Sunday, August 25, 2013

Please Kill Me (1997)

This is approximately exactly as advertised, an uncensored oral history of '70s New York punk-rock, reaching back for its origins to the Doors, Velvet Underground, and Stooges, and proceeding directly from there. The copious drug use and sexual practices account for the "uncensored" appellation, though in its totality few are spared the judgments of one another on account of discretion, so in that way it's kind of gossipy too—but always fascinating and there is likely plenty for many to learn. Me, I was surprised to encounter some of the people in the thick of it, such as Todd Rundgren, and to gain some proportionality of impact on my own heroes of the time, Lou Reed (huge), Iggy Pop (colossal), and David Bowie (marginal). It was good to see so much attention paid to Richard Hell and the Voidoids, though I could have done without so much on the Dead Boys. Talking Heads are all but missing in action, except for one glancing mention of yuppies, which just goes to show the rest of us ... something. Once again I am forced to consider the New York Dolls, who never meant much to me. Guess you had to be there—the shows sound awesome. My blind spot extends to Johnny Thunders as well, on whom there is a good deal here. He's one of the giants striding all through it. The Ramones also figure large, of course, and unfortunately many of their stories are sad ones. They should have been superstars, I still think that. Blondie gets treated nicely too, which surprised me given the approach to Talking Heads. Lots of voices are heard here, from the obscure to the famous, but a few are missing. I don't think there are any (or many anyway) quotes from Tom Verlaine. It's great on the cross-pollinating relations between New York and British punk-rock, funny and interesting to see the view from the inside as the whole thing is virtually carpetbagged out of New York by Malcolm McLaren after an inspiring visit, incidentally earning him a lion's share of credit for punk-rock, with the Sex Pistols (McLaren again), the Clash, and all the rest. They're here too, of course—but mostly only in appropriately marginalized roles. This one's fast and fun to read.

In case it's not at the library.

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