SAD VACATION- The Last Days of Sid and Nancy

Unbelievably it is now four decades since the heyday of the Sex Pistols. Whilst the band was short lived and burnt brightly, it could be argued that they are equally well remembered for their bass player and punk icon John Simon Ritchie aka Sid Vicious. Director Danny Garcia's film has tried to shed light on the events of his last days, leading up to his untimely death and the part he played in the equally tragic demise of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen.

It starts by setting the scene of their arrival in 1978 at the historic Chelsea Hotel in New York, explaining that it was the epicentre for the Big Apple's artistic celebrities such as Warhol, Mapplethorpe, Debbie Harry and Nico. However, the place had a darker side of drug dealing, prostitution and muggings. Given that by now Sid and Nancy were fully fledged junkies, this was probably more of an attraction to them, than a deterrent.

The effect of Nancy on Sid is highlighted with the almost svengali-like hold she maintained over him and it is made plain from the outset that her life's goal had been to bag herself a boyfriend who was a member of a major rock band. At one point it is described how Sid's demeanour changed from being a rather sweet character to a sneering caricature due to the influence of this whiny, depressive and rather obnoxious woman. However, friends such as Sylvain Sylvain paint a different picture of Nancy as a young, street-savvy girl but who suffered from borderline psychiatric problems. Their combustible relationship is not shied away from, including the physical abuse they inflicted on each other.

Sid's upbringing by a drug taking mother is shown to have later had an effect on his public persona, particularly when he met Nancy. Band confident Rodent says that his character definitely changed for the worse once he started taking hard drugs and believing his own hype, culminating in a bout of self harming. Interestingly, Walter Lure says that, having lobbied for Sid to join the band, Johnny Rotten later came to resent the attention the new member was getting. Coincidentally Nancy had previously attempted to ensnare Rotten but, with having no success, had changed tack and set her sights on Vicious.

The infamous Pistol US tour is discussed and the impact this sudden fame had on both Vicious and the rest of the band. The tour itinerary of mainly Southern redneck bars put undue pressure on the band and finally led to them splitting after the Winterland gig in San Francisco.

With regard to the fateful night of 12 October 1978, the timeline of events that preceded the death of Nancy Spungen are examined. This touches on the parts played by drug dealer Rockets Redglare, Skip Wayne and Steve Cincotti, all who may, or may not, have been present in room 100 during the evening.

Interestingly the autopsy indicated that Nancy was stabbed at a time that Sid routinely visited his methadone clinic. However, other reports indicate that Vicious possibly admitted the killing to photographer Joe Stevens, but citing that it had been an accident. Then there was the theory that it was a double suicide pact, but that Vicious couldn't go through with his part of the deal. Ultimately, no one is ever likely to know. Finally the film wraps up the story with Sid's release on parole, detoxification, subsequent re arrest for GBH on Patty Smith's brother, and final fatal overdose.

Whilst enjoyable, the film has little authentic content concerning the actual events and what little there is has been shown previously in the regular punk documentaries cropping up on the likes of BBC4 and Sky Arts. Ultimately the film relies on a mixture of TV reports, press cuttings, gruesome photos of the murder scene, recreations and talking heads (such as Bob Gruen, Walter Lure, Lee Black Childers and other members of the then New York music scene) to tell the story of this latter day, drug fuelled, Romeo and Juliet.

If you are already a Sex Pistols fan, there is little new on offer here. But if you know little of this sad event, this film is a good place to start. Danny Garcia has done sterling work in getting first hand testimony of periphery characters wrapped up in the story and, whilst at time their recollections can be somewhat contradictory, it still gives an authentic edge to what was a sad story of the unnecessary death of two young people. Overall this is one of the sadder and more tawdry events in rock's rich tapestry.


Bones @ Chelsea Hotel