He couldn’t play a note but he was as rude and daring as singer Johnny Rotten – John Lydon, now of I’m A Celebrity … inflicted knife wounds.
In addition to his punk rocker character, he will be forever remembered for his turbulent romance with his girlfriend Nancy Spungen.
Nancy allegedly bought drugs to meet musicians and became addicted to heroin, funding her habit at one point by working as a prostitute.
She later moved to England “specifically to get a sex gun for a boyfriend,” a friend recalls. Other contemporaries, she came to the UK to chase Heartbreakers Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan, who had left New York.
Sid Vicious, born John Ritchie, was a piece of the King’s Road punk scene who had been brought in earlier that year to replace original Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock.
The couple moved to London together and Nancy is said to have introduced her boyfriend to the heroine. She joined the Sex Pistols for their American tour the following year.
The band fell apart at the end of the tour, and Sid returned to London with Nancy to attempt a solo career.
At the end of August 1978, they returned to New York to start a new life, but the overdoses were taking their toll and they were still addicted to drugs.
They moved into the Chelsea Hotel, which was once a mecca for writers and artists – Dylan Thomas, Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan had all lived there – but by the late 1970s it was little more than a vast drug lair populated by users.
On October 12, 1978, Nancy was found dead in the bathroom of Room 100 at the Chelsea Hotel, a trail of blood leading to the bed she shared with Vicious, who had purchased a hunting knife a few days earlier. .
Witnesses who were at a party in their bedroom the night before say Vicious was absent for the count, thanks to a heavy dose of barbiturates.
Some theories say she could have been killed by a visitor in a drug or money feud.
It was Vicious himself who telephoned the police to tell them he had found his corpse, and an hour later, in a holding cell of the Third Homicide Division, Vicious confessed: did because I’m a dirty dog. ”
The police, it seemed, had their man. But Vicious was later to retract, claiming that he didn’t remember anything from the night Nancy died.
Nonetheless, he was remanded in custody, but his manager, the colorful Malcolm McLaren, hired top New York lawyer James Merberg to secure him bail.
Within days, Vicious was free on a $ 50,000 license that had been set up by his label boss, Richard Branson.
A little over a month later, however, Sid was back in Riker Island maximum security prison after seeing a man in a fight at a New York club. He spent nearly two months behind bars in the prison’s drug rehab wing before being released on bail again.
By this time, Vicious had a new girlfriend, a future actress named Michelle Robson. On the day of his release – February 1, 1979 – Vicious, his mother Anne Beverley and a few friends returned to Robson’s apartment for a festive meal.
After eating spaghetti bolognese, Vicious asked his mother – herself a hopeless addict – to find him drugs.
Unbeknownst to Vicious, this batch of heroin was over 95% pure and nearly three times stronger than most of the heroin sold on the streets of New York. After taking it, Sid collapsed.
He was revived by his girlfriend and mother, but they decided not to call an ambulance because they feared he would be sent back to jail for violating his bail conditions. It was to prove a fatal error.
Later that night, alone in the bedroom, he injected himself with more potent heroin. The next morning he was found dead.
It’s unlikely that Vicious killed Nancy or not, but in her memoir Deborah Spungen suggests her daughter’s boyfriend wasn’t to blame.