... he died on February 2, 1979 when he was 21 years-old.
Born John Simon Ritchie in South East London, England, Sid Vicious was best known as the bassist of the influential punk rock group Sex Pistols. In 2006 he was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Sex Pistols.
His father was a guardsman at Buckingham Palace and a semi-professional trombone player on the London Jazz scene. Shortly after John's birth, he and his mother moved to the island of Ibiza, where they expected to be joined by John's father, who was supposed to support the family financially until he joined them. The money never arrived. His mother remarried, and they moved to Kent. John took his stepfather's surname and became John Beverley.
John was given the nickname "Sid Vicious" by John Lydon who became his bandmate known as Johnny Rotten. The name came from Lydon's pet hamster Sid after he bit Ritchie.
The two of them would often busk for money with Sid playing the tambourine; mostly they played Alice Cooper covers, and people gave them money to be quiet.
Vicious began his musical career in 1976 as a member of The Flowers of Romance along with Palmolive (Paloma Romero,) Viv Albertine and former co-founding member of The Clash, Keith Levene (who later co-founded John Lydon's post-Pistols project Public Image Limited.) Vicious was considered for the position of lead singer for The Damned but failed to show up for the audition.
Before joining the band, Vicious had associations with The Bromley Contingent, the fashion avant garde that followed the Sex Pistols. Vicious was asked to join the group after Glen Matlock's departure in February 1977 due to his being present at every gig. Manager Malcolm McLaren once claimed "if Johnny Rotten is the voice of punk, then Vicious is the attitude."
McLaren also said in person and in a documentary that if he'd met Vicious before he had hired Rotten to be the singer, Vicious would have been the Sex Pistols front man, because he had the most charisma of anyone on that stage.
Vicious played his first gig with the Pistols on April 3, 1977 at the The Screen On The Green in London. His debut was filmed by Don Letts and appears in Punk Rock Movie. In November 1977, Vicious met American groupie Nancy Spungen who became his girlfriend.
Both the group and Vicious visibly deteriorated during their 1978 American tour. The Pistols broke up in San Francisco after their concert at the Winterland Ballroom on January 14, 1978.
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-----With Spungen acting as his "manager," Vicious embarked on a solo career during which he performed with musicians including Mick Jones of The Clash, original Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, Rat Scabies of The Damned and the New York Dolls' Arthur Kane, Jerry Nolan, and Johnny Thunders. Vicious performed the majority of his performances at Max's Kansas City. His final performances as a solo musician took place at Max's.
Vicious was not considered a competent bass player, but he did try hard to learn to play. Supposedly, one night he played the first Ramones album nonstop, all night, then next morning, Sid could play the bass. By the time of the last Sex Pistols gig at the Winterland in San Francisco Sid was a reasonably competent bass player which is evident in film footage.
On the morning of October 12, 1978, Vicious claimed to have awoken from a drugged stupor to find Nancy Spungen dead on the bathroom floor of their room in the Hotel Chelsea in Manhattan, New York. She had suffered a single stab wound to her abdomen and appeared to have bled to death. The knife used had been bought by Vicious on 42nd Street and was identical to a collector's knife given to punk rock vocalist Stiv Bators of the Dead Boys by Dee Dee Ramone.
Vicious was arrested and charged with her murder. He said they had fought that night but gave conflicting versions of what happened next, saying, "I stabbed her, but I didn't mean to kill her. I loved her, but she treated me like shit," then saying that he did not remember and at one point arguing Spungen had fallen onto the knife.
On February 1, 1979, a small group of people met at the New York apartment of his new girlfriend, Michele Robison, whom he had started dating the day he got out of Bellevue Hospital the previous October. Vicious was clean, having been on a detoxification methadone program detoxed from heroin during his time at Rikers Island.
However, at the dinner gathering, his mother - who was a registered addict herself - had heroin delivered, against the wishes of Sid's girlfriend. Vicious overdosed and was discovered dead late the next morning.
An autopsy confirmed that Vicious died from an accumulation of fluid in the lungs that was consistent with heroin overdose. A syringe, spoon, and heroin residue were discovered near the body. It was theorized that he had injected himself with an excess of the nearly 80%-pure heroin.
A few days after Vicious' cremation, his mother found an alleged suicide note in the pocket of his jacket:
We had a death pact, and I have to keep my half of the bargain. Please bury me next to my baby in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Goodbye.
Nancy was buried in a Jewish cemetery and Vicious, who was not Jewish, could not be buried with her. According to the book Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, Vicious' mother scattered his ashes over Nancy's grave.