Monday, May 12, 2008

The Purpose of Sid Vicious (And What Might Have Been)

Simon John Ritchie a/k/a Sid Vicious
(May 10, 1957 – February 2, 1979)

This past Saturday, May 10, would have been the fifty first birthday of the late punk rocker Sid Vicious, had he, of course, made it past 1979. Imagining Vicious, who never saw his twenty-second birthday, as a middle aged man is difficult, if not impossible. Surely, though, he would have devolved into self parody sometime in the mid-to-late 1980s, fallen into relative obscurity in the 1990s, and then been resurrected anew in the 2000s with his contributions to the various oral histories of the early days of punk that have been published of late. Or would he have overdosed a short time later, his assigned fate merely been postponed? More likely, though, he would have spent a substantial number of those years in prison for the October 1978 murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. (Though his friends insist that he was incapable of murder, a jury of non-punks may have found him guilty based on the evidence.).

He was not a founding member of the Sex Pistols but became its bassist when Glen Matlock left the band in 1977. (Matlock went on to form The Rich Kids, whose records are difficult to find in 2008.). Although an untalented musical hack, Vicious became the "look" of punk and was thus excused for his inability to play his instrument and lack of talent. (It is said that Vicious was chosen for the group solely for his image, which purportedly defined the burgeoning punk "movement" and effectively mimicked the look of Richard Hell, who actually could play).

That Vicious covered "My Way" somewhere along the way is well known (and his version was itself covered by a young Gary Oldman in Alex Cox's 1986 film Sid and Nancy). Sid's version appears on Sid Sings, his only solo album, which was released almost a year after his death. Preceding the studio recording is live crowd noise through which you can hear a number of specific comments and heckles, including that of a young woman who yells to Vicious, "You're a poseur!" The identity of that young woman is most likely lost to history, although she could not be more correct in her assessment. He could not play his instrument, nor could he sing.

The question: Would he be so revered today if we had all saw him age, and had he lived and ultimately escaped his legal difficulties, would he have ultimately learned to play the bass?


Anonymous said...

i guess this blog is abandoned...

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Sid's My Way is my fave version next to Sinatras