Friday, February 02, 2007
Sid Vicious - R.I.P.
On February 2, 1979, Sex Pistol, Sid Vicious, aged just 21, died from a heroin overdose right after his release from New York City's notorious Rikers Island lock-up. It was the end of the line for the guy who had been charged with killing his junkie girlfriend in a junkie stupor. Who knows (or cares) if he did it or if it was the work of drug dealers who intended to rob them after selling them the smack.
This really wasn't the Sid that Stiv Bators and I knew. The Sid Vicious that we knew was a huge music fan. He was a big fan of the Sex Pistols before he joined them, and still their biggest fan when he was in the band. He was also a big fan of the Dead Boys, showing an almost puppy like adoration of Stiv. He liked to hang around Stiv, and Stiv loved having Sid around. Maybe that's why I always suspected that it was Stiv who painted the "Sid Vicious R.I.P." legend on the billboard for the movie, "Heaven Can Wait."
I was sitting around at home when Stiv phoned and excitedly told me that there was a spray paint tribute to Sid on the prominently placed billboard on Sunset Blvd., near the trendy Chateau Marmont. This was a photo opportunity that Stiv wanted in on. So, I picked him up at his Tropicana bungalow and, camera in hand, fired off a roll of film.
Creem used the photo (without Stiv in it) as the centerpiece of their Sid Vicious obituary. Photo editor Charlie Auringer told me that the combination of "Heaven Can Wait" with the "Sid Vicious R.I.P." was just great photojournalism. I thank Stiv everyday for his keen eye for these things.
When hanging with the two of them - Stiv and Sid, I was regaled with Sex Pistols war stories such as the time that a Texas cowboy called Sid a "faggot" and Sid promptly stabbed himself in the palm to show how manly he was. In reality, Sid seemed to be a pretty shy guy, but he loved to tell that story to anyone who would listen. Its an example of the two distinctly different sides of his personality - not quite Jekyll and Hyde, but definitely, one side shy and quiet, the other side outrageous and prone to violent outbursts. I remember Stiv and Sid talked about music they liked and bands they had seen and girls they knew in common. They talked about solo projects they wanted to do. Stiv told Sid about the pre-punk days of Cleveland rock n roll and Sid was all ears. Above all else, I will always think of Sid as a big music fan, much more than as a musician.
Those guys were no different than the guys I always hung out with, and still hang out with.
That Sid was not such a competent musician is really irrelevant and totally beside the fact that he is a great anti-hero hero. Its nearly a fairy tale that a band's great fan gets to join that band. What kid brandishing a guitar in his bedroom or garage doesn't dream of the same thing? His cover of "My Way" - Frank Sinatra's signature song - is so appropriate to Sid's life, as a young man and as a punk rocker, and ultimately a youth culture icon. He did, indeed do it his way...no regrets.
while today is the anniversary of Sid Vicious's death, it is also the 125th anniversary of the birth of James Joyce - in my opinion, the greatest writer in the English language after Shakespeare.