February 1st 1979
Sid Vicious was perhaps the most punk rock of all. Alongside Rotten, Sid was the public face of Punk Rock, with his black spiked up hair, pale complexion, ever present sneer and leather bikers boots.
He punked to the max, he had followed the mantra of “and we don’t care..” to it’s furthest extreme and after the break up of the Sex Pistols had holed up in the Chelsea Hotel with his co-dependent girlfriend in an orgy of self destruction. Years before reality TV was invented, but through coverage in the music papers and the tabloid press we were forced to watch Sid’s downward spiral, which seemed to have all the weight and inevitability of gravity itself. Already awaiting trial for the alleged murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, Sid had been arrested again in December 1978 after attacking Patti Smith’s brother Todd at a bar in Manhattan. He was sent to Riker’s Island correctional facility where he spent 55 days undergoing an enforced de-toxification. He was released on bail on February 1st 1979. He was clean of drugs.
As a 14 year old, it was increasingly hard to justify my allegiance to someone who had been portrayed in the media as some kind of monster. My mother would read sections of the Daily Mail out at me as I sat opposite her as we watched Nationwide. “An uncaring self destructive murderer on drugs serving time for assault”. I had to admit that this was the sort of wording that was never going to look good on a CV or as the start of a formal introduction. Despite the facts, I still thought Sid was cool, he had all the swagger and the sneer of someone who knew all the answers and he might just tell us what they were. As the evening news reported his release, I hung onto the hope that maybe now, without the crazy girlfriend and the drugs, he was back on form and could somehow turn it all around and prove all his critics, all the tutting parents up and down the country, and all those finger wagging columnists wrong.
February 1st 1979