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Sid Vicious

Sid Vicious remembered

Don Letts, Peter Hook and Chris Cornell discuss the Sex Pistols bassist
02 February 2009 - Today is the 30th anniversary of the death of Sid Vicious, one of the most iconic characters of the punk years.

He became one of the poster boys for the entire movement but an addiction to drugs contributed towards his rapid personal decline.

Sid was infamously facing trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen.

On 12 October 1978, Sid awoke in his Chelsea Hotel room to find Spungen lying dead in the bathroom, with a stab wound.

He confessed to it, although he couldn’t remember the events due to being intoxicated.

After being arrested for a different incident, he was released on 1 February 1979 and immediately took some bad heroin supplied by his mother.

Tragically, he was discovered dead the next morning of an overdose, aged 21.

‘Sid was a loser’

6 Music presenter Don Letts filmed Sid's debut performance with the Sex Pistols at The Screen On The Green cinema in Islington.

He recalled Sid for his slightly complicated character and said: “He’d always be getting into trouble, Sid, because he was kind of gormless.

“He was actually a loveable oaf… Apparently Sid was named after one of Lydon’s hamsters which is quite telling because the hamsters are cuddly and furry and all that stuff, but they can bite.”

The same hamster had once bitten a chunk of flesh out of Lydon’s father’s hand and Vicious didn't like being named after it.

The film director and musician remembered how things in Sid's life seemed to get out of hand when the band shot to fame.
"Sid was very nihilistic.  He believed in nothing, he gave nothing any respect, he showed nobody any respect."
Peter Hook


Letts explained: “All of a sudden from a pokey hole in Covent Garden they were getting global headlines and becoming media food.

“The problem is that some people began to believe the hype, Sid being the number one of these people.”

Letts also reckons Sid was encouraged to live a life on the edge: “None of us took it that seriously, that was what was kind of weird… It was all power for the cause.

“I didn’t egg him on but I guess people almost encouraged that kind of – ‘he could die at any moment’ - vibe. It’s like that car crash thing, they almost like to flirt with it and almost in that flirting encourage the people to go to the very edge.”

The star may have become an icon and hero to some, but Letts thinks he isn't someone to look up to.

“It’s funny,” he said. “Sid’s been gone 30 odd years now and there’s still people walking around in Sid Vicious t-shirts.

“It makes me laugh because although he did become the poster boy for the punk generation the reality was that Sid was a loser, and he was a victim, and not really something to admire. Funny thing, time, isn’t it?”

‘No respect’

Joy Division’s bassist Peter Hook said he was partly inspired to pick up the bass guitar after seeing the Sex Pistols perform in Manchester.

He explained Sid summed up everything about Punk; the anarchy, wild excessive behaviour and dying young.

“Sid was very nihilistic,” said Hook. “He believed in nothing, he gave nothing any respect, he showed nobody any respect. That was again a very selfish attitude which punk was about really.”

‘Hugely influential’

Speaking to 6 Music, the Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell discussed his first memories of Sid Vicious and the Pistols.

Cornell recalled: “I was really shocked by their approach to music and instruments. Their songs sounded really aggressive, really emotional and really vital, even though they weren’t proficient at their instruments and didn’t even seem to care.”

Cornell also said the band had a great impact on him, because he was a youngster beginning his musical education: “I was a teenager just starting to be a musician so for me it was hugely influential.

“It was that big lesson I think that every young musician learns when they realise that a large part of songwriting and being in a band is expression, more so than being a virtuoso of a particular instrument.”

Georgie Rogers

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