The key to this blog thing is to keep the entries short. I had a talk with a friend about it today – upset as he was that I wasn’t paying it any attention of late (sniff!) – and we both agreed that short entries ensure that casual browsers will actually bother reading anything I write and, more importantly, will also ensure that I bother writing anything.
I’ve just finished reading Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s PLEASE KILL ME for the second or third time. I first bought it 6 or so years back (as a cheap remainder, actually) and found myself laughing out loud at the stories within. Third time around, it still doesn’t fail to make me guffaw at the amazing stupidity, bullshit and brainless antics which all involved engaged in over roughly a three-decade period. Who are these people? You probably know the story: the book is an “oral history” of punk rock in America, from roughly 1965-1996 (though it mostly cuts off during the NY No Wave period, one of its weaknesses, and one which shows the narrow-minded prejudices of the authors/compilers), and features the usual array of talent: Velvets, Stooges, MC5, NY Dolls, Suicide, Patti Smith, Television, James Chance, Dead Boys, Richard Hell, Ramones, etc. As Legs was one of the editors/founders of Punk magazine in NYC back in the mid-‘70s, it’s heavily NY-centric and fails to mention just about anything of worth after 1980, but that’s to be expected.
As much as I love the book, I can’t help but come to one conclusion upon closing the last page, again: what a parade of fucking morons, dipshits, assholes and utter fucking lowlifes. So far as I can tell, there are approximately five people in the entire book who didn’t come across as complete creeps: Debbie Harry (always a very cool lady, regardless of what you may think of her music… and I do think little of it), David Johanson, Joey Ramone, Alan Vega and Ed Sanders from The Fugs. You could probably throw Handsome Dick Manitoba in there, too. The rest? Would you actually want to ever hang out with slimeballs like Danny Fields, Wayne/Jayne County, Terry Ork, Nico, Stiv Bators, Dee Dee Ramone, Richard Hell, Jerry Nolan, Cheetah Chrome, Bob Gruen, Johnny Thunders, Bebe Buell, Leee Childers, etc.? After reading this book, you may not want to. And what about Iggy and Lou? Richard Lloyd from Television? Who’da thunk such a great band hid the mind of a Grade A deadbeat as he. Man, don’t even get me started on the lunkheads in the MC5. Their “revolutionary” stance was and is about as convincing as the Clash or Billy Bragg, though at least – and this is the one saving grace of all the above – THEY MADE SOME GREAT RECORDS. It really goes to show you have to divorce the personal traits from the musical contributions these people made, because as human beings they come across like a collection of basket cases, but maybe that's the key.
And then there’s Legs… Can’t say I ever dug Punk the magazine; for me it was a hokey collection of in-jokes with a typically inbred NYC aren’t-we-the-centre-of-the-universe kinda outlook, though his bitterness regarding the “success” of UK punk at the time, which he quite obviously saw as either a joke or a “rip-off” of the NY ideal (like that one great idea – PUNK ROCK – could only come from one city on earth? Yeah, right), whilst many of his fellow New Yorkers fumbled and stumbled and died out by decade’s end, makes him look pretty pathetic. Music “sucked“ in the ‘80s? Says who?! Did this guy ever hear a single song by Black Flag or the Wipers or Half Japanese or Swans or the Minutemen? I doubt it.