Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk is a must-read for classic punk, glam, and new wave fans alike. Curated by original Punk magazine co-founder Legs McNeil, this saga of the evolution of punk is told by the musicians, groupies, journalists and record execs who witnessed it firsthand.
Beginning in the ’60s with the Velvet Underground, McNeil and Gillian McCain set the scene for the New York that gave birth to Ramones predecessors like the New York Dolls and poets like Patti Smith. From the famed Chelsea Hotel to the success of CBGB’s and the now-iconic bands who got their start there (read: The Ramones, Blondie) to England’s much more vicious version of punk, McNeil and McCain never miss a beat on a wild ride that spans four decades and two continents, even stopping for a layover in Detroit to focus on the Midwest’s metal-infused punk that included the rise (and fall) of bands like The MC5 and my personal favorite, the Iggy Pop-fronted Stooges.
The exploration of punk’s revolutionary roots and its impact on later movements like glam, new wave, and grunge are reason enough to pick up this book, but perhaps unintentionally, the authors capture deeper and darker themes, including the influence of various drugs on the evolution of music. Transitions from weed and acid to meth and heroin led to shorter songs and wilder tempos in an era marked by flowing 10-minute guitar solos… But that abuse led to the downfall of many of the musicians featured, arguably, culminating with the death of grunge itself in the ’90s.
From start to finish, the book demands the reader dig out old albums and discover new-to-you bands while taking a deep dive behind the scenes of vintage rock n roll.