Jessie Lilley
Buddy Barnett
Brad Linaweaver

November 2009     Web Edition     Issue #3

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Odeon / 2009


By Those Who Really Knew Him

The life of Sid Vicious is not that difficult to sum up. It's the story of a street punk hanger-on who was invited into the Sex Pistols, even though he had no musical talent. It's the woeful tale of a wretch who probably murdered his girlfriend, but who died of a heroin overdose before he could go to trial. That's pretty much what the man who was born Simon John Beverley "accomplished" during his short 21 years on Earth, but in so doing he became a punk icon. Perhaps the most legendary of all time.

This documentary doesn't seek to prove anything; it just tells Sid's story through the eyes of some of those who lived it with him. Notably, Pistols personality John Lydon/Johnny Rotten does not participate in the film, but those who do pull no punches in their commentary. Jah Wobble of P.I.L. recalls how his stomach turned as he watched Sid shoot up with his mother, while Sid's one-time love interest and flatmate, Viv Albertine of the Slits, tells how he regularly pissed the bed. As if that's not already TMI, Albertine adds that, "It smelled like Newcastle Brown Ale."

Glen Matlock, Rat Scabies, the late Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood are among the many musicians and scenesters contributing remembrances. Westwood, like Albertine and most of the other women interviewed, can't help but light up when speaking of Sid's sex appeal. Some think Sid carefully crafted his image, that it was all a put-on. Nick Kent, a journalist for the NME that Sid whacked with a heavy chain, thinks differently. Girlfriend and would-be manager Nancy Spungeon is portrayed though, as universally disliked; all are of the opinion that a life already in chaos managed to get even worse once the bÍte noire came along.

A clip showing Sid being interviewed on television is especially prescient. When the interviewer asks Sid where he wants to be next, Sid replies without hesitation, "Under the ground." With lots of performance and other archival footage inserted between interview segments, this film makes for riveting viewing while explaining exactly how Sid got his wish.

—Kevin Wierzbicki