Friday, October 12, 2007

Too Much Junkie Business

Sex Pistols

On this date in 1978, Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols was arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Sid himself died a few months later, in February 1979, just 21 years old, of a heroin overdose. Urban legend that surrounds both deaths - of Sid and of Nancy postulates that the late Rockets Redglare was a person of interest.

Regardless of what we think happened on the night of October 11 and morning of October 12, the only people who really know can't tell us because they are dead.

I don't judge these poor dead junkies on their addiction. This post just reflects some great punk rock musicians who shuffled off this mortal coil at a very young age... and whose music will be celebrated in the Punk Rock Day of the Dead special exhibit during Punk Turns 30's Unguarded Moments: Backstage and Beyond Tour. The Punk Rock Day of the Dead show is a party at Goner Records on November 1, complete with photo exhibit, live music and tamales! Tamales are a traditional Day of the Dead feast food amongst the most celebrated Day of the Dead observers in Mexico.

darby for robot BW

The Day of the Dead was well known to Darby Crash, as the Mexican influence in Southern California is strong, and LA Punk Rock's First Lady, Alice Bag was not only one of Darby's closest friends, but she's Mexican. I think the accomplishments of the Mexican factor in LA Punk cannot be stressed enough; it gives LA Punk a unique and distinctive voice.... but that's a topic for a future post.

Darby Crash is another punk rocker whose potential was never met. His heroin overdose was intentional. Darby's death by suicide at the age of 22 was overshadowed in the public eye by the death by murder of John Lennon the following day. The disparate dots that link Darby Crash to John Lennon flow in free association style... apart from the December 7/8, 1980 death they share, there's an ideological link in Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, another junkie, another suicide. Music critics were beginning to refer to Kurt Cobain as the John Lennon of his generation and genre. Pat Smear played on tour with Nirvana and continued to play with Dave Grohl, giving the Seattle post-punk grunge rockers a direct link to the music that influenced them.

Johnny Thunders

Johnny Thunders famously sang a song called Too Much Junkie Business. He managed to outlive the die-young-at-27 curse (Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Gram Parsons, etc) by 11 years. Whether it was a hot shot or an accidental overdose, the scrappy guitar player from Queens, NY, a former member of proto-punk/glam trash rockers The New York Dolls was found dead at age 38 in a New Orleans hotel room, with heroin in his system. If it weren't so tragic and so personally relevant to me (ask me personally some day about pink leather coats and Paris), the story of the life and tragic and senseless death of Johnny Thunders in New Orleans would be a perfect punk noir novel or movie... the elements do not add up.

Until his own dying day, Dee Dee Ramone always maintained, to me at least, that Johnny was murdered by "thieving bastards."

Dee Dee Ramone

Dee Dee Ramone knew very well both junkies and thieving bastards. He lived a colorful life and whenever he and Stiv were together, the good times never ended. Dee Dee outlived all of these guys, including Stiv, whom we all ironically said would have to be hit by a bus before he passed, as he had faked and cheated death many times. And although he had carried a monkey on his back for nearly all of his adult life, Dee Dee Ramone in my estimation is still the standard bearer in terms of punk rock music and lyrics. Such a gifted lyricist and idea-man, perhaps Dee Dee was just too creative to be in a mortal setting.

Sure, Dee Dee was a little bit eccentric... but I'm so pleased that at the staid Rock N Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Dee Dee congratulated and thanked himself! I think most punk rock bands owe a great debt to Dee Dee Ramone for paving the way and setting the standard as well as continually, throughout his career, raising the bar.

stiv dee dee live at mic 1 small
Two most cherished punk rock friends - Dee Dee Ramone and Stiv Bators

1 comment:

Colin said...

Bittersweet blog.

Yes, the urban legends are numerous regarding Sid 'n' Nancy; as a cabbie in Toronto in the eighties, someone of some authority tole me they thought that Stiv was involved. But as you said -- we'll never know. No deathbed confessions.

In an interview I did for my doc THE LAST POGO JUMPS AGAIN, one musician (Tony Malone; among other things, he produced the first LEATHER UPPERS ep) thought that one of the reasons so many Toronto punkers got into heroin in the eighties -- it was rampant -- was because of their bitter sadness at being completely overlooked by the local music industry thieves, not to mention the international ones.

The only real insight I have regarding nasty drugs is recalling a long period in Toronto in the eighties when the cops went gonzo on pot-heads and took glee in busting small-time dealers and users. They even had the gall to put up billboards telling us that our days of smoking weed were numbered. Coinciding with this was a huge influx of coke into the city -- and i watched first-hand as friends and acquaintances dropped their pot habit, and took up the coke habit, which in many cases turned into a smack habit and/or a crack habit.

(Beer is the gateway drug).