|NEVER MIND THE SEX PISTOLS,
HERE COMES THE WRATH OF SID!
As J.R. and the boys clean up pollwise,
NICK KENT opens the Sid Vicious file and
discovers an ironic can of worms.
(NME December 17th 1977)
IT WAS the last day in November when the whole ugly mess finally exploded. Sid Vicious, the bass
player of The Sex Pistols, had once more traipsed down to his band's rehearsal room for a
much-needed repertoire brush-up, merely to encounter yet again the irksome absence of the other
three members of the band.
This wasn't the first time that week that Vicious had turned out as instructed for what were believed to be a series of
rehearsals for a three-month long Sex Pistols 'Tour Of The World', a highly secretive project that Malcolm McLaren
was organising under clandestine and particularly unorthodox (as far as rock tours go, anyway) terms, to find that he
was the only one who had turned up at what he'd understood was the time set.
As far as the World Tour was concerned, time was running out, and Vicious in particular was more than a little
Various clubs in Europe had already been booked, and the tour was also mooted to be taking in a period of gigging
in both the Americas and Britain - though the McLaren strategy was apparently one of deliberately avoiding not only
advance publicity but also all venues in any of rock's most widely accepted centres. Cities like New York and London had been ruled out (a management decision apparently
seconded by John Rotten).
The tour itself, however unorthodox and stupid it seemed in part, particularly to Vicious, at least presented a respite from all the confusion and indolence that had come in the
wake of McLaren's other recent obsession, The Sex Pistols' film. This project was recently shelved after months and months of stop-go non-activity, leaving the band - who, so
it is said, were reluctant participants - either more frustrated or more slumped in limbo than ever.
"As far as I'm concerned, I'm just the bassist for the greatest rock band ever - in this whole universe," Vicious would state to this reporter. "Touring and playing is what we
should have always been about.
All that film crap of Malcolm's was just stupid shit that could have blown it for us."
Vicious was speaking from his hotel room somewhere (he didn't claim to know exactly where) in Belgium after a day of being driven round cities to private doctors by a
Pistols' roadie for some kind of temporary cure to his constant bad-health problem (to little avail).
The previous night, in Rotterdam, Vicious claimed, The Sex Pistols had played the best rock'n'roll gig ever. The old feeling was there after months of unabated frustration - and
for Vicious that meant a light at the end of the tunnel for all his problems, principally those involving his continued allegiance with the band and the mutual respect thing which
seemed all too absent until that gig.
But last night wasn't last week, and six days back things had never looked blacker. The last non-rehearsal farce, Vicious felt, was the final straw.
He'd spent the subsequent hours of the evening getting hideously drunk and morose before returning to his room at Bayswater's Ambassador Hotel. He then phoned guitarist
Steve Jones and, after trying to extract some kind of explanation for the non-appearance of the rest of the band earlier that evening, broke into a hail of verbal abuse pitched
against what he saw as the band's apparently slothful lack of commitment.
After the phone call, Vicious continued to get more depressed and, at one point, attempted to throw himself out of the third-storey window - an attempt at suicide that would
have succeeded had not his girl-friend Nancy Spungen been able to grab Sid's belt as he was hanging by his finger-tips from the ledge and drag him back inside.
Once inside, Vicious, in yet another fit, grabbed Spungen's blonde hair and drove her head against the wall relentlessly again and again until he finally stopped just as she
was about to lose consciousness, blood from her scalp running down the wall.
At this point he broke down in tears and, after a period in hysterics, was finally calmed down. The pair finally collapsed into bed at 5a.m in the morning.
"What I was doing was just living out the original idea of the band as four complete nutters..."
Some two hours later, they were awakened by the hotel receptionist, who chose to make an entrance after the screams from the earlier hysteria had long since died down,
and who, seeing blood on the wall and the room in some disarray, promptly called the police.
The police arrived, and, according to Nancy Spungen, questioned them about a stolen ring. They took away what Ms Spungen says was legally-prescribed medicine
belonging to her, and it was this that was used for the "certain substances" scam that consequently appeared in the news reports.
After a period in the cells and the usual questioning, the police, having discovered that the medication was legal and that the ring charge could no way "stick", let the couple off
with no charges pending, although a previous unpaid fine of Ms. Spungen's was dragged up. The sum of £35 was quickly paid by the Pistols' Glitterbest organisation and that
appeared to be that.
McLaren and the Glitterbest flunkies hit the roof, and Sid's version of events is that Messrs Jones, Cook and Rotten declared
in adamant unity that Vicious was to be ousted immediately. Then, however, McLaren apparently had a change of heart and
decided to defend the bassist from this three-pronged attack. Or so the rumours claimed.
"Yeah, that's right," Vicious consequently verified when he called from Belgium. "Malcolm did come to my defence all of a
sudden. He just realised that my side of things had a point. That what I was doing was just living out the original idea of the
band as four complete nutters going out and doing anything and everything. Just having fun, which I always reckoned was the
whole thing about the Pistols from the very beginning. It just got so fuckin' wet, so serious. That was what he said anyway.
"But of course, there had to be 'conditions'. They took me back on the premise that I ... uh, 'straightened up'."
Vicious said he would to a requisite extent, but what he didn't know was that as the five talked it out, Nancy, whom it had been
decided was the "ruination of simple Sid", was being "persuaded" by two of the Pistols organisation to take the next flight to
"They were saying to me, 'Oh come on Nancy, let's go for a drive while Sid goes to the dentist.' I realised pretty quickly what
they were up to."
Ms. Spungen claims she only escaped by remonstrating in the strongest terms with the female half of her escort team, who
had apparently been put in full command of the manoeuvre.
"That was so-o disgusting," Vicious claims now. "them using Nancy as the scapegoat for 'my problems'. Ha! I've been doing
every-fuckin'-thing they reckon she turned me onto two years before I met 'er."
ALL THE aforestated version of events so far has come from the accounts of Nancy Spungen and Sid Vicious after the
former phoned me at NME to offer her side of what at that point just looked like a fuzzy culmination of ugly rumours and
scandal that both the dailies and various nosey outside sources had been spouting second-hand.
At present Nancy and Sid are separated - that appears to be the main crunch of the reconciliation 'conditions' - maybe for
three months, with a few days off in between. Neither is sure.
After months and months of literally dossing around on various accommodating folks' floors/couches/spare rooms, with the
odd respite (provided by Glitterbest) of spending brusque periods of time ensconced in various London hotels that would
tolerate a 'Sex Pistol', just last week the pair finally found a flat in a particularly secluded alley-way on the fringes of London W9.
But before embarking further on the contemporary trials of Sid, perhaps a few highly interesting shots of hindsight might be in
We all had one thing in common that evening. We couldn't get into the gig.
Even then, mind you, "Sid" stood out in the crowd. The awesomely lanky physique topped off with an unhealthy-looking
jet black head of spiked hair and unearthly grey visage made him look like an extremely mean-looking chimney brush
obviously well acquainted with the full meaning of the initials "G.B.H".
The Damned members talked to him briefly and later revealed that they'd once approached him to be their lead singer.
We were not actually introduced at that time.
Sid, however, was himself to provide that introduction in his own inimitable style the next time I saw him, at a Sex
Pistols' gig at the 100 Club. That night he looked positively scarey, as if he'd partaken in a gargantuan quantity of
amphetamines just prior to his arrival and bearing all possible signs that said-intake was scouring his brain-plate
like 2,000 Vim cleansers locked in I tandem overdrive. His blood was definitely... uh, how you say... "up"... and I soon
became uncomfortably aware that he had picked me as the intended victim on which to vent his spleen, so to speak.
After sauntering around the club's perimeters relentlessly, often flanking John Rotten, who, I figured, might have been
using him as his paid-flunkey and added muscle to back up his already extravagant mouth-offs (he later was revealed
to be Rotten's best mate), he settled his sights firmly on yours truly, waiting until the band had traipsed onstage to move
up right in front of me, completely blocking my view of the gig.
Asking him to move aside is what did it. A couple of insults, and before I had time to think, he'd whipped out this
ugly-looking rusty bike chain and was brandishing it, bouncing up and down, his teeth gritted and eyes almost literally
bursting out of their sockets.
A friend of mine seated next to me lurched forward but was kept back by the chain which first nicked his ear and then
the top of his head, while all of a sudden, I was confronted by a colleague of Sid's, who'd pulled out an open
switchblade and was brandishing it about four inches from my face. I was still seated, by the way -and unable to
move a muscle.
Then, as suddenly as he'd appeared, this grim knife-wielding apparition disappeared (possibly on Sid's say-so), but not before the latter had made one final lunge scoring a
bull's-eye dead across my scalp.
By then a couple of bouncers had grabbed him, wrestling him to the ground, while my colleague and I swiftly got the hell out of the club.
While the blood poured down from my head all over my chest (it looked a lot worse than it actually felt mind, and didn't fortunately warrant any stitching up), Vivien Westwood,
McLaren's wife, ran behind apologising profusely and remonstrating -"That guy who attacked you was just a nutter... a psychopath.
We've told the band not to have him around." Blah, blah!
From that night on, "Sid", or John Beverly as he was christened, was given a surname.
In honour of my scalp contusion, John Rotten affectionately named him "Sid Vicious".
Thenceforth he was a walking celebrity - the guy whose claim to fame was that he had chain-chipped Nick Kent at the 100 Club.
First there was McLaren's press-handout a week later, published only in Sounds (who printed the piece without bothering to check the other side of the story), which not only
ublicly exonerated the Pistols from either planning or taking part in the incident, but also introduced the name 'S. Vicious' to the national media. A few weeks later Sounds'"
John Ingham was quoting Vicious, "The Sudden Star", extensively in a six-page 'Punk Rock Break-Out' spread.
Great quotes some of them were, too. "I've only ever fallen in love twice - once with a beer-bottle and once with a mirror" was the best.
Me, I was too disgusted and depressed by the whole scam even to think about presenting some public backlash.
I decided to retire from rock'n'roll-playing and writing altogether, and I spent a miserable six months broke.
However, just before Christmas, I was hanging around briefly with The Heartbreakers, and, at an after-gig party, spent an hour or two chatting pleasantly with Paul Cook and
Steve Jones who'd just come off the road after the whole depressing 'Anarchy' tour foul-up.
During an amazingly amiable conversation, I happened to mention Sid Vicious' name.
"Oh don't worry about 'im," retorted Cook immediately. "Listen, believe me, Sid Vicious is a complete 'nothing'. He doesn't mean a thing and we're in no way associated with
A month later, the rumour became a press-statement."Bassist Glen Matlock has left The Sex Pistols to be replaced by Sid Vicious." To make things just that much more
gorgeously ironic, in his first press conference Vicious boasted that he'd been chosen purely for that redundant incident at the 100 Club all those yonks back, while John
Rotten referred to me as "the greatest hypocrite on earth". Laugh, I never thought the strap on my bondage strides would ever dry!
Then McLaren sent a telegram to all the music press stating yet again that Vicious had been chosen because he'd given Nick Kent "just what he deserved". That really iced it.
No-one was going to turn me into the trendiest thing in town for Sex Pistols fans to beat up, particularly someone like McLaren, and I turned up at a Clash gig in Harlesden
armed and looking for the latter. He wasn't there so I, in turn, vented my spleen in a review of the gig - easily the most painful and anguished piece of cynicism I've ever puked
up in print. To this day, I'm still amazed that I was pushed to those extremes to write such a thing. It was the latter snide epic that brought about my third encounter with Vicious.
I'd scarcely walked through the door of Dingwalls a week after the piece was printed when I came face-to-face with Vicious yet again. He'd come bounding up to me in his
inimitable lurch, positively glowing with friendliness. He said he thought The Clash review, in which I'd been particularly snide about both him and Rotten, had been "really really
I was completely taken aback by this show of friendliness - and possibly also because I thought he was taking the piss and was about to set me up for another chain-whipping
session, I offered him my hand and we shook in a conciliatory "let's-be-friends" sort of gesture. After that, we seemed to get on like a house on fire. I met both him and Nancy
at a Ramones party - I was pretty drunk - and had a highly agreeable chit-chat during which he actually apologised for the incident at the 100 Club.
"I'm really quite a laid-back geezer, y'know," he remarked at one point.
From then on, I'd tend to bump into him at least once a week over a period of several months and would sit around listening to him bragging about himself, all his vituperative
put-downs of 99.9 per cent of humanity in general, being either repelled by his tales of conquest (Sid seemed particularly fond of recounting tales of wrath-letting on characters
he'd find in usually horizontal positions) finding his raps highly amusing.
I was particularly partial to his re-telling of fights he'd had with Malcolm McLaren - how he hated him - not to mention great vitriolic word-spews about John Rotten and Steve
Jones' weight problems (both of which even I hesitate to dredge up, verbatim, in this family periodical).
When all was said and done, I really liked Sid a lot - even felt mildly concerned for him when he appeared in the street proudly covered in large wounds and gashes all over his
chest ("I got this one in a fight... that one a copper give me when I was drunk... that one I did to myself when I was bored one night") and perversely respected him - almost - for
his resilient accentuation of all things simplistic and (often brutally) physical. Also he made me laugh a lot.
"Have you noticed - I've lost my 'glow'! I've been looking fuckin' awful the last few months..."
One morning I returned from the local supermarket to find Sid
relieving his bladder right against my front-door (when a simple
180-degree manoeuvre could have sent that same shard of
Vicious urine spindling into Olde Father Thames down below).
"Have you noticed - I've lost my 'glow'! I've been looking fuckin'
awful the last few months..."
ACTUALLY, I HADN'T seen Sid for some time when he started
getting his recent burst of plum, front-page headlines. The whole
'Ambassador' snafu was the veritable 'cats whiskers', I guess, but
Sid had struck lucky once before with a front page 'share-in' spot
with Princess Grace of Monaco, who apparently had caused a
heap of steam over a projected scene in the Pistols' film - Who
Killed Bambi? - where Sid was supposed to eat a Mars bar
between his mother's (played by Marianne Faithfull) thighs in a
"steamy sex scene" from the film.
About that film. The way Vicious explained it, he'd never been
interested in it much, but the original script by the brilliant Beyond
The Valley Of The Dolls scriptwriter Roger Ebert was all right.
Then, apparently the script-writing credits went to Ebert-Mayer,
then Ebert-Mayer-McLaren, then Ebert-McLaren, then...
The film itself is book-ended around the opening and closing
scenes, which lend the film its actual title.
A rich, ageing rock star with the initials "M.J", wearing a mask so
as to resemble a member of the, uh, Rolling Stones (three
guesses), shoots a deer and gets his chauffeur to tie it up against
the obligatory Rolls-Royce.
In the final scene, the young girl, whose pet deer (named Bambi) it was, shoots "M.J" (possibly Rotten himself in the Jagger mask) at a Sex Pistols gig that is supposed to
represent the band's appearance Andrew Logan's famous party.
In between these enigmatic episodes the story winds itself around the trials of the Pistols (the first scene involving the band apparently has them waiting in a dole queue) with
lashings of Meyeresque big boobs as erotic props (the Pistols reside in a hotel run by proprietress "O" whose claim to fame is the largest pair of breasts in America), and
McLarenesque perversities. The controversial Vicious-Faithful scene is alleged to be Meyer's innovation too, though not only Princess Grace complained about its content
"Sid said he wouldn't do it unless I played his mother," Nancy Spungen claims, as always vying for attention. "A chick with a reputation" and only 18, Ms. Spungen bears a lot
of the marks of a girl who grew up too quickly without checking her bearings along the way. Even though she can be a pain at times, I'd still defend her against a lot of the bad
rap that's been circulating, particularly the all-too-pat-and-thus-uncalled-for "Nauseating Nancy" handle that Sid's mum coined for the press to beat down on.
With her dollish face under a viper's nest of blonde curls, she looks positively radiant when next to the ragged frame of her boyfriend (they're not married, by the way).
'"ERE, HAVE YOU noticed - I've lost my 'glow'!"
Well, to be honest, Sid, I hadn't really...
"Well I reckon I have. I've been lookin' fuckin' awful the last few months. But I'm getting it back now. When I get back to London, you'll see! I haven't even been carryin' my chain
around but now..."
Vicious runs down a list of vociferous vocations he's ready to continue which might not make, uh, suitable reading even here. The conversation inevitably turns to the subject of
John Rotten, once Sid's one true mate and certainly the one guy who successfully pushed to get him in the group originally.
Things haven't been going too well between the pair of late and Vicious was particularly cut up about his old comrade's particular shortcomings of the last few months.
Probably even you, dear reader, may have noticed strange changes of late.
More to the point Rotten seems scared. Reports that he's become highly paranoid and
insecure, constantly requiring the presence of a sizeable 'entourage' wherever he may be,
are verified by both Vicious and Spungen. The latter claims that "John's gone crazy - he thinks
gangsters are out to get him," while Vicious takes perhaps a more thoughtful tack.
"It's something that I don't want to talk about that much because it would really hurt John
because in a way, he did 'lose' his bottle. He really did! But I can understand that because -
hell, here's this young guy, and all of a sudden, everybody knows his face, he's 'Public Enemy
No.l' and everybody wants to kick his face in. That would freak anybody out.
"And John, whatever impression he may give, is not that tough physically. I mean, the number
of times he's been nearly killed. Once at the Roxy I had to protect him from these five geezers
who were ready to beat him up. It was insane.
"But it's still true he lost it for a long while. The whole band did - for months! Those Swedish
gigs... that secret tour of England... all those gigs were terrible, awful, and it was all down to
him 'poncing' about.
"One time, I took him aside and said, 'Listen matey, just take a look at yourself in the mirror!
You look awful! And worse than that, you've become a hypocrite. You're acting like all those
pop stars you started off putting down, mate. Just take a good look!'
"And he broke down and admitted it to me. He knew I was right.
"Like," Vicious continues, "I've been just so-o depressed about this band, you wouldn't believe.
We were just wanking off, that's all, when we should have been doing what we're supposed to
be all along, which is... being the greatest rock'n'roll band in the universe."
VICIOUS IS still split in his views on the rest of the band - "I mean, all three of them are real
straights in a way. I mean, I can't stand their lifestyle. Sitting around bars drinking beer, getting
fat and screwing the occasional whore. Disgusting, it is."
Yet Steve Jones remains "still the greatest guitarist on this planet" and even though Vicious
half the time raves about his own brilliance, he's still totally unsure of himself. "Half the time I
just feel I'm the most the useless cunt in the whole group. That's the worse thing. I'm certainly
the worst musician... but I'm... I do believe this... I'm the only one left with any real sense of
what this band started out to be, originally."
And that's all true. Vicious doesn't have a bodyguard or a new car (the latter unlike the other
three) and he's still very much out on the edge. Indeed his whole 'hazardous' life-style has
more than once had him pegged as the next 'dead' rock star.
One ex-confidante of McLaren's claimed once, perhaps in spite as much as anything, that McLaren only took Vicious on because he'd make a good image for the band when
he died. A gruesome proposition, I still mention it to Vicious at one point in the conversation. Strangely enough, his agreeable answer is quite disarming off-hand.
"Yeah, maybe that's true. Maybe that's why Malcolm has me in his band. I mean, I could easily end up dead quite soon. But then again, that's just my tough shit, isn't it?"
(New Musical Express December 17th 1977)
|IT WAS past 2 a.m
in the morning
when he phoned
during yet another
sleepless night - his
fifth, he reckoned -
yet one thing had
occurred the night
before that made
this whole painful
|WHEN I FIRST encountered
our subject, he was known
purely as "Sid". Ironically
enough, it was in front of
the Earls Court Olympia on
the last night of The Rolling
Stones' summer season there
a year and a half ago. I was
wandering around with all
four members of The
Damned, while stray figures
who'd later be identified as
members of the Pistols and
The Clash were there also.
|The Sex Pistols best rocknroll gig ever according to Mr Vicious
and by this fantastic shot you'd be hard pressed not to agree.
|However, when the dailies grabbed the
whole sordid, trivial episode and threw
it all over their tabloids, the shit well and
truly hit the fan.