Malcolm McLaren invented punk rock? Don’t make me laugh, scoffs Damien Love as he welcomes two new books documenting punk’s origins in downtown New York.
Having at least a cursory knowledge of the monkey- festooned branches of American Punk’s twisted family tree is advised before embarking upon Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s Please Kill Me. As stated in the book’s subtitle, PKM is an ‘Uncensored Oral History’ ofthe mutation and evolution ofthe scene. Made up entirely from quotes, it’s free from the authorial voice — the constricting frame of history and analysis common to most ‘Music Reference’ works. The story passes in a living haze, equal parts revelation and bitchery. an anecdotal relay race from the mouths of those who know where the bodies are buﬁed.
The book is welcome. too, in being only the second (following Clinton Heylin’s somewhat drier From The Velreis 7?) The Voirloids. published in I993) to have looked in any detail at the most interesting phase of American music since the peak years of jazz.
Simultaneous with the release of PKM comes its perfect visual complement, Dream Baby Dream a collection of the photographs of Stephanie Chemikowski, capturing many of the main players of McNeil and McCain’s book, frozen — sometimes poignantly, sometimes tellineg — in their low-rent,
sources. Which l thought was really low.’
As a co-founder (and ‘Resident Punk’) of Punk magazine in the mid-70s. McNeil is ofﬁcially one of The Guys Who Were There, but although the book is a journey through the past for him, for Gillian McCain, ‘it was more like living a time i thought I’d missed.‘
A recent director of the ongoing reading series at the East Village’s St. Mark’s Poetry Project (where .lim Carroll and Patti Smith both debuted in the early 70s. and the likes of Richard Hell are still to be found). McCain admits that she wasn’t around. ‘I was born in 66, so I was listening to my older brothers and sisters‘ records at home in my pyjamas with the headphones on. But this period always totally intrigued me . . . And Legs and I both hate the time we‘re living in, so it was perfect doing this.‘ ‘
‘We hate the 90s,’ McNeil picks up. ‘lf you read the book you'll notice none of the people are victims, everybody’s a perpetrator, and that’s the way I like rock ’n’ roll. ltjust seems now, in this cuture in America. everybody’s a victim.’
‘We wanna kill all inner children.’ McCain summarises.
With its tasty line in unsavoury memory fragments (Lou Reed attempting to persuade a young admirer to shit in his mouth is a good one) one wonders whether there were any stories which failed to make it into the
The Guy Who Was There: legs McNeil, as captured by the lens of Stephanie Chemikowskl in Dream Baby Dream
grafrtti-strewn natural habitat.
Although McNeil and McCain rate Chernikowski’s portfolio. Heylin’s book is not a favourite of Eddie ‘Legs’ McNeil. ‘Clinton’s book was really boring,‘ he states. ‘It was one of the reasons for doing this. When all these punk books came out, I’d think “Oh great — now l don’t have to do it." And then I’d pick it up. It’s always done by guys who weren‘t there. who didn’t get it. Clinton didn’t go and interview anyone, he just gathered up material from other
‘The only thing we didn’t put in was Ronnie Asheton fucking Nico in the SS uniform.’ McNeil reveals. ‘lt‘s not that we took it out for any moral reason, it’s just after you put that one line, “I fucked Nico in an SS uniform," it’s not that interesting.’
‘lt’s more a great iruage.’ McCain adds.
’Oh, you know,’ McNeil suddenly remembers. ‘When Stiv Bators died. his wife brought the ashes over and people were snoning them. That was marked to go in, but we sort of fucked up with that
Roll on the paperback. Please Kill Me is published by Little. Brown at £18. 99. Dream Baby Dream is published by 2.13.6]
Elmore Leonard doesn’t look like much. Little guy, wiry, owl glasses, grey beard. More often than not he wears a black beret. Could be your sweet old grandfather.
Many think he’s the best thriller writer in the business. That’s underselling him. Martin Amis was closer to the mark when he described Leonard as a ‘Ilterary genius’.
It’s been a good year for Leonard. Hollywood finally did him justice with a smart, snappy adaptation of his novel Get Shorty, starring John Travolta. And now the 71-year-old’s new novel, Out or Sight, proves he can still write up a storm.
Elmore leonard: searching for a code of honour
The story concerns federal marshall Karen Sisco's pursuit of legendary bankrobber Jack Foley, and their eventual teaming up to fight some particularly nasty pieces of work. Sisco is just the latest in a line of capable Leonard heroines. Unlike so many crime writers, the women in Leonard’s books are neither porno colouring nor slabs of meat in the morgue.
But what truly makes Out Of Sight distinctive is Leonard’s way with the spoken word. lie writes great dialogue. lfis stories of cops and goodfellas, Iowlifes and smalltown wiseguys are full of hard-boiled conversations that never sound phoney. Tie that to a clipped, colloquial narrative rhythm and his books slip down like Bailey’s Irish Cream.
Born in 1925 in flew Orleans, Leonard worked as a copywriter after
a spell in the services. He started off writing westerns in the 19508 before switching to crime, but there's still a trace of the frontier in his thrillers.
You can see it In his attitude to violence. When the shoot-out comes, it’s usually quick and clean, like in a western. Leonard is not one for forensic detail - there’s no gratuitous blood-soaked entrails spattered all over the pages.
If there’s a common theme to his 33 novels, It could be the search for a code of honour in the modern world. How can you act like John Wayne In a world where even the Duke wouldn’t think twice about shooting you in the back? The answer is always tough-minded but humane. Best thriller writer in the world? In question. Best writer in the world? Very possibly. (Teddy .lamleson)
Out Of Sight is published by Viking of £16.
The List 4-l7 Oct l996 85