Interview: John Robb / Jordan – Film Preview: Sad Vacation
John Robb Interview: Jordan followed by a Preview of SAD VACATION: The Last Days Of Sid And Nancy
21 January 2017
It’s a very special evening in Manchester tonight. Original punk provocateur Jordan is in town to talk to John Robb at HOME. The evening also includes a preview of the new Danny Garcia film, SAD VACATION – The Last Days Of Sid and Nancy. Nigel Carr, (Words), and Melanie Smith, (Photographs), were there to capture the event for Louder Than War.
There is a special affinity of course between the Sex Pistols and Manchester. Those famous ‘Summer of 76′ gigs’ are the stuff of legend. Many talk about them, few were around to witness them. Tony Wilson was and was also the first to put them on television in August 1976. Malcolm McLaren begged Jordan to be present that night, she can be seen stage right hurling chairs on to the stage – the final scene has Johnny Rotton’s seething stare to camera, as John Robb describes it a ‘real call to arms’ for the nations seminal punks.
John opens up by asking how the young Pamela Rooke became Jordan. Growing up in the small seaside town of Seaford, near Brighton she had always felt isolated and wanted to be different. Training as a ballet dancer from a very early age to quite a high standard she learnt to express herself through dance, “I was absolutely driven to dance”. Margot Fontayne was an early heroine and the young Pamela loved self expression. The Royal Ballet was beckoning but a serious road accident at 15 dashed all hope of taking it any further.
Second hand shops held their own special fascination, where the young Jordan would hang out, putting looks together and customising the clothes to make them special. Jordan: “If you’re talking about punk then you’re talking about customising things, – early on I was always big busted so had to make little halter necks and sew them on.”
Jordan loved Rod Stewart who was an early influence and later The Velvet Underground, Bowie, Iggy and going up to London. Her first trip up there was to visit the shop Mr Freedom,“but it was fucking closed!”she finally landed an interview at Harrods at the store’s Way In, (“as opposed to Way Out”), concession. Jordan: “I turned up at the interview in mint green foundation, tights, leotards and stilettos! I guess they though this was really ‘way in!’”
The shop Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die was at 430 Kings Rd and manager Michael Collins agreed to give the young Jordan an afternoon’s trial after an interview on a hospital bed with pink rubber sheets. The “intuitive”, Michael ran the shop for Vivienne Westwood and her boyfriend Malcolm McLaren.
The shop soon became SEX and a hot bed of Rubberwear BDSM and one off pieces. Clients included The Rubber Duck Club and The MacKintosh Society. Jordan: “There was a real mix, the rubber fetishists were nice people, they’d get stuff made for them with intimate fitting sessions, where every 2 inches of their body had to be measured but they were comfortable shopping there.”
Malcolm was all about the imagery and Vivienne all about sewing and the young artists would often bring garments in to the shop to show Jordan who on occasions would help out with the stitching. Jordan: “Those clothes were a work of art – they were worked on and no one knew how much anguish the making of those garments caused. They’d go to no ends to find stuff like rubber buttons. One time Malcolm made me take a whole suit off in the shop because a person wanted what I was wearing and we didn’t have another one, he said: ‘Go on Jords, get it off!”
Jordan worked long hours especially when having to do interviews or when visiting stars like the New York Dolls were coming over, Jordan: “It was about crazy that shop – it’s very rare to get that – you get a really unique and perfect look with the music to go with it.” Malcolm McLaren ended up managing The Dolls, dropping them after just two months when he realised it was a mistake. Jordan: “I just think Britain is the most imaginative and creative country in the world and Malcolm probably thought in his naivety America would be like we are. Art, music, there is nothing that can beat our acceptance. Malcolm turned up with The Dolls who were dressed in red patent plastic. It was an idea that went dreadfully wrong. In those days you would not push communism on the Americans!”
Adam Ant came next, approaching Malcolm for tips and actually paying him £1000 for them. He acted by taking Adam’s backing band from him and forming Bow Wow Wow with 14 year old singer Annabella Lwin. Jordan eventually took on Adam herself, after he bombarded her with love letters, Jordan: “I was the embodiment of the imagery he had, the dominatrix thing, the rubber wear and bondage.” She went on to manage him and his new band “ I badgered Malcolm to take The Ants on and Adam was really upset when Malcolm nicked the band.
Our plan was to nick everything, every idea that Malcolm had given; American Indians, Pirates and Burundi, and two drummers, which he probably nicked from The Glitter Band! I had to get the stuff out quickly, before Bow Wow Wow.”
Adam’s first gig at The Man In The Moon was a disaster. Jordan: “It was his first gig and an absolute disaster, the amps blew but he looked great in a black leather mask, quite worryingly looking. It was a tiny little gig and most people walked out but it was really really good, the punk imagery, the power and commitment”
Tony Wilson had read a tiny piece in the NME about this new band The Sex Pistols and thought he should have them on his new show, So It Goes. Jordan; “We came up by train and the band were really nervous. They had no idea what they were going to do. We gave Wilson some real shit. He had stinking jeans, long hair, shit earth shoes and stunk of weed, but he knew what he had in that band that day. His heart must have been bursting with pride.”
Jordan wore a military outfit in the studio with a high beehive and swastika armband which caused some consternation during the recording, Jordan: “The director was Jewish and he really didn’t want me wearing this armband. The performance was in danger of being pulled, the whole thing. There was a lot of push and shove and after three hours of talks in the bowels of Granada and a massive argument they agreed that they would put some white tape over the swastika. The Pistols and Malcolm were really supportive saying ‘We’re not going on unless she’s on there’. Peter Cook was as pissed as anything just saying ‘Fucking let them go on, what’s the fucking problem about?’
The show went out on August the 28th, but not in every TV area. It was a defining moment. Not only for the band themselves but for youth culture nationwide. Here was the complete package; the look, the music and the attitude. Popular music would never be the same again.
Jordan: “Punk became what it should have been, a massive supernova. I don’t think truly it was meant to have any longevity because it was of the moment. I truly believe that it equalised the sexes; men and women were absolutely equal, anyone could pick up a guitar. Nobody was barred, from that whole time, anyone could walk down the Kings Road and look great and they did. They borrowed each other’s clothes. There has never been a time when men and women have been so equal”.
The Sex Pistols formation revolved around the shop with a young John Lydon auditioning there with a version of Alice Cooper’s, Eighteen. Jordan: “I though he was really great, really good but I think there was a mix up with the names and it should have been Sid, (John Beverly), doing the audition. John Robb: It should have been Sid in The Pistols but it would just have been another Rock and Roll band”
Jordan: “Sid was a really good friend and if he could have played the bass and stayed off the drugs he would have been absolutely amazing. Glen was too straight, too ordinary, I think that Sid being involved didn’t do the Pistols any good. It was a disaster being with Nancy. I fucking wanted to kill her, she was a groupie who came over to get Johnny Rotten – she got Sid
I was getting phone calls from Norway from Sid saying he was going out of his brain. He was like a hyperactive child, not an easy person to be with. Maybe that’s why he was a junkie because he was always wanting to be somewhere, he was bored. I told him if he went to New York he was going to die. He was very knife happy. He had a fight with Nick Kent, (battering him with a bike chain), he would lash out at people. I have never known Sid to be a liar and if the police asked him if he killed Nancy and he said he didn’t remember,I believe him. I knew him really well and he would never lie. He was an honourable person and I kind of think it was never him, I think she did it to herself.”
Sad Vacation – The Last Days of Sid and Nancy
Next up is the preview of the film which chronicles the final days of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. Sid’s involvement in the history of The Sex Pistols is well documented. His demise however has never been revealed in so much detail, from so many people on the inside and in such finite chronological order.
Sad Vacation is directed by Danny Garcia and is narrated by Fun Livin’ Criminal Huey Morgan. We catch the final months of Sid’s life from those that were around him at the time. This is a tale of New York City sleaze, of the infamous Chelsea Hotel, the drug gangs and sleaze balls who hang around and feed off the hooked. A sordid tale of a happy go lucky, easily lead sap who falls for a groupie, intent on snaring herself a Sex Pistol.
She told her friend “I’m going to England to be with the Sex Pistols, I will meet them and I will come back with them”. She certainly succeeded, having tried it on with both Steve Jones and Johnny Rotten. Sid eventually fell for the stripper and junkie, the girl from Philadelphia.
What follows is a succession of interviews from those that surrounded him at the time, punctuated with views from some of his closest friends. The film maintains a real 70s feel with many of the pieces shot in near darkness with grainy neon lights flickering in the background. The story plays out to a backdrop of tracks by bands such as The Heartbreakers, The Boys, The Members, Neon Supla, Silke Berlinn & The Addictions as well of course Sid Vicious.
The hotel itself was a famous hang out for artists – Nico lived there and Robert Maplethorpe, Debbie Harry and Andy Warhol would all visit. Ned Van Zandt: “It was pretty scary but especially on the first three floors”, Howie Pyro: “It was a very druggy place and a free place and the people that ran it were experienced with lunacy”, Victor Collchio: The upper floors were dangerous, there was drug dealing and prostitutes.
The pair were the John and Yoko for a broken generation; endless bed-ins getting by on handouts and setting up drug deals whenever their stash got low. They couldn’t have been in a better place. More cash meant more dope until finally the desperate situation got the better of them, ending in tragedy.
Sid & Nancy © Richard Mann
Shocking details are pealed away layer by layer. The circumstances of Nancy’s death, slumped in the bathroom next to the toilet in the pair’s bathroom, blood pouring from her wounds. Sid getting arrested for the murder and his mother’s involvement in scoring his final hit.
What comes across is how these people really cared about the lad from Lewisham. Particularly DJ Howie Pyro who finds it difficult to convey the details of his final hours.
The film draws on newly released Grand Jury documents, exclusive interviews, and never seen before video snippets, vignettes and photos. It has a genuine and authentic feel capturing the Zeitgeist perfectly. “Sid could have been a superstar, I’m sure of it, you can see it in his version of My Way – it’s fantastic…. but he fucked it up…
SAD VACATION: The Last Days Of Sid And Nancy released on DVD on the 24th February 2017