Last weekend I got around to watching the documentary on Sid Vicious, Sid! By Those Who Really Knew Him, which I had rented from iTunes ages ago. The documentary is an attempt to counteract the popular perception of Sid as a bumbling idiot, the laughing stock of the Sex Pistols, and so it interviews his friends and colleagues to try and paint a more sympathetic picture. Amongst those interviewed were Caroline Coon, Jah Wobble, Glen Matlock, Steve Severin (The Banshees), Viv Albertine (The Slits), Rat Scabies, Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren.
Those interviewed talk about a sensitive, handsome man who was very funny and articulate. He was awkward with women and very shy and spent most of his time hanging out with friends and going to see the Sex Pistols, when Glen Matlock was their original bass player. Sid was part of gang of avid Pistols fans, along with Siouxie Sioux and Jordan (no, not that one) who collectively earned the name “The Bromley Contingent“. When Glen and the rest of the band began to diverge in views, Johnny thought that Sid, who looked like the quintessential punk, would be a perfect replacement despite the fact that Sid had no idea how to play the instrument.
The documentary is divided up into sections and towards the end of the film there is the section called “Nancy”, about Nancy Spungen, the ex-stripper, groupie and junkie who became Sid’s great love. I have to say that I find the attitudes of those in the punk scene reprehensible when it comes to Nancy. They demonise her and blame her entirely for Sid’s demise. One interviewee even goes as far as to say that Sid would be alive now were it not for Nancy.
One has to remember that Sid first came into contact with drugs through his mother, who was a heroin addict and who frequently shot up in front of her son. Sid in turn abused multiple drugs before he met Nancy and was already an intravenous speed user. Nancy, while perhaps annoying, grating and dislikable, was essentially a mentally ill teenage girl (she was diagnosed with schizophrenia at fifteen) and doesn’t deserve the brunt of the blame. In fact she looked after Sid and demonstrably loved him, perhaps more than any other woman in his life including his mother.
Sid! By Those Who Really Knew Him is an interesting documentary, particularly for the reminiscences of Jah Wobble and Viv Albertine both of whom were great friends of Sid. It’s definitely worth a watch if you’re a Pistols fan but others may find it hard to care about two teenage drug addicts who wasted their lives and died before their time.