Sid Vicious

Sid Vicious

Infobox musical artist
Name = Sid Vicious

Img_capt = Sid Vicious
Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = John Simon Ritchie
Alias = Sid Vicious
Born = birth date|1957|5|10|df=y
London, England
Died = death date and age|1979|2|2|1957|5|10|df=y
New York City
Voice_type =
Instrument = Bass guitar, Vocals, drums, Tambourine
Genre = Punk
Occupation = Musician Songwriter Composer Actor
Years_active = 1976 - 1979
Label = Virgin
Associated_acts = Sex Pistols
Siouxsie and the Banshees
Notable_instruments = Fender Precision Bass (American Classic)|

John Simon Ritchie (born May 10, 1957, died February 2, 1979), better known as Sid Vicious, was an English punk rock musician, who played bass guitar for the Sex Pistols (replacing Glen Matlock).

Early life

Sid Vicious was born in London to John and Anne Ritchie. Anne was more of the hippie-type, whereas his father was a guard at Buckingham Palace. [The Filth and The Fury, St. Martin's Press, 2000, pg. 13] Shortly after his birth, John Ritchie left the family. John ("Sid") and his mother moved to the island of Ibiza. She married Christopher Beverly in 1965 before setting up a family home back in Kent. His stepfather died six months later, and by 1968 Ritchie 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 where he was a pupil at Clevedon Secondary Modern.

According to the band's photographer, Dennis Morris, Ritchie was "deep down, a shy person." [ [ Sid Vicious Biography - ] ] However, he did assault "NME" journalist Nick Kent with a motorcycle chain with help from Jah Wobble. [ [ The Guardian] ] 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, which in turn resulted in Harris threatening him with legal action.Fact|date=April 2008 However, Vicious was a poor fighter, at various times being beaten up by Paul Weller, David Coverdale, and Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson, who battered him with a clog inside a boat. Bouncers and audiences also assaulted Sid at times.

Ritchie was given the nickname "Vicious" , not Sid, by John Lydon, after Lydon's pet hamster. The hamster had bitten Ritchie, who said that " [Rotten's] Sid is really vicious!" [The Filth and the Fury, St. Martin's Press, 2000, pg. 90] The animal was described by Lydon as "the softest, furriest, weediest thing on earth."Lydon, John, "Rotten", Plexus Publishing (1993), p. 57. ISBN 978-0859653411.] At the time, Ritchie was squatting with Lydon, John Wardle and John Gray.

According to John Lydon, the two of them would often busk for money with Sid playing the tambourine. They would play Alice Cooper covers and people gave them money to be quiet. [The Filth and The Fury, St. Martin's Press, 2000, pg. 41]

Music career

The Flowers of Romance, and The Banshees

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. He appeared with Siouxsie & the Banshees, playing drums at their notorious first gig at the 100 Club Punk Festival in London's Oxford Street. According to the Documentary "Final Damnation", Sid, along with Dave Vanian, was considered for the position of lead singer for the Damned, but failed to show up for the audition. Fact|date=July 2008

ex Pistols

Before joining the band, Sid had associations with The Bromley Contingent, the fashion avant garde that followed the Sex Pistols. According to various publications (such as Lydon's autobiography, England's Dreaming by John Savage) and films (namely The Filth and the Fury) Ritchie 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 Rotten is the voice of punk, then Vicious is the attitude". Alan Jones described Sid as " [having] the iconic punk look (...) Sid, on image alone, is what all punk rests on." [ [ Punk: The Definitive Record of a Revolution: Stephen Colegrave, Chris Sullivan: Books ] ] His nails would be painted in a sloppy manner with purple nail polish [The Filth and The Fury, St. Martin's Press, 2000, pg. 39] . Ritchie played his first gig with the Pistols on April 3, 1977, at the Screen on the Green in London. His debut was filmed by Don Letts and appears in "Punk Rock Movie".

In November 1977, Ritchie met American groupie Nancy Spungen, and they immediately began a relationship (Spungen had come to London looking for Jerry Nolan of The Heartbreakers). She was a heroin addict, and Ritchie, who already believed in his own "live fast, die young" image, soon shared the dependence. Although they were deeply in love, their often violent and rocky relationship had a disastrous effect on the Sex Pistols. Both the group and Ritchie visibly deteriorated during their 1978 American tour. The Pistols broke up in San Francisco after their concert at the Winterland Ballroom on January 14, 1978. With Spungen acting as his "manager," Ritchie embarked on a solo career during which he performed with musicians including Mick Jones of The Clash, original Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, Rat Scabies of The Damned and the New York Dolls' Arthur Kane, Jerry Nolan, and Johnny Thunders. Ritchie performed the majority of his solo performances at Max's Kansas City and drew large crowds. His final performances as a solo musician took place at Max's. [cite web|title=Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols Bring The Filth and the Fury|publisher=Max's Kansas City|url=|accessdate=2008-09-17]


Sid was not recognised as a competent bass player. 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 hepatitis so he couldn't really play, not that he could play anyway". [ [ Guitar Hero III: Sex Pistols Trailer] ] At times during performances, other band members would unplug Sid's bass because his playing was so bad.cite web |url=|title=It's only Rock & Roll but he likes it! |accessdate=2007-02-09 |format= |work= ] Sid 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." Sid also received lessons from former bassist Glen Matlock.

In light of such comments and tales it is rarely acknowledged that early on, Sid's playing did reach a level of competency. In the few months between joining the band and meeting Nancy, he was a dedicated worker and tried his hardest to learn to play. Audio from his first show at the Screen on the Green (roughly two months after joining) demonstrates that he was able to hold a tune, and he is even heard to pull off a 'run' during the intro to "God Save the Queen". His progression eventually halted; the audio from the final Winterland concert shows him playing appallingly, his fingers rendered sluggish and clumsy through intoxication and lack of interest.

pungen's murder

Ritchie and girlfriend Nancy Spungen became locked in their own world of drug addiction and self-destruction. [ Interview footage] shows the couple attempting to answer questions from their bed; Spungen's speech is very slurred while Ritchie lapses in and out of consciousness. He came very close to death following a heroin overdose and was hospitalised for a time. On the morning of October 12 1978, he claimed to have awoken from a drugged stupor to find Spungen dead on the bathroom floor of their room (number 100) in the Hotel Chelsea in New York City. She had suffered a single stab wound to her abdomen and apparently bled to death. On November 22 1978 he was arrested and charged with her murder. He claimed to have no memory of the event.

There are theories that Spungen was murdered by someone else:By one of two drug dealers who visited the apartment that night, possibly involving a robbery as items (including a substantial bankroll) were claimed to be missing from the room. In his book, "Pretty Vacant: A History of Punk", Phil Strongman names Spungen's alleged killer as actor and stand-up comic Rockets Redglare. Redglare had delivered 40 capsules of hydromorphone to the couple's room at the Chelsea Hotel the night Nancy was killed. fix|link=Wikipedia:Citation_needed|text=citation neededIt was also unusual that Neon Leon had Sid's leather jacket and two gold records in his room. He said he had been given them by Sid for safe keeping on the night of October 11/12, 1978. [Source: Police report.]
Bail of $50,000 was arranged by Sid's mother. In order to raise funds for his defence, it was planned for Vicious to record an album with fellow Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook. This was to be a collection of standards, which according to McLaren would include; "White Christmas" and "Mack the Knife".

On October 22 (10 days after Nancy's death) Sid attempted suicide by cutting his arm extensively and subsequently became a patient at Bellevue Hospital for some time. Some time after leaving hospital he was charged with assault for smashing a beer mug in the face of Patti Smith's brother, Todd Smith. He was arrested December 9 1978 and sent to Riker's Island jail for 55 days. He was released on bail February 1-2, 1979.

Reportedly, Sid wrote the following for Nancy while at Riker's: [ [ Sid Vicious - Life History Part 7 ] ]

You were my little baby girl
And I shared all your fears
Such joy to hold you in my arms
And kiss away your tears
But now you're gone there's only pain
And nothing I can do
And I don't want to live this life
If I can't live for you
To my beautiful baby girl
Our love will never die.


On February 2, 1979, a small gathering to celebrate his bail was held at the home of his new girlfriend, Michelle Robinson, with whom he'd started living the day he got out of Bellevue Hospital the previous October. Ritchie was clean, having been weaned off heroin during his time at Rikers Island jail. However, at the dinner gathering, he obtained some heroin and that night he overdosed. Robinson revived him. [cite web|url=|title=BBC ON THIS DAY | 2 | 1979: Sid Vicious dies from drugs overdose] Much later that night, the couple fell asleep together. Vicious was discovered dead the next morning. As New York Chief Coroner Michael Baden explained at the time, when a person has a heroin overdose, and then falls asleep, their heart slows with every REM phase. Sid Vicious died at around 10:00 a.m., after the repeated REM phases throughout the night. Forensic experts subsequently found the heroin was 80 percent pure, as opposed to the 5 percent that was normal for the time and in that area, and because he had not been using since October his tolerance was greatly lowered. On HBO's "," Dr. Baden claims Vicious' lungs were filled with fluid and water, which is common for someone who has overdosed on heroin. Ultimately, Vicious drowned in his own fluids.

Alex Cox's 1986 movie "Sid and Nancy" portrays Vicious's career and love affair with Spungen. Gary Oldman plays Vicious. In his autobiography Johnny Rotten says he despises the movie.



*"My Way" (June 30, 1978) - (B-side Chatterbox)
*"Something Else" (February 9, 1979)
*"C'mon Everybody" (June 22, 1979)


*"Sid Sings" (December 15, 1979)

Various pressings and bootlegs

* "My Way/Something Else/C’mon Everybody" (1979, 12”, Barclay, Barclay 740 509)
* "Live" (1980, LP, Creative Industry Inc., JSR 21)
* "Vicious Burger" (1980, LP, UD-6535, VD 6336)
* "Love Kills N.Y.C." (1985, LP, Konexion, KOMA)
* "The Sid Vicious Experience – Jack Boots and Dirty Looks" (1986, LP, Antler 37)
* "The Idols with Sid Vicious" (1993)
* "Never Mind the Reunion Here’s Sid Vicious" (1997, CD)
* "Sid Dead Live" (1997, CD, Anagram, PUNK 86)
* "Sid Vicious Sings" (1997, CD)
* "Vicious & Friends" (1998, CD, Dressed To Kill Records, Dress 602)
* "Better (to provoke a reaction than to react to a provocation)" (1999, CD, Almafame, YEAAH6)
* "Probably His Last Ever Interview" (2000, CD, OZIT, OZITCD62)
* "Better" (2001, CD)
* "Vive Le Rock" (2003, 2CD)
* "Too Fast To Live..." (2004, CD)
* "Naked & Ashamed" (7”, Wonderful Records, WO-73)
* "Sid Live At Max’s Kansas City" (LP, JSR 21)
* "Sid Vicious" (LP, Innocent Records, JSR 23)
* "Sid Vicious McDonald Bros. Box" (3CD, Sound Solutions) Sid Vicious & Friends
* "(Don’t You Gimmyyyyyyyyyyyyyyye) No Lip/(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone" (1989, 7”, SCRATCH 7)
* "Sid Vicious & Friends" (1998, CD, Cleopatra, #251, ASIN: B0000061AS)

Sid Vicious/Eddie Cochran
* "Sid Vicious v’s Eddie Cochran – The Battle Of The Rockers" (LP, Jock, LP 7) Sid Vicious/Elvis Presley
* "Cult Heroes" (1993, CD)

Films that include Sid Vicious

# Sex Pistols Number One (1976, dir. Derek Jarman)
# Will Your Son Turn into Sid Vicious? (1978)
# Mr. Mike's Mondo Video (1979, dir. Michael O'Donoghue)
# The Punk Rock Movie (1979, dir. Don Letts)
# The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle (1980, dir. Julien Temple; Julien Temple's "The Great Rock N' Roll Swindle" features famous Sid Vicious footage, such as his videos for "My Way" and "Something 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)
# DOA (1981, dir. Lech Kowalski)
# Buried Alive (1991, Sex Pistols)
# Decade (1991, Sex Pistols)
# Bollocks to Every (1995, Sex Pistols)
# Filth to Fury (1995, Sex Pistols)
# Classic Chaotic (1996, Sex Pistols)
# Kill the Hippies (1996, Sex Pistols, VHS)
# The Filth and The Fury (2000, dir. Julien Temple, VHS/NTSC/DVD)
# Live at the Longhorn (2001, Sex Pistols)
# Live at Winterland (2001, Sex Pistols, DVD)
# Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols (2002, Sex Pistols, VHS/DVD)
# Punk Rockers (2003, Sex Pistols, DVD)
# Blood on the Turntable: The Sex Pistols (2004, dir. Steve Crabtree)
# Music Box Biographical Collection (2005, Sex Pistols, DVD)
# Punk Icons (2006, Sex Pistols, DVD)
# Chaos! Ex Pistols Secret History: The Dave Goodman Story (2007, Sex Pistols, DVD)
# Pirates of Destiny (2007, dir. Tõnu Trubetsky, DVD)
# Rock Case Studies (2007, Sex Pistols, DVD)

A fictionalised film about the relationship between Vicious and Spungen, "Sid and Nancy", was made by director Alex Cox in 1986, starring Gary Oldman as Vicious, although this film is often criticised for containing many historical inaccuracies.Fact|date=January 2008
Adrian Edmondson played Vicious in "The Comic Strip Presents: Demonella". He is shown in Hell, accompanied by Oscar Wilde, Genghis Khan, Marie Antoinette, and Adolf Hitler.

Ben Garant portrayed Vicious in a skit on the MTV sketch comedy series The State.

The Foo Fighters music video for "Everlong" includes Dave Grohl impersonating Sid and Taylor Hawkins impersonating Nancy.

An episode of The Simpsons tells a fictionalised tale of Sid and Nancy as a Valentine's Day spoof.


Further reading

* Anne Beverley, "The Sid Vicious Family album" (1980, Virgin Books)
* Gerald Cole, "Sid And Nancy" (1986, Methuen)
* Alex Cox & Abbe Wool, "Sid And Nancy" (1986, Faber and Faber)
* Keith Bateson and Alan Parker, "Sid’s Way" (1991, Omnibus Press)
* Tom Stockdale, "Sid Vicious. They Died Too Young" (1995, Parragon)
* Malcolm Butt, "Sid Vicious. Rock‘n’Roll Star" (1997, Plexus)
* David Dalton, "El Sid" (1998, St. Martin’s Griffin)
* Sid Vicious, "Too Fast To Live...Too Young to Die" (1999, Retro Publishing)
* Alan Parker, "Vicious. Too Fast To Live..." (2004, Creation Books)
*Spungen's mother, Deborah, wrote a book about her daughter and her involvement with Vicious in "And I Don't Want to Live This Life".
* Ed Hamilton, "Legends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living with the Artists and Outlaws of New York's Rebel Mecca" (2007, DeCapo Press)

External links

* [ Sid Vicious at MySpace]
* [ Vicious' confession to the NYPD and other documents]
* [ A fan's photos of Vicious]
* [ Site with pictures of the murder scene]
* [ Sid Vicious' Photo & Death Certificate]
* [ The Life and Death of Sid Vicious @ "Ward's Book of Days"]
* [ Sid Vicious @ "Hot Shot Digital Rock Tributes"]
* [ Nancy Spungen website, with pictures and biography]

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