Please Kill Me, the oral history of punk written by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, was published 20 years ago this year. It’s credited as the book that popularised the oral history format, but, more than that, it’s an essential read for anyone with even the slightest interest in the movement. Featuring interviews with punk’s most important characters, from Lou Reed and Patti Smith to Iggy Pop and Richard Hell, it’s full of hilarious, lurid and sometimes downright disgusting anecdotes from the much-glorified period.
The Stooges’ bloody bathroom
Please Kill Me is not short of gross anecdotes, largely about drugs, and the description of the bathroom The Stooges used to shoot up in once they’d discovered heroin. Ron Asheton described it in minute detail, talking about the dark green tile floor, “cheap white acoustical ceiling things” and brown walls. “The walls were already kind of brown, but the worst thing was that the acoustical tiles were all bloodstained,” he recalled. “And then there were big blood drips on the floor and on the walls, because when you pull a needle out of your arm after shooting up, some blood gets in the syringe, and to clean it out, you squirt it.” What follows are some vivid descriptions of the blood stains all over the room and a pile of cotton balls on the floor. “Such degradation”, as Asheton put it.
Richard Hell’s “please kill me” t-shirt
The book takes its title from a t-shirt that Richard Hell made himself for a gig with Television. He decided he didn’t want to wear it and gave it to his bandmate Richard Lloyd instead. It seems a few very dedicated fans took the message on the shirt a little too seriously and offered their services to Lloyd after the show. “They were just looking at me with that wild-eyed look and I thought, ‘I’m not wearing this shirt again’,” the guitarist said after.
Jim Morrison jumping naked across rooftop turrets
Danny Fields, then A&R for The Doors, introduced
The Stooges’ method of avoiding the IRS
You shouldn’t avoid paying your taxes, obviously, but if you’re going to do it, you may as well get a good story out of it. When the IRS called The Stooges asking them to pay the many back taxes they owed, Ron Asheton responded matter-of-factly “We’re all drug addicts, we don’t know where the fuck the money is”. As the story goes, the taxman never bothered them again.
Sid Vicious shooting up with toilet water
Before the late bassist was a member of Sex Pistols, Dee Dee Ramone met him at a house in London. According to Dee Dee, he was doing speed in a particularly disgusting bathroom when Vicious strolled in and asked him if he had any drugs. Dee Dee handed him his speed, after which Sid pulled out a syringe, dipped it in a toilet full of vomit and urine, loaded it with the drugs and shot up. Delightful.
Lou Reed’s faecal fantasies
They say you should never meet your heroes and there are plenty of fans who were disappointed to have met the late (and famously grumpy) Lou Reed. Few will have a more bizarre story than artist Duncan Hannah. Hannah was introduced to the Velvets musician while hanging out at famous venue Max’s Kansas City and invited back to his hotel room to take part in some niche sexual activity: namely shitting in Reed’s mouth. When Hannah said the idea repulsed him, Reed tried to compromise. “I’ll put a plate over my face, then you can shit on the plate,” he offered. You can’t say he didn’t try.