Monday marks the 30th anniversary of Sex Pistol Sid Vicious's death. The 21 year-old punk rocker OD'd on Feb 2nd, 1979 in a New York City apartment after having been released on bail after being charged with the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen.
[rssbreak]Anyone involved in the NYC rock scene back in the day knows that Sid didn't kill Nancy. They include people like Cynthia Ross, who played bass for Toronto all-girl combo the 'B' Girls.
"Even though our music wasn't punk, the 'B' Girls were part of the seminal New York punk scene," recalls Ross. "We were all part of the same crowd, hanging out at CBGBs, Max's and the Mudd Club."
In the fall of '78, she also just happened to be living in the Chelsea Hotel with her boyfriend Stiv Bators of the Dead Boys in the room next door to the one where the punk rock Romeo and Juliet played out their final days.
"Sid used to hang out in our room," Ross remembers. "He was a sweetheart, kind and funny. It might sound strange, given his public persona, but he was a gentleman. They really did love each other. I don't think Sid could have killed Nancy."
Cynthia Ross and Stiv Bators on Sunset Strip in 1978. Photo: Theresa Kereakes
If Sid didn't pull a knife on Nancy, who did?
British film maker Alan Parker has just completed a documentary titled Who Killed Nancy? that hopes to re-open the investigation and prove once and for all, as Scottish punks the Exploited have always insisted, that Sid Vicious was innocent.
Here's what supposedly went down: Strung out on junk, Vicious and Spungen crashland in NYC after the disasterous Sex Pistols' tour of the US that caused the band to split. Sid, who could barely hold a guitar let alone play one, decides to go solo and recruits former members of Johnny Thunders' Heartbreakers to play a series of gigs in local clubs. Since the shows paid cash and Sid and Nancy need a lot of it to buy drugs, it quickly becomes common knowledge among the drug community that the pair are an easy mark.
Enter Drug Dealer X who shoots up Sid in the hotel room.
Sid nods off. Nancy starts mouthing off and X stabs her, and steals their money. Several hours later, Sid wakes up, finds Nancy dead, and doesn't remember a thing. He's immediately charged with her murder.
In response, manager Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols' cynical Svengali, flogs T-shirts plastered with Sid's face and the slogan, "She's Dead, I'm Alive, I'm Yours!"
McLaren eventually posts Vicious' bail, and that night, Sid goes to a party where he asks his mother (another long-term heroin abuser) to get him a fix. She goes to Drug Dealer X and returns with a hot-shot that kills Sid on the spot. The cops call it murder-suicide and it's been case closed ever since.
A few weeks before Spungen's death, Ross and Bators appeared on a local NYC cable TV show along with Sid and Nancy. The results, which no less an authority than the Guardian has called one of the 50 greatest arts videos of all time, can be seen here.
Though neither Ross nor Bators have much to say ("we look like Ozzie and Harriet sitting next to those two," laughs Ross), Sid and Nancy are in fine form, replying to call-in questions from the audience with responses that would be laughable ("Ronnie Wood is a cunt!") if they weren't so often heart-breaking. At one point, Nancy smiles into the camera, waves and says, "I'd like to say hello to my mother."
"Nancy was bright and opinionated but could be loud and somewhat aggressive if she perceived a threat," Ross reminisces. "We all went out for Chinese food afterwards and had a good laugh about the questions. Both Stiv and Sid were hilarious that night."
Is Ross surprised that Vicious and Spungen are more mythic than ever?
"Like Marilyn, James Dean and Elvis, their death was symbolic," says Ross. "They evoke an emotional response for a certain generation. We were all so young and idealistic. Sid's mom gave Stiv a bunch of Sid's clothes to remember him by. It was very sad."
Cynthia Ross's new band New York Junk makes it debut on February 5th along with Dead Boy Cheetah Chrome, Heartbreaker Walter Lure, the Martinets and a slew of others at Don Hill's in NYC. The show's in memory of the late Stiv Bators as well as friends Johnny Thunders, Joey, Dee Dee, and Johnny Ramone, Billy Rogers, Richie Lure and Johnny Heff.
"The originals," sighs Ross. "Like Sid, they left us too early."