Please Kill Me

By Legs McNeil, Gillian McCain,

Book cover of Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk

Book description

This is the true story of a misunderstood culture phenomenon, one embracing Andy Warhol, Jim Morrison, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Patti Smith, The Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, The New York Dolls, The Clash and The Damned. It is a story of sex, drugs and rock and roll, documenting a time…

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Why read it?

6 authors picked Please Kill Me as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This book became a bible for me as a young person deciding what my future would look like, and I never forgot, as a suburban high school student, how magical New York felt on the page and how much I wanted to be there with this cast of characters.

The New York that lives on these pages, all guts and grunge and glitter, is the New York I see in my dreams and was delighted to cite in my book as well. 

The musicians responsible for creating what we now think of as punk rock were a motley assortment of folks, many of them without much in the way of formal education. But they were all great storytellers, and they had plenty of wild, outrageous, and funny stories to tell.

Please Kill Me gathers some of those stories, from Patti Smith, Richard Hell, Debbie Harry, Dee Dee Ramone, Jim Carroll, and many others (the tales of Iggy Pop alone are worth the price of admission), and the editors do an outstanding job of bringing coherence to a scene that thrived on chaos.

Although the book discusses the punk scene in other cities, most of it takes place in NYC’s East Village.

CBGBs, Blondie, the New York Dolls, Ramones, Patti Smith, Bebe Buell, Iggy Pop, the MC5, Andy Warhol, Lou Reed—their stories, their words, no safety pin out of place. So many of the people and places are gone now. The book serves as the greatest time capsule of a lost city culture.

The book is simultaneously horrifying and beautiful, and often just dang funny. 

Anyone who’s written an oral history about music, like I have, owes a great deal to McNeil and McCain’s all-time classic about the American punk rock scene (featuring the Velvet Underground, the New York Dolls, the Stooges, the MC5, Television, Blondie, the Ramones, and many more). If you’re looking for an analysis of the music itself, go elsewhere; if you want to read about Iggy Pop’s prodigious penis and where it’s been, do pick this up. Please Kill Me is salacious in the best possible way.

This oral history gets in at the ground floor of 1960s proto-punk and chronicles how it led to the infamous punk bands of the 1970s. Written and recorded by Punk Magazine founder Legs McNeil, this book gives you a front-row seat to the exploits of New York Dolls, David Bowie, and Sex Pistols. It is incredibly genuine in the way it captures the flippant and belligerent attitudes of the era. It’s witty and it’s gritty, which are the two requirements of excellent journalism.

From Taylor's list on journalism and alternative culture.

The perfect counterpart to Savage's book, telling the story of the American punk experience as a work of oral history. This tome delves into the broader worlds of fashion and art, and is hilarious and shocking as well as magisterial. Highyl recommended.

From Frank's list on the history of punk rock.

Want books like Please Kill Me?

Our community of 11,000+ authors has personally recommended 100 books like Please Kill Me.

Browse books like Please Kill Me

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in punk rock, New York City, and presidential biography?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about punk rock, New York City, and presidential biography.

Punk Rock Explore 43 books about punk rock
New York City Explore 1,081 books about New York City
Presidential Biography Explore 19 books about presidential biography