Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sid: Lest We Forget

As incredible as it may sound to those of us that remember it, it was 34 years ago today - February 2, 1979 - that punk rock icon, and Sex Pistols bass-guitarist, Sid Vicious croaked.

At the time, I was just 14 and Sid was a god. And, for me anyway, the Sex Pistols remain the greatest British band ever (don't even bother arguing, as it's just not worth it).

But, of course, Sid was not a god. Rather, he was a young kid who got hooked on the most disastrous drug of all: heroin.

Not only that, Sid couldn't play the bass to save his life. Having been brought into the Pistols after original bassist Glen Matlock left, Sid proved less than capable of handling the instrument.

Indeed, Sex Pistols' guitar-thug supremo Steve Jones played practically all of Sid's bass parts on the band's 1977 album, Never Mind the Bollocks. On top of that, Sid's amp was regularly turned down low when the band played live. Sometimes, it was even turned off, such was Sid's inept wankery as a bassist.

But Sid still became a punk rock legend. The reason? He looked the part: spiky black hair, black motorbike jacket, a permanent sneer (of the type that Billy Idol later perfected), and his bass guitar slung low around his waist.

Sid was like a punk rock James Dean in terms of image, but unlike Dean, Sid had no redeeming talent, aside from the look.

And then there was the heroin, quite possibly the most disastrous drug of all. It's one I recommend to absolutely no one - ever - and which is almost guaranteed to see the user end up in the gutter, or six foot under.

By the age of only 21, Sid was a (literally) jaundiced bag of bones, with collapsed veins in his arms (he was forced to inject into his feet, which is definitely a sign that the point of no return is looming), his "career" in tatters, and up on a murder charge for killing his junkie girlfriend, Nancy Spungen (which, by the way, he was almost certainly innocent of).

Sid never was convicted of Nancy's death - the reason: he soon joined her. The cause: yep, the heroin.

Today, it's strange to think that Sid would be 55. Later this year, he would have been 56. That's only 4 years short of 60. Do we really want to think of a 60-year-old Sid? No. Let's remember him as he was.

On the positive side, Sid really did become the face of late-1970s punk, and will be forever immortalized as a result.

On the downside, and in the cold light of day, Sid was someone who was just in the right place at the right time, and tried in vain to live up to an image that was part real but that was also part expected of him. He had no redeeming musical skills and died while barely into his 20s, chiefly as a result of his very real self-destructive tendencies.

But, he left his mark on the music industry, even without actually contributing much to it at all (the aforementioned image aside). And so, for that reason, and because he was a big part of my early teenage years, I raise my morning mug of tea to Sid, a young man who died a tragic death, and who will never grow old, but will always remain forever that spiky haired, sneering anti-hero.


  1. 'Ey you Redfern y'bastard!

    Speakin' of Sid I've noticed there's been a lo' o' paranormal investigators poppin' their clogs too lately so no jumpin' on the bandwagon and try'n'o be trendy!

    ...besides which it'll take a while to arrange that special transport to snatch you from the jaws of death at the last moment so d'you wan'o make it a hundred years or a maybe a thousand or d'you wan'o jus' go for a round million?

    So remember until then y'not even allowed to think o' dyin' or y'u'll have all them greys and MIBs slappin' their haunches an' pissin' on the lid not to mention a load o' Sasquatch squattin' round the hole growlin' "How's this for physical evidence?"

  2. Sadly Sid could be perceived as another Pete Docherty (or Pete Mockery as I call him!) a talentless, drug-ridden 'musician' who came at the right place and right time because of his look, as you say...although the Pistols were fantastic and 'Never Mind...' is a classic.

  3. If you listen to the San Fran show, he doesn't sound bad. Just saying. I know he was a train wreck tho.

    Long live Ramones and Sex Pistols.

  4. I was amazingly into punk in my late teens (I still listen to that era's punk). Although I was more into The Dead Kennedy's, I have plenty of Sex Pistols on LP. Thanks for the look back, Nick.

  5. Ahh Youth, I remember it well! I recall a certain party where we outcompeted each other throwing up beer to the melodic strains of 'Problems'. Also, can it really be 32 years since my musical life was changed by The Ramones at the Agora Ballroom in West Hartford, CT on Sept. 13, 1981?? R.I.P. boys.