In Search Of Sid

In Search Of Sid

sid vicious
(Photo by Aubrey Hart/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

To be public at large, he was the talentless, chain wielding, swastika emblazoned scourge of society who represented everything bad about the Sex Pistols. His heroin overdose death at the tender age of 21, 40 years ago this weekend, seemed, to many, poetic justice, especially given he was out on bail for the stabbing murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungeon; a charge, in the end, he was never tried for. 

Post-death, Sid became the figure he’d no doubt dreamed of becoming in life – a household name, the poster boy of punk rock, a movie star (The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle) and the face and voice of three smash hit singles in the UK. “My Way,” “Something Else” (which was rush-released just weeks after his death) and “C’mon Everybody” were amongst the biggest records the Sex Pistols made.  

They were different times then, when an accused murderer could become a pop icon. But before we condemn Sid – and doubt does remain regarding his culpability in Nancy’s death -  it’s worth noting there are those, old friends and acquaintances, who saw the other side of Sid. They knew the man – the boy – before he became the icon. And they believe he was a kid severely damaged by an abusive upbringing, who was thrown out onto the street by his heroin-addicted mother and who later loved his heroin-addicted girlfriend and who followed her down that path. They knew him as a sweet, scared and shy kid who was - perhaps inadvertently - thrown to the wolves for the sake of outrage and publicity.  

Sid’s pre-fame friend – and John Lydon future bandmate – Jah Wobble made a documentary in 2009 called In Search of Sid that explored the other side of the man born Simon John Ritchie. Wobble told the Guardian at the time,  "Sid was offered up as a sacrificial lamb by the people around the Pistols. None of them would have gone over the top. He was their kamikaze pilot, and they were all too happy to strap him in and send him off." 

Let’s remember Sid with the music and the great videos. While original Pistols bass player (and primary songwriter) Glen Matlock was still onboard for their first single “Anarchy In the UK,” it was Sid who featured – in the videos at least; he wasn’t much of musician really  – on their next two anthems.

And then, of course, there are The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle tracks. Not taken seriously by the critics at the time, these tracks became hugely popular and left a lasting impression because they rocked hard and gave people a laugh. Songwriter Paul Anka was apparently quite rattled by Sid’s version of the song he wrote for Sinatra, and Eddie Cochran may have been spinning in his grave over the other two, but we reckon they’re worth a listen, and show that Sid was pretty good in front of the camera and behind the mic even if he couldn’t really play his bass.

RIP Sid.

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