The iconic Sex Pistols bassist died on this day in 1979 at age 21
The Legend Of Sid Vicious: Live Fast, Die Young
Sid Vicious perhaps remains the most important Punk Rock icon of all time, but the price he paid for his immortality came earlier when he passed away from an overdose on February, 2nd 1979 in New York, aged only 21
Sid was born John Simon Ritchie on May 10th, 1957 in London, England, he joined the Sex Pistols in early 1977 to replace Glen Matlock, who had fallen out of favor with the rest of the group. However, despite his sense of Punk fashion and style and being a music fan (he was a Sex Pistols fan since the band was formed and he can even be seen in early TV footage of the band in the background as part of the fan crowd), Sid had never learned how to play an instrument, though he had been in other bands before like The Flowers Of Romance (where he co-wrote the controversial song “Belsen Was A Gas”, later recorded by the Sex Pistols), he was also considered for lead singer of The Damned (but failed to show up for the audition) and did some basic drumming for the Siouxsie and the Banshees at one concert only. Sid was John Lydon’s best friend and that played on his favor to join the band. It was guitarist Steve Jones who taught Sid how to play on a bass guitar, but that turn out to be a very hard task for Jones. Due to intravenous drug use (Heroin), Vicious was hospitalized with hepatitis during the recording of the band’s only studio album “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols” and his bass is only partially featured on one song from the album, “Bodies”. Sid was a big David Bowie and Ramones fan and those were two of his main influences musically. He attended London concerts from Ramones and David Bowie during the Ziggy Stardust period. One of Rock’s most famous story is when Sid tried to confront Freddie Mercury during the recording sessions of “Never Mind The Bollocks…” as Queen were recording on the same studio complex. Reportedly, he asked Mercury if he “was the one who wanted to bring ballet to the masses”, the short meeting ended up with Freddie Mercury literally dragging Vicious to outside the studio. Sid met American groupie and striper Nancy Spungen in 1977. The two begun one of the most toxic romances that Rock music universe as seen. Sid increased his heroin habit during that period, as Spungen was also an addict. Prior to that, shockingly, was his mother who used to supply him with drugs. In 1978 the Sex Pistols do their first and only U.S tour that marks the beginning of the end for the band with a series of disastrous concerts. They play their last concert in San Francisco, January 1978. While the band returns to England, Sid stays in the U.S with Nancy. He does some recording as a singer for three cover songs attributed to the Sex Pistols and to be featured on the 1979 movie “The Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle”: “C’mon Everybody”, “Something Else” and his famous “My Way” version. With Spungen acting as his “manager,” Vicious embarked on a solo career during which he performed with musicians including Mick Jones of the Clash, Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, Rat Scabies of the Damned and the New York Dolls’ Arthur Kane, Jerry Nolan, and Johnny Thunders. He performed the majority of his performances at Max’s Kansas City and drew large crowds, though some performances were “hellish,” especially when Vicious insulted some of the audience. Examples of this can be heard in the in-between tracks on his live album “Sid Sings”.
The Death Of Nancy Spungen and Sid Vicious
On the morning of October 12, 1978, Nancy Spungen was found dead in a blood-stained bathroom in their room at the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan, New York. She had suffered a single stab wound to her abdomen and appeared to have bled to death. The pair had been living in Room 100 for about a month and a half The same day, Vicious was arrested and charged with her murder. He said they had fought that night but gave conflicting versions of what happened next, saying, “I stabbed her, but I never meant to kill her,” then saying that he did not remember and at one point saying “She must have fallen on the knife.” Vicious was obviously under the influence of drugs. Police searched the hotel room and found drugs and drug paraphernalia as well as a blood-stained folding knife with a five-inch blade with a black jaguar carved into the handle. That knife had been previously purchased by Vicious on 42nd Street. Ten days after Spungen’s death, Vicious attempted suicide by slitting his wrist with a smashed light bulb. He was hospitalized at Bellevue Hospital, where he also tried to kill himself by jumping from a window shouting, “I want to be with my Nancy” or other similar words, but was pulled back by hospital staff. In a November 1978 interview, he said that Spungen’s death was “meant to happen” and that “Nancy always said she’d die before she was 21.” Near the end of the interview, he was asked if he was having fun. In reply, he asked the interviewer if he was kidding, adding that he would like to be “under the ground.” At Bellevue, he was visited by his lawyer James Merberg, who did everything he could to keep Vicious out of jail. Vicious was arrested on December 9th, 1978 for attacking Todd Smith, singer Patti Smith’s brother, at a Skafish concert at Hurrah, a New York dance club and sent to Rikers Island metro jail for 55 days to undergo a painful and enforced detoxification. Through the efforts of his criminal defense attorney, Sid Vicious was able to gain his release from jail by convincing the judge to allow a reasonable bond pending the outcome of the criminal charges in the murder case. On the evening of February 1st, 1979, a small group of friends gathered to celebrate Vicious having made bail at a friend’s Manhattan apartment at 63 Bank St. in New York City. Vicious had his friend, English photographer Peter Kodick, deliver him some heroin. He had apparently spent hours during the party looking toward the future, planning an album he would record to get his life and career back on track should he be acquitted. On the early hours of February 2nd, Sid Vicious, 21, overdosed on heroin and was discovered dead by his mother, Anne Beverley early the next morning. The NYPD closed the case against him, and never pursued any other action regarding Spungen’s death. To this day, the murder was never solved, and many questions if Sid actually did murdered Nancy, and possibly will remain unsolved. Sid Vicious remains the most influential and emblematic Punk icon of all time, he embodied the Punk philosophy to the maximum and applied it on his everyday life.
By Ken Warren, 2017/18
Look back at the 1979 music video for “My Way” by Sid Vicious (Taken from the movie “The Great Rock N’Roll Swindle)
Listen to the album “Sid Sings” on Spotify
Watch more music related videos
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