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March 20th, 2009

Today In Philadelphia Music Landmarks: Nancy Spungen’s Grave

At the farthest edge of Northeast Philadelphia sits the King David Memorial Park, a Jewish cemetery. And at one of its farthest edges sits the final resting place of Nancy Spungen, the ill-fated girlfriend of the Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious, who was murdered in New York City in 1978.

Born in 1958, Spungen was raised primarily in Lower Moreland Township; her mother owned the natural foods/products store The Earth Shop in Jenkintown, where Nancy briefly worked in her early teens. Suffering from severe psychological problems that got her kicked out of school, Spungen was eventually enrolled at Devereux Manor — an alternative high school for troubled kids that also counts Sylvester Stallone as an alumnus — in Berwyn. By 17, Spungen had left Philadelphia for New York and London, becoming a groupie following around the likes of the New York Dolls, Aerosmith, Bad Company, and the Ramones. Eventually she met Sid Vicious, and the pair began a nearly two-year, drug-addled, destructive relationship that’s been well-documented in numerous books and movies (most famously in the 1986 film Sid & Nancy, starring Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb).

On the morning of October 12, 1978, Spungen, 20, was found dead in the bathroom of Room 100 of the Chelsea Hotel in New York City, where she’d been living with Vicious. She had bled to death from a single stab wound to the abdomen with a knife that was determined to be owned by Vicious. The Sex Pistols bassist was immediately arrested and charged with her murder; meanwhile, she was laid to rest back in Pennsylvania. On the day before her funeral, Spungen’s family did an interview with the Philadelphia Bulletin to talk about her health and behavioral problems and set some of the record straight. “There are some things that have to be said and if it can help other people…the impression is that she was a spoiled, rich, suburban kid,” said her mother. “She was born in pain and lived in pain all her life,” her father added.

Sid Vicious was never convicted of the murder — while out on bail and awaiting trial, he died of a heroin overdose in February 1979. Sid’s mother had wanted to bury her son next to Nancy, but Spungen’s family would not allow it. Vicious was cremated, and according to some, his mother came to Philadelphia and scattered his ashes on top of Nancy’s grave; others have maintained his ashes were accidentally spilled at Heathrow Airport in London. Regardless, Nancy Spungen continues to lay at rest in NE Philadelphia, regularly receiving visitors who leave all sorts of trinkets and notes next to her grave marker, which reads, “Your odyssey is over – sleep in peace.”

All photos by Michael Alan Goldberg.

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