Following the radical premise of transforming and showing the very limits of the world, this young Brit earned a definitive place in the history of rebellious attitude.
Sid Vicious: a vital rebel /
His name was Simon John Ritchie. Was he an authentic trickster, a kid who didn’t know what he was doing or the embodiment of punk attitude? Naturally, with a name like his we wouldn’t be able get very far. First we would have to transform, become another in our own skin. Become the shadow of the soul, die to be reborn. Where Simon John Ritchie ends, Sid Vicious begins.
After his father walked out on him and his mother, Anne McDonald, they moved to the island of Ibiza, in Spain, where —legend has it—he began selling drugs. A great part of Sid’s biography lies in the border between truth and fiction, and this latter tale is no different. Lemmy Kilmister, Mötorhead’s bass player, affirms that at the age of 14 Sid was already selling LSD.
With time, his biography and crime history became intertwined and interchangeable: supposedly, when he was seventeen his mother and him began to descend down the spiral of intravenous drugs and amphetamines. We could probably summon every single psychiatrist’s on Earth and they would probably agree that Sid suffered from Borderline personality disorder… the thing is, not everyone with a borderline personality becomes a famous rock star.
Yet another legend depicts his initiation into the Sex Pistols: the band’s lead singer, Johnny Rotten had a hamster, which had bitten Simon John Ritchie; as if this was a spider from a comic book, the vicious bite, would be the origin for the adjective Sid would use as his last name for the remainder of his short life.
As Johnny Rotten’s close friend, Vicious was invited to play with the Sex Pistols in 1977, shortly after Glen Matlock left the band and the space for a bass player became open. Malcolm McLaren, the band’s manager would later assert that Rotten was the voice of Punk, while Vicious was its attitude. This was evident during the band’s live presentations, when an aura of danger oozes from every particle on stage, taking us to the very border of mental sanity.
Vicious was not oblivious of his life being interpreted through a series of legends: he was a true believer of the “Live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse” myth, and reaching success at such a young age was a platform that would allow him to make his dream come true. His co-pilot was Nancy Spungen, a failed model that arrived in England with the idea of becoming a groupie for a famous rock band. Another legend says that Rotten rejected Nancy and “passed her on” to Vicious, as if she were a warm beer. Vicious was not the kind to refuse an offer.
The punk “Romeo and Juliet” style romance was immortalised in films and books; their story is well known: after a night of restless dreams (partly caused by the Tuinol they had ingested the night before), Sid Vicious woke up in a blood-covered bed. The track led him to Nancy, who had a knife stuck in her abdomen. The police arrive, they ask questions. “You can’t arrest me, I’m a rock star”. Virgin Records bails him out, and the case remains open. Did Sid kill her during a rage fuelled fit? Was it one of the dealers that visited the room that night? Was it a suicide pact, as his mother would affirm after finding a supposed suicide note in his leather jacket? Maybe, we will never know.
Sid Vicious wasn’t even a good musician: it’s a well-known fact that that his amplifier was turned off during most of the concerts. His art, if we can call it that, was something else: showing us the limit, exposing the deep waters of unruliness. It has nothing to do with moralising: Sid Vicious had a clear goal in life and he achieved it (and he didn’t even have to learn how to play a musical instrument): live fast and die young. His attitude however, has inspired an aesthetic and a powerful front in art: for years, punk musicians would try to play with the strength that Sid Vicious lived.
Tagged: Sid Vicious, Warriors & Rebels, rock, music, Sex Pistols