Happy Birthday: Sid Vicious

Thursday, May 10, 2018
Sid Vicious

Today we celebrate the birthday of John Simon Ritchie, Jr., but you can call him “Sid,” or if you want to go all out, you can refer to him by the full name under which he achieved his fame: Sid Vicious.

Sid had a rough time of it growing up. His parents, John and Anne Ritchie, met in the Royal Air Force, but not long after Sid was born, his father skipped off, leaving Anne to scrimp and save and raise her son on her own. In 1965, Anne got remarried, this time to Christopher Beverly, but bad luck continued to reign: Christopher died of cancer a mere six months later. Anne moved her son around a fair amount in an effort to stay afloat, living variously in Tunbridge Wells and Clevedon, Somerset, but his future – short though it may have ultimately been – began to fall into place when they moved to Hackney, in East London. 

While attending Hackney Technical College, John Simon Ritchie, Jr. met John Lydon and struck up a friendship, one which led to Lydon giving Ritchie a nickname: “Sid Vicious,” taken from Lydon’s pet hamster, Sid, who bit Ritchie and caused him to bellow, “Sid is really vicious!” Yes, it sounds like an apocryphal tale, but it’s in The Filth and the Fury, so it must be true.

Sid started his music career, such as it was, when he joined The Flowers of Romance, a band which also featured Keith Levene and Palmolive and Viv Albertine. He also played drums for the first-ever gig by Siouxsie and the Banshees, and it’s been said that he was under consideration for lead singer of The Damned, but he failed the audition by failing to show up for it. It wasn’t long after that, however, that he was selected to serve as Glen Matlock’s replacement in the Sex Pistols, and the rest is punk rock history. 

Did Sid Vicious actually have any talent? The consensus seems to be that he might have had some ability as a musician, but he had limited opportunity to do anything with it because of his drug abuse. As a front man, though, he could’ve been a contender, to the degree that Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren said one more than one occasion that if he’d met Sid before Lydon, then Sid would’ve been the Pistols’ lead singer. 

Ah, what might’ve been…

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