TV Party - S

SAD VACATION: The Last Days Of Sid And Nancy {MVD} I thought the world had exhausted its reserves of footage and conjecture about the patron saint of Punk, St. Sidney, and his devil associate’s junkie other half, Nancy Spungen. I mean, there’s not a great deal of depth to him as a man or musician (even though he did look fucking great) and Nancy, she had even less. However, director Danny Garcia (whose previous work includes The Rise And Fall Of The Clash and Looking For Johnny) has crafted an original and at times revelatory documentary that virtually eschews all the hyperbole that accompanied life as a SEX PISTOL and instead focuses just on the pair’s fateful, final trip to New York City in 1978.
It all starts with a slow trawl through the corridors of the Chelsea Hotel (imagery that is repeated a few times throughout the film) with a collection of news reports about Nancy’s murder playing. From there we get soundbites of Sid’s arrest. What follows is a time line of events that lead from the couple arriving in New York City through to Sid’s death.
Most reading this, like most watching the film, will know the legend and the controversy over Nancy’s death and Sid’s death, and the film analyses all possible alternatives from out right pre-meditated murder to an argument that got out of hand to Nancy falling on the knife Sid was holding. Of course there is the now-eulogised theory of a Nancy-inspired death pact and the more sinister theories that a third party stabbed her - the names Michael Rockets, Skip Wayne and Redglove are mentioned here. Of Sid’s death, we hear of how he OD’s on 80% pure Heroin after coming out of Rykers clean, that his Mum gave him the final dose... A grim tale no matter which version is true. The film, unsurprisingly, doesn’t provide any definitive answers, but from the wealth of interview material from associates and personal friends, each possibility has its advocates who discuss, with conviction, that their version of the truth is the only truth.
The film states the pair had only been together 17 months and that Nancy played very much a controlling, matriarchal role while Sid was quite a sweet fella away from her. While the film certainly focuses on the pair’s time in NYC, there is a brief look at the individual backgrounds of both parties. While Nancy had some supporters, the general consensus is that she was bad news and Sid was a gullible and easily lead individual who had to live up to his Punk nom-de-plume. Who’d a guessed?!
Among those interviewed are photographer Bob Gruen, PURE HELL’s Kenny Gordon, NEW YORK DOLL Sylvain Sylvain, the late Leee Black Childers, BOYS Casino Steel and Honest John Plain, ADVERT Gaye Black, D-GENERATION’s Howie Pyro, Cynthia Ross (DEAD BOY Stiv Bator’s former flatmate), Hellin Killer and most interestingly Chelsea Hotel resident Neon Leon and SEX PISTOLS roadie Steve ‘Roadent’ Connolly. On top of that there is a lot of unseen footage and photos along with a bit of footage taken from the D.O.A film. Oddly, most of the soundtrack is provided by JOHNNY THUNDERS AND THE HEARTBREAKERS with other tracks from THE BOYS, PURE HELL, NEON LEON and others.
Extras include extended interviews, a montage of THE HEARTBREAKERS doing ‘Take A Chance’ and a couple of film trailers. There’s also a fold out promo poster for those who want a heroin-addled Sid and the general hideousness of Spungen on their wall.
Garcia has compiled an authorative examination of what occurred in New York City. It’s a film of strong continuity as it follows the chronological path that ultimately lead to Sid’s death and it’s exhaustive in the amount of associated voices he has managed to include. Members of the SEX PISTOLS are noticeably absent however, but given the film’s focus is post-PISTOLS, that could be expected.
Whatever your views on Sid, be it that of icon or caricature, loveable buffoon or detestable junkie, this film will both reinforce your opinion and prove otherwise. If you think you know all there is to know about Sid and Nancy, you may just learn something more here.
As much as the film is tragic, depressing and fatalistic, it’s also very respectful, intelligent and captivating. If there is a definitive telling of the story, I haven’t seen any better than this. (21.05.17)

SEX PISTOLS - The TV Interviews Uncensored {MVD} Whether you love ‘em or loath ‘em, consider them torch bearers of Punk or flag burners of the Punk ideal, there is little debate that interviews with the SEX PISTOLS, and those with Johnny Rotten/ Lydon in particular, are always intensely watchable. This 2-hour collection compiles 15 interviews including the familiar and the more obscure.
Needless to say, it all begins with a snippet of the infamous Bill Grundy appearance. Given the title of the disc, it’s interesting that this is not the complete appearance and the immortal words of Steve Jones are bleeped out, so we don’t get to hear that wonderful cockney accent declare, "What a fucking rotter!"
From there, we get The London Weekend Show hosted by Janet Street-Porter from 1976, a couple more Street-Porter documentaries from 1977 and ‘78, slightly patronizing documentary footage from the US tour with Sid in verbose mood about his confused fashionista past, and then one of the highlights, Street-Porter again interviewing a top-hat-wearing Rotten post-US tour, post-split. Rather than a stuffy studio, this is conducted via a walkabout through a London back street. As the interview proceeds, a gaggle of kids follow creating a Pied Piper kinda vibe.
Footage of Sid’s passing and Nancy’s murder is obligatory with American news documentary that includes a bit about the Sid And Nancy film.
From there, it’s pretty much the Johnny Show, with the hilarious 1979 PiL interview on Check It Out. The same programme a year on reviews the Swindle film and offers another, tamer, Lydon interview. Jump forward ten years and some casual is interviewing Lydon as they walk around an Aquarium! Lydon’s responsive and witty and, even though some of the questions are barbed to provoke, he shows restraint.
The South Bank Show gives us a Lydon break with a feature on Vivienne Westwood while Mark Radcliffe on The White Room gives us a hindsight piece about the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall gig with BUZZCOCKS.
1996 sees the band reform with press conference footage from the 100 Club. Again, Lydon steals the show and is in particularly scathing form followed by a rather smug and cynical Australian journalist interviewing John with stunningly misplaced bravado. So many of these ‘journalists’ really miss the point and he is maybe the worst culprit. Another compendium of footage occurs with the 2002 reformation, including a nice garden party!
The final segment from 2007 serves an incredibly volatile press conference followed by what is the best interview by far, done by a lady from ITN. Lydon is conversant, hilarious, insightful, direct and refreshingly not living up to his own legend/ caricature. He opens up, the interviewer stays respectful without being intimidated and it goes on for about 20 minutes.
Extras come in the form of a 20 minute advert pretending to be a ‘Documentary Preview’ for the Sid Vicious film. I appreciate the nature of this kind of compilation prevents quality extras, but some good, in-depth credits for each clip would’ve been appreciated (original air date, programme, interviewer, location etc - doesn’t take much) over an elongated ad.
Obviously, this is aimed at a very core market: one that buys anything with the SEX PISTOLS moniker on it. In terms of genuine cultural value to the PISTOLS legacy... Hmm... That’s a big legacy. A lot of this has been seen many times before and some of those ‘interviews’ leave a bit to be desired. However, as an all-in-one hit of those Street-Porter documentaries and the closing ITN interview, there is certainly enough here to give it more than a bit of passing attention. (10.08.15)

I NEED A DODGE: Joe Strummer On The Run {Cadiz} Roll back to 1985. Joe Strummer is in Spain licking his wounds from the fallout of the abysmal CLASH album ‘Cut The Crap’, when he heads back to the UK for the birth of his daughter, Lola. He parks his Dodge in a garage in Madrid, only to forget where the garage was on his return. Roll forward to 1997 and an interview on Spanish radio where he mentions the car he lost and puts out a call to the Spanish public to find his car. And so, we have this documentary.
How important the car is to the actual film is debatable; it forms only a basic theme (one could say gimmick) for what the documentary is really about on a much larger scale - what Strummer was really doing in Spain at this time. He’d destroyed THE CLASH by following Bernie Rhodes and kicking out Mick Jones. His attempt to re-ignite what was such a special band failed in every way - and it appears Strummer knew it - so he went to Spain to find himself, and some salvation. This period of his life is frequently referred to as his ‘Wilderness Years’ - although Strummer’s partner, Gaby Holford, makes of point of stating: "Why do they call it The Wilderness Years? That was our life!"
The film starts with that ‘97 radio interview, where he sounds depressed with the criticism he was receiving in the UK. From there, director Nick Hall has tracked down a multitude of associates to interview and spread some light on Strummer the man, as opposed to the star.
Pete Howard and Nick Shepherd of the ‘Cut The Crap’ era CLASH are interviewed as are members of local bands 091 and RADIO FORTUNA - the former of which Strummer tried to produce an album for. There is a lot of historical value in some of the still photography shown during the interviews too.
The mystery of the car appears off and on throughout the film. Most people can’t remember what colour it was, although it is referred to as a ‘miraculous apparition’. As it was owned by Strummer in an age before digital records, there is no record of the car or his ownership on file.
The DVD is filled out with a bunch of extras that last longer than the 67 minute film. These include audio of the radio interviews and additional interviews with all concerned. Those of Howard and Shepherd are particularly interesting from a CLASH view-point, and their bitterness is certainly not directed to Strummer. They do talk of Strummer going off the rails though, drinking a couple of bottles of brandy a day at one point.
The packaging is also a virtual bonus as this comes in a fold-out sleeve complete with a cassette of the Spanish radio interview, a comprehensive booklet, a postcard, sticker, pin and even a fake One Million Joe Strummer Note.
If you are after music, look elsewhere. This is a period of Strummer’s life that has been little-documented and that is where the strength of this film lies. It’s not really about The Dodge (whether Hall actually made a significant attempt to find the car is open to conjecture), nor is it really about THE CLASH. It’s about Strummer realising his errors, escaping the London tension and the mess he’d made of THE CLASH. It’s about Strummer’s love of Spain on a romanticized level and of his attempts at some kind of personal redemption. It’s about the people who have had little say in the Strummer legend yet knew him intimately as a person. Ultimately, it’s about catharsis. (12.04.16)

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