About John Simon Ritchie
He was an English musician best known as the bassist of the influential punk rock group Sex Pistols. In 2006 he was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Sex Pistols.
Sid Vicious was born John Simon Ritchie in London to John and Anne Ritchie (née McDonald). His father was a guardsman at Buckingham Palace and a semi-professional trombone player on the London Jazz scene.Shortly after Simon's birth, John Ritchie left the family. John ("Sid") and his mother moved to the island of Ibiza. She married Christopher Beverley in 1965 before setting up a family home back in Kent. Sid had taken his stepfather's surname and became John Beverley.
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."However, he did assault NME journalist Nick Kent with a motorcycle chain with help from John Joseph Wardle (Jah Wobble). 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.
Ritchie was given the nickname "Sid Vicious" by John Lydon (known as Johnny Rotten), after Lydon's pet hamster. The hamster had bitten Ritchie, who said that "[Lydon's] Sid is really vicious!"The animal was described by Lydon as "the softest, furriest, weediest thing on earth."At the time, Ritchie was squatting with Lydon, Jah Wobble, and John Gray, and the four were colloquially known as "The Four Johns".
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. Once a man gave them "three bob" (three shillings, i.e. 15p in decimal currency) and they all danced.
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 and the Banshees, playing drums at their notorious first gig at the 100 Club Punk Festival in London's Oxford Street. According to members of The Damned, Vicious, along with Dave Vanian, was considered for the position of lead singer for The Damned but failed to show up for the audition.
Before joining the band, Vicious had associations with The Bromley Contingent, the fashion avant garde that followed the Sex Pistols. According to various publications (such as the biography 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 Johnny Rotten is the voice of punk, then Vicious is the attitude."
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."His nails would be painted in a sloppy manner with purple nail polish. Vicious played his first gig with the Pistols on 3 April 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. 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 14 January 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 performances at Max's Kansas City and drew large crowds. His final performances as a solo musician took place at Max's.
Vicious 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."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."
According to Paul Cook, in the few months between joining the band and meeting Nancy, Vicious was a dedicated worker and tried his hardest to learn to play; indeed, this period was Cook's favorite in the band.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."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!"
Nancy Spungen's death:
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, Sid had bought the knife after seeing Stiv's.
Vicious was arrested and charged with her murder. He said they had fought that night but gave conflicting versions of what happened next, saying, "I stabbed her, but I didn't mean to kill her. I loved her, but she treated me like shit", then saying he didn't remember and at one point arguing Spungen had fallen onto the knife.
The bail of $50,000 was originally set but after some court hearings and work from his lawyer, it was dropped to $25,000. Malcolm McLaren fought and the bail was eventually covered by his record company.
On 22 October, ten days after Spungen's death, Vicious attempted suicide by slicing his wrist and subsequently became a patient at Bellevue Hospital. He was charged with assault after an altercation with Todd Smith (singer Patti Smith's brother) at a Skafish concert. Vicious was arrested 9 December 1978 and sent to Rikers Island jail for 55 days. He was released on bail on 1 February 1979.
One theory regarding the murder is that Spungen was killed in a robbery or drug deal gone wrong, in which one of those involved was Rockets Redglare, later to become known as a stand-up comedian and actor. Redglare, who died in 2001, always denied any part in her death. He stated that the other dealer known to have been there that evening had left before him to obtain more heroin, and was due back after he had left the building. He said he believed that the other dealer returned, found Vicious out cold, and attempted to steal the remaining drugs, leading to a confrontation with Spungen.
On the evening of 1 February 1979, a small gathering to celebrate Sid's having made bail was held at the home of his new girlfriend, Michele Robison, with whom he'd started living the day he got out of Bellevue Hospital the previous October. Vicious was clean, having been detoxed from heroin during his time at Rikers Island. However, at the dinner gathering, his mother had some heroin delivered, against the wishes of Sid's girlfriend. The person who delivered it, Peter Kodick, came and stayed for a while. Vicious overdosed later that night. Everyone who was there that night worked together to get him up and walking around in order to revive him. Much later that night, Sid and his girlfriend fell asleep together. Vicious was discovered dead late the next morning. An autopsy confirmed that Vicious died from an accumulation of fluid in the lungs that was consistent with heroin overdose. A syringe, spoon, and heroin residue were discovered near the body. It was theorised that he had taken too much of the nearly 100%-pure heroin to shoot up the third dose himself. After his recent overdose, he should have been unconscious all night.
A few days after Vicious' cremation, his mother found a suicide note in the pocket of his jacket:
We had a death pact, and I have to keep my end of the bargain. Please bury me next to my baby in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Goodbye..
Nancy was buried in a Jewish cemetery and Vicious, who was not Jewish, 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' mother scattered his ashes over Nancy's grave.
* "My Way" (30 June 1978) - (B-side Chatterbox)
* "Something Else" (9 February 1979)
* "C'mon Everybody" (22 June 1979)
* Sid Sings (15 December 1979)
Films that include Sid Vicious -
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 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)
6. DOA (1981, directed by Lech Kowalski)
7. Sid and Nancy (1986, directed by Alex Cox, DVD)
8. Buried Alive (1991, Sex Pistols)
9. Decade (1991, Sex Pistols)
10. Bollocks to Every (1995, Sex Pistols)
11. Filth to Fury (1995, Sex Pistols)
12. Classic Chaotic (1996, Sex Pistols)
13. Kill the Hippies (1996, Sex Pistols, VHS)
14. The Filth and the Fury (2000, directed by Julien Temple, VHS/NTSC/DVD)
15. Live at the Longhorn (2001, Sex Pistols)
16. Live at Winterland (2001, Sex Pistols, DVD)
17. Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols (2002, Sex Pistols, VHS/DVD)
18. Punk Rockers (2003, Sex Pistols, DVD)
19. Blood on the Turntable: The Sex Pistols (2004, directed by Steve Crabtree)
20. Music Box Biographical Collection (2005, Sex Pistols, DVD)
21. Punk Icons (2006, Sex Pistols, DVD)
22. American Hardcore (2007, DVD)
23. Chaos! Ex Pistols Secret History: The Dave Goodman Story (2007, Sex Pistols, DVD)
24. Pirates of Destiny (2007, directed by Tõnu Trubetsky, DVD)
25. Rock Case Studies (2007, Sex Pistols, DVD)
26. Who Killed Nancy? (2009, directed by Alan G. Parker)
In popular culture -
* 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.
* The end credits of Goodfellas roll to his version of "My Way".
* 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.
* In the 2009 stage play Kurt and Sid, Sid Vicious appears before Kurt Cobain as a vision, on the day of his suicide.
* The season 2 episode of Gilmore Girls entitled "Nick and Nora/Sid and Nancy" references his relationship with Spungen.
* Season 19 episode 12 of The Simpsons entitled "Love, Springfieldian Style" includes a story about Sid and Nancy with Nelson and Lisa playing the parts.
* In the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the antihero vampire Spike sings along to Sid's "My Way" in the episode "Lover's Walk".
* In the Series Primeval, characters Connor Temple and Abby Maitland are nicknamed "Sid and Nancy" due to their odd style of dress. The two later take in a pair of Diictodons named Sid and Nancy.
* In the 2009 film (500) Days of Summer, Summer breaks up with Tom saying, "We've been like Sid and Nancy for months now." In promotion of the film, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Tom) and Zooey Deschanel (Summer) starred in the debut episode of Microsoft Zune and Mean Magazine's "Cinemash", in which they recreated a scene from Sid And Nancy with Gordon-Levitt playing Nancy and Deschanel playing Sid.