by Julio Diaz
Love Kills: Music From the Motion Picture Soundtrack
Alex Cox’s 1986 “bio-pic,” Sid & Nancy is a wonderful fantasy film that bears little resemblance to its source material. Oh, don’t misunderstand, it’s a truly great film that should be seen and enjoyed by anyone who considers himself or herself a fan of punk rock, especially given the eerily accurate and effective performances of Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb as Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his groupie girlfriend Nancy Spungen — just don’t take it to be anything close to fact. And yes, while there are several books out there that disagree on what the facts actually were, one thing almost all agree on is that Sid & Nancy is probably the least accurate depiction available (if you’re looking for accuracy, try John Lydon’s autobiography, Rotten, which covers not only his viewpoint, but those of many others that were there, for starters. Then get And I Don’t Want to Live This Life, Deborah Spungen’s account of her daughter’s short, tragic life, and the books England’s Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock and Beyond by Jon Savage — an excellent document on the genesis of British punk — and 12 Days on the Road: The Sex Pistols and America by Noel E. Monk, an excellent look at the Pistols’ ill-fated U.S. tour by the man who acted as their road manager. Oh, and see Julien Temple’s excellent documentary, The Filth and the Fury, but skip his earlier effort, The Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle as a historical document — but do see it, just look at it in the same way you should view Sid & Nancy, as an apocryphal part of the mythology. You have your assignments, class.).
So what does that have to do with Love Kills: Music From the Motion Picture Soundtrack, just reissued after being out of print for some time? Well, it stands as another document of how Cox managed to get it all wrong, and yet all right at the same time. In short, this is not a record about punk rock, and does little to immortalize the music that Sid Vicious is identified with — save a few tracks of Oldman aping Vicious on covers of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “My Way,” two title tracks — one each from The Circle Jerks (who appeared in the film) and Clash frontman Joe Strummer (whose totally different song of the same title is a transcendent and underappreciated anthem), and a second Strummer track, the Spaghetti Western-flavored “Dum Dum Club,” there’s nothing approximating punk here. That said, when you consider the reworked Sex Pistols tracks fronted by ersatz Johnny Rotten portrayer Andrew Schofield — to say nothing of the out-and-out rape of X-Ray-Spex’s brilliant “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” (and what was with that cheesy 25-year-old big-titted bimbo that was portraying petite teenaged punk icon Poly Styrene? Blasphemy!) — maybe that absence wasn’t such a bad thing. It’s clear that Cox didn’t totally “get” punk rock — in the liner notes, he even refers to Vicious as a “pop singer,” something few would think of him as, and states that Vicious committed suicide, which is debatable (he died of a heroin overdose, which to be generous, would be an accidental suicide at best) — but what he DID do was assemble a perfect score for his dark fantasy film. The majority of the tracks here are from the moody, atmospheric score by Pray For Rain, whose dark, angular sound perfectly suited the film. The album also includes two great tracks from Irish modern-traditional hooligans The Pogues — the aptly titled “Haunted,” with an aching vocal from Cait O’Riordan, and the tense strings-and-drums instrumental “Junk” (trivia note: in Rotten, Lydon claims that The Pogues’ staunchly Irish then-frontman, the famously drunken dentist’s nightmare Shane MacGowan, used to show up at Pistols gigs wearing Union Jack T-shirts — how embarrassing!). Rounding out the disc are ex-Pistols guitarist Steve Jones (in his somber yet insubstantial post-heroin addicted days) and the theatrical post-punk of ex-Velvet Underground member John Cale.
So like Sid & Nancy, Love Kills is no document of punk rock, The Sex Pistols, etc. (go pick up Never Mind the Bollocks, kid — it’s still the only real musical document of the Pistols). But it is a damned brilliant soundtrack for a damned good movie, and I’m glad it’s back in print. Well worth picking up — just not the kind of history lesson you might have thought it would be.
Oh, and one last piece of trivia: the role of Nancy Spungen almost went to a young Courtney Love (who’s in the film as Nancy’s best friend instead). Ponder that concept for a while…
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