©2022 By Legs McNeil
The Senders lead singer, talks to Legs about his memories of Johnny Thunders and the New York Dolls, Nancy Spungen, Sid Vicious, CBGB’s, Blondie, Richard Hell and more…
Originally published on pleasekillme.com
Johnny Thunders – Art by Ally Cat
In May 2017 Philippe Marcade is returning to New York City to promote his book, Punk Avenue: The New York City Underground 1972-1982 (Three Rooms Press) and I couldn’t be happier! For those of you who are unfamiliar with his name, Philippe was one of the true insiders in the New York City 70’s punk scene. As lead singer of the Senders and one of Johnny Thunders’ closest friends, he lived a life that most punk-wanna-be’s only dream of.
Philippe seemed to be everywhere with everyone who mattered in punk. He lived at the Heartbreakers rehearsal loft, he was best friends with Nancy Spungen, was banned from playing CBGB’s, translated Blondie lyrics into French for Chris Stein and Debbie Harry, was there when Richard Hell and Johnny Thunders had their showdown, etc., etc.
Philippe was born in France and came to America as a 17-year-old hipster looking for the action, and boy, did he find it! He traveled by van across the States, was jailed in Arizona on a pot rap, hung out with Cookie Mueller and Nan Golden in Provincetown, and eventually met and befriended Johnny Thunders, the legendary lead guitar player of the New York Dolls!
Let’s join Philippe as he goes to see the Dolls for the first time and begins his roller coaster ride through punk rock. – Legs McNeil
JOHNNY THUNDERS AND THE NEW YORK DOLLS
It was incredible seeing the New York Dolls for the first time in Boston at the Boston Armory; it really shook my world. I knew nothing about them when I went to see them. No, that’s not true, I actually saw them one time on TV, on “Midnight Special,” but I didn’t know their record or anything. I just went because other kids were saying they were cool.
The Dolls show was fabulous, and afterward, their roadie, Frenchie, was picking out kids in the audience to invite them to a party at the hotel. My friend Bruce and I must have looked pretty outrageous that night because Frenchie came and invited us. So we went to the party, and ended up playing dice with Johnny, using these big pink furry dice, like the ones you hang on your car’s rear-view mirrors, ha, ha, ha!
Bruce got Johnny all worked up by talking about tomato sauce, of all things! Both being Italians, they got into this hilarious debate on how to cook tomato sauce right! They were talking about it the entire evening, until Bruce finally told Johnny, “Next time you come to Boston, give me a ring, and I’ll make you the real Italian sauce!”
And Johnny said he would, but we thought he was joking, and, indeed, were astonished when he called up a couple of weeks later, as the Dolls had came back to play Boston again. Johnny came over with Sable Starr, and they loved Bruce’s tomato sauce, and adopted us for life!!
Johnny invited us to come to the hotel after the show, so we went into a limousine to go. But the funny thing was, it was like a “Spinal Tap” moment because the hotel was right across the street from the theater, ha, ha, ha! So the limo only had to do a U-turn to drop us off on the other side of the street, ha, ha, ha!
All of the Dolls were super nice, except Jerry Nolan, who completely snubbed me. Jerry was a bit difficult, he was like, “Who the fuck is this kid?” And he didn’t even talk to me, but Sylvain and Arthur were so nice, and David Johansen too.
Johnny gave me his phone number and said, “When you’re in town, give me a ring…”
I was still in Boston, of course, but I couldn’t resist giving him a ring just to see if it was really his phone number. So I called him up and Johnny goes “Oh yeah, come over!” And I said, “Alright, I’ll come right over!” So I hitch hiked from Boston to New York, it took me seven hours, and when I get to his place he says, “What the fuck took you so long?”
I said, “I mean, I came right away….”
Johnny didn’t understand that I was in Boston, he felt so bad when he found out, he put me up for three days, with him and Sable.
That was great. Sable was a sweetie. She was so great, I really loved Sable.
And Johnny took me to a New York Dolls rehearsal, which was fabulous, and then I really met all the guys, and I talked to David Johansen much, much more.
I wasn’t that close to Sable when she was with Johnny, but I never saw them fight. When I was there, they were getting along great. Everything was fine, but I heard later that Johnny had beaten her up, and she’d never forgiven him, but I don’t know.
Johnny was starting to do heroin then; maybe that was the very beginning. I don’t know when he started, but when I went to his house, within five minutes, he’d turned me on to a line of dope. That’s the first time I snorted heroin in my life.
And I thought to myself, “Me, I’m smarter than the others, I can enjoy myself, I can do it once in a while. I won’t get hooked. Never!”
Yeah, right! Ha, ha, ha!
Philippe Marcade and Johnny Thunders – Art by Ally Cat
JOHNNY THUNDERS VS. RICHARD HELL
I moved from Boston to Manhattan in 1975, and the very first night I went out after I moved into the Chelsea Hotel, I had no idea where to go. I didn’t even know what neighborhood I was in. I was completely lost, and I started to wander around, and I heard music coming from a bar across the street. It sounded really cool, so I went in to check it out.
That bar was Mothers on 23rd Street, and the band that I heard was Mink DeVille, and they were fucking great. So I’m sitting there watching this band, when I hear this voice behind me, “Hey Flipper!”
I recognized the voice right away, and the only person who’d call me “Flipper” was Johnny Thunders.
I hadn’t seen him in a while, we lost touch, and Johnny explained that the New York Dolls were stuck in Florida with Malcolm McLarren, and they left the band because they couldn’t stand him. But, between you and me, that was not the real reason they quit the Dolls, I think they just wanted to come back to New York to cop some dope, ha, ha, ha!
Anyway, Johnny said he just started this new band, the Heartbreakers, with this cool guy, Richard Hell, and that he was just thrilled! And he told me they were going to play Mothers in a few nights.
And that’s why I came back to Mother’s a few days later because I’d never seen the Heartbreakers.
I saw why Johnny was excited. The line-up was incredible with Richard Hell. But right away, I felt the band was in two different worlds – Johnny and Jerry being street rock & rollers – and Richard Hell being like a university student, ha, ha, ha!
But they had so many good songs, probably saved up from the Dolls, so they had a whole bunch of good material right from the start.
So I’m watching the Heartbreakers and I had on one of those Indian scarves that Keith Richard used to wear, and some girl walks up to me and says, “Wow, this is just like Keith Richards!”
She took my scarf and put it round her neck, and after a while, I was asking for it back, and she introduced herself. “I’m Nancy. I have a bit of dope, and if you want I’ll turn you on, I don’t really know how to shoot up, so if you shoot me up, I’ll turn you on….”
So we went to her house on West 23rd Street. It turned out what she had was like a half a dime bag, and there was no way I was gonna get high on that. I was already kinda high, so I said, “No point in doing this….”
But I did shoot her up, and that’s how I became friends with Nancy Spungen.
I was so fucked up, I don’t really know if she turned me on to some dope or not, but I ended up in her bed, and I can’t remember if we fucked or not.
Nancy was like a beginner-junkie, and it seemed that she was telling me she was really in love with Jerry Nolan, and that she was kinda meeting up with Jerry to give him dope and stuff. I liked Nancy, there was something nice about her, but she was the kinda person that was always depressed, ya know?
I don’t want to say this, but the Heartbreakers were extremely mean to Nancy, especially Jerry Nolan. They used her for dope, but when they were in a club, they’d snub her. They just considered her too ugly to be an official girlfriend, but when they needed to get high, they called her. They were so cruel.
That same week, Mink DeVille wound up playing this club called CBGB’s, and I went to see them. I didn’t know anything about this place, and just as I was about to walk in, there was this bum out front, on Bowery, who asked me for spare change.
And I told him, “I’m sorry man, I’m completely broke…”
And he said, “Oh yeah, well get a job, ya bum!”
CBGB’s was disgusting! It smelled like piss! It was this long, dark, narrow hole, and there was a couple of old Hells Angels sitting at the bar, and it really didn’t occur to me that this place was going to be so fucking legendary, ha, ha, ha!
The first or second time I ran into Johnny and Jerry after I moved to New York, we went back in the Chelsea Hotel and shot up in my room. But I moved from the Chelsea, to Seventh Avenue, around 23rd Street for a few months.
But then I broke up with my girlfriend, Babette because we were both doing dope, and it just got to be a disaster. We were not getting along anymore, and I cheated on her, and I got caught. You know how I got caught?
It’s the stupidest thing in the world. I called home to see if Babette was there, and to see if I had time to hang out more.
I didn’t hang up the phone good, and when Babette got home a few minutes later, the phone was ringing, she picked up, and she could hear everything in my girlfriend’s apartment.
So we broke up, and I got kicked out of the apartment on 7th Street, and I didn’t know where to live. So I mentioned to Thunders that I was looking for a place to stay, and Johnny said, “Well ya know, we’re rehearsing at this place. If you move in there, we’ll give you a really cheap rent in exchange that we can still rehearse there?”
So I ended up living in the Heartbreakers rehearsal loft. There was absolutely nothing in it, just their equipment, the PA, a bed and a shower. Every time they came over, they all sat on my bed because there was no chairs.
I became friends with Richard Hell right away. He was super nice, and very friendly. I only got high with him when he was in the Heartbreakers, together at that loft.
Roberta Bayley, the photographer, would come there, and she did the famous pictures of the Heartbreakers with the blood on their shirts, that became the cover photo of Please Kill Me. I think I was there that day, but it’s hard for me to say, or if I just imagined it because I know that picture by heart. So I’m not sure, but I do remember the blood was actually chocolate syrup, ha, ha, ha!
Not long after that, Johnny and Jerry broke up with Richard Hell. It was funny, see Johnny and Walter Lure were at the loft first, and then Jerry showed up, and Johnny said, “We’re gonna tell Richard Hell that from now on, we’re only gonna play my songs! Just my songs! Not Richard’s! And Richard is just gonna play the bass!”
Johnny said they were not gonna be Richard’s band anymore and that was the way it was gonna be!
Now Richard Hell shows up, and before Johnny could say a word, he says, “Alright listen man, we just gotta talk, I gotta lot of great songs, and I think we should just play my tunes….”
And Johnny and Jerry were like, “Wait a minute, that’s what we were gonna say to you!”
They were all sitting on my bed when they had the argument with Richard Hell, and he quit. And that was it; and right away they went their separate ways.
Richard Hell, Philippe Marcade and Johnny Thunders – Art by Ally Cat
THANKSGIVING WITH JOHNNY THUNDERS
Johnny and I really clicked. He really dug me. I mean, I sound kind of stupid saying that, but I could never figure out why.
I felt that of all of his friends, I was the one with my feet more on the ground than the others. I was his “Little-Bit-Straighter” friend. I mean, he invited me to his mother’s for Thanksgiving; that was the kind of thing that Johnny wouldn’t do with his other friends.
And that Thanksgiving was fabulous!
It was Johnny, me, the girl who became my wife, Reesa, and Jerry Nolan. Nolan was high, so during the dinner with Johnny’s whole family – the uncle, the sister, everyone – Jerry kept nodding out. We were so embarrassed!
Then, after the dinner, we all went in the living room, and Jerry fell asleep again, but at least we weren’t eating. And Johnny dug out a guitar from somewhere, an acoustic guitar, and said, “I want to sing you a new song I just wrote….”
And it was, “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory.”
Wow! I was floored! And at the end of the song, I said, “That’s such a great title, where did you get that line, ‘You can’t put arms around a memory?’”
And he said, “Yeah, I got that from the Honeymooners….”
And I saw the episode years later, you know, the one when Ralph Kramden tells Alice, “If I leave this house, you’re going to be awful lonely all by yourself, and remember, you can’t put your arms around a memory….”
And she says, “I can’t even put my arms around you now!” Ha, ha, ha!
It was a great dinner, and Johnny’s mom was so nice, a tennie-weenie little woman, a typical Italian woman, and his sister, Maryanne, was huge, like enormous, but extremely nice too. They were all very nice. And what was great, was the house– picture the typical Italian suburban house– and in the bedroom above his mom’s bed, I peeked through the door for a second, and there was a big photograph of Johnny, with a gold frame, Italian style.
And the picture was of Johnny in the Dolls, covered with makeup, and the hair, with his toreador pants, ha, ha, ha! I thought that was so cool that his mom put that above her bed, you know?
Johnny Thunders Family Thanksgiving – Art by Ally Cat
It was right around that Thanksgiving that I saw the Ramones play CBGB’s. I remember that gig because it was very early on, and the CBGB stage was nothing. It was just a piece of plywood on phonebooks, and you had to step over it to go to the bathroom.
There was like five people in the room, and I already loved the Ramones because I saw them on acid at a party and they were the most outrageous, revolutionary thing I’d ever seen in my life!
I mean the very concept of their songs being so short, one after the other, I’d never heard anything like that before and I loved them!
Dee Dee Ramone and I kinda clicked immediately. He was the only one in the band I knew really well. I always thought Johnny was very friendly, but it took me years before I had a conversation with Joey because he seemed shy.
Dee Dee and I hung out a lot. He had just written “Chinese Rocks,” and I heard that the Ramones thought the song was too extreme to perform it. Tommy Ramone didn’t want to do a song about dope, so they gave it to the Heartbreakers. There’s so many debates about “Chinese Rocks,” like who wrote what, but Dee Dee wrote most of it, and then Richard wrote the line, “It’s hot as a bitch, I should have been rich,” which sounds very much like a Richard Hell line, ha, ha, ha!
And Johnny and Jerry did not write anything.
CBGB’S VS. MAX’S
By the time I got to CBGB’s, Mink DeVille was playing there, and so was Television, the Ramones, maybe Talking Heads, the Planets, the Mumps, Milk & Cookies and the Fast.
I saw the Cramps for the first time a bit later, but there was also the Sic Fucks, Tish & Snookie, and Blondie – another group I saw at Mother’s for the first time.
Blondie was not good in the beginning, but they kind of grew up musically in front of everyone, and I thought Debbie was so cute, and immediately fell in love with her. I thought, “Fuck, she’s really great!”
And I talked about Blondie with Steve Shevlin, the bass player in the Senders, and he said, “Just keep it between us, but these guys are a good example of a band that’s not going to make it. They really, really can’t play!”
But, a couple of months later it was like, “Oh wow!”
Blondie got so much better, and I liked them right away, except for Gary Valentine. I didn’t really like him, I thought he was annoying, and he was always jumping around like a jerk. And I think he was annoying the band, too.
But, with all this great music going on, that’s how I joined the Senders; Steve Shevlin was a friend of Johnny Thunders from high school. He’d also been a pro-boxer, and when he finally hung up his gloves, he picked up a bass guitar.
So Johnny took me to Steve’s loft to smoke some pot, and we became friends. Steve had a drum kit in the loft, so of course, I was sitting there playing drums, while he was playing bass. We just played along to records, and then Steve’s two friends stopped by, and they were guitar players. One was Mexican named Jorge, the other one was a British guy, so we started playing together, and after a while, we said, “Hey, why don’t we make a band?”
And we did. That’s how the Senders were born.
You know who was super nice to me? Hilly Kristal. He was so funny too because he would go from one extreme to the other. I worked at CBGB’s Pizza, located right next to the club, when they first opened. I was a pizza maker, and one day I grabbed a CBGB t-shirt. I was not supposed to do that, but I gave it to one of the members of the Butthole Surfers, Gibby, and he give me one of their t-shirts.
So I gave Gibby a CBGB t-shirt, and Hilly Kristal’s son, Dana saw me, and he turned me in, that bastard! It was funny because Hilly actually came to talk to me that afternoon, and said, “You know, I was thinking, you have a really good voice, you should be on the big level, so I’m going to talk to some people….”
And I’m thinking, “Holy shit, fantastic!”
Well, about a half an hour later, Hilly comes back in the room and says, “You gave a t-shirt to some guy? That’s not your t-shirt to give! Get the fuck out of here!”
He didn’t actually fire me; he was just yelling, and kept poking me in the chest with his finger. You know when people do that, to make their point?
It was really getting to me; it was actually hurting a little bit, so I told him once or twice, “Okay, but please stop poking me….”
But Hilly continued doing it, and I said, “Poke me one more time, and I’m fucking leaving…”
And he did it, ha, ha, ha! Bye, bye!
Philippe Marcade and Hilly Kristal at CBGBs – Art by Ally Cat
Maybe the very first time the Senders played CBGB’s, we were banned from the club for three months by Hilly Kristal. It was like high school, ha, ha, ha!
See, on the side of the stage, there was large blow-up, black and white photos of actors from the 1930s and 40’s, and I drew a bubble, like a comic strip, with a big black marker, and it said, “More Senders Please!”
So that was the very first graffiti in CBGB’s and, of course, Hilly knew who did it because it said the Senders! So the next time we went to book a gig, Hilly said, “You fucking wrote on those beautiful photographs! I don’t want you in here no more. Don’t show up for at least three months!”
When you think about what CBGB’s looked like at the end, with the graffiti all over everything, it’s kind of funny that the first guy who wrote some graffiti got banned from the place, ha, ha, ha!”
I actually learned about the Sex Pistols for first time from Nancy Spungen because one night, I cut my hair real short. It was really short and spiky, and fucked up. I cut it bad, I fucked myself up, ha, ha, ha! Then I saw Nancy the next day, and before I could say anything, she said, “I love your new haircut! You look like the Sex Pistols!”
I was like, “Who? The Sex Pistols? I’ve never heard of them….”
That’s when the Heartbreakers went and did the “Anarchy in the UK Tour” in England with them. The Senders were just starting to get gigs, so I didn’t go.
See, I used to roadie for the Heartbreakers, but I never went further than Boston or Philadelphia. I wish they’d taken me to England, that would have been so cool!
Anyway, a short while later, Nancy Spungen called me up in tears, and said, “Phillippe, I just slashed my wrist, I’m gonna die, I just called to say goodbye….”
“Oh fuck,” I said, “Did you?”
And she said, “Yeah, I just slashed my wrist and that’s it!”
I lived real close, so I just ran over there to rescue her. I got there and there was no blood! Nothing!
Nancy’s got on a Band-Aid, and I’m completely out of breath, and I’m like, “You fuck! You had me so worried, I ran here and you didn’t even slash your wrist!”
She goes, “Yes I did….”
There’s no blood, there’s no cut, there’s nothing.
So I said, “Let me see under the bandage…”
She didn’t want to, so after going back and forth for a while, I grabbed her hand and just pulled the Band-Aid off – and what a gash!
I was like, “Oohh, oooh, holy shit man, really bad!”
She had already cleaned it. She didn’t hit her artery, by luck, but it was a huge fucking cut! I couldn’t believe she did that to herself, but I did witness it, so she could do that. Anyway, Nancy was alright, but she was crying and crying, and telling me she was upset because she couldn’t find a boyfriend. So I told her that it was because she was a junky, and that she should stop doing dope.
I said, “Listen, no fucking guy will go out with you because you’re a junkie, and it’s kinda gross, it’s really not too sexy, especially on a girl, ya know?”
And I added, “What you should do is clean up your act, like maybe go for a vacation, go somewhere. Don’t stay here, it’s too easy to cop. You should just clean up…”
And Nancy said, “No, I don’t wanna go anywhere, I don’t know where to go.”
So I told her she should go to Paris, and she said, “What the fuck am I going to do in Paris? I don’t speak French!”
I said, “Well, how about London? I mean you speak English, so you’ll be fine….”
So she started thinking, “The Heartbreakers are in London, this could be a good idea….”
Nancy Spungen and Philippe Marcade – Art by Ally Cat
There was this girl named Phyllis, who was trying to go out with Jerry Nolan. They were good friends at first, but then Phyllis went to England to be with Jerry, and Nancy had a fit! And a few days later, she called me up and said, “Listen, I’m gonna go to London!”
I said, “Well, that’s great, I think you’re making a good move….”
And she said, “Listen, I have a cat, and I don’t know what the fuck to do with it, can I leave him with you?
So I said, “Yeah,” because I had a little kitten at the time.
And Nancy said, “Also, I’m gonna leave this apartment, and I have a bunch of records that I don’t want to lose, can I leave them with you?”
So Nancy left me her records. After she died, her mother wrote a book and said that Nancy desperately tried to get her records back from me, but she never could because I had disappeared, just before she came back to New York.
Now that’s really funny because not only did I not disappear, but I tried several times to give her back her records, but Nancy wouldn’t hear of it.
Nancy was embarrassed of the records because of Sid Vicious. Her records were all shit, like Rod Stewart, Cat Stevens, and all this 60s hippie stuff! I even have one of her Traffic albums, and it says on the cover, in very childish handwriting, “Nancy Spungen.” It also has blood splattered all over it, cause, I guess Nancy squirted the blood out her syringe on it, and it made quite a portrait, ha, ha, ha!
So I used to tease her, and one night at Max’s, much later on, in the dressing room, Nancy’s sitting right next to Sid, and I’m like, “Hey Nancy, your records…”
She said, “Fuck you, shut up!” Ha, ha, ha!
See, everyone had to pretend that nothing came before punk. When you’re young and suddenly you’re on a new trip, the one that came before is obsolete, and you’re like, “No, I was NEVER into that!”
So Nancy didn’t want Sid Vicious to know she had Rod Stewart albums, ha, ha, ha!
And the cat Nancy left me? This fucking black cat was hooked on heroin! It really was! She’d gotten him hooked on dope by letting him lick the dirty spoons that she left around. I heard from some other people that cats are attracted to the smell and the taste of opiates, and they lick the burnt spoons!
So, about three days after Nancy left for England, her cat was killing my kitten! There was a big cat fight. I just woke up, I had no clothes on, and I tried to grab my kitten and separate them, and her cat dug his crummy teeth into my arm!
I was wearing this cat on my arm, ya know?
I knocked the cat off on the wall. I felt bad, the poor thing, but he was alright. Me, I had to go to the hospital, I was fucked up! I still have the marks on my arm from the fucking cat!
Anyway, the Senders did a show opening up for Blondie at the Elgin Theater, this old cinema on 8th or 9th Avenue. And before the show, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein asked me if I could help them with some French lessons because they were doing a cover of the song “Denise,” by Randy and the Rainbow.
Debbie and Chris thought it sounded kind of French, so they asked me to help them with the lyrics. So I did, and a part of that song is in French, so I worked on it with them to get it right.
Then, when Blondie was supposed to go on, their manager got into a huge fucking fist fight with the manager of the Elgin Theater over money. They were really punching each other, and Blondie canceled. So we played, but Blondie didn’t.
But the people at the theater started getting pissed off because Blondie wasn’t coming on. Since it was a movie theater, they pulled back the curtain, and they projected a little movie– and my mouth just dropped open!
They showed the Sex Pistols video of their “Anarchy in the UK Tour,” and it was extraordinary, I was like, “WOW, they’ve got that going on in England too?”
That was the first kind of time I was aware that there was a Punk movement going on in England.
Then Nancy called me from London. Suddenly, she had a really thick British accent that was completely fake, ha, ha, ha! I’ll never forget that phone call because I couldn’t figure out who she was because suddenly she had a very strong English accent, and she never did before. I guess she just put it on to be cool with the guys there, but, anyway, she called to tell me she was with Sid Vicious, and she was in heaven! She was so happy! She loved London! She loved Sid! And she was so proud!
And it was great, I was really happy to hear her that way the last time she called me was to tell me she was committing suicide. Now she was telling me she was really happy. Everything was terrific, and she said she had the best boyfriend, and she couldn’t wait for me to meet him.
So I told her, “Well, you see? Life is great Nancy, you did it! You kicked your habit, and you’ve got the coolest boyfriend in the world! I’m so glad you listened to me…”
Vicious and Phil Marcade – Art by Ally Cat
The first time I met Sid Vicious, I was walking on 23rd Street, heading to a shop to have my vacuum cleaner fixed. So I’m walking right in front on the Chelsea Hotel and Nancy comes out and says, “Phillippe!”
I haven’t seen her for several months, since she went to England, and I said, “Hey man, great to see you! How you been?”
And Nancy said, “Sid is right behind me, you gotta meet him….”
So Sid came out, and he was being very Sid Vicious with the dog collar and everything, and Nancy said, “Sid, this is Phillippe, I told you about him in England…”
And Sid couldn’t give a flying fuck, he hardly looked at me, so I’m standing there, and Nancy says, “Well what are you doing?”
And I said, “Well I’m on my way to pick up something….”
Well, Sid’s eyes lit up; he gets closer to me and says, “What are you going to pick up?”
I said, “Ya know, a vacuum cleaner….”
Now he really woke up and gets really interested, hoping it might be dope, and says, “Oh yeah, I think I’ve had that….”
He figured it was New York slang for dope, so his eyes got really bugged, and he got right in my face, and says, “Cool, a vacuum cleaner. What’s that?”
And I said, “Ya know, a vacuum cleaner, it’s this thing that you clean the rug with, you plug it into the wall, and it goes, EEEEEHHHHH?”
Suddenly it occurs to me, “Oh man, I’m explaining to Sid Vicious what a vacuum cleaner is!” Ha, ha, ha, it took him a while to finally understand, but when he did, he thought I was completely insane, he was looking at me, like, “What the fuck is this guy talking about?” So that’s when I met Sid Vicious, ha, ha, ha!
I did see one violent streak in Sid, when they first came back from England. We were backstage at Max’s, and Nancy had a big red mark on her face, and I said, “What the fuck happened to you?”
And she said, “Oh Sid was mad at me, so he threw his boiling hot cup of coffee at me….” And I thought, “Oh fuck man, that’s mean!”
So I thought there was something about Sid Vicious that was really violent.
And I saw Sid play Max’s a bunch of times, and he was just completely asleep everytime. He seemed kinda dark, and not that much fun, but, I mean, Sid didn’t have to do anything on stage, and as a matter of fact, the less he did, the better he was, ha, ha, ha!
Sid was looking at the floor the whole time, and his attitude was pure punk itself, and I thought it was really great, and also pathetic. Then some dude threw a big plastic bag filled with white powder in front of Sid. It was supposed to be dope, but wasn’t; it was obviously a joke. And Sid just stared at it for a while, then kinda picked it up, looked at it, and then put it back on the floor.
Sid was a mess.
Then, one night I was at Steve Shevlim’s loft, we were watching TV, and suddenly we saw on the news that Nancy had been murdered at the Chelsea Hotel, and, “AWWW FUCK!!”
We couldn’t believe it. It’s strange when you see something on TV about somebody you know, it’s kinda like two different worlds colliding.
But I’m not convinced that Sid killed her because when I saw Nancy cut herself, if she really wanted to kill herself, she wouldn’t have called her friends to say goodbye. Nancy just wanted me to come over and rescue her, so maybe it was that same kind of thing the night she died.
So I think she did it to herself, and Sid nodded out, and didn’t get there in time. I think she wanted him to save her because she was into psychodrama.
So I think maybe she did it herself because she was really a fighter. And if someone else was in their room, besides Sid, stealing their money, Nancy would have fought like a dog, and the burglar wouldn’t have just stabbed her once.
And if someone had tried to knife her, she would have not just collapsed in the bathroom, Nancy would’ve been at least in the hallway, screaming.
My final thought on Nancy’s death is that maybe she knew they were going to break up? I mean, again, that’s completely a theory, but Nancy would have never have wanted to go back to what she was before. Nancy would never want to face the humiliation from the other girls, who had spit at her face all along, and were now green with envy, you know? They would’ve had their revenge, to say, “Ha, ha, she’s not with Sid anymore!”
I think Nancy would have rather died, so maybe that could have been her motivation, and they were just too fucked up.
I don’t know.
©2022 By Legs McNeil
Originally published on pleasekillme.com
INTRODUCTION TO MY COURSE:
ZEN AND THE ART OF THE NARRATIVE ORAL HISTORY
©2021-2022 by Legs McNeil (Based on the techniques developed by Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain)
Too long has the Oral History format been thought of as the bastard child of literature; assumed to be a “cut and paste” job for hack writers looking to make an easy buck. In other words, the bottom of the prose barrel. But when the art of the narrative oral history is mastered, it can transform the written spoken word by primary subjects—people who were in the room when the event occurred—into actually experiencing the event being described, with all the human emotion, even more so than the traditional omnipotent narrator.