How Did Pistols’ Wally Nightingale Die?

Image Credit: Miya Mizuno/FX

FX on Hulu’s biographical drama series ‘Pistol’ revolves around the origin of Sex Pistols, a famed English punk rock band formed in 1975. The miniseries begins with the formation of the band by Steve Jones, Paul Cook, and Wally Nightingale, under the name “The Swankers.” Later, Malcolm McLaren joined the band as a manager and reportedly urged Steve to become the lead guitarist rather than the lead singer.

Steve fired Wally Nightingale and became the guitarist, reportedly as per McLaren’s instruction. When Sex Pistols became one of the most recognized punk rock bands of all time, Wally stooped to oblivion. Naturally, the viewers must be wondering whether the guitarist is still alive. Well, let’s find out!

Is Wally Nightingale Still Alive? How Did He Die?

No, Warwick “Wally” Nightingale is not alive. The guitarist died on May 6, 1996, at the age of 40. According to “The Clash” drummer Terry Chimes’ autobiography ‘The Strange Case of Dr Terry and Mr Chimes,’ Wally died due to a drug-related illness. Wally was an integral part of The Swankers’ formation and the trio that also included Steve and Paul rehearsed at one of the sound stages of Riverside Studios, where Wally’s father worked at the time. He wrote the song “Scarface” with his father, along with “Did You No Wrong.” By that time, McLaren had become a significant part of the band.

Wally Nightingale (Right)//Image Credit: Chairman Ralph

“It was a normal rehearsal at Riverside, and Malcolm was there, and they just said, ‘You’re not in the group any more.’ That was Steve, and Malcolm backing him up. It was very hard. I didn’t say anything, I was virtually in tears,” Wally said about the day he got fired from the band in an interview included in Jon Savage’s ‘The England’s Dreaming Tapes.’ “Why it happened I don’t know. The things they said about me in the papers, they really slagged me off, I couldn’t work it out. It was either pure guilt or envy, or something,” he added.

Wally believed that his sacking from the band was most likely McLaren’s doing. “It must have been Malcolm, that’s all I could think, I didn’t fit into his plans. He could walk all over me, he had a business, contacts,” he said in the same interview. After his time at The Swankers, Wally tried to revive his music career by co-founding a band named Key West in 1981. The guitarist even co-wrote four songs with Ron Evans for a demo submitted to Warner Bros. Records. However, the band failed to earn a recording contract and got disbanded after just two years.

After Key West, Wally’s musical career was limited to standalone appearances. He performed for Brentwood-based punk rock band Beat of the Beast in 1989 as a guest guitarist. Wally also collaborated with Mat Sargent for the latter’s ‘Sex, Drugs & HIV’ by playing guitar on the song “Rich Girls.” As per reports, Wally developed an addiction to narcotics after the death of his father in 1981. He was reportedly imprisoned for six months in the early 1980s after getting convicted of a charge concerning narcotics.

Wally Nightingale was never celebrated for the creation of the band that eventually became the globally renowned Sex Pistols. Unlike his peers, he failed to find a footing in the rock scene of his time to build a successful career as a musician.

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