mardi 26 mai 2015

Interview with Teddie Dahlin

The Sex Pistols in Trondheim, 1977

Back in 1977, Teddie Dahlin was a young teen living in the quiet town of Trondheim, Norway. On one summer day, The Sex Pistols, one of the hottest punk band of the era, are coming to town for a gig. Young Teddie got a job as a translator for the band before falling for bassist Sid Vicious. Almost 40 years later, Teddie finally told the story with fond and tender words in a fascinating book called A Vicious love story.

Teddie back in the days (1977)
Can you explain to us, how and why you wrote the book? And Why write a book now after so long? 

Teddie Dahlin : I never planned to write a book. I didn’t think anyone would be interested. In 2010 a Norwegian author, Trygve Mathiesen, contacted me about a book he was writing; Sex Pistols Exiled to Norway. It was a catalogue of the people who had attended the concerts back then and their place in society−‘I Swear I was There’, sort of thing, and he had been told I was involved. I wasn’t interested to begin with, but the man was nice and I felt he was genuine, so I decided to help him out a little. He’s a sociologist and his book was the second in a series about important music events in Norway. 

I was shy about revealing details about my private life to the world so I kept my information brief. Trygve was more interested in where we (the band as a whole) went, what we ate, what they talked about etc. I ended up writing a huge chunk of his book.

The book released March 11th 2011 and I couldn’t believe the interest. The press kept ringing asking for interviews. I was getting calls from the UK and the US and when I refused to talk to them, they called my family, who still lived in England and Tore Lande (the promoter) who was in Malta at the time. It was crazy! When I wouldn’t talk to them – other people did. Articles started to turn up in the Norwegian press about Trygve’s book and in the UK and on blogs all over the world. It was scary. One place said ‘Teddie IS the book’ – indicating they found my details more interesting than the cold hard facts and charts of the social anthropology the book was meant to be about. Certain people wrote about details I’d left out of the book and there seemed to be speculation, which turned into lies. Tore Lande, who is an old friend from since I was 14 years old, phoned me from Malta and said ‘You have to write your own book. Tell them how it was. Set the record straight.” So I did. 

Was the book hard to write on an emotional stand point?

Teddie : Absolutely. It is probably one of the hardest things I’ve done. I’m sure everyone remembers their first love. When that person dies it’s just so much harder to handle. Sid died 19 months after I’d met him. I was 18 and had put our friendship away in my heart as a lovely memory. I always believed I would see him again, I just needed to grow up a little first. When he died it knocked me over. I couldn’t handle it. So instead of grieving I put it away in a little place at the back of my mind. I didn’t want to think about it or him and I avidly avoided anything about it after that.

The first chapters were easy to write, and it wasn’t until I got towards the end that it hit me full on emotionally again. Suddenly I had to grieve. Just because 35 years had passed didn’t make it any easier.

Were you afraid of revealing too much intimate details ?

Teddie : Does this mean sex? When writing I kept asking myself whether Sid would be okay about me telling people this and that. However when it comes to the intimate details I knew Sid wouldn't give a toss about it. He couldn't care less who knew what, but here I care. It wasn't just Sid's intimate life, it was mine too. So I decided to close the bedroom door on that in the same way I would never have sex in public. It is nobody's business and although I'm sure the book would be more interesting to certain people if I had gone into detail, the book isn't about that.

After gig party in Trondheim, 1977
Did you stay in touch with the remaining members of the Sex Pistols?

Teddie : No. Sid kept sending me messages with mutual friends up until Christmas 1977, but I didn’t meet them again. Malcolm McLaren had organised a new Scandinavian tour for straight after the US tour of January 1978. Sid asked me to meet him in Stockholm. I was excited that he kept in touch and that I was obviously in his memories and his heart. Everyone knows what happened on the US tour – the band split and the Scandinavian tour was cancelled.

When working on the first book for Trygve, I came into contact with the roadie from the tour. Roadent was the original roadie for The Clash and then The Sex Pistols before he went off to become a film star in Germany for a while. We hadn’t talked for over 30 years and it was great to meet up again. We are still in contact and get together when I’m in London.

When writing a Vicious Love Story, I was worried about how I would end the book. I planned to leave it with the van driving off, but was contacted by Eileen Polk, who was in New York at the time of Sid’s death. She’s a photographer and was DeeDee Ramone's and Arthur ‘Killer’ Kane’s girlfriend back then. She told me a lot of things I didn’t know about what really happened and I decided to contact other people who were there. This book was going to be a testimony from people who were there, not a speculation into what happened, which so many others have done before. I met with Peter Gravelle in London. He was the person who got the last heroin for Sid which he overdosed on. The last chapters in the book are told by the people who were there and who are my dearest friends.

After gig party in Trondheim, 1977

This is amazing how detailed the story is. You've spent only few days with Sid but it really looks like a long time relationship.

Teddie : Absolutely. Let me explain about why it’s so detailed:

When I moved to Norway from England in 1975, I spent the first year working hard on studies and perfecting my Norwegian language skills. In 1976 I went back to the UK for a holiday and I found myself struggling with my English. I was mixing English and Norwegian. That’s when I decided to write a diary in English to make sure I kept both languages fluent. You can imagine how I felt: 16 years old and in love with this amazing guy. Everything, all the feelings and every detail went into that diary.

Sid and I just ‘clicked’. It was instant and the trust was there immediately. We talked and talked and talked. It was like we both sensed our time together would be brief and we had to cram as much into it as possible. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. Looking back I expected him to be much more guarded about details of his life, but he wasn’t. Still now Sid can trust me. When I wrote the book I had an urgent sense of doing the right thing. People speak of him as an idiot and a junkie – that’s not the guy I met. I think the world needs to see a different side to the caricature of popular myth. 

In the end, do you wish you would have stepped in the van with the band?

Teddie : Back then initially I regretted not going with him. Of course, I was in love and wanted to spend more time with him. Two girls from the Bromley Contingent, Tracey O’Keefe and Debbie Juvenile were there with me and Debbie was mad as a hatter that I wouldn’t leave Norway for Sid. She was livid. She sat with me on the steps outside the hotel as I penned a letter to Sid, she would take with her back to London. I was adamant that although I didn’t go to Sweden, I would come to London.

But with hindsight I think I did the right thing. I think Sid would have ended up hurting me if I went. Sid didn’t do any drugs around me except once. I threatened to leave if he did any and he swore he wouldn’t. I was with him all the time and he kept his promise. But I don’t know how long I would have had that power over him. I knew deep down the life he had was not the one he wanted. But just because the circus has left town doesn’t mean the monkey wasn’t still on his back. 

There is a lot to be said for hindsight, but back then there was so much I couldn’t see – things I didn’t know. As the years have passed I have been contacted by people who have things to tell me and it really is devastating. You see, I was unsure of Sid’s feelings. He was the big Punk Rock Poster Boy. I was just a young girl. I knew what I saw in his eyes when he was with me, but when he left I started to question the reality of it all. Was I just one in a thousand other ladies Sid met on tour? It was this distrust and disbelief, together with the fact that my mother confiscated my passport, that led me to cancelling my plans on going to London – even though I got messages from Sid urging me to come. Now, whilst writing my book I suddenly learned that Sid had kept his promises to me for several months. 

Sid and the band went to Stockholm for a concert on a Saturday night. A Swedish photographer who covered the gig said Sid was quiet. He played the concert and left and went to bed at the hotel. This was Mr Punk himself out on a Saturday night! I’m hoping he didn’t feel like partying because he was sad about us. I will never know.

I’d asked Sid to keep away from Nancy. He promised. He said it was over. Actually it never was more than an on off thing when I met him, and it was definitely OFF at the time. He was angry with her disloyalty. He didn’t care if she slept around. It didn’t mean anything at the time and he promised to keep away. I was in Norway and was told that he wasn’t seeing her. After Christmas and the US Tour he was with her and I simply assumed he had been all the time. Now I learned that the driver back in the autumn of 1977, Barbara Harwood, told Jon Savage in his book England’s Dreaming volume 2 that Sid had asked her to keep Nancy away from him. She had started turning up at gigs and he didn’t want her there and he didn’t want anything to do with her. She also said Sid begged her to help him get clean. One night he got into a fight and had to go to the hospital and Nancy was there. Barbara wrote that she regretted not listening to Sid, but allowed Nancy to come with them to the hospital and I’m guessing that’s when she got close to him again…. It’s hard to hear these things so many years later. I get so full of remorse. Could I have made a difference to his life if I’d just followed my heart?

Do you still listen to the Sex Pistols?

Teddie : No, I didn’t listen to their music back then and I don’t now. I was never a punk or a fan of the band or a fan of anyone really. I was there to do a job as translator. 

Teddie now.

How's your life now?

Teddie : It has changed a lot since 2011. Drastically! I have written 5 books. Two non-fiction and three crime/fiction. I bought a publishing company in the UK back in 2012, New Haven Publishing Ltd, and it is growing so fast it’s fabulous. I have 12 authors who have several titles released with New Haven. We have branched out to foreign language books and the French edition of Vicious was first. It is also available in Russian. Writing is my passion and I dabble contrarily as a freelance music journalist mostly for UK magazines but also lately for Punk Globe in Los Angeles. The journalism came from being interviewed so many times. Then one magazine asked me to get an interview with a certain famous friend of mine and when he agreed they asked me to do it. So that’s basically how that started. 

I still live most of the time in Oslo, Norway, but since my company is in the UK, I end up spending time there too. I have become a bit of a nomad. :)

A Vicious Love Story by Teddie Dahlin
New Haven Publishing Ltd

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