Sid Vicious (aka John Simon Ritchie / Beverley): Bass
Born: May 10th 1957, London, England
Died: February 2nd 1979, New York, USA
There has been much confusion over Sid’s name. Both his real name and his nickname. Born as John Simon Ritchie his mother Anne would insist on calling him Simon; she also used the surname Beverley from a later marriage.
John/Simon became “Sid” through John Lydon’s pet hamster – who in turn was named after Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett – Sid hated the name so John Lydon would taunt him with it. The ironic “Vicious” came after the hamster tried to bite him: “Oh, your Sid is Vicious” and the Lou Reed song ‘Vicious’. “You’re so vicious…”
Born in London to unmarried parents, Sid moved briefly to Ibiza as a child before returning with his mother to London. He first met John Lydon at Hackney Technical College and became what would later be known as one of the “gang of John’s” along with John Lydon, John Gray & John Wardle (aka Jah Wobble).
When Lydon joined the Sex Pistols in August 1975 Sid became one of their biggest fans; and is famously credited with inventing the “pogo” dance as a way of purposely bumping into members of the band’s entourage and/or crowd he didn’t like.
With Glen Matlock’s departure in February 1977 Sid was drafted in on bass duties via John Lydon. Sid already got on with Steve and Paul, and probably fitted the bands image better than Matlock. Despite the myth, Sid actually COULD play. Maybe only a little but he could play. He practiced like crazy and quickly began to learn the instrument. Unfortunately, other circumstances soon began to get in the way of any budding ability…
Sid was no stranger to drug use, however, when he met Nancy Spungen it took on a whole different level. Nancy – a notorious American groupie and heroin addict – had traveled to London in 1977 hoping to snare a Sex Pistol. After John Lydon rejected her and passed her off to Sid the couple became inseparable.
Sid’s heroin use– together with Nancy stroking his ego – saw him go from a fun loving, intelligent kid to a belligerent junkie desperately trying to live up to the name Vicious. It also helped fuel growing tension within the band. Less than a year after Sid joined the Sex Pistols split.
After John Lydon’s departure Sid was persuaded to record a cover version of ‘My Way’ for use in Malcolm McLaren’s fictionalised satire of the Sex Pistols story ‘The Great Rock n Roll Swindle’. His vocal ability far outweighed his bass playing and the single proved to be his cultural epitaph.
Sid’s destructive relationship with Nancy Spungen finally hit rock bottom on October 12th, 1978 when she was found murdered in their New York hotel room. Sid was the chief suspect, but due to drug use he had no memory of the night’s events. Whether he did it or not is still unproven; and highly debatable.
However, Sid would never get the chance to clear his name as he fatally overdosed on February 2nd, 1979 – most likely by accident – a day after his release on bail from New York’s Rikers Island Prison. Unfortunately, aged just 21, Sid Vicious ended up just another sex, drugs and rock and roll cliche. Everything he would have hated…
Picture Credits: (Top to Bottom)
Sid Vicious, Queen Elizabeth River Boat, River Thames, London 7th June 1977 © Dave Wainright