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May 10, 2024

25 Amazing Photographs of Sid Vicious on the Stage in the 1970s

“If Johnny Rotten is the voice of punk, then [Sid] Vicious is the attitude,” proclaimed manager of the Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren. Simon John Ritchie, otherwise known as Sid Vicious, was the bassist in the explosive British punk band Sex Pistols. The band’s rise to fame in the late ‘70s defined them as the band that personified the image, energy, and ethos of the British underground music scene—and history has held Vicious at the center of it all.

In his unabashed shocking attitude and hedonistic lifestyle, Vicious did not seem as real as the rest of his contemporaries; instead, he was punk rock incarnate. Perhaps it was his short-lived life that seemingly revolved around sex, drugs, and the anti-establishment music that created the air of intrigue around Vicious, or the ambiguity of the person underneath the persona.

Born in London in 1957, it is widely assumed that Vicious’ upbringing is what led him to become the libertine Sid Vicious known by the world. From a young age, Vicious was indoctrinated into a lifestyle riddled with heavy drug use with his mom, Nora Forster, being his earliest supplier. This “anything goes” outlook on life continued into his late teenhood and early adulthood, where he channeled his economic anguish and resentment for authority into creative youth culture. Finding himself in London’s music scene and being one of the biggest fans of the early Sex Pistols, he was born to be a key part of the burgeoning punk movement. 

With a successful album titled Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols that shocked the UK with its criticisms of the crown and a fierce fashion image designed for subversion created by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols made their mark in music history and inspired the subsequent eruption of punk worldwide. Though lead singer John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) voiced the anguish of a generation in their performances, Vicious’ boisterous behavior and carefree (and sometimes violent) stage presence electrified audiences across London and beyond. Between his facial expressions, violent antics, and even extreme self-harm, Vicious expressed a raw, thrilling intensity that reflected his namesake. He was vicious without a cause, leading the world to wonder what drove his belligerently intrepid behavior and why it was so widely adored.

The infamous Dallas show that marked the end of the Sex Pistols left many rock fans and historians alike stupefied as to what was going through the heads of the bandmates, particularly Vicious. Vicious, with a razor in hand, carved “Gimme a Fix” into his chest and proceeded to play the show with that statement to the world. Of course, the Pistols were kicked out of the show that night due to a brawl provoked by the bassist himself.

A trajectory of tragedy soon followed the Pistols’ collapse in 1972. It was only a year later that Vicious lost his paramour Nancy Spungen, was arrested for her murder, and died of a drug overdose in New York City at 21. 

Vicious seemed to have a prophetic understanding that his life was meant to be short-lived, possibly attributed to the tragic beginnings and mental strife experienced throughout his life. “I’ll die before I’m 25, and when I do I’ll have lived the way I wanted to,” he said in an interview. What can help us understand his enigmatic energy could be the paradoxical fact that he appeared to be purely a person at his core. Someone who liked to have fun, who liked to express their wild side, be free, and be in the presence of people he loved – all of which he experienced until the death of Spungen. He believed that he, in fact, “wasn’t vicious really,” stating that despite his knack for anarchy and eternal iconhood, he was simply…nice. “I consider myself a kind person. I love my mum.”

1 comment:

  1. The inaccuracies in this article are startling... Pistols’ collapse in 1972... 1972? Really?




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