On February 1st, 1979, Sid Vicious was released on bail from Rikers Island prison in New York. He had spent 55 days inside after being arrested for the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. A charge that his lawyer was sure they would beat considering that Sid was so drugged out that he could barely walk, let alone have committed the brutal stabbing that had occurred in room 100 of New York’s Chelsea Hotel.
Sid couldn’t remember any of the events from the day that Nancy was murdered. Not even his supposed confession to police. Witnesses reported drug dealers going in and out of the room and Sid’s lawyers were using the high probability of robbery or a drug deal gone bad to cast a shadow of doubt upon Sid’s involvement.
During his incarceration at Rikers, Sid had been beaten and raped repeatedly. He had also gone through a cold-turkey withdrawal from heroin. For the first time since meeting his heroin addicted girlfriend Nancy two years earlier, Sid Vicious was clean.
In London, at the same time that Sid was being released, Sex Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren was locked in his own heated court battle with the band’s lead singer, Johnny Rotten. Rotten, who had gone back to using his birth name, John Lydon, was suing McLaren for unpaid royalties and the use of his name. The Sex Pistols had broken up the year before, and there was no love lost between these two London punk legends. Their life-long hatred of one another would make them the most famous rivalry in punk rock history.
McLaren had paid to bail Sid out, but he would later say he regretted not being present when Sid was released. Instead he was turned over to his mother, a heroin and speed addict who had introduced her son to drugs at a young age. The first thing on both mother and son’s agenda was getting Vicious a fix of heroin.
Sid Vicious, born John Simon Ritchie, was invited to join the Sex Pistols in 1977 as bassist by McLaren, even though he couldn’t play a note. All McLaren cared about was that, as a fan, he had showed up at every gig, and he had a certain charisma that McLaren felt superseded the necessity for musicianship. “It was no question–you couldn’t take your eyes off him, he shone so much more brightly than anyone else. The audience would always squeeze themselves all over to the left side whenever he boarded the stage, cause all they wanted to do was be as close as possible to Sid.”
Sid met Nancy Spungen shortly after joining the Pistols. He was a virgin, but she took care of that quickly. From that point on the two were inseparable. McLaren watched as Nancy led Sid down into the spiral of violence and heroin addiction that finally ended in both of their deaths.
The Sex Pistols attempted several times to get rid of Nancy. McLaren even admits in this documentary, “We beat up his girlfriend Nancy. I have to be honest with you. Wrapped her up, threw her in the back of this car and the roadie’s–Roadant I think it was–job was to drive her straight to Heathrow and put her on the next flight to the US. She kind of managed to break open the back door of the car and roll out onto the curb as a policeman was strolling by, and she was screaming ‘I’ve been kidnapped by the Sex Pistols! Help!'”
On Feb 2nd, 1979, the day that Sid Vicious was found dead from a heroin overdose, he was expected in court by noon to stand trial for the stabbing death of Nancy. He was twenty-one years old.
The night before he had been shooting up heroin all night. He overdosed once after midnight, but his friends and mother were able to revive him. As soon as he could talk again he asked for more. Who administered Sid’s final, fatal dose has long been a mystery; the only thing that was known for sure was that Sid couldn’t have done it himself; he didn’t have the strength after his initial overdose to tighten the tourniquet. He had begged the girl with him to do it, but she had refused.
Sid Vicious: His Final Hours thoroughly investigates what happened that night. It reveals who confessed to having administered that last dose and why. Vicious’s death has long been a suspected suicide, but now it seems that, although he didn’t inject himself, his death by overdose was intentional. The film also includes a conversation with New York rock photographer, Peter Kodiak, who talks about the guilt he has suffered knowing that he was the one who purchased the nearly 100% pure heroin that Sid overdosed on.
The series The Final 24, released by MVD Entertainment Group, is part documentary and part biography. It examines the lives of the famous dead, looking for the clues and the harbingers of what was to come. By examining the past, and re-creating the events that occurred on the day they died, Producer Nick Godwin is able to capture, through reflection, the tragic end that was always rushing towards them like a head-on train.
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