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95 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blitzkrieg Book
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...
Published on May 16, 2001 by Kitten With a Whip

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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If you like the style Hollywood gossip rags, this is for you
A little about my frame of reference. I was a few years shy of being able to fully partake in the punk experience. Nonetheless, a friend and I were into the Sex Pistols, Ramones, and Clash when the scene was going down. So, you know I love this stuff, and merely talking about it thrills me; however, Please Kill Me overall left me somewhat cold. Let me explain...
Published on November 13, 2006 by Brian Egras


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95 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blitzkrieg Book, May 16, 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.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When the music mattered..., October 25, 2000
By 
L. Alper (Englewood CO) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
"Please Kill Me" is an invaluable record of what the 70's were really like, & why the music that came to be known as punk was inevitable & absolutely necessary. The authors (who were part of the scene as publishers of the first fanzine "Punk") let the musicians & scenesters tell the story in their own words. The structure of the book is the same as George Plimpton's "Edie", simply a collection of quotes grouped to tell a chronological story. McNeil & McCain really went to the effort of finding some of the most obscure "hangers-on" who were there, so the overall view is very well-rounded. What is truly intelligent about the presentation is that they understand punk did not beging with the Sex Pistols or the Ramones. Instead, we start with the Velvet Underground & Warhol, move to Detroit to talk to the MC5 & Iggy and the Stooges, then it's early glitter with the New York Dolls! Great stuff & the timing is excellent, especially since many of those interviewed have since died. The photo sections are also excellent altho I have a few quibbles about why some people are included & others not. There is also a very helpful "Cast of Characters" at the end of the book which even the most knowledgeable rocker will flip to often.
Many younger readers may be surprised that most of the book deals with the New York City music scene. Punk has become so identified as a British import that those who weren't part of it may not realise the Brits only got going after a visit to the UK by the Ramones. CBGB's was already a very hot & happening spot, long before Johnny was Rotten!
Whether you were there or not, you will enjoy "Please Kill Me", as well as learning quite a bit from it; check it out!
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blunt, crude and utterly original, the best punk history yet, July 5, 2001
Over the years there have been so many people and bands who have claimed to carry the "punk" banner that it's essence and spirit has been diluted into marketing babble. This book sets the record straight on the origins, practitioners and locations that defined what punk was all about. The narrative here is unadulterated and incredibly engrossing.
While you may think about some of these icons differently after reading this book, you cannot deny the incendiary creativity and raw lust for life in these New York and Detroit punk pioneers. At times simultaneously hilarious, repulsive and depressing, this book is a fascinating historical trip through the '60's and '70's. Say what you will, but these folks walked the talk like no one else in rock and roll before or since.
Finally, the bare bones, tell-it-in-their-own-words style here is refreshing and free of over-interpretation. Like punk itself, it avoids hyperbole and reflection and just tells it like it was, warts and all. Thanks to McNeil & McCain for such a terrific read. Some recent artists who claim to be punk should read this and just be ashamed of themselves...
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great recounting of the NY underground music scene, September 21, 2002
I am not sure who invented the oral biography, though I suspect the honors should go to Studs Terkel. This is one of the best representatives of the genre that I have ever read. Some have called the book revisionist, in that it asserts the primacy of the New York and American punk movement over that of the English Punk movement. Properly speaking, it isn't at all revisionist: it is a corrective. In fact, the point of the book is that the British Punk Movement, which made more of an impact in the public eye and the mass media, actually hit the scene as punk was more or less dying. Johnny Rotten and the Clash and all the others didn't come at the beginning of punk, but only after it had been around for years and was actually fading in NY. In other words, Punk wasn't an English invention, but an American one.
The book begins with the Velvet Underground and then proceeds to the founders of Punk, people like Iggy Pop and the MC5 and the New York Dolls. All the major figures on the New York scene are dealt with in detail, from Patti Smith and the Heartbreakers to the Ramones and, my favorite NYC band, Television (who I discovered after they broke up for the first time, but who I have since seen live twice in Chicago, first in 1993 and then in 2001). Not merely the great bands and performers are featured, but a lot of the people on the scene that music fans might not have been familiar with. In fact, so many people are quoted that you begin to get confused, but not to despair: there is a very helpful Cast of Characters near the end of the book.
A great book, and one that will have any fan of the New York underground music scene in the sixties and seventies rushing to pull out their old records, and perhaps to rush out and buy a few new ones.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nobody could have written a better book on the origin of Punk, October 21, 2005
By 
Ace Backwords (www.geocities.com/acebackwords2002) - See all my reviews
I found this book, appropriately enough, lying on the sidewalk. And I was up all night, reading it from cover-to-cover. Compliled from hundreds of taped interviews, LEgs McNeil makes it look easy with a brilliant editing job. The narrative carries you like a runaway train, building steam until the bitter end. Nobody (with the possible exception of John Holmstrom) could've written a more accurate inside account. Since McNeil mostly takes a "nothing-but-the-facts" approach, the reader is left to ponder out the true meaning of the story on their own. What did it all mean? This strange and "nihilistic" underground phenomonon known as Punk? Was it, as Jim Carroll suggested, the natural response to the pre-Nuclear Holocaust times we live in? Or was it that the great Rocknroll Dream that so many of us were chasing after was really a rotten Nightmare at its core? Or is it that life basically just kind of sucks, period? As you watch so many of the central characters wipe out and come to a bad end from the excesses of Sex and Drugs and Rocknroll, you can't help speculating on these dark questions. ANd yet, in spite of it all, so many of the deranged and demented characters in the cast -- such as Iggy Pop, Johnny Thunders, and Dee Dee Ramone -- come across as downright loveable in spite of it all
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars thoroughly engrossing - rock stars de-mythologized, December 14, 2000
It's interesting how "punk" means so many things to so many people. To some, it is a triumph of substance over style; to others, the exact opposite. This book starts at the roots of US/UK punk rock and works it's way up, and it's a fascinating read into the often sad world of the rock star life.
Since every band in this book is pretty famous and well-known, the whole account is like a fairy tale, with bands drifting from gig to gig to album to album without much mind; for most of the participants in this saga, the objective is sex and drugs, usually in the opposite order. The after the fact musings by Wayne Kramer of the MC5 and Iggy Pop and Ron Asheton on the Stooges heyday is worth the price of admission alone; Asheton's remembrance of snorting coke alongside Miles Davis is a bizarre image I can't get out of my head, a real mix of eras and genres, where for all of these different musical icons, drugs are the bottom line.
if you read this book without having heard any of these bands, I can't imagine coming away with any interest in hearing any of their music, since it is so obvious how little attention was paid to the music. However, if you know something about the punk world of the late 60's through the late 70's (MC5, Stooges, NY Dolls, Lou Reed, Heartbreakers/Johnny Thunders, Bowie, Patti Smith, Jim Carroll, Ramones, Dead Boys, Sex Pistols, Clash, Dictators, etc.), this book is absolutely essential reading.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They shoulda been rich!, February 16, 2000
By 
Will Errickson (Portland, OR United States) - See all my reviews
This book is a who's who of the true spirit of American rock'n'roll--never mind that the average person on the street couldn't tell you who Johnny Thunders, Stiv Bators, Dee Dee Ramone or Richard Hell are. What a marvelous way of writing history--we see how the outrageous stories collide and intersect; we get to "hear" the youthful energy and enthusiasm first-hand; we gain fresh insights into folks we thought we'd learned all about years ago. People like Joey Ramone and Iggy Pop are, of course, heroes to me--to see them brought to such life here as real people is an absolute joy. I got to meet Legs and Gillian on their tour for the book several years ago and they are the epitome of COOL, as are the people in this book. Pix are good too, I especially dig the one of Johnny Thunders, Richard Hell and Sid Vicious out on bail. Poor kid. I don't care if the majority of music listeners don't know who these folks are--rock'n'roll wouldn've died out years ago if it hadn't been for their reckless, drug-fueled ferocity and their maniacal genius raw power. Buy this and "England's Dreaming" and that's punk baby! LAMF Forever!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not just for fans of Punk, March 1, 2007
By 
lachigirl "laa312" (Chicago, IL United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk (Paperback)
I am not a punk music enthusiast. However, I found this book interesting and entertaining. Do not ignore that it says that it is an Oral History, truly it is written as a serious of anecdotes and stories told by those involved. Once you get used to it, you will marvel at how well they were able to chronologically tell this story around the origins and glory days of punk music. Honest interesting stories.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GENUINE ARTICLE PUNK HISTORY, April 6, 2003
By 
Douglas (Bay Area, CA) - See all my reviews
Oral history is my favorite, the words a biographer usually draws upon, the source, and this book is an easy-as-pie, page-turning read, taking you from proto-punk Detroit and NYC beginnings (i.e. Iggy Pop, the MC5, the New York Dolls, and the Velvet Underground/Andy Warhol's Factory) through to the many nerves that branched off to sickening endings. I love this book. Its stories are quotes from those who were there. Introduced to many bands I'd never heard of, PLEASE KILL ME served as a guide through the later 70s lower Manhattan lore of CBGBs and Max's Kansas City, and -- of course -- the happenings across the Atlantic where the Clash, the Damned, and the Sex Pistols were among the first. I wanted more after I was finished. It's a good place to start and an excellent place to check if you already have a Punk pedigree. In the last pages there's a fitting picture of William Burroughs in front of big words, "Life's a Killer." I thought long and hard (beyond his circumstantial Bunker residency, which located him physically near the heart of the scene) about why his picture was at the back. You should too. Also, I really enjoyed meeting and learning about Lester Bangs' part in the story. I can think of no reason to give it any less than five stars.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If you like the style Hollywood gossip rags, this is for you, November 13, 2006
By 
Brian Egras (Philadelphia, PA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
A little about my frame of reference. I was a few years shy of being able to fully partake in the punk experience. Nonetheless, a friend and I were into the Sex Pistols, Ramones, and Clash when the scene was going down. So, you know I love this stuff, and merely talking about it thrills me; however, Please Kill Me overall left me somewhat cold. Let me explain why.

First off, the book is nothing more than a gossip rag. 98% of the interviews focus on sex and drugs. What's missing? The Rock-n-Roll! Groupies are given WAY too much time to speak. If you add up the words by interviewee, it seems like 35% is testimony by groupies. There are gleaming occasions though when you get some real pearls. For example, the MC5 tell all about their famous gig in Chicago. Iggy shares how he wrote the "I got a heart full of Napalm" lyric. Bandmates explain how Iggy got his name. But that still doesn't account for the dross along the lines of "I just thought so-and-so was so cute, but then I thought so-and-so was cute." Pretty pathetic. There was some major editing to be done here. I mean, why is there testimony from Bebe Buell about her affair with Jack Nicholson?

Next off, the book limits its scope to a handful of focal bands - and mostly how they relate to New York City. These bands include Velvet Underground, Iggy and the Stooges, MC5, David Bowie, Patti Smith, Ramones, New York Dolls, Dead Boys, Heartbreakers, Television, and the Sex Pistols. I am sure that everyone has at least one favorite punk that was left out, so I don't see the point in complaining about that; however, Please Kill Me sees everything through the lens of the New York City scene and tends to dismiss anything happening outside of New York or, equally, denigrate other scenes as New York derivatives. It could have been that way, but I don't think it is a fully accurate depiction. There is certainly some distorting bias of the editors here.

Next, there seems to be some issues with facts in the book. Several others have mentioned some. For one, I was peeved that Legs McNeil, the author, took a lot of pride in claiming that he was the father of the term "punk" as applied to the culture. It's pretty well documented that Lester Bangs did this about 6 years prior - and Legs was friends with Lester, so the chance to steal the term was certainly there.

If you are a real fan of punk, this book will not be an entire waste of time, but I can't help but feel that there are many better books. I am currently looking for those. But Please Kill Me will, at the very least, give you an idea of the personalities of the focal people. It will not give you insight to the punk movement from a philosophical or artistic point of view. Like I said, it is merely a gossip rag.
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Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil (Paperback - April 13, 2006)
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