A Vicious Anniversary

A Vicious Anniversary
L: Sid & Nancy (image courtesy of LIFE, London Features International ); R: Sid's mugshot after Nancy's death (image courtesy of LIFE, Michael Ochs Archives / Getty)

On this day in 1979, Sex Pistols punk rocker Sid Vicious was found dead of a heroin overdose in a Greenwich Village apartment.  Born John Simon Ritchie, Vicious (as he came to be known) joined the band in 1977, taking over for bassist Glen Matlock.  Vicious notoriously faked his musical ability, with his own band mates often unplugging his amp.  A brooding street kid from London, he appeared to be the perfect embodiment of the punk rock attitude.  His downward spiral, however, started not long after joining the Pistols and meeting girlfriend Nancy Spungen.

L: Sid & Nancy (image courtesy of LIFE, London Features International ); R: Sid's mugshot after Nancy's death (image courtesy of LIFE, Michael Ochs Archives / Getty)

Vicious and Spungen’s relationship was extremely volatile, due in large part to both of their intense heroin addictions.  In January of 1978, their deterioration spread to the group and the Sex Pistols broke up.  Nancy became her boyfriend’s manager as he embarked on a solo career.  During this time, Vicious found success playing gigs at Max’s Kansas City.

In October of that year, Spungen was found dead in Room 100 of the Chelsea Hotel, which she and Sid had been sharing.  She bled to death from a single stab wound to the abdomen- a wound inflicted by a knife purchased by Vicious.   He was charged with murder and attempted to slit his wrists in prison. He was soon released on bail and just two months later, he was back behind bars at Rikers for assaulting Patti Smith’s brother in a bar, cutting his face with a broken bottle.  On February 1st, 1979, after completing a rehab and detox program, he was again released on bail, this time for $50,000.  Just hours later he attended a party in Greenwich Village that would end his life.

L: Hotel Chelsea; R: 63 Bank Street

63 Bank Street was the home of Sid’s new girlfriend, actress Michele Robison, whom he met a year earlier, the day he was released from Bellevue after slitting his wrists.  The party that evening was thrown to celebrate his making bail.   He was clean now, but his mother, Anne Beverly, a fellow addict, had heroin delivered to the party that night.  This supply was 80% pure and at midnight, Sid started shooting up again.  According to BBC, “Shortly after taking the drug Mr Vicious, 21, collapsed, went into seizure and displayed the symptoms of overdose. He revived 40 minutes later and went to bed with his girlfriend, Michelle Robinson, at about 0300 local time.  He was found dead the next morning.”  As per a request written in a previous suicide note, Sid Vicious’ ashes were scattered over Nancy’s grave.

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Dana
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Dana was GVSHP's Programs and Administrative Associate from 2010 to 2013.

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