Sid Vicious — Friend and Collaborator
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We were all at that Ealing party. Sid, Johnny, Siouxsie, Malcolm, Vivienne, the Clash, the Captain, me. All the mothers and fathers of the revolution. At the time nobody understood us. Even we did not understand us. Some of us did not even know there was an us, it was all embryonic. We just said our say and necked our chemicals without thinking about the generation about to crawl out of our creative orifices.
Of course there were nights at the 101 Club, the Vortex or the End when the sweat fumes cleared long enough to think: fucking nice one. I’m fronting the Sluts. I wear a chain from my nose to the padlock in my pocket so that the workers will never wear a chain around their throats.
But fuck philosophy, as Sid often said, it’s exactly the kind of meaningless airy-fairyness we hate. Mostly the chain and padlock were there to beat the crowd back until our guitarist, Paul Hemorrhoid got stuck in to them. Because Paul was more than a musical genius, he was a former paratrooper. He could dropkick a skinhead ten yards—that man was punk. Hemorrhoid was a natural—the only one on the scene who didn’t need to change his last name.
The Sluts would have been the first to break if Hemorrhoid hadn’t been fitted up with a fake prescription charge. Even after he got out, K-Tel wanted us until Paul went and joined the Hare Krishnas. Occasionally when I’m back in London producing a record or something, I’ll see one of those bald gits peddling a stack of books on psychedelic meditation. Forgive me Buddha, but I gob on their paperwork for what they did to Paul and the Sluts. Still, no one is innocent: I myself may have pushed Paul away spiritually the time I introduced him as “the ugliest arse-grape ever to serve her majesty.”
They were great days, yes. But they were heady days
The real Sluts tragedy came 12 years later. Valerie Vulva, who a music journalist once called “the best drummer and the best shag in London,” would overdose, like so many of our friends, on vitamin supplements in LA in 1989.
Valerie and I were out of it at the party that night. Earlier, she and I had sniffed a lot of Ajax at the 101. She was rabbiting on about how selling the Sluts art would be prostitution. I was trying to tell her how much I hated the Victorian squalor of these squats. Why should we feel our way through these woolly jumpered students in their stone age hovels? Didn’t they know that punk was electricity? Think about the Sluts without the electric light, the electric ear-piercing gun, the electric guitar, I told her, yet after every gig they drag us halfway to Brighton, to these prehistoric kips with no heating, no light and warm cider. True anarchists would occupy the abodes of the upper classes.
But Valerie continued banging on about integrity and whores.
“Valerie, if you don’t shut the fuck up and listen, I am going to kill you and sell your body,” I said.
It’s spooky, looking back from the future that Sid used those words to locate us in the darkness. He was kicking in a banister or pissing down the stairs, I can never remember which. When he heard me, he dived over the stairway and stuck his finger in Valerie’s face. I recognized his voice.
“Have you got any booze?”
“No but the Pistols were shit tonight,” I said.
Our meeting was like the first paragraph in the Britannica entry on the punk era. Sid, his hair still in a cow’s lick in those days, his breath already stinking of cider, said he had seen the Sluts and even remembered one of our songs, “The System.” He said he hated us. He also hated squatters, he hated bands who published their music and he hated drugs. Sid insisted that we join him snorting some gunpowder he had knicked somewhere. No sooner had our nostrils cleared of blood than the three of us spontaneously composed a song together. The song, “Fuck This Party” almost became the Sluts first single. Instead, the Pistols released the number as “God Save the Queen.”
When I confronted him at a mutual friend’s wedding about the theft of our material, Sid stabbed me in the face with a cake-slicer. In self defense, I knocked one of his teeth out with a model of the bride and groom, straining my relationship with Sid and the Hagmans (Larry and I have still not spoken). But I remained his best friend until the end. We moved to LA at around the same time (I only lasted ten days—the fakest crowds I have ever played). He ran his motorbike into me only weeks before the accident with Nancy.
“You’re too industrialized,” I said before slamming the French windows on him and his scooter. I didn’t realize that this prophetic epithet would be the last thing I would say to Sid Vicious (apart from leaving the message “fuck you” on his answering machine).
To me, quintessential Sid memories all involve Russian poetry. We never read any at the time. But our debates at parties, in airports and by dirty postcard could have been lifted straight from the pages of Alexander Blok. Sid’s mind bounded from one subject to the next like a gadfly in a meadow. One afternoon sniffing jet fuel in Heathrow, we talked about classical and jazz music for two hours. I was surprised to find that Sid had an intimate knowledge of artists like Mozart and Puccini. His senses revolted against them until he vomited on the runway, simultaneously wetting his pants. To me, the blancmange of puke in the planes’ take-off lights symbolized our new music, our new world.
Critics say that I abused my friendship with Sid by offering fragments of his tooth with my trilogy of Afro-punk records after his death. But Sid and I promised one another on our first meeting that whoever lived longer would sell parts of the other to the public. We promised each other while the purple dawn filled a kerosene container of cider. My eyes squinted like a newborn baby’s somewhere in Ealing sometime in 1977.