Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
John Simon Ritchie (sometimes also known as John Beverely, after his step father )(May 10, 1957, London - February 2, 1979, New York), was better known as Sid Vicious, an English punk rock musician and member of the band the Sex Pistols. He died from a drug overdose at the age of 21.
Ritchie was born in London to parents Anne and John, a former grenadier guard . His natural father left shortly afterwards, and during John's early years he moved with his mother to the Spanish island of Ibiza, where she made a living from selling drugs. The pair later moved back to England where Anne married Chris Beverley in 1965 before setting up a family home in Kent. However Chris Beverley died six months later, and by 1968 John and his mother were living in a rented flat in Tunbridge Wells, and John was attending Sandown Court School. In 1971 the pair moved to Hackney in east London, where in 1974 Ritchie first met John Lydon (later to become Johnnny Rotten), a fellow student at Hackney Technical College.
The 'slender and likable' Richie's stage name of Sid Vicious was allegedly derived from Lydon's pet hamster and meant as an ironic joke. It may also have been applied because his group of friends and co-squatters, including Lydon and John Wardle (Jah Wobble), were all named John (they were sometimes referred to as The Three Johns). 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. He is also believed to have strangled a cat and assaulted a pensioner around this time.
The Bromley Contingent, Flowers of Romance and the Banshees
Vicious was initially close to the so-called Bromley Contingent, the group of followers and fans of the Sex Pistols that constituted the fashion avant-garde of the early UK punk rock movement. He began his musical career as a member of The Flowers Of Romance along with Keith Levene and Jah Wobble, who later went on to co-found John Lydon's post-Pistols project Public Image Limited. Shortly afterwards he was recruited to Siouxsie and the Banshees, playing drums at their notorious first gig at the 100 Club Punk Festival in London's Oxford Street.
Although "deep down, a shy person" according to the band's photographer Dennis Morris, Vicious was renowned for his violent streak. At the aforementioned 100 Club punk festival, a glass was thrown which shattered against a pillar, causing a young girl to lose her sight in one eye. Vicious is widely believed to have been responsible, but this was never proven. At the same event he also assaulted NME journalist Nick Kent with a bicycle chain and on another occasion threatened BBC DJ and Old Grey Whistle Test presenter Bob Harris at a London nightclub.
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. Reportedly, Sid asked Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead to teach him to play bass, stating "I can't play bass." Lemmy's reply was "I know". According to Lemmy, Sid Vicious was a hopeless student. According to John Lydon's autobiography No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish, "he wasn’t too bad at all for three-chord songs". No one is sure if he could play or not.
Nancy Spungen and the end of the Pistols
In November 1977 Vicious met and soon after began a relationship with American Nancy Laura Spungen, who, legend has it, had come to London "to sleep with a Sex Pistol". 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 Johnny 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.
The Deaths of Sid and Nancy
By this time Vicious and Spungen had become locked in their own world of drug addiction and self-destruction. Contemporary 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, for a while, hospitalised.
On the morning of October 12 1978 Vicious allegedly awoke from a drug-induced stupour to find Spungen dead in their Room 100 apartment, at the New York Hotel Chelsea. She had been killed by a single stab wound to her abdomen. Vicious was arrested and charged with her murder, although he claimed to have no memory at all of the previous night's incidents. Later however he claimed to have "killed her because I'm a dirty dog", although there are also theories that the murder may actually have been committed by a third party, possibly 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.
After his death, his mother phoned Nancy's mother to request that Vicious be buried next to Nancy, however she declined to allow this. There are many rumours as to what actually happened to Vicious' remains but one of the most persistent is that;
- late at night,Sid's mother jumped the graveyard fence where Nancy was buried and scattered his ashes over his beloved for them to be together for all time.
However others believe this tale to be a Rock and Roll myth ;
- Punk romantics believe that Sid's mum scattered his ashes over Nancy's grave in Philadelphia. It's more likely that Ma Vicious arrived back at Heathrow with his remains. Malcolm McLaren claims she knocked them over in the arrivals lounge; hence the fanciful myth that Sid's essence still circulates, wafting through the air vents and moving among the travellers. 
Sid Sings, a solo album, was released posthumously by Virgin Records. This was largely a collection of cover versions of rock-'n'-roll numbers such as "C'mon Everybody" and "Something Else" by Eddie Cochran, and material by Iggy Pop and Johnny Thunders, as well as a rendition of the Paul Anka / Frank Sinatra standard "My Way". Striking footage of Vicious' performance of this song provides the closing sequence of Julien Temple's film The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle.
- My Way / Something Else / C’mon Everybody (1979, 12”, Barclay, Barclay 740 509)
- (Don’t You Gimme) No Lip / (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone (1989, 7”, SCRATCH 7)
- Sid Sings (1979, LP, Virgin, V2144)
- 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 788020)
- The Sid Vicious Experience – Jack Boots and Dirty Looks (1986, LP, Antler 37)
- The Idols With Sid Vicious (1993?, CD, Last Call Records, LC22289)
- 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)
- 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 21)
- Sid Vicious McDonald Bros. Box (3CD, Sound Solutions, 003)
- Sid Vicious & Friends (1998, CD, Cleopatra, #251, ASIN: B0000061AS)
- Sid Vicious vs. Eddie Cochran – The Battle Of The Rockers (LP, Jock, LP 6)
- Cult Heroes (1993, CD)
- The Vicious White Kids (1987, LP, Ritchie 1)
- Vicious White Kids (2001, CD, Sanctuary, CMRCD372)
Films that include Sid Vicious
- Sex Pistols Number One (1976, dir. Derek Jarman)
- The Great Rock‘n’Roll Swindle (1979, dir. Julien Temple, VHS, Virgin Films)
- Jubilee (1978, dir. Derek Jarman)
- Will Your Son Turn into Sid Vicious? (1978)
- The Punk Rock Movie (1979, dir. Don Letts)
- Dead on Arrival (1981, dir. Lech Kowalski)
- Sid and Nancy (1986, dir. Alex Cox)
- The Filth And The Fury (2000, dir. Julien Temple, VHS/NTSC)
Books about Sid Vicious
- 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)
- 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)
A fictionalised film account of the relationship between Vicious and Spungen, Sid and Nancy, was made by director Alex Cox in 1986. 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 .
Other uses of the name Sid Vicious
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