Interview with Alan Parker

In January 2012, Alan G. Parker (pictured at the Phoenix Artists Club), author of "Sid Vicious: No One is Innocent" and director of "Who Killed Nancy", contacted LOVE KILLS through our Facebook community. He told us about how much he loved our little shrine to Sid and Nancy, and suggested that we should do an interview sometime. On a cold and rainy night in Cambridge Circus, Brett Dunford and Clair Hart (pictured below) met with him for a few hours at the Spice of Life, and discussed his career over a beer or six.

LOVE KILLS: You have written no less than three books about Sid Vicious, so could you tell us a bit about how it all got started?

ALAN PARKER: It started with Spiral Scratch, which was a punk/metal magazine I was writing for at the time. They wanted to do an article about dead rock stars and the editor told me nothing more. I chose Sid because he interested me and I had never heard of a more moronic death. Sid was whacking up speed – the people I knew were snorting it through five pound notes! I figured this guy was on a death wish and didn't want to be around.

Sid's mum wanted to speak to me, so I phoned her and she says, (adopts a well-spoken London accent) "Hello? This is Anne. When can you come to Swadlincote?" I thought, "Where the fuck is Swadlincote?" Anyway, I get there and the high street had a corner shop that sold nigh-on anything, a curry house, a pub, a dry cleaners, then at the end was a notice that read: 'No hawkers, no traders, no post, unless addressed to Anne Beverley'.

LK: (Laughs) You couldn't make that up if you tried.

AP: We used to go in the curry house and people would say, "You know that's Sid Vicious’ mum?" She didn't know that many people and mostly kept herself to herself. She took her dogs for a walk, came home, had a boot, and had a joint. Never a more liberal mum ever: "Want a whiskey?" "No" "Have the bottle" "Want a line?" "No", etc. We used to stay up until three a.m. watching The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle but she could never watch the end. Click – rewind.

After a few weeks, she said, "Okay, let's do a book." She introduced me to Glen Matlock and Boogie (John Tiberi). Met Boogie at a café in Hyde Park. He was ninety minutes late, comes in, and just sat down with his newspaper as natural as a curtain in a window! Then I met Glen and he introduced me to Rat Scabies. I love Glen, he’s a really nice guy. He never got paid and was never nasty about it.

Everything was good to go and then suddenly Anne says, "Who the fuck is Alex Cox?" I said, "Well the only Alex Cox I've ever heard of is the bloke who made Repo Man." She goes, "He's a cunt! He wants to do a film about my son." I suggested that we should meet up with him and we did. Cox comes in and asked me who I was, to which I answered, "I'm Miss Beverley's representative." (Laughs) We got on alright. He said he was going to make a film about the Sex Pistols and that he wanted to focus more on Sid.

Glen calls me sometime after and we all met with Cox, Anne included. She had a naff dress sense but was okay. He says, "We want you and Anne on board as consultants." Fast forward a few months later and I'm in a caravan in the far north with Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb! Julien Temple knew Cox and they booked a screening where we watched about six hours of outtakes. In the end, they made the film and that was that. I liked it.

LK: I loved Sid & Nancy. It got a lot of things wrong but I totally dig the fairytale interpretation.

AP: Exactly. We all went to a bar after the scene with Sid and Wally walking down the street, and this guy walks up to Gary and says to him, "Oi! Ain't you dead, you cunt?" Gary just looks at him and goes, "Rawrrr!"

LK: There was a lot of stuff left out of the finished film. I recall Alex Cox talking about an improvisational scene with Gary and Chloe sitting on the bed at the Chelsea Hotel that's over an hour long.

AP: Tell me about it! There's a Jubilee street scene where Wally gets his head kicked in. Where the fuck is it? And I know it exists because I saw the rushes.

LK: What did you think of Chloe as Nancy?

AP: Chloe was too good looking to play Nancy and she's not exactly what I would call a knockout. Nancy was never in the chain of dominoes to begin with. If you read her mum's book, she was already on the road to destruction before she even left Philadelphia. There's a lot in that book that doesn't sit right with me but at the end of the day it's your typical rich American family – two good kids and one bad apple.

But we got the book deal and that's how Sid's Way got done. It was originally going to be called My Way: The Sid Vicious Story but they said "no fucking way" to that. I then had a 'eureka' moment and called it Sid's Way. We had a good book but the publisher wanted an A4 picture book instead and just cut it down. Anne disowned it and I put a big line underneath it.

LK: You went on to live with Anne for three months and interviewed her extensively for your second book on the subject Vicious: Too Fast to Live. By the time it went to press, you admitted you were forced to remove seventy percent of it because of some reluctance on her part. Did any of that unused material make it into your third book No One is Innocent and, if so, how much?

AP: All of it.

LK: She committed suicide, right?

AP: Pretty much. She sent three letters out. One to her nephew David Ross with a cheque for ten grand, one to the kid down the street asking to kick her door down when it arrived...

LK: That's good planning.

AP: ...and one to me saying, "Get on with it. Leave no stone unturned. Prove to the world that my son was innocent." I bawled my eyes out.

LK: Do you think she had anything to do with Sid's death?

AP: You're talking about that Final 24 thing, aren't you? I was told something by the director and it turned out to be bullshit. They told me that Sgt. Richard Houseman had said that Anne confessed. I rang Malcolm McLaren and asked him, and he said that he had heard something about it. So the whole thing was taken out of context, and when we did Who Killed Nancy, I just ignored it.

LK: Not much is known about his father, John Ritchie, and it continues to be a topic of interest. Were there any attempts to make contact with him when it came to writing No One is Innocent?

AP: Fucking thousands! The closest I ever came was when I tracked down a mate of his called Thomas Whittaker. I believe he too committed suicide because Thomas said John was always the glass half-full and the glass half-empty. I put my hand on his and he told me, "I wouldn't be surprised if they found him swinging from a tree..." It was the confirmation I needed. If John Ritchie was still alive by 1977 then where the fuck was he? He would've come out of the woodwork by now.

LK: And the Spungen family? They’ve kept a dignified, yet irritating, silence.

AP: I sent a letter to Deborah (Nancy’s mother). Nothing. I met David (Nancy’s brother) very briefly in a café in New York. Nothing. Eventually, I rang the charity that Deborah runs and I did waffle admittedly. She says, "You're him aren't you?" "Who's him?" I said. "The one who writes the books." I went, "Yeah, I'm him" and she just hung up.

LK: Her sister Susan would probably be easier to contact because she's quite a prolific chef nowadays.

AP: Yeah, and the ironic thing is that she's holding a knife on the front cover of her book!

LK: (Laughs) I've never looked at it that way before.

AP: (Laughs) But it's true!

LK: What about Michele Robison (Sid's partner at the time of his death)?

AP: I phoned her and she wasn't interested.

LK: Actually, I respect that because she could've sold her story. But over the years you've interviewed hundreds of people. Is there anyone that you didn't get to interview and wished you had?

AP: Nobody. I've done almost every cop, Sid's mum, some of the Pistols that count. Not Dairylea boy (John Lydon). The real people who know like Roadent (Steve Connolly), Boogie, Steve Dior...

LK: I have to say that I loved your documentary film, Who Killed Nancy. In a bid to clear Sid's name, you worked closely with the NYPD and reexamined the police files pertaining to Nancy's murder. For our members who haven’t seen the film yet, could you tell us a little more about this and what you unearthed that may have been overlooked the first time around?

AP: Nothing has been overlooked. To be honest, the file isn't as thick as what people believe it to be. The film will give you a flavour but we scoured it back to front. Some of the cops we interviewed are no longer with us. At the end of the day, it was a badly investigated case and it's now up to us to do it. However, people will always want something that's not there. If you keep on digging, you'll find Australia. We had access to it all and when you read the file it is clear cut and not exactly rocket science.

LK: In the film, there is mention of a shady and somewhat psychotic drug dealer known simply as 'Michael', whose name is dropped by various interviewees and is believed to be Nancy's real killer. Does this 'Michael' have a surname and do you think it's possible that he could be tracked down almost thirty-five years later?

AP: I know of no surname and I'm ninety-nine percent certain that he is dead. All the Chelsea dealers are dead now, Steve Cincotti and, you know, Jabba the Hutt (Rockets Redglare). If anything annoys me on that police report it's the names that are blacked out. If we could see those names, then yeah, but everyone knew 'Michael' and said he was a piece of shit.

LK: The Vicious White Kids' concert is widely rumoured to have been filmed by Viv Albertine, and even the late Steve New said that he shot some footage of Sid and Nancy fooling around backstage. Where do you think this historical film could be gathering dust?

AP: If it has been filmed then where is it? I've interviewed a lot of people who were there and most of them said that no cameras were allowed inside. I asked Viv and she knows nothing about it. I get sent a billion emails from people with rare images and audio – this is one thing that has never come to me, so I do question it.

LK: As well as three books on Sid, you have also written two books about the Sex Pistols. Could you tell us a bit about the latest one Young Flesh Required: Growing Up with the Sex Pistols and how it came to be?

AP: It came from Sean Body at Helter Skelter and he asked if I wanted to do another Pistols book, to which I said "fuck off". We were sitting in a coffee shop one day and he says, "Aw, we should do it."

Malcolm said for three years that I should do it too, so I did. It was all resource material for Satellite and some other projects that never saw the light of day. In the end I stopped but then I got a call from Phil at Soundcheck Books who basically said, "We got the rights to Sean's book, will you finish it?"

LK: So what's new with you? What are you working on at the moment?

AP: Just done the official Status Quo movie, Hello Quo. No more books, so Young Flesh Required will be the last. I'm just a dyslexic kid with all these books. What else is there for me to do?

LK: Yeah, I was amazed to learn that you're dyslexic.

AP: (Laughs) So was I.

LK: Anyway, final question. Have you put the ghosts of Sid and Nancy to rest?

AP: In a METAL BOX. Twenty feet underground.


INTERVIEWERS:
Brett Dunford; and Clair Hart

PHOTO CREDIT:
Clair Hart