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Sid Vicious

John Simon Ritchie (May 10, 1957 - February 2, 1979), better known as Sid Vicious, was an English punk rock musician and member of the Sex Pistols. He died from a drug overdose at the age of 21.

Vicious, whose stage name was allegedly coined after his friend John Lydon's pet hamster, was born in London (his mother moved to the Spanish island of Ibiza where she made a living from selling drugs but later moved back and settled in London). Initially he was part of the Bromley Contingent, the group of followers and fans of the Sex Pistols that consituted the fashion avant garde of the early UK punk rock movement. He began his musical career as a member of The Flowers of Romance along with Keith Levine and Jah Wobble, who later went on to co-found John Lydon's post-Pistols project Public Image Limited. Shortly afterwards he was recruited to Siouxsie and the Banshees, playing drums at their notorious first gig at the 100 Club Punk Festival in London's Oxford Street.

Described as being the ultimate Sex Pistols fan, Vicious joined that group after the departure of bass player Glen Matlock in February 1977. Legend has it that manager Malcolm McLaren wanted Vicious in the band because of his looks and punk attitude, this counting far more than any actual playing ability. In fact Vicious was notoriously inept musically, and according to Jon Savage's biography of the Sex Pistols, Englands Dreaming, most of the bass parts on the bands later recordings were actually played by guitarist Steve Jones, and at live performances his amplifier was often switched off.

Although deep down, a shy person, according to the band's photographer Dennis Morris, Vicious was renowned for his violent streak. At the aforementioned 100 Club punk festival a glass was thrown which shattered against a pillar, causing a young girl to lose her sight in one eye. Vicious is widely believed to have been responsible, but this was never proven. At the same event he also assaulted NME journalist Nick Kent with a bicycle chain and on another occasion threatened BBC DJ and Old Grey Whistle Test presenter Bob Harris at a London nightclub.

In November 1977 Vicious met and soon after began a relationship with American Nancy Laura Spungen, who,legend has it, had come to London to sleep with a Sex Pistol. Spungen was a heroin addict, and inevitably Vicious, who was already believing in his own live fast, die young mythology, came to share this dependence. Although deeply in love with each other, their often violent relationship had a disastrous effect on the Sex Pistols, with both the group and Vicious visibly deteriorating throughout the course of their 1978 American tour. Things finally came to a head at their concert at the Winterland Ballroom, San Fransisco on January 14, when Johnny Rotten walked out of the band. Vicious also left shortly afterwards, and with Spungen acting as his 'manager', embarked upon a short and ignoble 'solo career'.

By this time Vicious and Spungen had become locked in their own world of drug addiction and self destruction. Contemporary interview footage shows the couple attempting to answer questions from their bed- Spungen is barely coherent whilst Vicious lapses in and out of consciousness. Vicious also came very close to death following a heroin overdose, and was for a while hospitalised.

On the morning of 12th October 1978 Vicious awoke from a drug induced stupour to find Spungen dead in their apartment at the Chelsea Hotel room 100 in New York. She had been killed by a single stab wound to her abdomen. Vicious was arrested and charged with her murder, although claimed to have no memory at all of the previous night's incidents. Bail of $50,000 was put up by Malcolm McLaren, and in February 1979, a party was held at the home of his new girl friend Michelle Robinson to celebrate his release. During his time at Rikers Island prison Vicious had undergone drug rehabilitation therapy, and was supposedly 'clean'. However at the party he was able to obtain some heroin (supplied by his mother, Ann Beverley, herself an ex-addict), and was discovered dead the following morning, having taken a large overdose. Speculation has persisted that Vicious, unable to live without his beloved Nancy, took his own life. He wrote the following poem about her:

You were my little baby girl, I knew all your fears. Such joy to hold you in my arms and kiss away your tears. But now your gone, theres only pain and nothing I can do. And I dont want to live this life, If I cant live for you. After his death his ashes were scattered by his mother over Nancy Spungen's grave in Philidelphia.

Sid Sings, a solo album, was released posthumously by Virgin records. This was largely a collection of poorly recorded cover versions of rock 'n' roll numbers such as C'Mon Everybody and Something Else by Eddie Cochran, and material by Iggy Pop and Johhny Thunders, as well as a rendition of the Paul Anka / Frank Sinatra standard My Way. Striking footage of Vicious' performance of this song provides the closing sequence of Julien Temple's film The Great Rock and Roll Swindle.

A fictionalised film account of the relationship between Vicious and Spungen, Sid and Nancy, was made by director Alex Cox in 1986.


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Sid Vicious Facts

Birth NameJohn Simon Ritchie
OccupationMusician
BandSex Pistols
BirthdayMay 10, 1957
SignTaurus
BirthplaceLondon, England, United Kingdom
Date of deathFebruary 2, 1979 (age 21)
Height6' 2" (1m88)  How tall is Sid Vicious compared to you?

Selected Filmography

River of Darkness
The Filth and the Fury
Fall Brawl September 19, 1993War Games Match
Sid & Nancy
Who Killed Nancy?
Chelsea on the Rocks
Black Day at Bad Rock
Vicious, Sid
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