Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch Series,”where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

The Sex Pistols, rock group who created the British punk movement of the late 1970s and who, with the song “God Save the Queen,” became a symbol of the United Kingdom’s social and political turmoil.

The Sex Pistols began mixing 1960s English pop music influences (the Small Faces, the Who) with those of 1970s rock renegades (Iggy and the Stooges, the New York Dolls) in an attempt to strip rock’s complexities to the bone. By the summer of 1976 the Sex Pistols had attracted an avid fan base and successfully updated the energies of the 1960s mods for the malignant teenage mood of the ’70s. Heavily stylized in their image and music, media-savvy, and ambitious in their use of lyrics, the Sex Pistols became the leaders of a new teenage movement—called punk by the British press—in the autumn of 1976.

The Sex Pistols were formed in London in 1975. Although their initial career lasted just two and a half years, they are regarded as one of the most groundbreaking acts in the history of popular music.

Sid Vicious is credited with inventing the “Pogo,” where you bounce up and down to the music. This eventually led to moshing.

Sid’s real name was John Simon Ritchie; he and John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) were part of a gang called The Johns. He got his new moniker when Rotten’s Hamster Sid bit John Ritchie’s finger; he yelped and said “Your Sid was vicious.”

Sid Vicious died on February 2, 1979 of an overdose of heroin his mother had bought for him. It was likely an intentional suicide as Sid was extremely depressed about his role in the death of his girlfriend, groupie Nancy Spungen. The couple were the subject of the 1986 film Sid and Nancy.

After Johnny Rotten left The Sex Pistols he formed a new band, Public Image LTD (PiL) and reverted back to his original name, Lydon.

In 2004, John Lydon appeared on a British reality TV program set in an Australian jungle called I’m a Celebrity, get me outta here! He caused controversy by saying the C-word live on British TV.

In 2005, they were voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In true punk rock form, they refused to attend the ceremony and sent a note to Rolling Stone magazine voicing their displeasure with the institution (“Next to the Sex Pistols, that Hall Of Fame is a piss stain”). Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner read the note in its entirety at the ceremony.

Johnny Rotten was known to wear a shirt that said “Pink Floyd sucks” as punk was rebelling not only against society, but also the complex progressive music which Pink Floyd were a perfect example of. David Gilmour (guitarist of Pink Floyd) has said that when he met Rotten that the Sex Pistol singer apologized for the stunt and admitted he was a fan of Pink Floyd.

They were known first as The Strand, then The Swankers before settling on The Sex Pistols.

Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols is the only studio album they released. All others were live albums, compilations or movie soundtracks.

In November 2007, The Sex Pistols reformed to play five nights at Brixton’s Carling Academy and also gigs in Glasgow and Manchester. They also played on The Craig Fergurson Show and The Jay Leno Show.

Also in 2007, they rerecorded “Anarchy In The UK” and “Pretty Vacant” for Guitar Hero.

When the band was conceived, Steve Jones was the lead singer. He moved to guitar when original member Wally Nightingale left, which left an opening for a frontman. Rotten got the job when he auditioned for their manager Malcolm McLaren by lip-synching to the Alice Cooper song “I’m Eighteen.”

Johnny Rotten has described the band as “musical vaudeville” and “evil burlesque,” admitting that their image and stage shows are as important as their music. Alice Cooper was a big influence on him.

John Lydon revealed to the Scottish Daily Record that Mick Jagger paid for Sid Vicious’ lawyers when Sid was under arrest for the murder of Nancy Spungeon in 1978. “I don’t think Malcolm lifted a finger,” mused Lydon. “For that I have a good liking of Mick Jagger.”

In an interview with John Lydon, he talked about how being outspoken has been both a blessing and a curse. “I can end up my own worst enemy – just by speaking as I find,” he said. “Sometimes, the truth hurts. But it needs to be told.”

John Lydon and his wife Nora almost died in the December 21, 1988 Lockerbie bombing – they were booked on Pan Am Flight 103, which was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew. However, according to Lydon, “she didn’t pack her case in time, so we canceled.”

On October 8, 1976, EMI signed the Sex Pistols to a two-year contract. However the label got cold feet when the band caused a national scandal by swearing on-air during an early evening live broadcast of a program hosted by Bill Grundy. Richard Branson quickly advantage of the situation and signed the Pistols to Virgin. He recalled to NME:

“Having seen them live, I was determined to sign them even though they had already signed with EMI. I called the company’s president and said, ‘If you want to get rid of the Sex Pistols, I’m happy to step in.’ He said, ‘No, I’m very happy with them.’

Anyway, that night they went on The Bill Grundy Show and he called my home number and said, ‘We’ll hand over the contract at 6am tomorrow.’ Malcolm McLaren, being very Machiavellian, signed the band with A&M the next day and got more money. But Sid Vicious threw up all over the A&M office [so the company changed its mind] and we finally got them in the afternoon. The Sex Pistols gave Virgin an edge.”

Their original bass player Glen Matlock left the band and was replaced by Sid Vicious in 1977 before Never Mind the Bollocks… was released. The split was precipitated by conflict with Johnny Rotten, although Malcolm McLaren claimed he was fired because of his Beatles influence. Matlock says he’s “not that big of a Beatles fan.”

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, Punk Rock Edition, where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

The Sex Pistols were an English punk rock band that formed in London in 1975. They were responsible for initiating the punk movement in the United Kingdom and inspiring many later punk and alternative rock musicians. Although their initial career lasted just two and a half years and produced only four singles and one studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, they are regarded as one of the most influential acts in the history of popular music.

The Sex Pistols ARE punk; the rest are “punk rock”.

In mid-1970s Great Britain, punk rock spoke to the frustrations and rage of mostly working-class adolescents and young adults, frustrations and rage the punks of that moment wore on their proverbial sleeves. This was apparent in their fashion, in their politics, and in the music to which they listened — breakneck songs played at harsh volumes by do-it-yourself players who might have only picked up their instruments a week before someone booked them for a basement gig or pushed “Record” on the tape deck.

Into this scene stepped the Sex Pistols — drummer Paul Cook, guitarist Steve Jones, bassist Sid Vicious, and the singer known as Johnny Rotten. The band’s music was a scabrous racket whose lyrics dealt with upending authority and good taste in all its forms; it was music to cause outrage, every blessed minute of it. “God save the Queen,” Rotten sang, “and her fascist regime.” But while the band was sowing chaos and thumbing their noses at censors, there was darkness afoot within the group itself. Drugs were a major factor, as was a personal animosity that developed between band members. After the band broke up, less than a year after most people had first heard of them, a deeper darkness descended, and lives were lost in its wake. This is the tragedy behind one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most incendiary musical forces — the Sex Pistols.

The Sex Pistols were born the day in 1975 that John Lydon walked into the band’s rehearsal space wearing a Pink Floyd T-shirt with the words “I Hate” written above the logo, and walked out of the rehearsal space as Johnny Rotten. For the next three years, the Pistols would tear through stages at colleges, art schools, and other establishments. Steve Jones summed up the band’s philosophy when he told a reporter, “Actually, we’re not into music. We’re into chaos.”

Sid Vicious joined the Sex Pistols in 1977, replacing Glen Matlock not because Sid could play bass (he couldn’t), but because he looked the part of a punk. The band’s single “God Save the Queen” was banned by the BBC but went to the top of the British singles chart anyway. In late October of that year they released their only studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, which Rolling Stone then called “just about the most exciting rock ‘n’ roll record of the ’70s.” Several major retailers in the U.K. refused to stock the record; nevertheless, it went into the British album chart at No. 1. In January 1978, the Pistols began a 12-date U.S. tour, but the group broke up after the final show in San Francisco, torn apart by in-fighting and drug use. At the show’s conclusion, Rotten asked the audience, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” He then dropped his microphone and left the stage.

Sid Vicious’ girlfriend Nancy Spungen was a Philadelphia native who arrived on the New York punk scene at age 17 and soon garnered a reputation as an extraordinarily dangerous character, in a culture full of dangerous characters. Immediately upon arrival, according to New York Magazine, she began abusing drugs, sleeping with musicians, and exhibiting violent tendencies. These were extensions of her harrowing childhood, when she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, placed in a boarding school for children with special needs, and committed to a mental institution. Her mother Deborah’s memoir, And I Don’t Want to Live This Life: A Mother’s Story of Her Daughter’s Murder, contains reminiscences of Spungen’s disturbing behavior as a child, from attempting to harm the family’s pet, to physical attacks on family members, to a spate of drug overdoses.

Eventually, Spungen ventured out to London where she met and became attached to Sid Vicious, just as the Sex Pistols were closing in on their historic flame-out. The rest of the band detested her, banning her from their ill-fated U.S. tour in 1978. In his memoir No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs, Johnny Rotten called her “a very self-destructive human being who was determined to take as many people down with her as possible.” The tour ended with the Pistols breaking up, which allowed Sid and Nancy to head off together as they pleased.

Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen returned to England, where Vicious attempted to start a solo career, with Spungen now acting as his manager, or at least telling people she was. Things didn’t go well, so the pair decamped for New York in August 1978, moving into the Chelsea Hotel, the last stop for troubled people of all stripes. Returning to the city on the arm of a Sex Pistol was something Spungen lorded over her old New York punk cronies, who hadn’t much liked her to begin with. “Some people were outraged by it,” photographer Eileen Polk told New York Magazine. “They just couldn’t believe that she had succeeded in her quest.”

Life for the punk couple was anything but idyllic. Their drug intake, for one, had spiraled out of control. Guitarist Richard Lloyd told New York Magazine, “To hang out with Nancy and Sid was to make a grievous mistake for your own health.” At the Chelsea on the night of October 11, witnesses saw Vicious take as many as 30 tablets of the sedative Tuinal and pass out, according to Rolling Stone. Spungen was last seen at 2:30 a.m., asking one of Vicious’ friends to go out and get drugs. At 10:00 a.m., Vicious called the front desk, saying he’d awoken and found Spungen dead on the floor of their bathroom, stabbed in the abdomen. That afternoon, he was arrested for her murder; he confessed to the crime, but later recanted.

In early December 1978, Sid Vicious, out on bail awaiting trial for Nancy Spungen’s murder, was sent to Rikers Island prison after being arrested for assaulting a man in a bar fight. While at Rikers, he went through detox and rehabilitation, and upon completing rehab in February 1979, he was once again released on bail. According to The Independent, his mother, Anne Beverley (who herself had a drug habit), threw Vicious a party at his new girlfriend Michelle Robinson’s apartment to celebrate his release. Eileen Polk was there and remembered, “It got late and the guys with drugs showed up, and the rest is history.”

“History” has shown that Vicious was found dead by Beverley and Robinson around noon the next day, according to Rolling Stone. He was lying face up in bed, with Robinson sleeping next to him. The New York Daily News reported at the time that Vicious had injected drugs in a bathroom during the party, and quoted the medical examiner on the scene as saying “individuals who have been detoxified are vulnerable to overdoses if they go back to taking drugs in the same quantity as before.” There were some, however, who thought the overdose was a suicide, the result of a pact between Vicious and Spungen. No real evidence of any such bargain has ever been revealed.

Some who knew Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen find it inconceivable that he would kill her. “He was just too much in love with her,” photographer Dennis Morris told The Telegraph. For years, rumors surfaced about who other than Vicious might have been responsible. Rolling Stone cited punk author Phil Strongman in reporting that the actor and drug dealer known as Rockets Redglare might have been responsible. Vicious had received a royalty payment for $25,000 from his record company, and, according to Strongman, the room at the Chelsea had cash all over it.

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