Most helpful positive review
99 of 102 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2001
This is one of those books that I loved so much it's actually kind of hard for me to put into words and write a review for. My husband had it on order... months before it came out, and after he brought it home, we practically fought over who got to read it first. We eventually had to work something out where we took turns and read it in shifts. Either that or one of us would sneak out and read it when the other fell asleep. If you like punk rock, it's hard to put down.
I love "oral history" style books, and this is one of the best I've ever read. At first I planned just to read everything about The Ramones (which was a lot)and not the rest. But I had so much fun reading everything else I just read it straight through. I wasn't around for the New York punk scene in the mid-late 70's, but this book gives you such a vivid idea of what it was like that I felt like I was there. I'm partial to any of the Ramones-related sections, but Dee Dee Ramone's voice really stood out. He tells enough in PKM that it could almost fill another book. He's definitely just as good of a storyteller as he is a song writer, has a good sense of humor, and his prose was definitely different. He talks about meeting his girlfriend from hell, Connie (I never thought I'd get to see a picture of the woman who inspired the Ramones song "Glad to See You Go"): "She was a hooker, I was a Ramone, and we were both junkies."
If you want gossip and dirt about the NY scene, there's plenty of good stuff. Who slept with who, who wanted to sleep with who, who back-stabbed who (sometimes literally), who didn't get along, who did what drug and how much, and much more. Even if you thought you'd read everything there was about the NY scene, or your favorite band from that time, there's stories you never heard before. This back doesn't try to glamorize anything, in fact the scene was sleazier than I thought (I remember wondering about halfway through if there was anyone that WASN'T doing heroin or sleeping with everybody else at some point). You still, however, get an idea of how fun it must have been. I went back and forth between being glad I was reading about it instead of being there and wishing that I really had been there. It really covers just about everything, and continues on to the present day. The last 1/5 or so of the book has many of the people involved in the scene getting ill and/or dying (mostly caused directly or indirectly from drugs) so it does get pretty sad and even depressing, but that's what happened, and they don't try to gloss it over. I'm just glad the book came out before Joey Ramone passed away or even got sick, because there's enough heart-breaking stuff in there as it is.
I actually prefer the first edition. True, there are some stories in the updated edition that are pretty funny, in particular one someone told about running into Sid Vicious and saying they had to go pick up their vacuum cleaner, and Sid assuming "vacuum cleaner" was some kind of drug lingo and wanting to come along. It does end on a positive note with a mostly re-united MC-5. However, I thought that the ending to the first edition was stronger. The original ending, with Jerry Nolan in the hospital remembering seeing Elvis as a kid, was so vivid and haunting that it actually choked me up, and still does a little every time I read it. I wasn't expecting such a poignant ending, and it really caught me off guard. Since the last part of the book has so many deaths in it, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was. Anyway, in my opinion, ending the book the way it was the first time was much more effective.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes a good music-related oral history, or to anyone whose favorite bands were the early punk scene. I'd also recommend it for kids not even born when most of the book happened that think punk rock was started by Green Day (or the Sex Pistols). Recently, I heard someone at work complaining that they heard an interview where Joey Ramone had the nerve to say that the Ramones helped start punk rock. I shut them up with 5 words: "Name one punk band before 1975". I think those were also the last 5 words I ever spoke to that guy, but it just goes to show how this book should be required reading for people who have misconceptions about how punk really began. Anyone interested in music history from the 1970's on would probably also enjoy the book. I guess the only people I wouldn't recommend it to are those who have an idealized picture of that time and place (like I did before I read it) and don't want it shattered because they would rather leave things to their imagination.
However, a review --or my review, at least--just can't do this book justice. Whether you're reading about Dee Dee Ramone turning tricks for dope money (along with doing heroin, another common activity most people seemed to share back was sleeping with Dee Dee Ramone) and later getting stabbed in the butt by his jealous girlfriend, or finding out which bathroom at CBGBs had the best graffiti, or Legs McNeil painting such a vivid portrait of what the neighborhood outside the 'office' for Punk Magazine looked like that you can almost smell it, you'll definitely be entertained. The book is also worth a few re-reads, because there's so much interesting stuff and it's so smoothly and brilliantly put together. This is one amazing book, and I doubt that a more definitive or passionate book about the punk scene in NYC will ever be written. I don't see how it could get any better.