On October 12, 1978, 20-year-old Nancy Spungen died of a knife wound to the stomach. Just a few months later her 21-year-old boyfriend Sid passed away from what is widely believed to have been an intentional heroin overdose while awaiting a trial for Nancy’s murder.

Already notorious for their bad behavior, their deaths propelled them into a myth of a couple, a punk rock Romeo and Juliet. The Sex Pistols were a bit of a marketing scheme: an attempt to capitalize on the thriving young anger of the 1970s punk scene. When I look at photos of Sid and Nancy, I think Sid has that bad boy look that a lot of misguided girls go for, but it’s Nancy I’m drawn to, both her style and her pathos.


A parent’s memoir isn’t always the most trustworthy source of information for a person, but it is a special kind of zoomed-in lens. A mother sees the child in a way no one else can and can’t help but paint the story with raw and myopic emotion. Nancy’s mom Deborah’s book And I Don’t Want to Live This Life doesn’t hold back with these emotional filters, trying to sort through all the love and hate she had for her difficult child. That’s often the truth about families: they can exist in a dizzying tension of positive and negative feelings, of maddening confusion and ambivalence. Nancy isn’t the only kid in the world with behavioral issues that far exceed any help psychologists, doctors, schools, and other authorities can give, and though her case is an outlier, she represents a very real group. Some people have much more trouble just existing in their own skin than other people. Some people are born with brains that seem to be fighting against them.

According to Nancy’s mom, many her difficulties may have stemmed from trauma at birth: the umbilical cord wrapped around her head and deprived her of oxygen for a short period of time. After the doctors rescued her from cyanosis, (turning blue from lack of oxygen,) she was jaundiced. She seemed to have developed no cognitive problems from these early traumas, but her mother still believes this experience must have affected her somehow. Nancy had two younger siblings who seemed normal in their behaviors and emotions according to their mother, but they had to put up with abuse from the volatile Nancy.

A video interview with Deborah:

According to her mother, the truth about Sid and Nancy was that while on the surface they seemed like they were living a junky Rock-n-Roll fantasy, they were as miserable and desperate and close to death as human beings could get. They had a sliver of a used-up dream, and seemed delusional about how they could make a career out of the shambles of the Sex Pistols experience. Nancy had been a difficult child all her life, and her mother believed that she had lived with a tremendous amount of emotional pain that was never alleviated. Sid and Nancy related to each other, mistaking self-destruction for the deepest kind of love.



Shortly before Nancy died, Sid wrote this list of reasons why he loved Nancy so much:


“I worshipped Nancy. It was far more than just love. To me she was a goddess. No one ever loved the way we did, and to spend even a day aawy from her, let alone a whole lifetime, is too painful to even think about. Oh Debbie, I never knew what pain was until this happened. Nancy was my whole life. I lived for her. Now I must die for her,” Sid wrote Nancy’s mother Deborah Spungen.



Their relationship was sensationalized in the headlines, but they were just a couple of sick kids who had no idea how to take care of themselves. “Sid and Nancy as a couple were going down the toilet, and everybody could see it,” says Television guitarist Richard Lloyd. “To hang out with Nancy and Sid was to make a grievous mistake for your own health. I took lethal doses of everything known. You couldn’t call the kettle black. Mine was jaw-droppingly black. But I’m still here. They’re not.”

Although Nancy’s mother believes her daughter someone persuaded Sid to kill her in order to fulfill a death with, many people, including his manager, don’t believe that Sid killed Nancy that night. Malcolm McLaren, the guy who created the Sex Pistols and managed the band has said that it couldn’t have been him that stabbed Nancy unless it was a “botched double suicide.”

He wrote in The Daily Beast:

No! I don’t believe Sid killed Nancy. She was his first and only love of his life. As everyone knows, you may argue with your first (he lost his virginity to Nancy), sometimes might want to beat their brains in, leave them, move on, and be with others—but you never get over them. No. Sid was the sucker. The stupid, clumsy fool that night at the Chelsea Hotel. He passed out on the bed, having taken fistfuls of Tuinal. All around him, drug dealers, friends of Nancy came and went from Room 100. Money was stolen and Sid’s knife (similar to that of 007’s) was taken from the wall where it was hung and seemingly used by someone defending themselves in a struggle with Nancy. Nancy was no pushover. I tried having her kidnapped in London and put on a plane back to New York. Probably, she caught this person stealing money from the bedroom drawer.

A 2010 film Who Killed Nancy? has a similar, but more specific story. It posits that a man named “Michael” had been in Nancy and Sid’s hotel room the night she died, and possibly killed Nancy while Sid was asleep/zonked out on drugs so he could take the stash of cash the couple reportedly kept with them in the room.

According to TV show The Final 24, Sid’s mom confessed to helping Sid overdose on heroin to journalist Alan Parker. In his pocket was a suicide note requesting to be buried next to Nancy. When his mother Anne Beverly asked Nancy’s mother to let that happen, she refused, but Anne reportedly found out where Nancy was buried, and sprinkled her son’s ashes on top anyway.

Sid’s suicide note:





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  • Anna

    I wonder, given Nancy’s extreme temper and violent rages coupled with her sexual acts, and openness about having prostituted herself and ‘giving great blowjobs’ – do you think that perhaps, instead of her traumatic birth- Nancy could possibly have been molested as a child. All of these behaviors are more often than not the result of some molestation or sexual abuse. I agree with you, I see Nancy as a powerful force, a brilliant girl, and someone who Sid valued above all others. She replaced his mother as the dominant woman in his life- as I heard in one of those shows you mentioned. I can see it in his face and body language in pictures, and in film footage of them together. Poor Sid was a brilliant boy himself, but he was cripplingly shy and uncomfortable in his own skin. Nancy gave him strength- she made him feel important and powerful. She had his back, and she was w him from only weeks after his joining the band. So, Sid’s success in the Pistols came while having Nancy in his life. These two were magnets to each other, Ive seen it before, bc Ive been in a relationship like this- young and toxic, idiotically hopeful, yet so fully nihilistic all at once. He was destined to try heroin- his band mates said he’d swallow down pills before asking what they were, and that hed banged dope with his mother for yrs. I believe that. Maybe Nancy got him into shooting heroin but the personality type was already there. And Sid was a great performer, the fans loved him, and he had a great voice. I think the biggest mistake in all of this was that Sid was immediately blamed for Nancy’s death when there was no proof of it. I don’t know if the pictures aren’t available but I have seen no images of Sids hands or body at the crimescene- no indication that he was covered in blood. Ive seen the knife in the hallway, and then images of it on top of a suitcase. Wiped clean of fingerprints. Now, had Sid been the killer, after wiping his prints he would have at least vehemently denied involvement in the murder. Instead, he sat on the bed puzzled, not sure of what or how it had happened. Nancy’s wounds would have taken 3 hours to bleed out, yet instead of going to the exit, she was in the restroom. Where is her drug toxicology report? or if that’s not possible, what about how she got to the bathroom? was she carried or walked? crawled? And how about how the blood settled? was she dead on the bed or in the bathroom? Whos bloody handprint was that on the bed she was on? And was money ever accounted for in the room? The guest from the night before- did they say the tv always sat that close to the exit door? why? It appears to be just moved from blocking the exit. So many questions, and when Sid died, why was this case just laid to rest along with Nancy? I don’t care what they say about her she deserved that much. Thank you for your info! I too just got interested in reading and learning more about the infamous Sid and Nancy and really want to know so much more!

    • niga jael jal na ga

      This is exactly what I am thinking with the molestation. All her antics kind of lead to that conclusion. Even the fact that she was mean to her sisters but nice to her brother could mean something. Not taking it as gospel but that is what is spells out to me.

      • Lawrence Lawrence

        I went to the same school as Nancy but 1 year later. I am still in contact with many of the students who knew her well and a very different picture of Nancy emerges other than the drug crazed prostitute the media has labeled her. None of her friends have heard of any incidents of molestation.

  • Jasmine

    Anoxic brain injury at birth. Reactive Attachment Disorder, Borderline personality disorder, substance abuse….

  • Ana

    Thankyou so much for this, I’m intrigued (that sounds so sick). This relationship sounds similar to that of the one in “Robbers – The 1975” music video.

  • I think Sid was drawn to Nancy exactly because of her very strong personality, the way he was drawn to John Lydon. She would have been quite different to English girls too, being from New York, especially culturally in the seventies. He may have thought she was beautiful, but everyone around her saw what a destructive character she was. John Lydon wrote in his book Anger Is An Energy, that Sid thought of himself as ‘stunningly beautiful’ the thing is he was very attractive, but too easily led. His mother sounds like a monster, I definitely think she’s very culpable. ..Poor Sid, he’s still missed.

  • SofiaSofia

    His so called suicide note does not look like his writing

  • Steve Gad

    Looking at this now, as a 55 year old, I can see they were 2 silly kids in love with each other. We all did the kind of stuff they did, but not to their extremes. I blame those around them (making money off them no doubt) for not taking better care of them. So very sad cos Sid actually wasn’t anything like he was portrayed, according to his friends.