Nancy Spungen, has always been something of an enigma. Who was she? and how come we’re still talking about her 40 years after she was wheeled out of the Chelsea Hotel on a gurney? The lovelorn Punk Rock Juliet? The Yoko Ono of the Sex Pistols? The bleached blonde fly in Punks ointment? By the age of 18 Nancy had left home, and moved to London. Her mother, Deborah Spungen in her book, ‘And I Don’t Want to Live this Life” recalls that Nancy was a difficult baby, throwing temper tantrums and crying fits way into late childhood, “I know its normal to scream, but Nancy did nothing but scream”. Nancy allegedly threatened her siblings, attacked the babysitter with scissors and was expelled from school at 11. She ran away from her next school, and when she was 15 Nancy was diagnosed with schizophrenia. At 17 she was expelled from the University of Colorado for purchasing marijuana and storing stolen property in her room. Fired from her first job on her first day she moved to NYC and worked as a stripper and followed bands like The Ramones and the New York Dolls. In 1976 she moved to London where, allegedly rejected by Johnny Rotten, she turned her attentions to Sid.
As the Heartbreakers tour manager Leee Childers said of Nancy in Legs McNeil’s seminal Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, “She was a junkie, a drug supplier and an all-around lowlife. … She was a very, very, very, very, very, very bad influence on people who were already a mess. She was a troublemaker and a stirrer-upper.” From Rolling Stone
Malcolm Mclaren once confessed to trying to remove Nancy from the scene altogether, “Nancy was no pushover. I tried having her kidnapped in London and put on a plane back to New York”. from a 2009 article in The Daily Beast
So, the reviews were not good. Nancy, it seems, was viewed as the uninvited guest to the Punk party. Whereas the other kids got the last bus home to Bromley, Nancy might have been more inclined to steal the bus, crash the bus, set fire to the bus, blow up the bus, take everyone’s money and then wonder why people had such a problem with her. In Punk culture, just as it was in the rest of the world, it was OK to dress like the bad fairy, but it wasn’t OK to actually be the bad fairy. And Nancy might just have been a bit of a bad fairy.
Nancy made one public appearance with a post Pistols Sid in his band The Vicious White Kids, and legend has it, that Nancy was so tuneless, former Pistols bassist Glen Matlock made sure her mic wasn’t even plugged in. Even Sid, in spite of his tough-boy image and dozy, piratey swagger, was no match for the wily, street-smart Nancy, and the on-going mystery surrounding what actually did happen that night at The Chelsea helps to keep this strange, sad and confusing story of the girl from Philadelphia very much alive.
Had she lived, Nancy would have been 60 years old today.
Love Kills contributor Michele Montalvo has made a personal, and rather touching pilgrimage to all of the places that were important throughout Nancy Spungen’s life, and you can read about them HERE.