21st Century Icon
On 2nd February 1979, In a bedroom of the small apartment of 63 Bank Street, New York, the 22 year old body of British Punk rock star Sid Vicious lay lifeless on a bed. The victim of a Heroin overdose. The Heroin had been 98 per cent pure, something his body could not have coped with after his detoxification during his incarceration at Rikers Island Prison. Sid was a Junkie by Age 19, Convicted of a murder he didn't commit, and had been brutally raped while in Prison. He had also had a UK Number One album, and been on more Newspaper front pages than any of his contemporaries......But the start of his story was very different.
Born John Simon Ritchie on 10th May 1957 in Lewisham, South East London, to John and Anne Ritchie, and quickly being moved to Ibiza with his mother, where his father was due to join them later, young John was regularly seeing his Heroin addict mother shooting up or smoking weed. After his father didn't show, Anne divorced Ritchie,and in 1965 married Christopher Beverly, and move to Kent, in the UK. Now, John Simon Beverly, (although always called Simon by his Mum), Our man was saddened to see the death from Cancer of his Step Father, just six months later.
Acquiring a flat in London's Drury Lane, Anne and her son seemed to settle down, a Typical 'Latchkey' kid and junkie mother, but John seemed to excel many school subjects, particularly Art. the future Sid first made the newspapers in 1974, when at a party in Hackney, he was spiked with LSD and rushed to Hospital. In 1975,while at college, he met a long haired scruff, also named John, and the two became Best Friends, This, was John Lydon.
By now Sid was a complete fashion victim, Bowie being his Idol, he had taken the nickname of SPIKEY JOHN, in response to his new spiked hair, which he used to spike up by putting his head in the gas oven to obtain the Bowie 'Ziggy' cut. He had also moved into a squat with Lydon, and took various jobs at which he lasted no longer than a few weeks in each one. Around this time, along with Lydon and his friends John Grey and John Wardle, He began hanging around a shop named SEX, on London's fashionable Kings Road, ran by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood.
When Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Sex shop assistant Glen Matlock were on the look out for a singer for their new band, Viv told Malcolm to look out for Spiky John,a regular in the store. but as fate is a fickle thing, John Lydon, now with Spiky green hair, was spotted first, and given the job. Malcolm had been given the wrong John!. It was also around this time when Beverly, being sweet to his pals hamster, Sid, one day was bitten. ""Oi!, your Sid is Vicious!" he exclaimed, so Lydon dubbed his best pal SID VICIOUS.
With the Sex Pistols and Johnny Rotten gaining momentum in London, Sid wanted to be like his pal, Lydon, (now Johnny Rotten), so, He formed the FLOWERS OF ROMANCE,a bedroom band, with his new best friend, Viv Albertine, (later of The Slits), but this came to nothing. It wasn't until June 1976's Punk Festival at the 100 Club that he took the stage, as drummer for one gig by the newly formed SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES.
The Pistols meanwhile were developing into 'camps' by late 1976, with Rotten being an outsider and needing a like mind in the band to balance it out. With the Bill Grundy show furore, the Anarchy tour fiasco and Rotten gaining an ego for the press, Bassist Matlock left in January 1977. Rotten could now bring in his mate Vicious to fill the role as bassist.......Having never played a Bass guitar before!.
Shortly after getting the job, Sid encountered Philadelphia born groupie / junkie / alleged prostitute, Nancy Laura Spungen, who had followed The Heartbreakers over to the UK in late 1976, and now had her sights on hooking a Sex Pistol. After failing to bed Rotten, she was introduced to Sid, who took to her and her drugs instantly. The Sex Pistols were to release 3 singles and one album with Sid as a member, before imploding at Winterland in San Francisco on January 14th 1978.
Sid was by now a fully fledged heroin addict, and was already od'ing at various times, and getting into various fights with Nancy. After filming his scenes for the Pistols" GREAT ROCK N ROLL SWINDLE" movie, and recording a tracks for the movie to be used as singles. Sid's final hurrah in the UK was a rumor quashing gig with Glen Matlock, as THE VICIOUS WHITE KIDS at Camden's Electric Ballroom in August 1978.... The next day, Sid and Nancy emigrated to New York, and hopefully, to Stardom.
The problem Sid and his manager, girlfriend and dealer Nancy didn't realize, was Sid was NOT a huge star in the USA. "NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS" had reached a paltry 108 on the Billboard chart, It was only the initiated few hip enough to be into punk that knew who he was. Their days were spent shooting up at the Chelsea Hotel, and nights were spent on the NYC punk scene. Utilizing Sid's royalty checks from his Virgin Records contract. Nancy did however manage to secure him gigs at the legendary Max's Kansas City, in September of 1978. With the backing of The Idols, a band formed of former New York Dolls and Steve Dior, and on one occasion, The Clash's Mick Jones. These would be the last performances Sid would give.
On the morning of October 13th 1978, Sid awoke from a drug induced stupor to see Nancy beside him, supposedly asleep. Rushing out to get their methadone script, he rushed back to find Nancy lying dead in the bathroom of their room. Room 100 at the now infamous Chelsea Hotel. He called the NYPD and, he was soon arrested for Murder One. Nancy had been stabbed. All the evidence points to the facts that HE DIDN'T stab her.. It was an English guy called Michael who did after dealing her some drugs while Sid was out cold. But for the New York Police, a junkie, English Punk Rocker HAD to be the killer.
Sid was bailed and celebrating one night at Hurrahs Night Club with Steve Dior, Esther Dior, and new girlfriend Michelle Robinson. Sid stuck a glass in the face of Patti Smith's brother Todd ....This resulted in Sid going to Rikers Island.
While in Rikers, Sid underwent a Detox program and was raped by fellow prisoners. When he was bailed out on February 1, 1979 into the arms of his mother and Robinson. He was then taken to Bank Street,where he and a group of friends believed to include Anne and Robinson,Eileen Polk, Steve Dior, Howie Pyro and Peter Kodick celebrated his freedom. Sid, now clean, asked for some Heroin.....Peter Kodick went and scored. Sid immediately od'd but was brought round and went to sleep it off. During the night, he wanted Robinson to shoot him up again. Michelle refused,and alerted Sid's mother who went in to see him.
What happened next is a question. Did Sid shoot himself up with the fatal 'hot shot', or did his mother do it as she supposedly admitted? Whatever did happen, the 98 per cent pure heroin ended the life of an easily led boy,at age 22.
Sid today still sells t-shirts, posters, DVD's and Cd's. everyone wanting a piece of the legend. Sid will never be forgotten. He had a wild ride and long may he rest in piece ! Scattered over his beloved Nancy's Grave.
God Bless you, Sid!