Scalarama 2016: Musical truths and myths

By September 4, 2016



After last night’s fantastically stirring 20,000 Days On Earth, I continue along the musical fine line between fiction and reality this evening at Hyde Park Picture House with the unconventional love story of punk’s volatile poster couple, Sid and Nancy.

Drawing partly on the book And I Don’t Want To Live This Life by Nancy Spungen’s mother, Deborah, the film follows Sid Vicious, as he attempts to launch a solo career after the collapse of the Sex Pistols, whilst in the throes of a drug addiction and an ill-fated relationship with Nancy, that ultimately leads to him being arrested for her murder.

As harrowing as it is, I am so excited to revisit this film now, as I was a young naïve teenager when I saw it first time around, and I don’t remember too much apart from the gritty hopelessness of the situation and those perpetuating it, a mythologised New York City backdrop and another triumphant performance from Gary Oldman.

Although I found it very troubling, I don’t think I understood the complexities of the destructive nature of love and friendship, and as a teenager you like the heightened and risky behaviour because you believe yourself immortal, too. Yes, it was shocking because it was punk and they were drug addicts. But the punk we were used to then was parodied, or the last remaining hangers on you’d see on trips to London, and we were on the verge of grunge, our own imported punk, and history repeating itself with its own royal pairing: one of the actors of the film, Courtney Love and her partner, Kurt Cobain.

Following that, I will be returning to Hyde Park on Thursday to be reunited with Nick Cave in documentary, One More Time With Feeling. I know there has been huge demand for these tickets as it’s the opening night of this new film worldwide and the first opportunity people will have to hear the new album, Skeleton Tree, which is released the following day. So I can’t wait!

Originally it was to be pure performance but interviews and footage shot by the director, Andrew Dominik, have been included. And we are talking about Nick Cave so I am most looking forward to what the Picture House describes as “Cave’s narration and improvised rumination,” which I am sure will be deeply moving, poetic and darkly entertaining. It looks stunningly filmed in black and white as well as colour, and the fact you can view in 3D makes me even more curious.

Finally, my marathon ends back at Heart Headingley on September 23rd in the steady hands of Julien Temple, who knows a thing or two about making music films. The infamous Absolute Beginners was released the same year as Sid and Nancy but received a very different welcome from audiences and critics alike – sadly it was a huge flop!

I also remember watching this on television with my brother in my early teens, when I was devouring every film I could get my hands on. However, I remember even less about this apart from some of the expected conventions of the genre: the colourful glamour of the fifties’ setting and the famous musicians, most notably David Bowie, of course. These sat awkwardly against the gritty storylines. And I’m not totally sure what I remember and what is since legend I’ve read or seen in clips, apart from desperately wanting to like it at the time out of loyalty to Bowie.

I hope the draw of the late great Thin White Duke makes people curious to go and give this film a chance. At a time when musicals had disappeared from the cinematic landscape, Goldcrest and Temple took a risk which sadly didn’t pay off. But I’m looking forward to discovering the positives through fresh 21st century eyes.