Sid Vicious

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Sid Vicious
Vicious.jpg
Vicious performing with the Sex Pistols in San Francisco at their last show before breaking up in January 1978
Background information
Birth nameJohn Simon Ritchie[1]
Also known asSid Vicious
Spikey John
John Simon Beverley[2]
Born(1957-05-10)10 May 1957
Lewisham, London, England, UK
Died2 February 1979(1979-02-02) (aged 21)
West Village, New York, New York, US
GenresPunk rock
OccupationsMusician
InstrumentsBass guitar, vocals, drums
Years active1976–1978
LabelsVirgin, EMI
Associated actsSex Pistols
Siouxsie and the Banshees
Vicious White Kids
The Flowers Of Romance
Nancy Spungen
Notable instruments
Fender Precision Bass
 
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Sid Vicious
Vicious.jpg
Vicious performing with the Sex Pistols in San Francisco at their last show before breaking up in January 1978
Background information
Birth nameJohn Simon Ritchie[1]
Also known asSid Vicious
Spikey John
John Simon Beverley[2]
Born(1957-05-10)10 May 1957
Lewisham, London, England, UK
Died2 February 1979(1979-02-02) (aged 21)
West Village, New York, New York, US
GenresPunk rock
OccupationsMusician
InstrumentsBass guitar, vocals, drums
Years active1976–1978
LabelsVirgin, EMI
Associated actsSex Pistols
Siouxsie and the Banshees
Vicious White Kids
The Flowers Of Romance
Nancy Spungen
Notable instruments
Fender Precision Bass

Sid Vicious, born John Simon Ritchie[1] (10 May 1957 – 2 February 1979), was an English bass guitarist and vocalist most famous as a member of the influential punk group, the Sex Pistols.

Vicious joined the Sex Pistols in early 1977 to replace Glen Matlock, who had fallen out of favour with the rest of the group. Due to intravenous drug use, Vicious was hospitalized with hepatitis during the recording of the Sex Pistols' debut album Never Mind the Bollocks. Accordingly, Vicious' bass is only partially featured on one song from the album. Vicious would later appear as a lead vocalist, performing three cover songs, on the soundtrack to The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, a largely fictionalized documentary about the Sex Pistols produced by the group's former manager Malcolm McLaren and director Julien Temple.

During the brief and chaotic ascendancy of the Sex Pistols, Vicious met eventual girlfriend and manager Nancy Spungen. Spungen and Vicious entered a destructive codependent relationship based on drug use. This culminated in Spungen's death from an apparent stab wound while staying in the Hotel Chelsea, Manhattan, with Vicious. Under suspicion of having committed Spungen's murder, Vicious was released on bail; he was later arrested again for assaulting Todd Smith, brother of Patti Smith, at a night club and underwent drug rehabilitation on Riker's Island. In celebration of Vicious' release from prison, a party was held by his mother at his girlfriend's residence in Greenwich Village, which was attended notably by the Misfits bassist Jerry Only. Vicious' mother had been supplying Vicious with drugs and paraphernalia from a young age and assisted him in procuring heroin late that night. Vicious died in his sleep, having overdosed on the heroin his mother had procured. After Vicious' death, a compilation of live material recorded during his brief solo career was packaged and released as Sid Sings.

Early life[edit]

Vicious was born John Simon Ritchie in Lewisham, South East London, to John and Anne Ritchie (née McDonald). His mother dropped out of school early due to a lack of academic success and went on to join the RAF, where she met her husband-to-be, Ritchie's father. He was a guardsman at Buckingham Palace and a semi-professional trombone player on the London Jazz scene.[3] Shortly after Ritchie's birth, he and his mother moved to Ibiza, where they expected to be joined by his father who, it was planned, would support them financially in the meantime. However, after the first few cheques failed to arrive, Anne realised that he would not be coming. Anne later married Christopher Beverley, a middle class man in 1965, before setting up a family home back in Kent. Ritchie took his stepfather's surname and was known as John Beverley.[4]

Ritchie's stepfather died six months later from cancer,[4] and by 1968 he and his mother were living in a rented flat in Tunbridge Wells, where he attended Sandown Court School. In 1971, the pair moved to Hackney in east London. He also spent some time living in Somerset.

Ritchie first met John Lydon in 1973, when they were both students at Hackney Technical College. Lydon describes Ritchie at this time as a David Bowie fan, and a "clothes hound".[5]

By age 17, Ritchie had begun to hang around London. One favourite spot was Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's then-little-known clothing store, SEX. There he met American expatriate Chrissie Hynde before she formed the Pretenders. Though at least five years older, she tried (but failed) to convince Ritchie to join her in a sham marriage so she could get a work permit. Ritchie was given the nickname "Sid Vicious" by John Lydon, after Lydon's pet hamster, Sid. The hamster had bitten Ritchie, who said that "Sid is really vicious!"[6] The animal was described by Lydon as "the softest, furriest, weediest thing on earth."[7] At the time, Ritchie was squatting with Lydon, John Joseph Wardle (Jah Wobble), and John Gray, and the four were colloquially known as "The Four Johns".

According to Lydon, the two of them would often busk for money with Vicious playing the tambourine. They would play Alice Cooper covers, and people gave them money to be quiet. Once a man gave them "three bob" (three shillings, i.e. 15p in decimal currency) and they all danced.[8] According to the band's photographer, Dennis Morris, Ritchie was "deep down, a shy person."[9] However, he did assault NME journalist Nick Kent with a motorbike chain with help from Jah Wobble.[10] On another occasion, at the Speakeasy (a London nightclub popular with rock stars of the day) he threatened BBC DJ and Old Grey Whistle Test presenter Bob Harris.

Music career[edit]

The Flowers of Romance and the Banshees[edit]

Vicious began his musical career in 1976 as a member of The Flowers of Romance along with former co-founding member of The Clash, Keith Levene (who later co-founded John Lydon's post-Pistols project Public Image Limited) and Palmolive and Viv Albertine, who would later form The Slits.[4] He appeared with Siouxsie and the Banshees, playing drums at their notorious first gig at the 100 Club Punk Festival in London's Oxford Street.[11] According to members of The Damned, Vicious was considered, along with Dave Vanian, for the position of lead singer for the Damned, but Vicious failed to show up for the audition.[12]

Sex Pistols[edit]

According to various publications (such as the biography England's Dreaming by Jon Savage) and films (namely The Filth and the Fury) Vicious was asked to join the group after Glen Matlock's departure in February 1977 due to his being present at every gig. Manager Malcolm McLaren once claimed "if Johnny Rotten is the voice of punk, then Vicious is the attitude."

The Sex Pistols (Vicious left, Steve Jones center, and Johnny Rotten right) performing in Trondheim in 1977

McLaren also said in person and in a documentary that if he'd met Vicious before he had hired Rotten to be the singer, Vicious would have been the Sex Pistols' front man, because he had the most charisma of anyone on that stage. Alan Jones described Vicious as "[having] the iconic punk look ... Sid, on image alone, is what all punk rests on."[13] His nails would be painted in a sloppy manner with purple nail polish.[14] Vicious played his first gig with the Pistols on 3 April 1977 at The Screen On The Green in London. In 1977 Vicious met Freddie Mercury because they were both recording in the same studio. He insulted Mercury but Mercury grabbed him by the lapels and pushed him out of the booth. His debut was filmed by Don Letts and appears in Punk Rock Movie. What Vicious had lacked in musicianship he made up with unmatched punk charisma, as he hurled insults at the crowd and slashed himself. On the group's U.S. tour in January 1978, he appeared on stage with the words "Gimme a fix" written on his chest. In the Longhorn Ballroom concert, in Dallas, Texas, he spat into the crowd and mocked and taunted the "Cowboys" in the audience.

In March 1977, Vicious had met American Nancy Spungen; they formed a relationship. They, and with them the group, deteriorated visibly during the American tour. The Pistols broke up in San Francisco after their concert at the Winterland Ballroom on 14 January 1978.

Solo career[edit]

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. Vicious performed the majority of his performances at Max's Kansas City and drew large crowds. His final performances as a solo musician took place at Max's.[15]

Musicianship[edit]

Vicious's abilities as a bass player were debated. During an interview for Guitar Hero III, when Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones was asked why he, instead of Vicious, recorded the bass parts of Never Mind the Bollocks, Jones responded, "Sid was in a hospital with yellow jaundice and he couldn't really play, not that he could play anyway."[16] The only song that he played on in the studio was "Bodies". Vicious asked Lemmy, the bassist of Motörhead, to teach him how to play bass with the words, "I can't play bass," to which Lemmy replied "I know." In another interview Lemmy stated, "Yeah. It was all uphill. And he still couldn't play bass when he died."[17]

Vicious performing with his short lived punk group Vicious White Kids

According to Paul Cook, in the few months between joining the band and meeting Spungen, Vicious was a dedicated worker and tried his hardest to learn to play; indeed, this period was Cook's favourite in the band.[18] Viv Albertine went further in defence of his ability, saying that one night she "went to bed, and Sid stayed up with a Ramones album and a bass guitar, and when I got up in the morning, he could play. He'd taken a load of speed and taught himself. He was so quick."[19] Keith Levene, a member of The Flowers of Romance with Vicious and later a member of The Clash and then Public Image Ltd, also recounts a similar story: "Could Sid play bass? I don't know, but one thing I do know was that Sid did things quickly. One night, he played the first Ramones album nonstop, all night, then next morning, Sid could play the bass. That was it; he was ready! I told you Sid did things quickly!" By the time of the last Sex Pistols concert at the Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, Vicious was a reasonably competent bass player, as is evident in the footage of the gig.[20]

Nancy Spungen's death[edit]

Vicious' mugshot from December 9, 1978

On the morning of 12 October 1978, Vicious claimed to have awoken from a drugged stupor to find Nancy Spungen dead on the bathroom floor of their room in the Hotel Chelsea in Manhattan, New York. She had suffered a single stab wound to her abdomen and appeared to have bled to death. The knife used had been bought by Vicious on 42nd Street and was identical to a collector's knife given to punk rock vocalist Stiv Bators of the Dead Boys by Dee Dee Ramone. According to Dee Dee's wife at the time, Vera King Ramone, Vicious had bought the knife after seeing Stiv's.[21] Vicious was arrested and charged with her murder.[22] 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 during the argument Spungen had fallen onto the knife.[23]

On 22 October, ten days after Spungen's death, Vicious attempted suicide by slitting his wrist with a smashed light bulb and was subsequently hospitalized at Bellevue Hospital. He was charged with assault after an altercation with Todd Smith (singer Patti Smith's brother) at a Skafish concert.[24] Vicious was arrested 9 December 1978 and sent to Rikers Island metro jail for 55 days. He was released on bail on 1 February 1979.

Bail was originally set at $50,000.[25] However, after court hearings and work from his lawyer, it was lowered. Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols' manager, worked to raise money, and the bond was eventually covered by Virgin Records.[25] John Lydon has stated that Mick Jagger stepped in and paid for the lawyers for Vicious, and has praised Jagger for never seeking any publicity for this.[26]

Death[edit]

Vicious' death certificate

On the evening of 1 February 1979, a small gathering to celebrate Vicious having made bail was held at the 63 Bank Street, New York apartment of his new girlfriend, Michele Robinson, whom he had started dating the day he got out of Bellevue Hospital the previous October. Vicious was clean, having been on a detoxification methadone program during his time at Rikers Island.[27] However, at the dinner gathering, his mother (who was once a registered addict herself) had some heroin delivered by her boyfriend Peter Kodick, against the wishes of Sid's girlfriend.[27] Vicious overdosed at midnight but everyone who was there that night worked together to get him up and walking around in order to revive him.[28] At 3:00 am, Vicious and Michele Robinson went to bed together.

In the pilot episode of documentary series Final 24, NYPD police sergeant Richard Houseman revealed (supposedly for the first time) that shortly thereafter, Vicious wanted another dose of heroin but Michele refused to be a part of it and left the room. When she told his mother Anne (who was also at the party) what happened, Anne went into the bedroom. Before her death in 1996, his mother Anne confessed to journalist Alan Parker that she then purposely administered a fatal dose of heroin to Vicious. After broadcast of this TV documentary it later came out in interview that Parker was lied to by the production team behind the show in order to make his 'confession'. Parker later directed his own film, Who Killed Nancy? (Soda Pictures) to set the record straight. An Emmy-nominated film director, he now rarely talks about Vicious or the Pistols. Vicious was discovered dead late the next morning.

In his first interview, appearing in the Daily Mirror's June 11th, 1977 issue, Vicious said "I'll probably die by the time I reach 25. But I'll have lived the way I wanted to."

A few days after Vicious's cremation, his mother allegedly found a suicide note in the pocket of his jacket:

"We had a death pact, and I have to keep my half of the bargain. Please bury me next to my baby. Bury me in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots Goodbye".[29]

Since Spungen was Jewish, she was buried in a Jewish cemetery. However, Vicious was not Jewish so he could not be buried with her. According to the book Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, Vicious's mother and Jerry Only of Misfits scattered his ashes over Spungen's grave.[30]

Discography[edit]

Sex Pistols[edit]

Studio album

Compilations and live albums

Singles

Vicious White Kids[edit]

Studio Albums

Singles

Albums[edit]

Biopic[edit]

The 1986 UK feature-film Sid and Nancy, directed by Alex Cox, portrays the chaotic last phase of their lives, ending with a fictionalised stabbing scene. It starred Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious and Chloe Webb as Nancy Spungen. Oldman's performance was praised as a "hugely sympathetic reading of the punk figurehead as a lost and bewildered manchild."[31]

Other films that include Sid Vicious[edit]

  1. Sex Pistols Number One (1976, dir. Derek Jarman)
  2. Will Your Son Turn into Sid Vicious? (1978)
  3. Mr. Mike's Mondo Video (1979, dir. Michael O'Donoghue)
  4. The Punk Rock Movie (1979, dir. Don Letts)
  5. The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle (1979, directed by Julien Temple; Julien Temple's The Great Rock N' Roll Swindle features famous Vicious footage, such as his videos for "My Way" and "Somethin' Else," along with various live Sex Pistols footage. There is also a video for "C'mon Everybody," of which only snippets are shown in the film; VHS/DVD)
  6. DOA (1981, directed by Lech Kowalski)
  7. Buried Alive (1991, Sex Pistols)
  8. Decade (1991, Sex Pistols)
  9. Bollocks to Every (1995, Sex Pistols)
  10. Filth to Fury (1995, Sex Pistols)
  11. Classic Chaotic (1996, Sex Pistols)
  12. Kill the Hippies (1996, Sex Pistols, VHS)
  13. The Filth and the Fury (2000, directed by Julien Temple, VHS/NTSC/DVD)
  14. Live at the Longhorn (2001, Sex Pistols)
  15. Live at Winterland (2001, Sex Pistols, DVD)
  16. Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols (2002, Sex Pistols, VHS/DVD)
  17. Punk Rockers (2003, Sex Pistols, DVD)
  18. Blood on the Turntable: The Sex Pistols (2004, directed by Steve Crabtree)
  19. Music Box Biographical Collection (2005, Sex Pistols, DVD)
  20. Punk Icons (2006, Sex Pistols, DVD)
  21. American Hardcore (2007, DVD)
  22. Chaos! Ex Pistols Secret History: The Dave Goodman Story (2007, Sex Pistols, DVD)
  23. Pirates of Destiny (2007, directed by Tõnu Trubetsky, DVD)
  24. Rock Case Studies (2007, Sex Pistols, DVD)
  25. Who Killed Nancy? (2009, directed by Alan G. Parker)
  26. Sid! By those that really knew him (2009, directed by Mark Sloper)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Bangs, Lester (23 October 1978). "Nancy Spungen 1958–1978". The Village Voice 23 (42) (New York). p. 11. Retrieved 9 April 2010. 
  2. ^ "Works written by: BEVERLEY JOHN SIMON". ACE Title Search. American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Retrieved 19 October 2008. 
  3. ^ The Filth and The Fury, St. Martin's Press, 2000, pg. 13
  4. ^ a b c Simmonds, Jeremy. The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin, Handguns and Ham Sandwiches. Chicago Review Press. 2008.
  5. ^ Savage, John (2005). England's Dreaming. London: Faber and Faber.  p.116
  6. ^ The Filth and the Fury, St. Martin's Press, 2000, pg. 90
  7. ^ Lydon, John, "Rotten," Plexus Publishing (1993), p. 57. ISBN 978-0-85965-341-1.
  8. ^ The Filth and The Fury, St. Martin's Press, 2000, pg. 41
  9. ^ "Sid Vicious Biography". hotshotdigital.com. Retrieved 15 February 2010. 
  10. ^ Wells, Steven (8 January 2008). "The Guardian". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 15 February 2010. 
  11. ^ Savage, John. Sid Vicious: Little boy lost Guardian News 18 January 2009.
  12. ^ "The Damned". Octopusmediaink.com. Retrieved 15 February 2010. 
  13. ^ "Punk: The Definitive Record of a Revolution: Stephen Colegrave, Chris Sullivan: Books". Amazon.com. ASIN 1560257695. 
  14. ^ The Filth and The Fury, St. Martin's Press, 2000, pg. 39
  15. ^ "Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols Bring The Filth and the Fury". Max's Kansas City. Retrieved 17 September 2008. 
  16. ^ "Sex Pistols | Features". Sexpistolsofficial.com. Retrieved 15 February 2010. 
  17. ^ "It's only Rock & Roll but he likes it!". Retrieved 9 February 2007. 
  18. ^ The Filth and The Fury, Julien Temple, 2000; "The best time in the band of all was when Sid first joined—he was really determined to learn the bass and fit in and be part of the band"
  19. ^ England's Dreaming, Jon Savage, Faber & Faber, 1991, P.194
  20. ^ "Keith Levene Interview Part 2—Greg Whitfield". www.punk77.co.uk. Retrieved 18 April 2009. 
  21. ^ "Vera Ramone King: Poisoned Heart". SuicideGirls.com. 1 June 2009. Retrieved 1 June 2009. 
  22. ^ Sid Vicious MUG SHOT | The Smoking Gun
  23. ^ Copy Of Statement by Police
  24. ^ Savage, Jon. Sid Vicious: Little lost boy The Guardian 18 January 2009.
  25. ^ a b Anthony Bruno. "Punk Rock Romeo and Juliet: Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen". Retrieved 8 December 2010. 
  26. ^ http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/entertainment/music/music-news/punk-rock-legend-john-lydon-sex-2691685
  27. ^ a b "1979: Sid Vicious dies from drugs overdose". BBC. 2 February 1979. 
  28. ^ "BBC on this day 2 1979: Sid Vicious dies from drugs overdose". BBC News. 2 February 1979. Retrieved 4 January 2010. 
  29. ^ Furek, Maxim W. (2008). The Death Proclamation of Generation X: A Self-Fulfilling Prophesy of Goth, Grunge and Heroin (i-Universe), 101.
  30. ^ pages 358-359
  31. ^ Uncut magazine, issue #117, February 2007

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]