On this day, 44 years ago, Simon John Ritchie (°10 May 1957 – † 2 February 1979), known as Spiky John amongst his friends, better known to the world as Sid Vicious, died after overdosing on heroin. He became famous as the bass player of the Sex Pistols, replacing Glen Matlock, who had left the band due to internal tensions with the other members.
The Sex Pistols' stand-alone release-'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols’ features very little of Sid Vicious. Sid was not the greatest of musicians. Using the word musician was maybe not the best word to describe him. He was self-taught, he did hinges on the debut record of The Ramones. The Ramones self-titled debut album, the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ of the Punk generation, was the tool Sid used to learn to play bass. A marathon fourteen-hour session of purely listening and learning as you go taught Sid the bass. Or so the legend goes at least, throw in the story of being on speed to stay awake and focused and now it becomes more real.
Anyone associated with Sid or the Pistols always maintains that Sid was a far better singer than a bass player. The ‘Rock N Roll Swindle Soundtrack’ holds weight to that theory. Songs such as 'Something Else' and 'C'mon Everybody', and his apocalyptic version of 'My Way', are without a doubt extremely good as rock songs (let alone punk songs) and suited Sid perfectly. He had the snarl and could add that extra tone of aggression and malice in his vocals. In the background of Jim Callaghan's Labour-led Britain, heading into a winter of discontent, the Sex Pistols' ‘Never Mind The Bollox..’ must have given the young generation a spit in the face of hope
As the needle hits the marching intro of 'Holiday In The Sun', this is clearly not an album about escapism, but rather about aggressive acceptance of the state of the country. Like Bob Dylan in the sixties, the young had a voice again.
A monumental work is found in the Sex Pistols one and true release.
Sid plays two roles on that album. One as the image of the album, a projection on what a band with that much aggression should act and look like. The other was in the tune 'Bodies', the only song that Vicious is reported to have played bass on. By all accounts he was hospitalised during the recording, due to having contracted hepatitis or jaundice, depending on who is telling the story. Steve Jones is the man covering the bass lines throughout the rest of the recording as the legend goes.
Did he do it?
Nancy Laura Spungen was murdered on the 12th of October 1978 at the age of 20. The girlfriend of Sid Vicious suffered a stab wound at the Chelsea Hotel in New York and bled to death. All very bleak and sad.
Vicious was arrested and charged with her murder and served time in Rikers Island penitentiary in New York. Before Vicious stood trial and while out on bail, he died of an overdose, four months after Nancy on the 2nd of February 1979. This was an apparent assisted suicide as he had proclaimed he wanted to be: 'Under the ground!'. His previous suicide attempts pointed to this frame of mind. This led to the case being closed by the NYPD.
The theory of what happened that night has been told many times, which leads to two theories as to how Nancy (or ‘Nauseating Nancy’ as the British tabloids named her) died that night. Neither involves Vicious murdering her.
The first is that Spungen made it clear she did not want to live past the age of 21. A suicide pact which went wrong, as in Sid being too stoned to kill himself and Spungen stabbing herself with the hunting knife Sid had obtained for that very reason. It would explain Sid's testimony: 'She must have fallen on the knife'. By that, he meant stabbing or pushing the knife into herself. In the days and weeks that followed Vicious had tried to commit suicide, one attempt involved jumping out of a window screaming: “I want to be with Nancy!”.Sid's mother, Anne Beverly, is thought to have assisted in the suicide and presented a letter after Sid's passing that read: 'We had a death pact and I have to keep my half of the bargain. Please bury me next to my baby. Bury me in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Goodbye.'
That is one theory. The second (that may be very close to the truth) is it was a botched robbery, botched in the sense that Vicious was out cold but Nancy disturbed whoever it was that had entered the room. A fact not widely publicised is that Sid's royalty-money was gone from the room's safe.There had been two people present earlier that night, an apparent drug dealer only named as 'Michael' and a comedian-dealer known as Rockets Redglare, who had been to the room to deliver a batch of drugs earlier that evening and were due to return. So when he or this supposed 'Michael' returned to rob the royalty payment, they would have found Sid passed out and maybe got disturbed by Spungen which led to her murder. Apparently, Rocket Redglare did admit to the murder years after but to friends and not the NYPD. If there's truth in it it’s long-buried.
The NYPD closed the case quickly, no investigation was ever done to find out what happened to Sid's royalty-money, nor were the fingerprints on the knife and in the apartment ever fully investigated. It was a dead Punk, a dead junky, but behind it all there was a twenty-year-old girl and a twenty-one-year-old guy.