During his Sex Pistols years
Sid Vicious aka John Simon Richie, is the penultimate tragic punk rock icon. He was a born loser destined to be a wash up while still in his youth. Sid played bass guitar very poorly for The Sex Pistols, a band notorious for their obscene treatment in front of their fans. They interviewed on TV in a similar manner, using obscenities with another and the host. Well, what can you expect when you interview a band who’s lead is Johnny Rotten? Sid began his music career before the Pistols in 1976, in a band called The Flowers of Romance. He appeared with Siouxsie and the Banshees, playing drums at their first gig at the 100 Club Punk Festival in London. Sid joined the Pistols after Glen Matlock left in February 1977. Manager Malcolm McLaren was quoted as saying “if Johnny Rotten is the voice of punk, then Sid is the attitude.” I guess you’d have to be a screaming banshee (pun) to take that as a compliment. McLaren also said that if he’d met Sid before he hired Rotten to be the singer, Sid would have been the front man. Have you ever heard Sid sing? It’s probably just as well. To hear Sid sing My Way click here. To watch the Truth about Sid Vicious click here.
Sid played his first gig with the Pistols on 3 April 1977 at the The Screen On The Green in London. His debut was filmed by Don Letts and it appears in Punk Rock Movie. It was around this time that Sid met groupie Nancy Spungen. Their meeting was no more flowers of romance than his former band. To watch Johnny Rotten give an interview click here.
Nancy had a difficult childhood. She was a temperamental child who was violent with her younger sister, Susan, and brother, David. She threatened to kill a babysitter with a pair of scissors, assaulted her psychiatrist, who told her mother that Nancy was “acting out” for attention. Yeah, that’s all it was, the scamp. She was expelled from school at 11 for skipping class. When Nancy was 15, her psychiatrist diagnosed her incorrectly with schizophrenia. Her parents enrolled her at a resident secondary school, The Devereux Glenholme School and Devereux Manor High School. In January 1972, she ran away from Devereux Manor and attempted suicide by slitting her wrists with scissors. Eventually Nancy graduated Devereux Manor High School , andat 16, attended the University of Colorado at Boulder. Once again Nancy sabotaged herself when she was arrested for purchasing marijuana from an undercover police officer. Tsk, tsk Nancy. Didn’t you have enough street smarts by then? She was expelled from CU, and permanently banished from the state of Colorado. Nancy managed to obtain employment but after being fired from her job on the first day, she began stealing from her family and dealing drugs. Meh. There’s always one in every bunch.
Nancy became a serious groupie who followed bands such as Aerosmith, The New York Dolls and The Ramones. She left home at 17 in 1975 (much to her parents’ relief) and worked as a stripper around Times Square. She also worked for various brothels. She was 19 when she met Sid although she did so by accident. She moved to London to pursue Jerry Nolan of the New York Dolls but wound up meeting the Pistols. At first Nancy made a play for Johnny Rotten. When in no uncertain terms Johnny rejected her, Nancy pursued Sid. Sid was quite happy to take up with Nancy and it wasn’t long before they shacked up. I wonder if Sid knew what he was getting into? Mind you he was no prize. To see Johnny Rotten interview click here. To see a much older Johnny Rotten Lets Loose click here.
By the time Nancy met Sid they were both already addicted to different drugs. Sid began using with his mother at the age of 17. At 13, he was given the nickname “Sid Vicious” by John Lydon (known as Johnny Rotten), when his pet hamster, Sid, bit him, who cursed and said “Sid is really vicious!” Early on Sid and Johnny knew their musical talents were unappreciated. They often busked for cash and people paid them to stop playing. Ouch. Lemmy, bassist for Motorhead stated that teaching Sid “was all uphill and he still couldn’t play bass when he died.” It was rumoured that Sid taught himself to play bass. One night after Nancy went to bed Sid sat up with his guitar and a Ramones album. He spent all night listening and playing and by morning, he could play bass. By the end of his career Sid played a mediocre bass, a definite improvement from his earlier years. The only known possible #1 (rumoured to be #2) hit for the band was the song God Save the Queen. Their debut full album, Never Mind the Bullocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols caused another stir. The album’s title resulted in an obscenity trial (can you imagine?) that was dismissed. To see the Sex Pistols sing God Save the Queen click here. To see Nancy and Sid in an interview click here.
After a very difficult two week 1978 tour of the US, Johnny Rotten quit the group and announced to fans during a performance that the band was broken up . It was then that Sid’s career took a nosedive. The band had lasted a little over two years but their controversial image made them a cornerstone in punk rock. Sid however hadn’t done well during his separation from Nancy (dysfunctional withdrawal I believe its called) and when the tour ended he flew to New York to join her. However Sid and Nancy had major troubles of their own, constantly fighting and engaging in domestic abuse, with Sid viciously attacking Nancy. Sid could really be vicious. They were both addicted to heroin and other drugs. The tabloids referred to Nancy as Nauseating Nancy because of her public temper tantrums and displays of violence. The band hated Nancy as much as the press. Sid’s relationship with her had caused them a lot of problems and Johnny urged him to break it off. But in spite of their bizarre behaviour, Sid and Nancy developed a mutual co-dependency and they remained together. In other words their brains were so fried it was easier to stay together than to look for dope and sex somewhere else. After the Pistols ended, Sid and Nancy settled in New York and Nancy attempted to manage Sid’s solo career. Seriously. A heroin junkie with a violent temper managing the mediocre career of another heroin addict with a violent temper. Match made in heaven. By 1979 Sid released his first and only solo album, Sid Sings. To see Sid Vicious interview in NYC in 1978 click here.
To see Johnny Rotten Interviewed 1978 click here.
To see Johnny Rotten Interview 1987 click here.
That’s where it gets tawdry.
Up until now it has been nothing but wholesome.
Tragedy struck on October 12 1978 when Sid found Nancy dead on the bathroom floor from a knife wound to the abdomen. Police immediately arrested Sid who offered conflicting stories saying, “I stabbed her, but I didn’t mean to kill her. I loved her, but she treated me like shit.” At one point Sid stated he did not remember Nancy’s murder and insisted she fell onto the knife. Oh, Sid not that old line. Rumours about Nancy’s true killer swirled for months afterward, but Sid was charged with second-degree homicide. Sid started acting even weird even for him and he attempted suicide by slashing his wrists, resulting in a two-week admission at the psychiatric ward of Bellevue Hospital. He was arrested a few months later for assaulting a friend’s brother at Max’s Kansas City. At least he got himself under control. Nancy’s murder trial never took place. Not long after his brief jail time for the assault, Sid committed suicide by a heroin overdose at his new girlfriend, Michelle Johnson’s house. To see Sid Vicious after appearing in court click here. To see Sid Vicious Death Reports click here.
To see Sid Vicious Final 24 Documentary click here.
Sid’s Facebook Fans: 39 Wow. Doing great, Sid.