When Please Kill Me, the Uncensored Oral History of Punk, was released in 1996, it garnered immediate praise for its decadent first person accounts of the birth of the bad-behavior-masquerading-as-art known now as New York punk. Comprised solely of interviews with and stories from the originators of the scene, it helped define the oral history literary genre, while providing a car-crash narrative from the likes of Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, assorted Ramones, Debbie Harry, Malcolm McLaren, and sundry other of those responsible for it all.
Recently given a twentieth anniversary makeover by writers/editors Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, the new edition adds photos and an afterward, and gives us another chance to live vicariously through a look at a time in New York when life, drugs and friendships were cheap and fast, and the best art happened late at night in some very dark places.
Here are some of the best moments…
“We all knew something revolutionary was happening. We just felt it. Things couldn’t look this strange and new without some barrier being broken.”
“Andy would show his movies on us. We wore black so you could see the movie. But we were all wearing black anyway.”
“When we came to New York to play Ungano’s I went up to see Bill Harvey, the general manager of Electra, and said, ‘I can’t possibly do four gigs in a row without drugs – hard drugs. Now it’s gonna cost this much money and I’ll pay you back…’ It was like a business proposition right? And he’s looking at me like ‘I do not believe this.'”
“[Punk Magazine co-founders] John Holmstrom and his living cartoon creature Legs McNeil were two maniacs running around town putting up signs that said “PUNK IS COMING!” We thought, Here comes another shitty group with an even shittier name.”
“Rock & roll is so great people should start dying for it. People are dying for everything else, so why not the music?”
“I always thought a punk was someone who took it up the ass.”
“I tried to make it with a chick once and thought it was a drag. She was too soft. I like hardness. I like to feel a male chest. I like bone. I like muscle. I don’t like all that soft breast.”
“When Nancy Spungen came into my shop it was as if Dr. Strabgelove had sent us this dreaded disease, specifically to England, and specifically to my store. I tried every single way possible either to get her run over, poisoned, kidnapped, or shipped back to New York.”
“I never had kids screaming at me particularly; they’d scream at David Bowie not me. Me? They would throw syringes and joints on the stage.”