Sid out to lunch
John Simon Ritchie-Beverly (May 10, 1957, London - February 2, 1979, New York), better known as Sid Vicious, was an English punk rock musician and member of the band the Sex Pistols. He died from a drug overdose at the age of 21.
Described by peers as 'slender and likable', Richie's stage name of Sid Vicious was allegedly derived from Lydon's pet hamster (Sid the Vicious, for his habit of biting people) as an ironic joke. However the implications of this nom de plume would turn deadly as he tried to live up to the media myths that grew up around him. Indeed, as far back as 1974 he had begun using drugs intravenously in the company of his mother as a darker side to his character emerged, and by 1975 he had begun to self harm.Accounts of his life have related that he strangled a cat and assaulted a pensioner around this time.
Described as being "the ultimate Sex Pistols fan", Vicious joined the 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. It was said "If Rotten is the voice of punk, then Vicious is the look." This "punk persona" counted 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, England's Dreaming, most of the bass parts on the band's later recordings were actually played by guitarist Steve Jones, and at live performances his amplifier was often switched off.
In November 1977 Vicious met and soon after began a relationship with American Nancy Laura Spungen, who had come to London looking for Jerry Nolan of The Heartbreakers, but ended up with Vicious. 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 Francisco on January 14, when 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". Some of the musicians he performed with included Mick Jones of the Clash, Tony Blackplait, and members of the New York Dolls.
By this time Vicious and Spungen had become locked in their own world of drug addiction and self-destruction. 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 hospitalised for a time.
On the morning of October 12, 1978 Vicious allegedly awoke from a drug-induced stupour to find Spungen dead on the bathroom floor of room 100 in the Hotel Chelsea in New York. She had received a single stab wound to her abdomen and apparently bled to death. Vicious was arrested and charged with her murder although he said he had no memory of having done so. However, he later claimed to have "killed her because I'm a dirty dog." There are also unsubstantiated theories the murder was committed by a third party, usually said to be one of the many drug dealers who frequented the apartment.
Bail of $50,000 was put up by Virgin Records at the request of Malcolm McLaren, and in February 1979, a party was held at the home of his new girlfriend 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 you're gone, there's only pain
and nothing I can do.
And I don't want to live this life,
If I can't live for you.