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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 22 March 2017
Fantastically written, gives a real insight into the history of Punk and the interactions between the historical figures. So emotional and raw.
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on 19 May 2017
A great read.
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on 9 October 2003
A candid account of the 1970's New York music scene. Punk before it was given a name. Anyone who is anyone contributes, and a few nobodies to boot. It is basically a selection of interviews pieced together enabling you to read about different accounts of the same situations, many of which involve the then up and coming, and now rather infamous, musicians of that decade; Andy Warhol, Iggy Pop, David Bowie and Johnny Thunders to name a few. This is SEX, DRUGS and ROCK & ROLL as its most extreme, and most disgusting.
Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Lou Reed bar account. Truly horrible! You most certainly won't be able to put this book down but you might need to take a shower once you've reached the other side.
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on 21 June 2015
Fantastic book about the origins of punk in the USA, prior to the variation developed in Britain. Never mind the Sex Pistols, this is the real story of Year Zero. If you thought you knew about punk, read this book to find out the real source of punk rock.
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on 9 February 2015
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on 16 May 2007
From the title ('The oral history of AMERICAN punk') you shouldn't be duped into thinking this is much to do with the UK scene. In fact, the story pretty much ends with the [...] Pistols arriving in America and the whole Sid and Nancy debacle.

What you do get, however, is the genesis of punk, American style. The authors take a Studs Terkel-like approach to interviewing and let the major and minor players give their take on the whole scene - from the early days of the Velvet Underground, through the MC5 and the Stooges, up through the Dolls, the CBGB scene and Patti Smith.

It's chock-full of great stories and hilarious anecdotes (Elton John trying to sign Iggy, by leaping on stage at a Stooges show dressed as an ape, for example) - and gossipy enough to make getting through it fun and easy. I've re-read my copy so many times now that the covers are coming off.
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on 29 April 2014
This is a most entertaining book in a gossipy way. It also dispels some myths about famous musicians. As other readers noted, the book is divided in chapters, charting the history of punk in chronological order. I thought that reading a series of short interviews might be boring, but it turned out as probably the best way to learn about the punk scene, without any extra comment.

So I learnt that everything started with the Velvet Underground and continued with the MC5 and the Stooges. Being unfamiliar with most of the pre-punk music mentioned, I did a lot of "research" on Youtube and I must confess I did not like it much, with the notable exception of the VU. They were great innovators and it is no surprise that their music is still celebrated.

I was also unfamiliar with the New York Dolls and unimpressed by their musical production. After the Dolls, the story started to be more interesting for me, because I knew already something about The Ramones, Television, Patti Smith and Blondie. However, the book does not dwell too much on musical prowess but mostly on excesses, debauchery, nasty drug habits and the bickering that destroyed many bands when they were just starting to enjoy some success. From first hand reports and shamelessly bitching we learnt that:

• Jim Morrison was an overrated abusive drunkard (no surprise there)
• Iggy Pop was crazy, Lou Reed was unbearably pretentious, Nico was an addict, but all the boys were in love with her (again, nothing new)
• Malcom McLaren was truly a "shyster who would sell anything", as described by Johnny Rotten (himself not a shrinking violet or the most scrupulous man)
• Patti Smith was pretentious, ungrateful and bossy (which may come as a surprise)
• Nancy Spungen was despised by everybody, especially by boys she had sex with, but Sid Vicious was considered somehow "nicer" and incapable of killing her (slightly unfair and sexist)

Most boys and girls of the punk scene were involved with substance abuse, prostitution and unprotected sex. Several of them overdosed, died of heart attack or complications linked to drugs and drinking (Morrison, Johnny Thunders, Dee Dee Ramones, Vicious, Jerry Nolan, Fred "Sonic" Smith, Scott and Ron Asheton of The Stooges, etc…). Cancer is also a frequent cause of death, even if most of these people were relatively young. It claimed the lives of many groupies, among which Sable Starr, Cyrinda Foxe and Anya Phillips.

What is most amazing however is that Iggy is still around and Lou Reed made it through, until very recently. Even sadder than overdosing was the fate of some of the lesser known musicians. After a couple of years in the sun, several of them ended up back in obscurity, unemployed in their home town, living with their parents.

Altogether, even if it may be entertaining to read about the crazy behaviour, the decadence and the overindulgence of the punk days, I could not help thinking that most of these people seemed quite pathetic and severely lacking self-esteem. The whole punk scene was too destructive to last long and it ended up in an inevitable implosion, which luckily left behind not only many casualties, but also plenty of good music.
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on 23 April 2007
Please kill me covers my favourite period in music the Punk Rock of the late seventies but also the bands/musicians who influenced and often became involved again during that period (Iggy Pop, Lou Reed etc).

What is amazing about the book is that while there are editorial choices, it's all quotes from key players and what you get isn't a glamourised version of rock stars from the perspective of fans but a set of dysfunctional people who managed to create some of the most exciting music ever made.

In Please Kill Me, your heros aren't junkies who are rock stars, they're junkies who stink and steal and behave erratically like you might expect junkies you see on the streets to do but somehow manage to keep bands together (sometimes), play shows (sometimes) and record music (sometimes).

It does make you look at these people in a different way but I think that that's a good thing. So much is written about punk rock from the outside by journalists and fans who impose heroic qualities on these musicians and gloss over their failings as functional people. In the same way that I wish that people wouldn't write about Bukowski as though he were a genius who happens to be a drunk when he's a Drunk who happens to produce interesting writing, Pleas Kill me tells us more about the where this music was really coming from than ten books that impose some kind of revolutionary manifesto on a group of people expressing their most simple, raw emotions.
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on 30 July 2000
McNeil & McCain were two-thirds of the team behind the original "Punk" magazine. Obsessed with the Velvets, MC5, Stooges, New York Dolls - They later had their own pet punk band in the Ramones. "Please Kill Me" rarely lets the music get in the way and sticks to the dirt and apocryphal that you really want from any good pop music book. Written entirely in interview quotes that retain a loose chronological thread it captures the dirty glamour of mid-70's New York perfectly. CBGBs, Max's Kansas City, Iggy, Johnny Thunders, Blondie, Richard Hell and a supporting cast of supergroupies are all here. Ultimately it settles the debate concerning where Punk Rock was invented and it's not on the King's Road. In "Punk" magazine terms the Sex Pistols were the death-throes.
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on 18 December 2011
This is NOT the complete history of punk rock, not every band is mentioned, classic albums are not discussed in detail, and the book ends (apart from an epilogue) in 1979 with the death of Sid Vicious. So no details about the making of Rocket to Russia, no LA punk scene, The Clash and Talking Heads are hardly mentioned and Blondie comes along more as a social factor, than a musical one.
But perhaps precisely because of this choice, this IS a great book.
The book is constructed around the stories, quotes of especially the New York Dolls, MC5, Iggy & The Stooges, Patti Smith, Television, The Dead Boys, Malcolm McLaren, and many more famous names from particular the NY (art) scene. The construction of the book itself is above all the quality of this book. All quotes are presented in an unpolished way (like the scene itself!), but are positioned in such a way that the narrative is as smooth as it can be: Please Kill Me is an unprecedented page turner.
It is full of hilarious, shocking, painful anecdotes about the punk rock scene. Focusing not necessarily on the music, but sometimes chapters long about groupies and particularly drugs. Recommended, highly.
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