Photo courtesy: Charleston City Paper
He was born on 27 January 1956, the year of during the Vietnam war was on going and rock and roll still in the form of jazzy-fartsy. Born and grown up as Rodrick Edward in town of Cheshire, somewhere in Connecticut, United States of America, he was one of the earliest frontier who gave the name of Punk in 70’s and according to his interview by Gothamist in July 20, 2005, his name ‘Legs’ was given by his good old friend John Holstrom. As one of the editor in chief for Nerve Magazine and former editor of Spin Magazine, he has published one of his prominent book called ‘Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk’ in 1996 with another co-author, Gillian McCain. According to Noisey Vice’s article written by Elyssa Goodman in 2016, the book was stated as “the most important rock books ever”.
The Ideas of ‘PUNK’
When he was 19 years old, two of his friends came out with something as to publish a media platform to earn for their living. The inaugural idea was to combine between comics and music. John Holstrum started with the name ‘Teenage News Gazzette’ but apparently it was objected by Ged Dunn as he said the ‘Punk’ term was steadily improvised by Legs McNeil, as the term itself depicts slackerish and smart but nonetheless seemed too pretentious. Later on, they sticked with the magazine’s name called ‘Punk Magazine’ which was the name given by Legs McNeil himself and then ‘Punk Magazine’ started consists of John Holmstrom as the cartoonist, Ged Dunn as the publisher and Legs McNeil or his other name ‘Resident Punk’ as the music writer. The term ‘Punk’ itself describes the genres of music, fashion and somehow the attidude which have been coined by John Holmstrom and Legs McNeil. Despite the term seemed as into rock and roll essence, but eventually it wasn’t. The magazine it’s actually an intellectual punk discussion, somehow a best to describe as the punk ‘biblical’, which these of three young man had contributed to impart something useful thoughts for readers and what is exactly happening in New York scene, especially to promotes CBGB through the comics art. The magazine’s layout and cover was heavily influenced by Mad-magazine cartooning style and mixed with their major music influence such as The Stooges, New York Dolls and The Dictactors. Within three years from 1976 to 1979, they have succeed published 15 issues which had covered new uprising punk acts at that time such as Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Patti Smith and Blondie. General terms for ‘Punk’ might be either ‘bad’ or ‘poor’ and derived from the local slang conversation as like this “You lousy punk!” which known the words was came from Telly Savalas, (an American singer and actor) in a crime television drama series called Kojak during in early 70’s. Within four years and people looked him as a laughing stock by doing Punk Magazine, he then left the track.
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Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk
Year 1996 was the zeitgeist of one of his write up which was entitled Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk’ along with his co-author, Gillian McCain. The initial thought was Dee Dee of Ramones came to him and told McNeil he feel eager to write a book based on his experiences. But then the thing was evolved when Gillian met McNeils and asked him to do in a bigger picture more than the experiences of Dee Dee and Ramones. After decision was made, McNeils decided to interview Dee Dee as the first subject for his project with Gillian. Later on, the documentation became more larger when they interviewed few notable punk acts to acquaint more stories of punk scene happened back then. After 20 years writing on this research based, the write up still on going through the website PleaseKillMe.com which is still into on history of punk and rock and roll music scene. Back then more than 20 years ago, quoted by Elysa Goodman in her Noisy Vice’s article (2016), McNeil says “When we interviewed these people, no one cared about them” and Gillian affirms later then “People didn’t think the book would necessarily come out!”
As one of the notable writer in music scene, McNeil is truly an enthusiast in making punk rock music uplifted in the mass media. An ethnomusicologist, punk rock historian and a writer, he is a good inspiration to be looked as one of the major figure for music writers to earn for living.
Goodman, Elyssa. (2016, July 29). ‘Please Kill Me,’ 20 Years Later: Authors Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain reflect on writing one of the most important rock books ever.
(English Oxford Online Dictionaries, n.d.). March 3, 2018
Gothamist (2005, July 20). Legs McNeil: Resident Punk.