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Music / Sid Vicious

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Sid Vicious (born John Simon Ritchie, May 10, 1957 February 2, 1979) was an English bass guitarist, drummer and vocalist, most famous as a member of the influential punk group Sex Pistols, one of Punk Rock's legends and one of the prime examples of Short-Lived, Big Impact. He started his career at age 19, became the most recognizable punk musician of his time together with Johnny Rotten, and died at age 21 after a murder scandal and an equally mysterious drug overdose/suicide.

Vicious' career started in 1976 as a member of The Flowers of Romance. He later appeared with Siouxsie and the Banshees and was considered lead singer for The Damned, but according to him he was deliberately kept out of the audition. During a concert of The Damned he got drunk and high and hurled his glass at band member Dave Vanian out of revenge, but missed. This partially blinded a girl in one eye and Vicious was arrested and imprisoned the next day. This was just the first of a number of run-ins with the laws, caused by his Addled Addict lifestyle. Apart from alcohol he was addicted to heroin, a drug that his beloved mother had introduced to him. His drug problem got worse when he met groupie Nancy Spungen, who also frequently shot up.

In 1977 Vicious became a Promoted Fanboy when he was brought into Sex Pistols, a band he had adored from the very start, to replace Glen Matlock who was fired from the group. His charisma and self-destructive personality fit the Sex Pistols' image perfectly, even though he couldn't play bass that well and frequently got into fights on stage.

In January 1978 the Pistols went on tour in the USA, but as Punk Rock became more popular it inevitably became the same kind of commercialized trend as the regular rock bands. While Vicious embraced his "punk superstar" image, lead singer Johnny Rotten felt that they were all being exploited by their manager Malcolm McLaren. Thus Rotten quit the band and formed Public Image Ltd. instead. Without a lead singer the Pistols seemed doomed, though McLaren simply appointed Vicious as the new frontman. He started a solo career with Spungen as his manager, which consisted of covers like "My Way" (1978), "C'mon Everybody" and "Something Else" (1979). Unfortunately junkies don't make for good promoters and he was dismissed as a has-been.

Worse, Vicious remained a drug wreck and on October 12, 1978, Spungen was found 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; she was 21. His life went all downhill from there. Vicious was promptly arrested for her murder, and reportedly infuriated the police since he was so high that he could hardly speak. Eventually he pled innocent, attributing her death to a drug dealer known as 'Micheal'. He made two failed suicide attempts, one of which he was reported to shout "I want to be with my Nancy". On December 9, 1978 he was jailed for assault on Todd Smith, brother of Patti Smith at a concert and underwent an enforced detoxication. On February 1, 1979 he was released. A day later he was dead from a heroin overdose, although it is argued over whether it was accidental or suicide. Just like Spungen, he was only 21 years old. His solo album Sid Sings was released posthumously and his Signature Song "My Way", a cover of Frank Sinatra became a minor hit.

His life was made into the biopic Sid & Nancy (1986), which ought to be taken with a huge grain of salt as none of his former friends or colleagues were consulted about it in any way, and they accused it of being nothing more than a cash grab. John Lydon, who absolutely despised the film, did say that Gary Oldman's performance of Vicious was very good - but that it was ultimately still inaccurate.

Should not be confused with Sid Eudy (who actually wrestled under the name Sid Vicious).



Sid Vicious' life provides examples of:

  • Becoming the Mask: When the band started, he was described as like a schoolgirl. Things went downhill from there.
  • Biopic: In the 1986 film Sid & Nancy by Alex Cox he is portrayed by Gary Oldman.
  • Briefer Than They Think: Despite being the second most recognizable member of the Sex Pistols, he was only in the band for about a year and only recorded about three songs with them. His solo career only lasted a year and his only album was released after his death.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Used the f-word a lot during "My Way".
  • Country Matters: He added C-bombs in his delivery of "My Way".
  • Cover Version: He never recorded material he had written himself. His best known song is a cover of Frank Sinatra's My Way.
  • Death by Irony: After a first non-lethal heroin overdose "The Sun" reported he was dead. Sid was photographed reading this particular newspaper. Eventually he would die from a heroin overdose.
  • "I Am Great!" Song: "My Way".
  • Icon of Rebellion: He was one to many '80s and '90s punks.
  • Iconic Item: His padlock necklace.
  • Ironic Nickname: His name came from the fact that he was actually useless in a fight and wasn't known as very violent or dangerous at all.
  • Lead Bassist: Type C, with a giant, 72-point "C".
  • Names to Run Away From: Sid was actually not that violent, nor was he particularly good in a fight; his image however fit the Sex Pistols perfectly and the pose of being a "moral danger" was certainly deliberate.
    John Lydon: Sid couldn't punch his way out of a bag of crisps!
  • No Animals Were Harmed: In "My Way" he adlibs a line about "killing a cat".
  • Paper Tiger: He once tried to start a fight with Freddie Mercury who showed he wasn't intimidated at all and caused Sid to retreat in embarrassment. Given that Sid was famously not a good fighter while Freddie was an avid and talented boxer, said retreat was a good call on Sid's part.
  • Recognition Failure: When he was still alive a lot of people outside the Punk Rock scene frequently confused him with John Lydon.
  • Shout-Out: Lydon bestowed the Sid Vicious nickname partly from his pet hamster Sid and also as a tribute to Syd Barrett.
  • Stage Names: His real name was John Ritchie.
  • Take That, Audience!: Famously shoots the audience in the music video released for his song "My Way".
  • We Named The Dog Indiana: He got his stage name thanks to John Lydon's pet hamster, Sid, who once bit him in the finger, causing Sid to exclaim: "That Sid is really vicious!"