PLEASE KILL ME
LEGS MCNEIL AND GILLIAN MCCAIN
Then they counted off a song – “ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR!” – and we were hit with this balst of noise, you physically recoiled from the shock of it, like this huge wind, and before I could even get into it, they stopped.
Apparently, they were all playing a different song.
Every band generates a whole bunch of stories, from creation myths to tales of their tales of their tragic demise. And, since a lot of bands are just friends fighting and drinking and fucking and making music, these stories are both dramatic, comic, and wildly contradictory.
Legs McNeil was around for a lot of the early punk movement. Being one of the founders of Punk is enough cred to coast on for a lifetime. So, he could have easily done a memoir and it would’ve been interesting.
Please Kill Me is a serious accomplishment, not just in that McNeil and his coauthor manage to convey a sense of what the scene like, but also because, through the use of the oral history form, they can acknowledge contradicting views. The title of the book, in fact, comes from an anecdote where three different people can’t agree on who came up with a t-shirt with that phrase on it.
The bands covered in Please Kill Me, from the Ramones to Television to the Stooges to MC5 to many more, are important to the history of music, and they couldn’t ask for a more honest and entertaining treatment than this book. By acknowledging the faults and innovations of these acts, while including plenty of hilarious stories, McNeil paints a full picture of these acts.
Take the Stooges, for example: their early albums stand up to this day, but a little something is lost. It’s hard to fully understand the attitude they brought to live shows and their music in general just through isolated accounts. In Please Kill Me, we’re given it all, from Iggy Pop eating his own snot in front of a group of adoring girls, to him flailing around on broken glass, to the band’s internal dynamic. For that reason, I can read this book a million times, find it wildly entertaining, and still take something away from it.