around.
The authors cover all of the important aspects of punk culture from the 60s through the 80s with an amazing amount of details from the people who lived it. I was able to learn many new things about the culture and about myself from reading this book. The only negative thing I can say about it was that it was difficult to me to remember who all of the people were through the course of the book, but the cast of characters in the back helped a lot. This is a very intriguing book with many important facts that are crucial to fully understand this intricate cultural movement.
Buy this book.... I can say only two things. I've lived only half the life that most of the people in this book have lived. And I've never done hard drugs and after reading this I'm glad I never got into them.
This book was the best!! I loved it! It had great stores on all my favorite bands!! i LOve this book1 It tell u everything u ever wanted to know!
This book is addictive I got it for christmas and was done reading it in 3 or 4 days. It is the most reality based book I've ever read on punk. It tells you about how things were before they got commercialized and destroyed and afterwards. It fills you in on all the little secrets going around the new york punk scene and gives you different variations of popular rumours you've heard. Since the book is written in the form of interviews it makes it very easy to follow and more interesting. If you like punk know where your roots are and what they were about read please kill me.
This book dispels the myth that punk culture began in England, brings to light interesting information on lesser known bands, and is full of delightful tidbits if gossip straight from the horse's mouth. Compiled entirely of passages from actual interviews with artists, scenesters, groupies, etc., this book often contradicts itself and leaves final judgement to the reader. Overall, a fun and interesting book- I loved it.