A Vicious Telephone Call

On January 20th 1978, almost one week after the Pistols' split, Sid overdosed on a plane bound for London and was rushed to Jamaica Hospital, Queens. That night, New York was in the grip of a ferocious snowstorm, so American photographer Roberta Bayley telephoned the hospital to keep him company. This is a transcript of the call in full.



SV: Hello.

RB: Sid?

SV: Yeah?

RB: Hi, this is Roberta. You remember me from the tour?

SV (unsure): Um, yeah.

RB: The photographer. The one whose thumb you kicked in.

SV: Huh?

RB: The one whose thumb you broke.

SV: I broke your thumb?

RB: Well nearly, you just broke the nail. How are you? You alright?

SV: When did I do that?

RB: When or why?

SV: Oh yeah, I remember. Are you gonna come visit me in hospital?

RB: Yeah, I would do but it's snowing.

SV: Oh.

RB: I don't have a car and I can't go on the trains 'cause the winds' too high.

SV (sad): I'm lonely.

RB: What about if I come tomorrow? You think you'll still be in tomorrow?

SV (weak): I'm supposed to be going back to London tomorrow.

RB: Yeah, but the airports might still be closed.

SV: Oh well, in that case, I'm getting out of here tomorrow. I'm gonna be going to some girl's place that I know but I dunno.

RB: How you feeling?

SV (breathes deeply): Weak.

RB: What, nobody's been up to see you or anything?

SV: No.

RB: It's because it's so miserable outside. I mean, I guess you can see it on television.

SV: Yeah, I'm just sitting here on my own.

RB: Oh, fuck. I mean, it's really far away where you are or I'd come right over there.

SV: What?

RB: How long you been in there? Just last night?

SV: Um, yeah.

RB: What happened to everybody else? Who was on the plane with you?

SV: Boogie.

RB: Yeah?

SV: But I did... (pauses) are you a photographer?

RB: Yeah.

SV: Not a reporter?

RB: No, I'm a photographer.

SV: This is between me and you. What happened was I'd done eighty milligrams of methadone, right?

RB: Yeah.

SV: And when you get - and about six or seven valiums - and when you get high in the air it has a much greater effect on you than it does on the ground. You know, you get pissed a lot quicker in the air.

RB: Yeah, you get drunk faster.

SV: That's what happened.

RB: So did Boogie just go back?

SV: Huh?

RB: Boogie just went back?

SV: Yeah.

RB: He's in London? He left you? (Laughs)

SV: What?

RB: He just left you? He's gone back to London, Boogie?

SV: Oh no, he's still here.

RB: Where is he?

SV: I don't know.

RB (sarcastic): Oh, that's nice. And nobody else is in New York?

SV: Oh yeah, there are people in New York but nobody's pretended to like, bother, or say that the snow's too bad or whatever.

RB: Fuck, that's really fucked up. Maybe I could get Bob to... maybe I'll call Bob tonight. You know, Gruen?

SV: Oh no, forget it. I already called him.

RB: Yeah? What did he say?

SV: He said he couldn't make it.

RB: Because of the weather, right?

SV: Yeah.

RB: The highway to where the hospital is, it's just shut off.

SV: Yeah?

RB: It's really fucked. The trains go above, you know, instead of going underground? But the trains go above the ground so they, um... the winds' too bad.

SV: What, they just blow off?

RB: Yeah, I think they probably stopped 'em or something, where they're dangerous. The wind's gonna get worse tonight.

SV (miserable): I wouldn't expect anybody to get on a train all this way just to see me anyway.

RB: Aw, come on. You have a TV at least.

SV: Huh?

RB: You have a TV set anyway.

SV: Do I have a what?

RB: A television.

SV: Yeah.

RB: Color or black and white?

SV: What I could do with would be something to read.

RB: Yeah, magazines or something, huh?

SV: What I really want is a very, very large pile of Marvel comics.

RB: Yeah? Wow, I got some great comic books!

SV: Yeah, so do I but Boogie's got them, the arsehole.

RB: You don't have any way to get in touch with him or anything do you?

SV: No. He said he'd call me later today and he hasn't bothered.

RB: Shit.

SV: And he won't be bothering either. He's a cunt.

RB: Well, if people come up there they can just visit you? It's not a problem?

SV: Yeah.

RB: Well, what happened with this group of yours anyway? (Laughs)

SV: I left them.

RB: Yeah, it seems like everybody left them.

SV: Well. I don't think anybody really wanted to continue but no one had the guts to actually say it. So, like, I just phoned John up and told him what I thought of him, and where I thought he was at and, um... I mean, I still think I'm pretty good. I think I was better than any of the others.

RB: Well, with the attitude, yeah. But what does Steve and Paul want to do?

SV: I don't know. They'll probably try and get another band together and fail. John's completely finished.

RB: That seems to be the general consensus.

SV: Huh?

RB: That seems to be the general consensus.

SV (perks up): Does it?

RB: Well, everybody's just saying well what can he do now.

SV: Yeah, right.

RB: And nobody can figure out anything that he can do.

SV: Yeah, and like, he's finished as a person as well. He's just not what he used to be.

RB: Well, maybe this will shake him up a little bit?

SV: Yeah, that's what I'm hoping. That it'll shake him up and then he'll be able to do something. That'd be good if he could do that, but otherwise if it doesn't shake him up and get him out of it, then as a person, not only will he not do anything but also nobody will even want to know him.

RB: Yeah.

SV: They'll go, "Oh, didn't you used to be Johnny Rotten?"

RB: Yeah, I guess in England everybody's gonna be really upset about this, you know?

SV: Yeah.

RB: How do you feel about it?

SV: I'm glad that it's over now because it was like, I felt like I was the only one still putting any real energy into it. Did you see our show at 'Frisco?

RB: Yeah.

SV: Well, didn't you notice there that, like...

RB: Yeah, it was a very weird show there.

SV: I mean John wasn't doing very much was he?

RB: No, uh-huh. It was Steve who was sorta jumping around then. It's just that there wasn't, you know... I mean the shows got worse, you know? The shows got worse instead of better.

SV: Yeah, I think the one we did in Dallas or something was.

RB: San Antonio. No, that was the best.

SV: Was it? What, was that the one when I got butted in the face?

RB: No, that was Dallas, I think.

SV: Roberta?

RB: I liked the one where you hit the guy with the guitar.

SV: Oh, was that the one when I was going really nuts?

RB: Yeah, and John was really jumping around a whole bunch, and the people were really throwing lots of beer cans.

SV: Yeah.

RB: That was a really exciting one. I got all these great pictures to show you and everything.

SV: Have you?

RB: Yeah, tons of stuff. So we really should come up tomorrow. I'll fucking beg Gruen to come up, you know?

SV (pleading): Yeah, can you do that?

RB: Yeah, we'll bring all kinds of stuff.

SV: Yeah, make him. Has to be before nine o'clock though.

RB: In the morning?

SV: No.

RB: In the night?

SV: If you could be up tonight.

RB: Yeah, but if the planes go out tomorrow, you know, then would you go out first thing in the morning? If they open up the airports?

SV: Well, I said I would so Sophie'll have booked the ticket.

RB: Oh, but they may not be letting the planes go.

SV: Yeah. I hope they don't in a way because I wanna, like, stay in New York for at least one day.

RB: Yeah, you should. You really should. You should come to the city. All kinds of people want to see you and everything.

SV: Yeah.

RB: You've never been here before. You could have a good time. If you're healthy enough to do it.

SV: Yeah, I don't know whether I am. I can't drink. I can't, like... the doctor said that if I drunk anything vaguely remotely like the way I've been drinking for the past however long, that I've got about six months at the absolute outside to live.

RB (concerned): Well, come on then don't drink, you asshole.

SV: And, like, the drugs as well. I more or less can't do anything, so if I went out anywhere I'd just sit there.

RB: Well, you just come around and... I dunno.

SV: If I went out anywhere I wouldn't be able to resist the temptation - that'd be the trouble.

RB: Yeah.

SV: Like I'd end up just boozing myself out all night.

RB:: Well, what're you going to do if you go back to London? I mean, it's just the same thing.

SV: Yeah. I probably will die in six months, actually.

RB: You have to straighten out for a while.

SV (defeated): I can't. I just can't be straight.

RB: Yeah, you could. Just as an experiment.

SV: I suppose I'll just have to be. I haven't figured out yet quite how I'm gonna do it 'cause I haven't been straight in, like, four years.

RB (sighs): Just as an experiment you should do it. See what happens. There must be a way.

SV: Well listen, can you please try and drag Bobby over tonight?

RB: Yeah, I was just thinking that it's almost physically impossible, but tomorrow we could probably come up for sure if you're still there.

SV: Well, if the planes aren't running tomorrow, I'll see you tomorrow.

RB: Can you phone out from there?

SV: Um, yeah.

RB: Why don't you take down my number?

SV: Okay. (To hospital staff) Do you have a pen? Can you write down a number for me? (To Roberta) Yeah, what's the number?

RB: 6-7-3.

SV (to hospital staff): 6-7-3.

RB: Yup, that's Roberta.

SV (to hospital staff): And the name's Roberta. Did you manage to get a match? (Pause) Jesus, you mean there's not one in the whole hospital? Is there anywhere where you can get 'em?

RB: So where's Malcolm? Has he gone back to England?

SV: Malcolm's in L.A.

RB: Oh, he's still out there. What's he gonna do now?

SV: I dunno, he'll probably just...

RB: Do something else?

SV: Yeah. I'm going go back to London to get a group together with Johnny Thunders.

RB: Yeah, you should do. You'd be much better than Billy Rath, you know.

SV: Huh?

RB: You know, the other bass player. They should just kick him out.

SV: Yeah, he's just an arsehole.

RB: You'd be much better.

SV: Imagine what that group would be like with me, Thunders, Nolan, and Walter Lure.

RB: Yeah, amazing. Really amazing...

SV: We'd be pretty good, wouldn't we?

RB: Yeah.

SV: If I was healthy. That would be an incentive for me to get healthy as well.

RB: Yeah. Johnny somehow manages to, I mean, I know he has a few bad habits but he somehow manages to stay pretty healthy in spite of it. I dunno how he does it.

SV: Because he doesn't have hepatitis.

RB: Yeah.

SV: I had hepatitis and when I got out of hospital I just, like, really fucked myself up as badly as I could. I don't know why but everybody said you can't do it, so I just went ahead and done it.

RB: I know someone like that who did the same thing.

SV: It's my basic nature.

RB: Yeah, well, your basic nature's gonna get you in a lot of trouble.

SV: My basic nature's gonna kill me in six months.

RB: Well, you just gotta change it.

SV: Yeah, I will do as well.

RB: Okay, well you can call me later tonight or else call me in the morning if you think you're still gonna be there.

SV: Yeah, okay.

RB: And I'll call you back too, I promise. Okay?

SV: Yeah.

RB: Call me later if you're bored.

SV: Okay, thanks for calling anyway.

RB: Yeah, well, we're worried about you. Please take care of yourself.

SV: Okay.

RB: Okay?

SV: Yeah.

RB: Bye-bye.

SV: Bye.

© Roberta Bayley
Transcribed by Brett Dunford
Video: Sex Pistols Archives