It's a dreary October day here in Chicago...the sky is dark gray, the red and gold leaves are starting to blow off the black tree branches, it's starting to get too chilly to comfortably walk the dogs...
In short, it would be a perfect day to stay at home and curl up under the covers with a good book. Except it's Monday, and I'm stuck in the office under soul-destroying fluorescent lights. Still, I take to the internet when I can to find a good afternoon read.
Today's Juicy Internet Read is Karen Schoemer's revised look at Nancy Spungen, who was best known for probably being stabbed to death by junkie boyfriend and Sex Pistol Sid Vicious (who OD'ed himself four months later). The tale of Sid and Nancy is one of those stories of drug-induced mutual destruction that is often mistaken for a sort of passionate rebellion fuelled by amour fou.
Still, youthful mutual destruction makes for a pretty good read, so I do recommend this article, which poses the question of whether Nancy Spungen was unfairly dismissed and vilified as a mere groupie, the cause of the Sex Pistols' and Sid's destruction. It's hard not to think of Courtney Love, who is often accused outright of murdering Kurt Cobain--such is the lack of lost love between her and Nirvana fans. It's also interesting that Courtney Love and Nancy Spungen share a remarkable physical resemblance.
Perhaps I just am not inherently very punk, or maybe it's because I was a mere babe in the '70s and am in the prime of my life in the Golden Age of Snark, but I typically have a hard time taking punk icons very seriously. Especially now, when they're in their 50s and 60s, sitting around in their black leather jackets, pining for the good ol' days of rampant urban squalor.
And there was a certain element of hypocrisy to the punk movement even in its prime, as Nancy Spungen realized: "But Nancy was too extreme even for a movement centered on extremeness, and she never gained the acceptance she craved; she was an outcast among outcasts, nicknamed 'Nauseating Nancy' behind her back. 'It was jealousy,' says Roberta Bayley, who worked the door at CBGB. 'There’s no more competitive thing than who can fuck these musicians. Maybe Pamela Des Barres tells the story of female solidarity, but there was a lot of backstabbing.' According to Polk, 'The other girls shunned her and were mean to her. And that made Nancy worse. She became vengeful. She kind of reacted to them putting her down by doing even worse things. The only people who didn’t shun her were the guys that were getting drugs from her.'"
And so this article attempts to remind punk fans of the vulnerable humanity behind the wasted life. The way that she "could be very, very nice," according to Legs McNeil. The way that she demonstrated her musical knowledge and committment to the genre in a live interview. The way she embodied the spirit of punk with her obnoxiousness, her aggressiveness, and her delight in pissing people off.
I don't feel that anyone need be overly sentimental on Nancy's behalf. Her addiction, her murder--all of these things are to be pitied or mourned, perhaps, but not romanticized. There was a certain alluring chaotic energy to be found in her relationship with Sid Vicious, but it can't be called love...or at least not some pure love that anyone should aspire to. (Amy Winehouse, please take note).
For more Sid 'n Nancy fun, check out their appearance on this interview, where they field live questions from callers. I think this is the clip Karen Schoemer is referring to in her article: