11. Vicious Cost the Sex Pistols Their Recording Contract
Even in the punk scene, a violent drug-addicted bassist who can’t play his instrument isn’t great for business. Record labels and the music industry as a whole were fully aware of Sid Vicious’ erratic and often violent behavior including domestic violence, vandalism, rampant drug abuse, and self-mutilation. The final straw for EMI, the Sex Pistols’ label, came at Heathrow Airport in 1977.
In 1977, the band had a massive brawl in the middle of Heathrow Airport with the members yelling at airport staff and spitting on each other. Even for a punk band, this wasn’t acceptable public conduct, especially outside of a show, and the group was unceremoniously dropped from EMI’s roster. A&M’s label decided to take a chance on the band and signed them immediately after EMI’s dismissal.
A&M celebrated the signing by holding a press conference outside Buckingham Palace and then inviting the band, press, and more to a party at A&M’s office. During the party, Vicious became unruly and vandalized the director of A&M’s office and vomited all over his desk. A&M dropped the Sex Pistols from their label only six days after signing them. This event serves as an excellent reminder to not bite the hand that feeds you, despite how punk it may seem at the time.
12. Vicious Wrote An Ode to His Girlfriend Before Her Death
While Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen had a complicated, drug-focused and often violent relationship, there is little doubt that they loved each other. Despite the frequent beatings that left Spungen with a broken nose and torn ear, among other injuries and the verbal abuse that likely profoundly hurt the victim of child abuse in Vicious, he penned a loving tribute to Spungen in the days leading up to her death.
In 1978, only months before her untimely and unsolved death by an abdominal stab wound, Vicious wrote a list of things he loved about Spungen on a piece of tattered notebook paper. In a charming touch, he numbered the items and underlined the title as though he were writing an English composition for school.
In the list, Vicious praised her beauty, figure, sense of humor, wit, eyes and fashion sense along with raunchier items that will remain unmentioned. While their relationship was profoundly unhealthy and Vicious doubtlessly committed a great deal of domestic violence, there was a core of love somewhere in the union, even if buried deep. The abused, battered heart of a person still capable of love inside Vicious made a brief appearance in the lines of that tattered note.
13. Vicious Found His Girlfriend’s Body and May Have Killed Her
On October 12, 1978, Sid Vicious awoke to a trail of blood in his hotel room at the Hotel Chelsea in New York City. He followed the path into the bathroom only to find his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, dead of a single stab wound to the abdomen. After calling the front desk to report her death, Vicious was found wandering the halls of the hotel crying and saying “I killed her… I can’t live without her… She must have fallen on the knife.”
Vicious was arrested for the murder but plead not guilty. Many close to Vicious believed, despite the domestic abuse, that he would not have been capable of killing Spungen due to his love for her. This concept was likely complicated by many of Vicious’ friends blaming Spungen for being a bad influence on Vicious and increasing his drug use.
Vicious was never convicted of her murder, and the case was closed when he died of a heroin overdose only months later. Her death has never indeed been solved, with theories ranging from a suicide pact to being murdered by one of the many drug dealers who came and went out of their hotel. Over $1,000 was stolen out of their room the night Spungen was murdered, which does lend some credence to the idea it was a robbery gone wrong.
14. Vicious Smashed a Bottle On Someone’s Face After His Girlfriend’s Death
In a rather callous incident, Sid Vicious smashed a glass bottle over someone’s face while attempting to flirt with their girlfriend while out on bail for the murder of his own dead girlfriend. Only weeks after Nancy Spungen’s death, for which Vicious was charged but never convicted, he was out on bail and decided to attend a Skafish show at the Hurrah nightclub in New York City.
Vicious was staring at one of Skafish’s roadies, Tara, all night. He attempted to start flirting with the woman, at which point her boyfriend, Todd Smith, asked Vicious to at least wait until the band was done playing to flirt with his girlfriend. Vicious responded to this request by smashing a beer bottle into Smith’s face. Smith was sent to the hospital as a result of the attack and Vicious ended up back in prison.
It is much harder to be sympathetic to Vicious when one realizes he was out flirting with women and attacking men while only out on bail from the accused murder of his girlfriend. Vicious was, at his core, an abused and neglected child, but his wanton disregard for others’ safety and wellbeing cannot be ignored.
15. Vicious Suffered From Hepatitis Due to Intravenous Drug Use
Sid Vicious received a reprieve from having to demonstrate his inability to play his bass guitar from a strange source: hepatitis. The Sex Pistols were recording their only studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks: Here’s the Sex Pistols, in 1977. Vicious would doubtlessly have struggled with the recordings due to being hopelessly unable to play but was hospitalized during the entire recording period due to hepatitis.
Vicious was a frequent intravenous drug user, which often results in complications like hepatitis and was likely the source of his illness. However, his girlfriend at the time, Nancy Spungen, was a part-time sex worker and could also have exposed Vicious to the disease. Hepatitis B is spread through sharing needles and is also a sexually transmitted infection. Hepatitis C can also be spread through sharing needles.
It is not clear what strain of Hepatitis Vicious was treated for in 1977. Both B and C can become chronic, but it is far more likely with C. Hepatitis C tends to most seriously affect those infected later in life through liver failure, but with Vicious’ premature death of a heroin overdose it is unlikely he lived long enough to experience chronic effects from either strain of the disease.
Ironically for a punk rocker who became notorious for his violent drug-fueled antics, his namesake is a docile and timid animal. Sid Vicious, whose birth name was Simon John Ritchie, found his stage name in a rather unusual way. He was visiting his friend John Lydon, who later was famed as Johnny Rotten, the lead singer of the Sex Pistols when Lydon’s hamster bit him on the finger.
Lydon’s hamster, Sid (named after Pink Floyd’s Syd Barret), bit Vicious rather nastily leading Lydon to exclaim “Sid is really vicious!” Lydon began using the moniker Sid Vicious as a nickname for Ritchie, and it stuck. At the time, Lydon and Ritchie were living with two other men also named John, which led to them being called the “Four Johns.” In that environment, any nickname, even one from a hamster, must have been better than being one of four Johns!”
Lydon later described the hamster Sid as the “softest, furriest, weediest thing on earth” which makes it a sad and ironic namesake for a punk rocker who is most famous for his violence, drug abuse and tragically young death from a heroin overdose. The animal namesake is especially dark given Vicious’ history of strangling animals in his youth.
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