Sid Vicious’s Gigs at Max’s Kansas City, New York, in 1978.
Sid Vicious with then-manager and girlfriend Nancy Spungen backstage at Max’s Kansas City, New York, in 1978 (© unknown).
Max’s Kansas City opened in December 1965 at 213 Park Avenue South, New York. It was the last place Sid Vicious performed onstage before he died in February 1979.
After the Sex Pistols broke up on their 1978 US tour, Sid moved to New York, where, with his girlfriend Nancy Spungen acting as his manager (and that surely couldn’t have boded well), he was given a series of gigs at Max’s Kansas City in September 1978.
He played these gigs under the name ‘Music Industry Casualties’ with a number of high profile US and British Punk musicians, including the Clash’s Mick Jones, Glen Matlock, Steve Jones and Paul Cook formerly of the Sex Pistols, Rat Scabies of The Damned, New York Dolls’ Arthur Kane, Jerry Nolan, Johnny Thunders and some of the Dead Boys, to name but a few.
The gigs were well attended and whilst his own musicianship had been called into question as a bass player in the Sex Pistols, his singing voice was reckoned to be good, and at these gigs he just performed on vocals, sometimes with Nancy Spungen singing too.
The Rolling Stone in a review of one of these gigs in September 1978 said:
“Vicious was resplendent in black leather and chains. His chest wasn’t shredded with red scars, nor were his arms covered with bandages, as they were on the Sex Pistols’ American tour….
Sid projected a slightly awe-struck air as he sang in the face of the frantically bouncing crowd, so that you wondered who was the audience and who was the performer. If Sid Vicious had not been Sid Vicious, the people would’ve given him the same [very harsh] treatment as [they’d given the support band] Tracx. The difference was that Vicious has always insisted on his own talentlessness, presenting it as a challenge to anyone with a craving to be looked at onstage.
For the perfect encore, Vicious sang the words to ‘Take a Chance with Me’ off a lyric sheet. The crowd cheered so long afterward that the security guards had to drag them out. It was a small glimpse of the grand farce that was the Pistols…”
In contrast, Thurston Moore, a member of the audience for one of these gigs raved about the night, saying:
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!), and on guitar the amazing Mick Jones from The Clash! And the Clash hadn’t even played that first mind-blowing Palladium gig yet…
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.
After the first song some girl yelled “I love you” to which Sid retorted “Shut your 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! 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.”
Tragically, only a month later, Nancy Spungen would be stabbed in the room she shared with Sid in the Chelsea Hotel, and Sid would be dead less than five months after his last gig in Max’s Kansas City , through a heroin overdose.
Buy a signed copy of Bombed Out! here: http://www.bombedoutpunk.com/buybook.php