Sid Vicious Dead At 21

Drug overdose blamed

Sid Vicious
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Sid Vicious
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Sid vicious the twenty-one-year-old former Sex Pistol accused of murdering his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, was found dead in a Greenwich Village apartment on February 2nd, less than twenty-four hours after he was released from prison on $50,000 bail.

Vicious was found lying face up in bed in the apartment of Michelle Robinson, described by police as a "lady friend" of Vicious, at about 12:30 p.m. by Robinson and Vicious' mother, Ann Beverly. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the New York City morgue. Police said the cause of death was a drug overdose. No other details were available at press time.

Vicious came into the public eye when he began playing bass for England's premier punk-rock band, the Sex Pistols, in early 1977. About a year later, after an abbreviated American tour that led to the dissolution of the band, Vicious overdosed on pills and alcohol during a flight from Los Angeles to New York and had to be hospitalized. After returning to England, he cut a single, "My Way," which rose to the Top Twenty on the British charts. Then in August, he and Spungen moved to New York City.

On October 12th, Vicious was arrested and charged with the fatal stabbing of Spungen in the Chelsea Hotel. Five days later he was released on $50,000 bail posted by Virgin Records, Vicious' British label. He remained free until December 8th, when he was remanded to Rikers Island prison after allegedly assaulting Todd Smith, brother of rock singer Patti Smith, in a Manhattan rock club. He remained in Rikers until February 1st.

The day Vicious was released from prison, his lawyer, James M. Merberg of F. Lee Bailey's law firm, unsuccessfully filed a motion to dismiss the murder charges. "I thought he had a real good case," Merberg said. "We were prepared to go to trial soon and offer a not-guilty plea instead of a psychiatric defense."

According to Merberg, Vicious was no longer addicted to heroin, as he had been when arrested for Spungen's murder. "He was a little bit of a mixed-up kid," Merberg said, "but yesterday he was absolutely straight as an arrow. He was detoxed from everything, including methadone."

This article is from the March 8th, 1979 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 286: March 8, 1979