R. Hell Site Forum Message

Entire: Hell's "Sid & Nancy" (pt. 2)

Posted by:Roy Suggs (‘cuz@richardhell.com’)
Posted on: 26 Nov 1999
cont. from previous post

Nancy just wanted to he somebody (not necessarily herself). And you've got to hand it to her, she made it. She'd love that her name could be half a movie title and that we'd know right off who it was (though she'd know it wouldn't work without Sid's). But then she'd hate the lumpy face of the actress who plays her. She would do absolutely anything to get what she wanted, but her arsenal of persuasive means was limited. When I told her I didn't want to see her anymore, she started crying, and pleading, pulled off her panties, lifted her skirt, bent over, and swore she'd do anything I asked. It was not too attractive. There was really nothing between us.

The Sex Pistols were really something, though. I keep thinking how pure they were, an impenetrable phenomenon, like a mirror, or any given moment. Like life. They brought life back to rock 'n' roll. To write about them is to reveal yourself. They were pure chaos. Like watching a storm. Matter releasing its energy. To touch them was to burn (get burned), but they were so compelling, so tempting, so fascinating to watch. They weren't human, but it was a kind of inhumanity I understand, and a neglected teenager needs. They were the definition of white rock 'n' roll.

Mainly, a teenager wants to be heard, to make his presence felt. He sees how monstrous the world is behind its polite manners, and he resents being ignored and condescended to by such hypocrites. So he drops the manners and reflects the truth, which is to say he makes a monster of himself. Utterly exhilarating. The problem is that when it happens to you, like it did to Sid, when it's done naively, you're still allowing yourself to he defined and controlled by the society you're "defying," and unless you can grow up before you die, your destiny will be to self-destruct in some sort of misbegotten, half-conscious protest against it.

It reminds me of the night James Chance--another crazy inspired musician of the period--was furious because the mob proprietors of some New York disco refused to pay him after a gig. Chance stalked around the huge, darkened dance floor in a fury, cursing. The room was empty except for a muscle-bound bouncer and James and me. When James started kicking beer bottles, the bouncer began to approach him. James picked up a bottle by the neck, smashed it against a pillar, and screamed at the guy, "You can't hurt me!" Then he jammed the broken bottle into his own chest.

It's a weird syndrome of the powerless saying to the powerful "You can't hurt me because I'm willing to hurt myself."

Of course, Lydon and Malcolm were not such lost souls. Neither of them is done justice by the movie. To be fair, the movie isn’t their story, though it is virtually a docudrama. But Malcolm wasn't the sort of cynical character it makes him out to be. Malcolm was having fun. He was shaking things up and making art. The mass media was his art form and he was a master of its properties. He was also quite honest, I think, and very politically sophisticated, which is to say thoughtful and consistent in dealing with people. He was something of a megalomaniac where his work was concerned, but an artist has to be. He was a lot like Warhol (Or Picasso for that matter) in that he took ideas wherever he could find them. But ideas aren’t property, nobody owns them. They belong to whomever makes the best use of them. His collaborators in the Sex Pistols were eager volunteers, not captive victims.

I remember once talking to Johnny Thunders (probably the most unacknowledged legislator of rock'n'roll) about how sleazy rock life is, and he came up with the best characterization of it I ever heard. He compared it to professional boxing, with its sleazy, incompetent managers, gangster promoters, and other duplicitous parasites who live off the blood of the performers, performers who are likely to end up punch-drunk burnouts, while the owners get rich, but whose only other choices in life are jail or a cubicle in social hell. Malcolm was as far as could be from such sinister managerial types. He was an extension of the band. Without his energy, commitment, and brilliant strategy, they never could have approached the position they reached. He understood rock 'n' roll too--that its essence is that it's made by and for kids. It's not about virtuosity--it's about energy, passion, frustration, lust, and fun. Not to mention drugs (though Malcolm seriously disapproved of drugs). Teenage life. Life and life only. The Sex Pistols were, first, true to life. That's how they burned through the newspapers and the TV tubes to the kids, because the kids, whether they knew it beforehand or not, were sick of the self-important, posing, old, and isolated rock-emperors of the time.

The Sex Pistols had no pretensions. They'd only just learned how to operate their instruments. But they operated as one, with a common intention that was shared by half the youth of London. That intention was just to have some fun, for once, just to make something happen. Despite grownups. They created an atmosphere where kids could be themselves, despite everything. Things were (and still are) bad for kids in England. Every year, literally hundreds of thousands of them went directly from school onto the dole. There were no jobs. The welfare state was a listless, pathetic failure. The streets were ugly with bored and hungry kids.

So London was ripe to the point of rotten. Enter Johnny, who, like Malcolm, is not well served by Sid & Nancy. Rotten was heroic for his absolutely scrupulous refusal to ever promote anything but general chaos. It was just his nature. He was like some mythological imp, the imp of the perverse, who just liked to rub you the wrong way. At the first date my band, the Voidoids, played in London, 1977, Rotten came on stage after the set and harangued the audience into forcing us, with ten minutes of applause, to return for an encore (when we'd already played every song we knew). I'd never met him. Then when he came backstage later, the first thing he said to me was, "God, you've got a big nose." He was definitely into one-upmanship, but you had to admire him. All the kids in London did, because he didn't give a fuck, even about that. He just hated anything conventional and he was funny and street-smart. He was one of them, and he was a concentrated package of the part of each of them they'd been least able to express. He gave it release, and they really loved him for it. All those bands, from the Clash to Generation X (Billy Idol) to even Duran Duran, freely, publicly, admit that he--or the Sex Pistols--was directly responsible for inspiring them. This kind of acknowledgment is very unusual among members of essentially the same generation in such a competitive and egotistical business as rock music.

That's something that's missing from the movie--a sense of the emotional commitment and loyalty the kids had to each other. (It was true in New York, too.) Things were shared and people helped each other. It wasn't sentimental. They were a hard lot, for all their youth, but they believed in each other and their common worth in the face of the contempt and indifference of adults. (Everyone was much younger than they're portrayed in the movie.)
...cont. in next post: http://www.richardhell.com/cgi-bin/forum/showmessage.asp?messageID=205

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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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