The name of the show was Superman Is Dead, and the initials spelled S.I.D.– as in Sid Vicious, the legendary bassist for the Sex Pistols. Friday night in Los Angeles, visual artist Shepard Fairey hosted his collaboration with storied photographer Dennis Morris: Morris's backstage pictures of Vicious (born John Ritchie in in 1957, dead by 1979), plus Fairey's paintings and prints based on those photos. And playing in the gallery's parking lot was Ritchie Love, a band assembled by Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones, with Billy Idol was on lead vocals, Clem Burke (Blondie) on drums, and Leigh Gorman (Bow Wow Wow) on bass. Check out the photos from the evening. –GAVIN EDWARDS
Fairey's paintings were priced from $5,000 to $35,000; the prints were considerably less and the democratic end of the price spectrum could be found with T-shirts ($20) and flyers ($20 signed, $10 unsigned).
"Please Do Not Disturb the Chaos," read a warning sign. The centerpiece of the art show was this installation, a recreation of a hotel room in Coventry, England, trashed by Vicious in 1977. It's painstakingly based on a documentary photograph by Morris, who described it as "what can happen on a bad night in rock 'n' roll."
Photographer Dennis Morris with artist Shepard Fairey and drummer Clem Burke. "You can't grow old, you have to be reckless," Fairey said of the public image of Vicious, who died at 21. "When you illustrate from the photos, you can push the dichotomy of Sid even further. Somebody suffered — in Sid's case, Nancy suffered."
British photographer Dennis Morris, most famous for his pictures of Bob Marley and the Sex Pistols. "He was a very gentle guy," Morris said of Vicious. "And a very beautiful guy — he was a James Dean figure in many ways."
Billy Idol, checking out the show.
To get the period materials necessary to recreate Vicious's hotel room, Fairey says, he spent a lot of time on eBay and Craigslist. He made a few tweaks to the photographic source material — the installation has pages torn out of a Boy Scout Manual, not a Bible. The TV set was obtained via Spencer Elden, the cover model for Nirvana's Nevermind — Elden worked for Fairey for a while, and has a father who does props for films.
Artist Shepard Fairey, in conversation with photographer Dennis Morris. Fairey became a Sex Pistols fan in 1984, at age 14, and later tried to apply their punk-rock philosophy to his art, defiantly covering the world with posters. He said the Pistols taught him that "courage and attitude and intelligence could go so far. That made me want to make shit happen."
Travis Barker of Blink-182 and the Transplants, with his son (and Sid Vicious super-fan) Landon.
Hundreds of fans stood on the sidewalk outside Fairey's gallery; Fred Armisen, star of Portlandia and creator of the British punk character Ian Rubbish on Saturday Night Live, made it inside.
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers with Moby. "Amazing night," Moby tweeted later. "I can't believe I got to hear 'rock 'n' roll swindle' 'my way' live." (Meaning the profane, rocked-up version of "My Way" peformed by Vicious in Julien Temple's Sex Pistols movie The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, and recreated on Friday night.)
Ritchie Love, with Billy Idol on lead vocals, ripped through a great 35-minute set. It was mostly songs that Vicious used to play, but with a couple of numbers from Generation X, the punk band that Idol sang with in the late Seventies. The set list (and the original performers): "I Wanna Be Your Dog" (the Stooges), "Somethin' Else" (Eddie Cochran), "Ready Steady Go" (Generation X), "Silly Thing" (the Sex Pistols, after Johnny Rotten left), "C'mon Everybody" (Eddie Cochran), "Dancing with Myself" (Generation X), "No Fun" (the Stooges), "My Way" (Frank Sinatra), "I'm Waiting for the Man" (the Velvet Underground).
What would Sid Vicious have thought of a star-studded evening of art and music devoted to him? "I have no idea," said his friend and bandmate Steve Jones. "It would depend on whether he got his shit together or not. He was in way over his head — we all were, but him especially."
Even with his roots showing underneath the peroxide, Billy Idol was in fine voice and full-on sneer. The band was twice as good as they needed to be: the audience would probably have been satisfied with some punk nostalgia, but they got a full-on blast of rock 'n' roll, transported from London 1977 to Los Angeles 2013.
Fairey wanted Steve Jones to assemble a band, feeling music was vital for a show about Vicious. "I begged him," Fairey said. "I have no shame." "The core was already together: Jones, Clem Burke, and Leigh Gorman had recently played with Ian Rubbish (Fred Armisen) at the Festival Supreme in Santa Monica. "And Billy Idol was there," Jones said, "doing a thing with Eric Idle."