February 2: The Death Day of Sid Vicious

Sid Vicious NY Mug ShotJoseph Allen writes at RockStarMartyr.net:

John Simon Ritchie’s career with the Sex Pistols only lasted nine months, but through the miraculous power of media spin he was transfigured into the original punk rock martyr—Sid Vicious, dead at 21. He was smeared across pop culture’s porcelain temple on February 2, 1979, immortalized in black leather, oily spiked hair, and dripping bodily fluids.

Next to him, rendered in blood-spattered stained glass, resides the junk-adled groupie who dominated him in life and defined him in death—”Nauseating” Nancy Spungen, dead at 20. Sid and Nancy. For three generations, vast segments of our disaffected youth have followed in their staggering footsteps, slamming syringe plungers to a rock n’ roll soundtrack and smashing up their little corners of an unbearably boring society. Oi! Oi!

The Sex Pistols left an indelible stamp upon the soul of punk rock. The genre’s grim sarcasm doesn’t gnaw much harder than vocalist Johnny Rotten’s “Bodies” or “No Feelings.” Their one true album, Never Mind the Bullocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, is an enduring classic of cocky rebellion—for which Sid Vicious deserves no real credit, except for his sneering face. The bass guitar was, quite literally, a mere prop for his nihilistic persona.

The only song that Sid is remembered for is a garbled rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” This satanic dirge pays homage to the unrepentant ego at death’s door, and Vicious gave it a convincing go. The irony is that between Nancy’s nagging and the Sex Pistols’ manipulative manager, Malcolm McLaren, Sid Vicious did almost nothing his own way.

It’s not that Vicious’ image was a total fabrication so much as carefully cut fodder for the hype machine. Sid was raised by a junkie mother in the dregs of working class London, a scrawny misfit whose utter defiance was bullied into him by neighborhood toughs. He was born with a photogenic chip on his shoulder, and after his first gig with the Sex Pistols in April of 1977, Malcolm McLaren made sure the bulbs kept flashing.

While friends remember Sid as a scrappy little wiener, popular mythology emphasizes his assault on NME journalist Nick Kent with a motorcycle chain, his reputed mugging of an old lady at knife point, and the Texas crowd member who got his dome cracked by Sid’s bass guitar…

Read more at RockStarMartyr.net

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16 Responses to February 2: The Death Day of Sid Vicious

  1. VoxMagi February 2, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    Let’s not forget his cover of “C’mon Everybody”…which isn’t great because its great in the classic musical sense…but is great because its terrible and unapologetic about it. The soul of great punk is a less talented, less gifted person with few advantages letting naked enthusiasm and crazed hunger to get out there and DO IT make up for their shortcomings. Sid had that quality in spades, so what he lacked in knowledge of music or natural singing talent was overcome by crazy, bullheaded unwillingness to be held back by those limits.

    In a world where carefully polished teen girls with million dollar smiles and smartly marketed outfits make hundreds of millions on the basis of their physical perfection…while each album they churn out is painstaking crafted to ensure that any flaw is digitally excised and the engineers and mixers are more responsible for the final product than the ‘artist’…Sid and others like him are the angry beerfart in the elevator of well-dressed snobs looking down at us. The Sids of the world succeed and are remembered because they are the antidote to the sterile swill we endure daily, and they are inspirational because compared to the Britneys and Tiffanys and Mileys of the world…they are like handicapped athletes who still finish the race, making it only because they didn’t realize they couldn’t…the same way bees fly despite aerodynamics indicating that they can’t.

    RIP John…and thanks for the tunes along the way.

  2. VoxMagi February 2, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    Let’s not forget his cover of “C’mon Everybody”…which isn’t great because its great in the classic musical sense…but is great because its terrible and unapologetic about it. The soul of great punk is a less talented, less gifted person with few advantages letting naked enthusiasm and crazed hunger to get out there and DO IT make up for their shortcomings. Sid had that quality in spades, so what he lacked in knowledge of music or natural singing talent was overcome by crazy, bullheaded unwillingness to be held back by those limits.

    In a world where carefully polished teen girls with million dollar smiles and smartly marketed outfits make hundreds of millions on the basis of their physical perfection…while each album they churn out is painstaking crafted to ensure that any flaw is digitally excised and the engineers and mixers are more responsible for the final product than the ‘artist’…Sid and others like him are the angry beerfart in the elevator of well-dressed snobs looking down at us. The Sids of the world succeed and are remembered because they are the antidote to the sterile swill we endure daily, and they are inspirational because compared to the Britneys and Tiffanys and Mileys of the world…they are like handicapped athletes who still finish the race, making it only because they didn’t realize they couldn’t…the same way bees fly despite aerodynamics indicating that they can’t.

    RIP John…and thanks for the tunes along the way.

    • Tuna Ghost February 2, 2011 at 7:48 pm #

      It should be noted that the “carefully polished teen girls with million dollar smiles” and their producers that you rail against put out better music than Sid Vicious ever did. Whatever else he was (punk, junkie, walking disease), “musician” is a pretty big stretch.

      • that1guy February 3, 2011 at 4:26 am #

        I don’t hate modern pop music. People like what they like, and sometimes I like what they like. But sid vicious’s covers are pretty rad. Not the best music out there, not even the best punk rock out there(crass comes to mind) but pretty awesome anyways.

      • VoxMagi February 3, 2011 at 7:28 am #

        ‘Better’ is debatable. More salable? Yes. Better? No. I can’t stand more than a minute’s exposure to that much self indulgent vapidity backed by stereotypical computer programmed beats and borrowed hooks.

        If we treat marketshare as the solitary indicator of quality…then the Velvet Underground and all other non standard acts of the twentieth century were “no good’ compared to top twenty hits. If we use other methods to calculate quality, including lasting iconic fame, daring, cult status, etc…then NKOTB, Britney, Rick Astley and all the rest of pop plummet off a cliff into the darkness of vaguely embarrassed remembrances as soon as adulthood is reached.

        Example: One seventeen year old is into the Clash, Sex Pistols, Velvet Underground. The other is into Britney Spears, Black Eyed Peas etc. Thirty years pass…one of the two can talk about music without it being an inside joke about how young and foolish they were at the time.

        Pop has its place…because there are lots of people in the world and many of them want music that is without character, without uniqueness and without any vestige of soul. If humanity is a herd…most of the herd wants sameness, comfort and safety… they hunger for non-thought. A happy beat…a familiar emotion…none of those qualities will ever contribute to lasting importance…but they have a certain value of their own.

        The different, the weird, the out of place…thats where the cauldron of creation is found…the conflict and struggle that lifts, the sublime or horrifying. It is not sterile sameness…and that is what makes it beautiful in all its terrible glory.

        So give me The Cramps…Iggy Pop…Bowie…the VU…Bauhaus…Crass…Dead Kennedys…etc ad infinitum. Whatever else they may or may not be…they were not made for the herd…they were for the rest of us, the restless minds, the strange and unusual, the ones who think too much to fit in properly and finally learn to celebrate that as a virtue instead of a flaw.

        • JoeBot February 3, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

          Very, very well put.

  3. ralph February 2, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    Poor Sid … It’s Groundhog Day. He has to repeat his death over and over again.

  4. ralph February 2, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    Poor Sid … It’s Groundhog Day. He has to repeat his death over and over again.

  5. Butter Knife February 2, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    Not only does Sid deserve no credit for the art5istry of “Never Mind The Bollocks…” he also deserves no credit for even playing the songs… he wasn’t the bassist who wrote it, recorded it, or even played it in concert. That credit all goes to the actually talented Glen Matlock.

    He was a replacement player, chosen explicitly for his shit attitude, drug problems, and lifelong friendship with John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon. Of course, between dealing with their asshole manager/producer Malcolm McLaren (punk rock icon status notwithstanding, the guy is a total douche… read his Wikipedia article if you don’t believe me, it details his many adventures in gross mismanagement, fraud, child semi-porn and crass commercial exploitation of virtually everyone and everything… it’s a credit to the Wkipedos involved that they managed to keep a straight NPOV) and watching his childhood friend degenerate into a heroin-addled bag of feces with serious case of undeserved egotism and mental faculties so diminished by excess it left one forced between laughing or crying, drove Lydon to quit.

    I certainly agree that Sid Vicious has an important place in the punk pantheon, but Maintain that place is not the one typically ascribed to him. Sid symbolizes the absolute fucking that the music industry will give anyone naive enough to think they can trust it. He’s the original punk martyr insofar as punk’s real enemy is “success”, at least as defined by business-minded fuckwads who orgasm at the mere thought of a band of uneducated freaks with no relevant experience and whose adherence to naive, visceral anarchy ensures they can never properly navigate the system.

  6. Butter Knife February 2, 2011 at 10:24 pm #

    Not only does Sid deserve no credit for the art5istry of “Never Mind The Bollocks…” he also deserves no credit for even playing the songs… he wasn’t the bassist who wrote it, recorded it, or even played it in concert. That credit all goes to the actually talented Glen Matlock.

    He was a replacement player, chosen explicitly for his shit attitude, drug problems, and lifelong friendship with John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon. Of course, between dealing with their asshole manager/producer Malcolm McLaren (punk rock icon status notwithstanding, the guy is a total douche… read his Wikipedia article if you don’t believe me, it details his many adventures in gross mismanagement, fraud, child semi-porn and crass commercial exploitation of virtually everyone and everything… it’s a credit to the Wkipedos involved that they managed to keep a straight NPOV) and watching his childhood friend degenerate into a heroin-addled bag of feces with serious case of undeserved egotism and mental faculties so diminished by excess it left one forced between laughing or crying, drove Lydon to quit.

    I certainly agree that Sid Vicious has an important place in the punk pantheon, but Maintain that place is not the one typically ascribed to him. Sid symbolizes the absolute fucking that the music industry will give anyone naive enough to think they can trust it. He’s the original punk martyr insofar as punk’s real enemy is “success”, at least as defined by business-minded fuckwads who orgasm at the mere thought of a band of uneducated freaks with no relevant experience and whose adherence to naive, visceral anarchy ensures they can never properly navigate the system.

  7. Tuna Ghost February 2, 2011 at 11:48 pm #

    It should be noted that the “carefully polished teen girls with million dollar smiles” and their producers that you rail against put out better music than Sid Vicious ever did. Whatever else he was (punk, junkie, walking disease), “musician” is a pretty big stretch.

  8. that1guy February 3, 2011 at 8:26 am #

    I don’t hate modern pop music. People like what they like, and sometimes I like what they like. But sid vicious’s covers are pretty rad. Not the best music out there, not even the best punk rock out there(crass comes to mind) but pretty awesome anyways.

  9. VoxMagi February 3, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    ‘Better’ is debatable. More salable? Yes. Better? No. I can’t stand more than a minute’s exposure to that much self indulgent vapidity backed by stereotypical computer programmed beats and borrowed hooks.

    If we treat marketshare as the solitary indicator of quality…then the Velvet Underground and all other non standard acts of the twentieth century were “no good’ compared to top twenty hits. If we use other methods to calculate quality, including lasting iconic fame, daring, cult status, etc…then NKOTB, Britney, Rick Astley and all the rest of pop plummet off a cliff into the darkness of vaguely embarrassed remembrances as soon as adulthood is reached.

    Example: One seventeen year old is into the Clash, Sex Pistols, Velvet Underground. The other is into Britney Spears, Black Eyed Peas etc. Thirty years pass…one of the two can talk about music without it being an inside joke about how young and foolish they were at the time.

    Pop has its place…because there are lots of people in the world and many of them want music that is without character, without uniqueness and without any vestige of soul. If humanity is a herd…most of the herd wants sameness, comfort and safety… they hunger for non-thought. A happy beat…a familiar emotion…none of those qualities will ever contribute to lasting importance…but they have a certain value of their own.

    The different, the weird, the out of place…thats where the cauldron of creation is found…the conflict and struggle that lifts, the sublime or horrifying. It is not sterile sameness…and that is what makes it beautiful in all its terrible glory.

    So give me The Cramps…Iggy Pop…Bowie…the VU…Bauhaus…Crass…Dead Kennedys…etc ad infinitum. Whatever else they may or may not be…they were not made for the herd…they were for the rest of us, the restless minds, the strange and unusual, the ones who think too much to fit in properly and finally learn to celebrate that as a virtue instead of a flaw.

  10. The JoeBot February 3, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

    Very, very well put.

  11. scatpep February 3, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    how very refreshing to hear some truth at last….ages ago, I read that Malcolm McClaren had to really cojole Sid ‘Vicious’ into ‘singing’ My Way and managed to get it down in one take after hours of attempts…..I know all the blah about the Sex Pistols – the originals and the best etc but there’s been so much better punk done than they ever did…and you only have to look a John Lydon to realise that whatever you do/think/say when you’re 19 does not mean a thing….cos we all change and we all ‘conform’ to one degree or another……Get me out of here…I’m a celebrity (so what he used the c word…wow so he’s still a rebel then)? British Butter anyone?

  12. scatpep February 3, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

    how very refreshing to hear some truth at last….ages ago, I read that Malcolm McClaren had to really cojole Sid ‘Vicious’ into ‘singing’ My Way and managed to get it down in one take after hours of attempts…..I know all the blah about the Sex Pistols – the originals and the best etc but there’s been so much better punk done than they ever did…and you only have to look a John Lydon to realise that whatever you do/think/say when you’re 19 does not mean a thing….cos we all change and we all ‘conform’ to one degree or another……Get me out of here…I’m a celebrity (so what he used the c word…wow so he’s still a rebel then)? British Butter anyone?

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