Told in “oral history” format – a series of quotes from people who were there on the scene rather than a conventional book – Please Kill Me tells the story of punk rock from its obscure origins in the 1960s to the modern day, with emphasis on the heyday of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. There are literally hundreds of interviews here with bands both famous and not-so-famous. Blondie, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, sure, but also lots of musicians and singers you’ve probably never heard of (I certainly hadn’t) unless you were a truly heavy participant in the scene. The title captures the bleak, self-destructive angst that was part of the punk mythos and collective psyche, and the book does dwell a lot on the drugs, wild sex, dark visuals, and death worship endemic in the punk culture, but that may be a result of the format; that’s the kind of thing that’s easily remembered.
An oral history of punk, as told by those who were part of it
Punk was about rebellion, about angry nihilism, about spitting in the face of authority. The lives and deaths of people like Sid Vicious (hell, the name he chose says volumes by itself!), Iggy Pop and Dee Dee Ramone exemplify all that. Of course, not all punk bands or performers fit the stereotype by any means (Blondie, for example, had a relatively sane and sound lifestyle), but the image was there, the mystique was there, and it both came from and encouraged self-destruction. Legs McNeil was a founder of Punk, an important fanzine in the movement, and was on hand for most of this but the research goes way beyond what he knew firsthand, mandated by the oral-history format. Lots of dirt and gossip, and a pretty clear picture of an important movement in the history of popular music, Please Kill Me is a look at a spasm of musical catharsis that shook the west in a time of transition and disillusion.