I hadn’t even turned 10 when Sid Vicious died. 2/2/79. And I am really unsure why I even remember that date.
The Sex Pistols were punk rock. I don’t know how else to describe them. They weren’t all that good — well, they had some good songs, but they also put out a lot of crap. But they were one part music, one part attitude, and one part culture. And the first to put the three together.
Why did it all work? I think it was the era. Late 70′s, coming out of Vietnam and Korea, the rise of disco and the sexual revolution, and the rebellion against, well, everything. And there were lots of other things going on, too — the Weatherman, the Black Liberation Army, the Patti Hearst kidnapping and the SLA. The modern music branches from Elvis and the early pioneers were branching more and more — in some good ways, and some bad. And punk was a whole new thing.
I can remember curling up with my radio in my room, trying to tune in distant stations like KALX at UC Berkeley and stuff out of San Francisco. It was a good time to be living near SF — with punk bands like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and the Clash actually cranking out records, I could also tap in and head some awesome local stuff and hardcore punk like the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Minor Threat, TSOL, Circle Jerks, others that spilled over into the early 80′s.
So when the movie Sid & Nancy came out in 1986, I was a bit excited to see it. I had read a bit about it, and the controversy. Is it anything close to telling the actual tale of Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols, or is it more fiction? Does it glamorize drug use?
And how do you make a movie about someone like Sid Vicious, without involving guys like Johnny Rotten, Paul Cook, or Steve Jones? One of the chief complaints was that it’s a movie by a bunch of folks not involved with the scene at the time, talking about people they didn’t even know. It doesn’t feature actual music from the Sex Pistols or even Sid Vicious. How do you do that?
Well, you just do. It’s a very good movie, and captures the spirit of the time. It’s not accurate — the laundry list of factual errors is pretty long. And parts are just made up. Doesn’t change things, though — It’s a good, good movie.
Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb star as Sid & Nancy. This is Oldmans first movie, his breakthrough. He got so into the role that he ended up in the hospital trying to get to the rail-thin, drugged out look of Vicious. He’s pretty good in this. Chloe Webb? Not so much. She comes across as annoying and whiny, probably more than the character deserves (I read the biography of Nancy that her mom wrote, years ago — the kid was a train wreck form birth.)
There’s a lot of drug use in this film, and it’s not glorified. If anything, it is clearly the cause of their downward spiral. Had it not been for the drugs, what would they have accomplished? Who knows. But the drugs were their boat anchor, for sure. Seeing this, I doubt anyone is going to run out and try drugs.
They will, though, want to go out and buy the soundtrack. Good, good music in here. The Pogues and Pray for Rain offer up some good filler. Too bad the soundtrack doesn’t really include the music of the day, because back then there was a ton of great music.
I can watch this movie only about once a year. It’s pretty depressing. These two are a complete train wreck, and the movie is more about their downfall than it is anything else. Were it more of a celebration of the effort, of the culture, I’d watch it more. But really, the second half of this movie is a free fall towards their deaths.
Would I recommend this movie? Probably not. I like it, I watch it, but more so because it reminds of where I came from, and a lot of what shaped me. It’s why I still listen Green Day and Stiff Little Fingers. But it’s one of those movies that if you see it once and like it, you’re going to see it twenty times. I sure have.
Ad remember the premise of Bubba Hotep? Of Elvis being alive, and in a retirement home? We need that kind of tale, only with a Sid Vicious that did not die of an overdose but instead slipped off into oblivion.