Sid Vicious and His Crew at Max’s Kansas City
Nancy Spungen and Sid Vicious, New York City 1978
a stirring reminiscence by Thurston Moore
The fact that the Sex Pistols blew off NYC on their ’78 tour to focus on the deep South and beyond was a remarkable move by Malcolm Mclaren, but it really bummed us starving 20 year old (I was born in ’58) new wave no wave punkoids banging around below 14th Street. Reports were scant, though those New Yorkers reporting from the trenches, like Punk Magazine’s Legs McNeil and photographer Bob Gruen, made it sound like some kind of insanity was taking place out there, and we felt we, of all people, deserved that insanity. We were the CBGB/Max’s crew and we were being cheated from seeing the UK band that took what we started to a hysterical high. Johnny Carson kept up a running Rotten/Vicious joke line in his nightly monologue, and ultimately we would see some sick footage when High Times’ Tom Forcade released the DOA film, but the sense of jilt ran thick through NYC punkdom. When the Pistols died a crummy death at S.F.’s Winterland it was seemingly all over but almost within a day of hearing about it there was an ad in the Voice for Sid Vicious and His Crew at Max’s Kansas City. There was no question, we were going. Me and my punk loving pal Harold Paris got there early, about twenty people deep in line on Park Avenue just above 15th Street, and waited, waited, waited. We crammed our way into the upstairs room and grabbed two seats at one of the long tables pointing to the tiny stage, and again waited, waited, waited. The audience was a mix of the usual cast of characters at Max’s with a bizarre collection of psychotic French leather pants punk fans. Finally the opening band, which NO ONE wanted to see or hear came on. They were called Tracx and they were so not punk it wasn’t funny. No one had EVER heard of this band before or since and they got KILLED. For 30 minutes it was nothing but jeers and hoots and Tracx slumped off the stage. And we waited interminably for Sid. The place was jammed, drunk, smoked out and getting beyond angry. And then they came. Sid with New York Dolls Walter Lure and Jerry Nolan (holding Nancy Spungen’s hand, yow!), a drummer named Steve Dior and on guitar the amazing Mick Jones from The Clash! And the Clash hadn’t even played that first mind-blowing Palladium gig yet (Harold and I went to that too and it was AMAZING! They were never THAT amazing again the few times they returned). They assembled behind the stage’s curtain and Sid stuck his head through it and gave us the almighty Sid wink and we knew it was gonna be FUN! The curtain opens and Mick Jones leads the band through primal Dolls and Pistols originals as well as 50s juvenile delinquent punk rock classics (“C’mon Everybody”, “Somethin’ Else”). Nancy was playing (kinda) tambourine. The audience went ballistic. Every chair and table got crushed with people spitting, throwing drinks, just pure mania. French guys pointing their fingers to the stage, “Seed Veeshus!! Seed!!!!”. After the first song some girl yelled “I love you” to which Sid retorted “Shut yr fucking mouth, you stupid fucking cunt!”. I’d seen bands get spit on and the bands would usually scowl, or worse, complain. Sid spit back! You could see his goobers spelonking in French punks eyeballs! This had to be WAAAY better than any ol’ Sex Pistols gig, this was the flower and the poison in one glorious crash and burn. We left on fire knowing we had witnessed punk rock history, we were singed by it. We lived in NYC and we LOVED it.