R. Hell Site Forum Message

Entire: Hell's "Sid & Nancy" (pt. 1)

Posted by:Roy Suggs (‘cuz@richardhell.com’)
Posted on: 26 Nov 1999
I have the Spin issue and Hell o.k.'d me posting it. Says he might want to come on later and explain re circumstances and 13-years-past opinions.

Sid & Nancy
(printed on occasion of release of Alex Cox’s movie, originally published in Spin, Dec. ’86)
by Richard Hell

Pure energy. There's something evil about it. But irresistible. It doesn't care. It's self-sufficient. It dances. A burning building. A storm. The Sex Pistols were like subatomic particles, like electrons; you couldn't really know about them--if you knew their velocity you couldn't know where they were, and if you could determine their positions you couldn't know how fast they were moving.

They were demonic--in that it's demonic to be presented with real life, which is half death. I remember when I had a band, when we were at our best, a brilliant set, but playing for people who didn't know us, I felt the audience was like the crowd gathered at a car wreck, that to them I was some kind of fascinating, horrifying exhibit. The Pistols were like that. That's a lot of why they broke up--it's not a comfortable way to feel. But it’s also what made them spectacular--they made people question their whole lives.

The Sid and Nancy story is only one small slice of all the life of that time. I saw the movie the other day and it was depressing. It reminded me that I'm glad to have outgrown those days. But they sure were exciting. I can't think of a better way to have been that young.

Of course, every other person has o.d.'d or burned him/herself out, but that's rock 'n' roll. It's lousy with stories like Sid's. Brian Jones is probably the famous case that’s most similar: drugged out, dropped from the Stones, and dead. Both were performers who designated themselves--and were wildly encouraged by their fans to be--absolutely free, no restraints, in playing out their drives and destiny. Sid was unique in that that was his only distinction--his only talent was for self-indulgence and destruction.

But Sid did all right for himself. He grew up in council housing--the same kind of oppressive lower middle class hatchery as the Queens projects that produced the Ramones--and he had no father, no skill, no future. Rock 'n' roll has always been for people who don't have any choice. Malcolm McLaren and J. Lydon and the media gave Sid a license to destroy, which is about the best toy a kid who never had anything could want.

However, one does resent the people who die. It's as if right in the middle of telling you a good story, somebody says, "Never mind. It's too private." But the Sid and Nancy story really isn't a secret. We want people to push themselves to the limit for us, so we can identify with them and imagine we've lived. People who die rather than adjust to the demands of life form a secret society--in dark hours you wonder if maybe they were right. If they've left you behind, eating their dust.

I knew Nancy in New York in, guess it was, 1976. Right before she went to England. I went out with her for a few months. She was a fairly typical suburban girl who'd never fit in and who worshipped rock stars (I remember the Bad Company posters in her apartment). She had left school as soon as she could to come to the big city. She had an exceptionally large drive to be where the action was. She claimed this ridiculously high IQ score. It was her way of trying to distinguish herself from the crowd of other girls very much like her that hung out at CBGB's and Max's Kansas City. It was how she made herself feel special to herself. (In a way, you'd have to be especially dumb to believe such a claim despite all the evidence to the contrary. ) Like many girls of the period, she made money go-go dancing naked in Times Square sex bars.

The New York scene that Nancy departed shortly thereafter was a little more battered and knowing than what she'd find in London. Malcolm had come through a year earlier and picked up a lot of ideas he was going to impart to the bands he would be nurturing in London. But the scene here was different from what would develop there. It was a little more eclectic and intellectual, but it was just as brand-new, brilliant, real, and honest. Most of us were in our early twenties rather than late teens. People did tend to be "cool." We had our share of headbangers, but there were just as many in the crowds at CBGB’s who came to be privately transported by the musings of groups like Television, Patti Smith, and the Voidoids. The Ramones and the Heartbreakers were the most aggressive (and they were to have the largest influence on Sid: his favorite rock stars were Dee Dee Ramone and Johnny Thunders). The crowds at CBGB’s and Max's were made up of junkies, prostitutes, young artists, homosexual career nightclubbers, and slumming socialites, just about everybody'd knocked around a little bit.

If you were in a band, there was always someone willing to buy you a drink and a hamburger, and there was always someone new to go home with if you wanted to. And we were at that age where we could do no wrong, because we were doing everything for the first time. Anything is worth doing once, and the harmful effects of even the most dangerous activities usually take a while to show up. CBGB's was ramshackle and nondescript. Before we arrived it had been a Hell's Angels bar and, being located on the Bowery, likely also to harbor a few halfdead old winos. The owner, Hilly, a slow, bearded, friendly old guy, drank there himself and was partial to country music (CBGB stood for Country, Blue Grass & Blues). The place smelled like shit because Hilly never walked the two dogs he kept on the premises. Over the next few years it would acquire some amenities--dressing rooms, a stage, a sound system--but when we first started playing there, it was an anonymous dive.

I really thought it was funny that the moment you played in a band you became handsome and desirable. Girls would fight over you, and the funny thing was, they liked you to be mean to them. I don't mean sadistic, but they thought band members were the coolest people in the world and they didn't respect you unless you proved it by using them for sex, money (these were girls who made up to $200-$300 a night--a lot more than us--"dancing" in Times Square), decoration, and target practice, and most of us were happy to oblige. Schoolgirls and socialites were a little different but not much. I wrote a song about it back then--Johnny Thunders wrote the music--called "Hurt Me":

Their eyes light up when you put them down
Heartbeat increases when you push them around
Spill a drink on her she's your friend for life
You can carve out a disciple if you have a knife...

Of course these girls weren't entirely passive. There had to be a fair exchange. There was a limit to the amount of abuse they'd take. There was a famous girl named Connie who cut (New York Doll) Killer Kane's thumb nearly off, and when she was going out with Dee Dee Ramone stabbed him in the butt. Most of us were out for kicks, and we expected a few bruises. It was all pretty humorous.
...cont. in next post: http://www.richardhell.com/cgi-bin/forum/showmessage.asp?messageID=204

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Message thread:

         Richard and Sid by scoop punk, 25 Nov 1999 (33)
                 richard and sid by Mariana, 25 Nov 1999
                         Richard and Sid by Jeremy , 26 Nov 1999
                                 Richard and Sid by scooppunk, 26 Nov 1999
                                         info by serkan, 9 Aug 2001
                                                 Achille's Heel by MmeL'Enfer, 14 Nov 2008
                 sid and richard by JOE, 19 Feb 2000
                 Entire: Hell's "Sid & Nancy" (pt. 1) by Roy Suggs, 26 Nov 1999
                         Answering Roy by Gabriella, 27 Aug 2001
                                 Just read about her by Gustavo, 8 Sep 2009
                         Answering Richard by Gabriella, 27 Aug 2001
                 Entire: Hell's "Sid & Nancy" (pt. 2) by Roy Suggs, 26 Nov 1999
                         the whole thing by BAM, 21 Oct 2000
                 Entire: Hell's "Sid & Nancy" (pt. 3) by Roy Suggs, 26 Nov 1999
                         THE usa w/o Hell's Angels by Karyn E. Mullin, 14 Nov 2000
                         Sid and Nancy by Deborah olin, 11 Dec 2002
                                 Connie Gripp/ Ramone by Mandi, 1 Oct 2003
                                         sort of.. by Loner punk, 10 Jun 2004
                                                 no - by Hannah, 10 Jun 2004
                                         connie by Ruby Ramone, 29 Dec 2005
                                                 Connie's sister by Susan Gripp, 8 Jan 2006
                                                 Correction by jetboy, 10 Jan 2006
                                                 Connie by rick rivets, 14 Jan 2007
                                         Connie Gripp Ramone by Missy, 1 Jan 2006
                                                 Connie Gripp/ Ramone by Mandi, 1 Jan 2006
                                                 About Your Mother by nichole, 12 Apr 2008
                                                         hi!!!!! by lovelyn gutierrez, 4 Dec 2008
                                                 connie gripp by annie, 28 Sep 2008
                                                         Connie by Anya, 29 Jun 2009
                                         connie grip by Phil Staines, 15 Aug 2009
                                 also... by alexis, 6 Feb 2004
                         Thanks! by Philip Obbard, 28 Nov 1999
                         Sid Nancy & Richard by scooppunk, 27 Nov 1999
                         Richard on Sid by Armi , 22 Jan 2000

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