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Publisher: Backstage Books

Padlocks - Living with Sid & NancyI like this a lot. A pocket sized book that packs a punch within its 170 pages. It’s full of first hand knowledge, experience and tales of Sid Vicious and girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Not the above ground star stuff, but the underbelly, the reality of their life during 1977 and 78. What’s more, it’s all new to the reader. Why now? Author Den Browne has waited for those closest to him, who may be upset by the revelations, to have passed away. The tale is that grim. 

Den lived with Sid And Nancy. It started when the couple turned up in Eton Avenue looking to score. They rang the doorbell to the wrong flat, they were looking for Gerry, they got Den, another heroin user. The ensuing encounter as they travelled across London in the ‘Glitterbest taxi’ gives you an indication of the ride Padlocks will take you on. It’s a story that becomes entwined almost immediately with the author’s own increasingly desperate life. This makes it even more real. 

Regarding the ‘Glitterbest taxi’, Den viewed it as a perk in the pursuit of drugs. Sid and Nancy took it in turns to call McLaren and his PA Sophie Richmond having dreamt up new reasons for needing more cash or to call the taxi. Deceit from all the protagonists runs throughout. 

As far as Sid and Nancy go, Den’s first impressions were they “were obviously crazy about each other”. He noted that Sid’s bond with Johnny Rotten was initially strong but as the months passed and divisions and mistrust within the group and management grew, their friendship faltered. Sid’s moods also darkened, changing from "joking around to potential violence with no warning of build-up”. It seems tour manager John ‘Boogie’ Tiberi became one of the few people Sid felt he could trust. 

If you were expecting tales of the pair engaging in wild sex, forget it. They had a virtual non-existent sex life due to Sid’s drug intake. Den himself, on occasion, filled that particular gap in Nancy’s life. Following one such screw, Nancy told Sid what had happened. Den feared the worst. Sid’s response; “You can fuck who you want to babe, you know that”. 

Following the Sex Pistols tour of the USA in January 78 which saw the band fragment, Sid and Nancy moved into Pindock Mews. Den would visit. Sid was out on post-Pistol (Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle) duty most afternoons but Den recalls how positive he appeared during this time and how much pride he took in his My Way record. Shortly after, Sid and Nancy went to the USA, never to return. 

It’s worth noting that Padlocks is not about the Sex Pistols themselves, Den never saw them live nor attend a rehearsal. This delves purely into the life/existence of Sid. Both Sid and Nancy shared with Den their views on the Sex Pistols and the dynamics within, the Pistols’ music, punk rock, their upbringings and so much more. For a while, the flat in Eton Avenue is where they would vent all their thoughts, feelings, and anger. It is what makes this so valuable and so compelling. There is much that could be quoted in this review but it would be a case of Spoiler Alert. It’s best you discover it for yourselves, some of it is uncomfortable. 

As a final point, when the film Sid And Nancy was released back in the 80s, director Alex Cox said he hoped it would show the horrors of heroin and act as a deterrent. It may have done to a point, but there was still an element of glamour. There is no glamour in Padlocks. It is a window into the life Sid and Nancy actually lived. Furthermore, the author lays bare the full impact his own 12 years of addiction has had on his life. If you still choose this lifestyle after reading Padlocks, I can only repeat what Den’s Auntie Rita once said to him; “Well, I can’t see any hope for you in that case”. 

Reading it left me drained. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Review by Phil Singleton (January 2024)

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Phil Singleton / 2024
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