In Rear-View: Please Kill Me by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain

Even in a scene where I fit it, I was always kind of an oddball. While everyone else was getting acquainted with The Sex Pistols and The Clash, those bands didn’t quite have the sound

Even in a scene where I fit it, I was always kind of an oddball. While everyone else was getting acquainted with The Sex Pistols and The Clash, those bands didn’t quite have the sound that I needed. I knew that there had to be something else out there for me. I had taken a cassette of Iggy and the Stooges from my parents a while before this, so I decided to revisit that. I really listened to it the second time around and dug deeper into the music from that era. Enter MC5 and The New York Dolls. This is what I wanted. As I slowly emerged myself in this genre, I found the book, Please Kill Me, by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain.

This book is broken down into five sections, based on chronological years. It’s starts with what is considered to be the origin to punk rock, now known as proto-punk. (Side fact – I hate that term for some reason…) It reads more as if you are sitting in a room listening to stories than it does a non-fiction novel.

You learn all of the gritty details of the scene at the time. Most of which we take for granted today, but were extremely taboo at the time. The late 60’s and early 70’s brought theatre to the stage along with the music. Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground were singing lyrics discussing topics not in the mainstream, Iggy Pop was shaving off his eyebrows and covering his body in glitter, and the New York Dolls were stealing dresses off of clotheslines to wear onstage. Looking back, this is probably where my obsession with drag started. The mid 70’s introduced bands, such as Richard Hell, Patti Smith, and the Ramones and follows later to end the decade with stories from The Sex Pistols and The Clash.

Not only does this book recite the history of punk rock, but it discusses the fashion at the time, the venues that housed these legendary bands, and reflects the true nature of what was happening at the time. The good, the bad, the stupid, and the horrible. It tells the same story on repeat about how these artists went down the road of drug addiction and their ultimate demise, usually jail or death. The book ends like an obituary, listing everyone that passed: Sid and Nancy, Johnny Thunders, and Stiv Bators to name a few.

This book missed much of what was going on culturally at the time, but it follows such a limited amount of people and there wasn’t a lot of diversity in the scene then. If nothing else, this book should be read just to learn about the bands that pushed the envelope during a more conservative time. I also read this while my friends were first starting to get into heroin themselves. I credit the fact that I never bothered with it to reading the stories in these pages.

Go check it out and let me know what you think!!

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