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Sid Vicious (born John Simon Ritchie; 10 May 1957 – 2 February 1979) was an Englishmarker musician best known as the bassist of the influential punk rock group Sex Pistols.

Early life

Sid Vicious was born John Simon Ritchie in Londonmarker to John and Anne Ritchie. Anne was a hippie, whereas his father was a guard at Buckingham Palacemarker. Shortly after Simon's birth, John Ritchie left the family. John ("Sid") and his mother moved to the island of Ibizamarker. She married Christopher Beverley in 1965 before setting up a family home back in Kentmarker. Sid had taken his stepfather's surname and became John Beverly.

His stepfather died six months later, and by 1968 Ritchie and his mother were living in a rented flat in Tunbridge Wellsmarker where he attended Sandown Court School. In 1971, the pair moved to Hackneymarker in East Londonmarker. He also spent some time living in Somersetmarker, where he was a pupil at Clevedon Secondary Modernmarker.

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 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, after Lydon's pet hamster. The hamster had bitten Ritchie, who said that "[Rotten'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.

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.

Music career

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 & the Banshees, playing drums at their notorious first gig at the 100 Club Punk Festival in London's Oxford Streetmarker. According to members of The Damned, Sid, along with Dave Vanian, was considered for the position of lead singer for The Damned but failed to show up for the audition.

Sex Pistols

Before joining the band, Sid 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 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 Sid before he had hired Johnny to be the singer, Sid would have been the Sex Pistols front man, because he had the most charisma of anyone on that stage. Alan Jones described Sid 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 . Ritchie 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, and they immediately began a relationship (Spungen had come to London looking for Jerry Nolan of The Heartbreakers). She was a heroin addict, and Ritchie, who already believed in his own "live fast, die young" image, soon shared the dependence. Although they were deeply in love, their often violent and rocky relationship had a disastrous effect on the Sex Pistols. Both the group and Ritchie visibly deteriorated during their 1978 American tour. The Pistols broke up in San Franciscomarker 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 solo performances at Max's Kansas Citymarker and drew large crowds. His final performances as a solo musician took place at Max's.


Sid was not recognized 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, Sid 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 defense 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 Sid 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 Chelsea Hotel in Manhattanmarker, New Yorkmarker. She had suffered a single stab wound to her abdomen and apparently bled to death. The knife used had been bought by Sid 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.

Sid was arrested and charged with her murder. Vicious 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. When asked why he left the deceased in the bathroom, wounded, and went out to get his methadone, he said "oh, I am a dog", or similar words.

The bail of $50,000 was 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 Hospitalmarker. He was charged with assault after an altercation with Todd Smith (singer Patti Smith's brother). Vicious was arrested 9 December 1978 and sent to Riker's Islandmarker 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 the later comedian Rockets Redglare. Redglare steadfastly denied any involvement in the murder of Nancy Spungen throughout his life. 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.

Also unusual was that Neon Leon had Vicious' leather jacket and two gold records in his room. He said he had been given them by Vicious for "safe keeping" the night of October 11–12, 1978.


On the evening of 1 February 1979, a small gathering to celebrate his 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 Hospitalmarker the previous October. Vicious was clean, having been detoxed from heroin during his time at Riker's Island. However, at the dinner gathering, his mother had some heroin delivered, against the wishes of his girlfriend. The person who delivered it, Peter Kodick, came and stayed for a while. Sid overdosed later that night. Robison revived him, though she had never seen an OD before nor had any experience in that area. Much later that night, the couple 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.

A few days after Vicious' cremation, his mother found a suicide note in the pocket of his jacket:

"We made a death pact, and I have to accomplish my part of the deal. Please bury me next to my baby. Please bury me with my leather jacket, my jeans and my biker boots. Goodbye. With love, Sid."

A television documentary titled "Biography: The Sex Pistols" on the Biography Channel made the following statement, based on an apparent confession from Vicious' mother Anne Ritchie.




Various pressings and bootlegs

  • My Way/Something Else/C'mon Everybody (1979, 12", Barclay, Barclay 740 509)
  • Live (1980, LP, Creative Industry Inc., JSR 21)
  • Vicious Burger (1980, LP, UD-6535, VD 6336)
  • Love Kills N.Y.C. (1985, LP, Konexion, KOMA)
  • The Sid Vicious Experience – Jack Boots and Dirty Looks (1986, LP, Antler 37)
  • Vicious White Kids (1991, CD)
  • The Idols with Sid Vicious (1993)
  • Never Mind the Reunion Here’s Sid Vicious (1997, CD)
  • Sid Dead Live (1997, CD, Anagram, PUNK 86)
  • Sid Vicious Sings (1997, CD)
  • Vicious & Friends (1998, CD, Dressed To Kill Records, Dress 602)
  • Better (to provoke a reaction than to react to a provocation) (1999, CD, Almafame, YEAAH6)
  • Probably His Last Ever Interview (2000, CD, OZIT, OZITCD62)
  • Better (2001, CD)
  • Vive Le Rock (2003, 2CD)
  • Too Fast to Live... (2004, CD)
  • Naked & Ashamed (7”, Wonderful Records, WO-73)
  • Sid Live at Max’s Kansas City (LP, JSR 21)
  • Sid Vicious (LP, Innocent Records, JSR 23)
  • Sid Vicious McDonald Bros. Box (3CD, Sound Solutions)

Sid Vicious & Friends
  • (Don’t You Gimme) No Lip/ (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone (1989, 7”, SCRATCH 7)
  • Sid Vicious & Friends (1998, CD, Cleopatra, #251, ASIN: B0000061AS)

Sid Vicious/Eddie Cochran
  • Sid Vicious v’s Eddie Cochran – The Battle Of The Rockers (LP, Jock, LP 7)

Sid Vicious/Elvis Presley
  • Cult Heroes (1993, CD)

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, dir. 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, dir. Lech Kowalski)
  7. Buried Alive (1991, Sex Pistols)
  8. Decade (1991, Sex Pistols)
  9. Bollocks to Every (1995, Sex Pistols)
  10. Filth to Fury (1995, Sex Pistols)
  11. Classic Chaotic (1996, Sex Pistols)
  12. Kill the Hippies (1996, Sex Pistols, VHS)
  13. The Filth and the Fury (2000, dir. Julien Temple, VHS/NTSC/DVD)
  14. Live at the Longhorn (2001, Sex Pistols)
  15. Live at Winterland (2001, Sex Pistols, DVD)
  16. Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols (2002, Sex Pistols, VHS/DVD)
  17. Punk Rockers (2003, Sex Pistols, DVD)
  18. Blood on the Turntable: The Sex Pistols (2004, dir. Steve Crabtree)
  19. Music Box Biographical Collection (2005, Sex Pistols, DVD)
  20. Punk Icons (2006, Sex Pistols, DVD)
  21. American Hardcore (2007, DVD)
  22. Chaos! Ex Pistols Secret History: The Dave Goodman Story (2007, Sex Pistols, DVD)
  23. Pirates of Destiny (2007, dir. Tõnu Trubetsky, DVD)
  24. Rock Case Studies (2007, Sex Pistols, DVD)
  25. Sid and Nancy (1986, dir. Alex Cox, DVD)
  26. Who killed Nancy? (2009, dir. Alan G. Parker)

In popular culture


  1. The Filth and The Fury, St. Martin's Press, 2000, pg. 13
  2. Sid Vicious Biography -
  3. The Guardian
  4. The Filth and the Fury, St. Martin's Press, 2000, pg. 90
  5. Lydon, John, "Rotten," Plexus Publishing (1993), p. 57. ISBN 978-0859653411.
  6. The Filth and The Fury, St. Martin's Press, 2000, pg. 41
  7. The Damned
  8. Punk: The Definitive Record of a Revolution: Stephen Colegrave, Chris Sullivan: Books
  9. The Filth and The Fury, St. Martin's Press, 2000, pg. 39
  11. The Filth and The Fury, Julien Temple, 2000; "The best time in the band of all was when Sid first joined - he was really determined to learn the bass and fit in and be part of the band"
  12. England's Dreaming, Jon Savage, Faber & Faber, 1991, P.194
  13. .
  14. Robbery, drug deal or revenge?
  15. "The Death Proclamation of Generation X: A Self-Fulfilling Prophesy of Goth, Grunge and Heroin" by Maxim W. Furek. i-Universe,2008. ISBN 978-0-595-46319-0 . Pg. 101.

Further reading

  • Anne Beverley, The Sid Vicious Family album (1980, Virgin Books)
  • Gerald Cole, Sid And Nancy (1986, Methuen)
  • Alex Cox & Abbe Wool, Sid And Nancy (1986, Faber and Faber)
  • Keith Bateson and Alan Parker, Sid’s Way (1991, Omnibus Press)
  • Tom Stockdale, Sid Vicious. They Died Too Young (1995, Parragon)
  • Malcolm Butt, Sid Vicious. Rock‘n’Roll Star (1997, Plexus) ISBN 978-0859653732
  • David Dalton, El Sid (1998, St. Martin’s Griffin)
  • Sid Vicious, Too Fast To Live...Too Young to Die (1999, Retro Publishing)
  • Alan Parker, Vicious. Too Fast To Live... (2004, Creation Books)
  • Spungen's mother, Deborah, wrote a book about her daughter and her involvement with Vicious in And I Don't Want to Live This Life.
  • Ed Hamilton, "Legends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living with the Artists and Outlaws of New York's Rebel Mecca" (2007, DeCapo Press)

External links

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