DETROIT - The new film about wild Punk rockers Sid and Nancy exposes many details about their lives not commonly known. Director Danny Garcia, (6 Bullets to Hell, and The Bounty Killer) gives us new insight by interviewing people who knew them. This sets the film apart from the many other films and documentaries that have been made about these rockers. It delves deep into the gritty lifestyle they lived and fills in the cracks of the plot so that we get a better understanding of what happened
We are plunged back in time to the year 1976 and the first-person accounts are so riveting that we experience what that life was really like.
The Sex Pistols were one of England's most notorious rock acts. They were feared by many concert promoters and their public acts of sick behavior would taunt the press. They were abhorred by the media and became enemies of the world. Their message was chaos and disorder and a reflection of the world they lived in. Technically they only made one album, "Never Mind The Bullocks" and they managed to make a movie about how to rip off record companies. The press coined the phrase Punk Rock to describe them because their music was stripped down and raw. This movie goes back and forth from England to the United States to tell their complete story. This is a candid look at the people who knew them and they bring Sid and Nancy back to life.
Sid Vicious was a bassist for one of the most outrageous bands in Rock known as the Sex Pistols. He was a replacement for Glenn Matlock. Sid wasn't known for his bass playing, at best, that was mediocre. He was there to serve as a symbol of rebellion and disorder. He had an iconic look which later defined what a Punk rocker should look like. Vicious was gaunt, had spikey unruly hair, and ripped up clothes and a black leather jacket. Sid Vicious was more of a symbol than a musician. Before Vicious joined the group fellow band-mates Johnny Rotten and Steve Jones had managed to get themselves banned on national television during the "Bill Grundy Show". They cursed on a live show and stunned the public. Now with Vicious in tow, the band took things much further and cut themselves on stage, vomited for the press, and picked fights freely with the audience. In many cases, they weren't there for the music or the fans but were there for the chaos. By 1977 the band had been banned from playing certain venues. Their first outing was the "Anarchy in the U.K Tour" in which a lot of shows were canceled due to bad press. The show promoters were too scared to book them.
EARLY SIGNS OF ABUSE AND A DISRUPTED HOME LIFE
Sid Vicious was the only child and lived with his mother Anne Beverley who was a heroin addict. She would often throw Sid out in the street while she shot up in their London flat. Sid was on his own and lived in a fantasy world of music and fashion. His early influence was David Bowie and often dress up in clothes that made a statement. Vicious, born John Simon Ritchie, would often hang out at the clothing boutique on the King's Road called SEX. It was here that met the owner and soon to be Sex Pistols band manager Malcom McLaren who was a self-proclaimed anarchist. Malcom had an art background and briefly managed The New York Dolls right before they disbanded. McLaren assembled the group known as the Sex Pistols from the kids that visited his shop.
In October 1977 Rolling Stone magazine ran a cover story called, "Rock Is Sick" and it featured the Sex Pistols. The rest of the cover states that this sick rock and roll is alive and well in England. Their insane antics were sending shockwaves throughout the press. In America, that message was received by a heroin addict and rock and roll groupie Nancy Spungen. She lived in a well managed Jewish home in Philadelphia but was a hellion and her parents could not control her. As a child, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and doctors had her on heavy drugs namely phenobarbital. Nancy made up her mind that she was going to go over to England to meet the Sex Pistols and this became her mission in life. She did not care which one she got but she was going to land one of them. Spungen was no stranger to rock and roll groups. She ran with Aerosmith, Debbie Harry the Ramones and was a groupie with the New York Dolls.
Both Sid and Nancy had a lack of parental supervision and they were on a collision course to meet, call it fate, but it would be a disaster. Sid had already dabbled with drugs and he was no stranger to the rough side of life. This would not be too much of a departure but Nancy would lead him down a dark path of no return. Once in England Nancy had been pestering Lee Black Childers, a rock and roll photographer, to get access to Jerry Nolan from the New York Dolls for connections to the Pistols. Immediately she was told to go back to New York but wasn't having it. Nancy eventually met up with them at show and had sex with Pistol's guitarist Steve Jones. That didn't last and she came onto Johnny Rotten who didn't want anything to do with her so she eventually settled on Sid Vicious. People that knew the real Sid Vicious claim that he was very manipulative and classified him as easy meat. Nancy finally got her Sex Pistol and immediately turned him onto drugs.
The Sex Pistol's roadie explains that the name Sid Vicious was a bit of a joke. Vicious was actually mild-mannered, (in the beginning) and singer Johnny Rotten said he was named after his pet hamster Sidney who bit him when he was trying to be sweet to it. The name stuck, Sid Vicious, and then afterward he felt he had to live up to this name. Once you combine drugs and the new image of being in one of the world's most notorious bands there was no toning it down.
Nancy got her money working on the street as a dominitrix and as a prostitute. She would get paid money to whip rich German bankers and would make $200 a session which is $853 dollars in today's money. Friends comment that Nancy was always broke and blew everything on drugs. The New York punk scene was into heavy and dangerous drugs as opposed to the U.K. kids who were into the strong drink.
Taking Culture To The Barbarians
The idea of taking the Sex Pistols on the road came after getting banned all over the English countryside. The Pistols had played Chelmsford Prison, striptease clubs, fashionable parties and basically, "avoid any necrophiliac place that did not reek of rock and roll" to quote manager Malcom McLaren. The band caused chaos wherever they went. A girl was blinded by a shard of glass from a flying exploding beer mug at a punk show. Fingers pointed to Vicious. The Sex Pistols were barred from doing any shows from the council and the band had to go into hiding. The answer to keep the fire hot was to appear under monickers such as SPOTS. This stood for Sex Pistols On Tour Secretly. From here they were able to get sneaked into clubs and put on shows but their time was running out. This meant taking the Sex Pistols wild freak show to America.
Malcom McLaren had his hands full trying to get the musicians into the states because they all had arrest records. They decided to maximize their awful press by taking them off the beaten path and do a tour through the badlands and that meant the deep south. The Sex Pistols played in places where cowboys drank and hung out. They played Dallas, San Antonio, Tulsa, Memphis, Baton Rouge, Atlanta, and San Francisco. Their Philadelphia show was canceled due to bad press. The idea of taking the Pistols to the South was to provoke the locals and cause more trouble and get headlines in the press. It worked, the band was greeted with flying beer cans, and pig snouts were hurled at the stage. The Pistols were featured on an episode of ABC's Good Morning America where Sid cussed out the host David Hartman. Guitarist Steve Jones would complain about the audience who weren't there to hear the music but to see a freak show. Would they beat up the audience or kill one another on stage? It was an open-ended question. Everybody wanted to see what this band would do and it attracted the curious.
Sid Vicious wanted off early in the tour to scope for drugs. He was having withdrawals and was later found and beaten up by Warner Bros security staff. Later he puked up blood on stage from not having his heroin. There were incidents at every show they played. Nancy was not allowed on the tour and had to stay in England. The Sex Pistols played their final show in San Francisco at the Winterland Ballroom and it was packed with people. The band broke up right after their final show and it is unclear what really happened but I would go with Johnny Rotten's version. Malcom McLaren claims that Rotten was fired as the singer and Sid's version claims that Johnny Rotten wanted to go solo. This later version seems very unlikely.
The New York Rock Scene and the Chelsea Hotel
The final chapter of the film gets very dicey and intriguing. Sid and Nancy ended up moving into the Chelsea Hotel. This famous hotel is where all of the eccentric rock and roll people lived and it was an artist community. You had famous people who lived there like Dylan Thomas, Alan Ginsberg, and it was visited by The Beat Poets and the Warhol art entourage. The first three floors were reserved for druggies and dangerous people. Sketchy individuals would walk through the lobby at all hours of the day and night dropping off drugs or coming in to get high. Sid Vicious was now on his own and the Sex Pistols were finished. Spungen took it upon herself to be his new tour manager and she books him shows at Max's Kansas City. The back-up band is the usual suspects with Mick Jones from the Clash, Jerry Nolan and Arthur Killer Kane from the New York Dolls. The shows are dismal as Sid falls deeper into his drug addiction. He can barely stand or remember the words to the songs. His appearance is getting thinner and you can see the bone structure to his face and he looks ghastly. The friends who are interviewed on film claim the shows were okay even though there were mistakes Punk music was supposed to be rough.
Sid confided to friends that his girlfriend had wanted to do a double suicide. Nancy would not let up on the subject and would drive him crazy. They fought frequently and left bruises on each other. Sid would talk to his friends and mentioned that he was not going to go through with it. Around this time Sid and fellow rocker Stiv Bators from the Dead Boys buy switchblades in a knife shop. They felt they needed them to use for protection on the street. The Chelsea Hotel attracts a really rough crowd and 1978 New York could be a very dangerous place. Nancy would take off all day long and work as a dancer and prostitute and bring back money and drugs. Sid would stay home and play music with Stiv and his girlfriend all day long. Drug dealers would come by and drop off Tuinols and other dangerous drugs. Sid leaves every morning at 6 AM to visit the methadone clinic and starts to talk about getting his life straight.
October 12, 1978, Nancy is found dead in room 100. Sid Vicious wakes up with an extensive amount of blood in the sheets and mistakenly thinks that he wet himself in bed, ( this was in the police account). Vicious is waking up out of drug-induced sleep and is very disoriented. He sees his girlfriend in the bathroom slumped over under the sink and appears to be lifeless. She has a one-inch stab would to the stomach and is only wearing a bra and panties. Vicious claims that she was still breathing and proceeds to leave the room in search of his early morning fix. When he comes back he discovers her lifeless body and calls down to the front desk but doesn't reveal who he is.
The film reveals many interesting facts about Sid and Nancy that were never exposed. This includes the number of people who were in and out of the room and possible murder suspects. One of which is most interesting is Michael Morra otherwise known as Rockets Redglare. Morra was a consistent presence in the final days and was delivering drugs to the room at all hours. He was seen after the murders carrying a large bankroll of cash and it was wrapped in a purple hairband similar to one seen Room 100. There could have been a fight over money or maybe they got robbed. Whatever happened that morning one thing is clear and that is Sid Vicious slept through the whole thing. There are a couple of other shadowy figures that could have been capable of stabbing her to death but the police never investigated it. To the NYPD it was just another case of filthy drug addicts killing one another and it wasn't worth the time or effort to solve it. Vicious was picked up as the prime suspect and thrown into Rikers Island.
Sid Vicious eventually dies shortly after from a drug overdose while out on bail. He is given pure heroin after he detoxed and it was too strong. This ends up being fatal and his body is cremated. Was this a mercy killing from the hands of his own mother? This is another dimension of mystery that we will never know about because Sid's mom Anne Beverley died in 1996. Sid's mother rounds up his friends and takes his ashes over to Philadelphia to sprinkle them on Nancy's grave. This story is confirmed and as bizarre as it is this is what happened. They arrive at night and hop over the fence in the middle of winter and armed with flashlights they managed to find the location of the tombstone.
This is a really interesting account of Sid and Nancy's last days on Earth as well as insight to the Sex Pistols. It will appeal to any of the sleuths who are still intrigued and haunted by their bizarre existence. It may also serve as a warning tale to parents and young people about the dangers of drug addiction and living recklessly. Overall it is eye-opening and insightful. Punk fans will find the first-person accounts to be very revealing.
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