Sid Vicious, born John Simon Ritchie (10 May 1957 – 2 February 1979), was an English musician who was the bassist of the punk group Sex Pistols. Vicious joined the Sex Pistols in early 1977 to replace Glen Matlock. Since his skills on bass guitar were highly questionable, Vicious only performed on one song on the band's sole studio album Never Mind the Bollocks. During the brief drug-filled ascendancy of the Sex Pistols, Vicious met his girlfriend and manager Nancy Spungen, who died of a stab wound while in the presence of Vicious. Vicious was subsequently arrested and held in jail. Shortly after being released, he died of heroin overdose.
Sid Vicious was born John Simon Ritchie in Lewisham, South East London, to John and Anne Ritchie (née McDonald). His mother dropped out of school early due to a lack of academic success and went on to join the RAF, where she met her husband-to-be, Ritchie's father. He was a guardsman at Buckingham Palace and a semi-professional trombone player on the London Jazz scene. Shortly after Ritchie's birth, he and his mother moved to Ibiza, where they expected to be joined by his father who, it was planned, would support them financially in the meantime. However, after the first few pay checks failed to arrive, Anne realised that he would not be coming. Anne later married Christopher Beverley, a middle class man in 1965, before setting up a family home back in Kent. Ritchie took his stepfather's surname and was known as John Beverley.
Ritchie's stepfather died six months later from cancer, and by 1968 he and his mother were living in a rented flat in Tunbridge Wells, where he attended Sandown Court School. In 1971, the pair moved to Hackney in east London. He also spent some time living in Somerset.
Ritchie first met John Lydon in 1973, when they were both students at Hackney Technical College. Lydon describes Ritchie at this time as a David Bowie fan, and a "clothes hound".
By age 17, Ritchie had begun to hang around London. One favourite spot was Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's then-little-known clothing store, SEX. There he met American expatriate Chrissie Hynde before she formed the Pretenders. Though at least five years older, she tried (but failed) to convince Ritchie to join her in a sham marriage so she could get a work permit.
Ritchie was given the nickname "Sid Vicious" by John Lydon, after Lydon's pet hamster, Sid. The hamster had bitten Ritchie, who said that "Sid is really vicious!" The animal was described by Lydon as "the softest, furriest, weediest thing on earth." At the time, Ritchie was squatting with Lydon, John Joseph Wardle (Jah Wobble), and John Gray, and the four were colloquially known as "The Four Johns".
According to Lydon, the two of them would often busk for money with Vicious playing the tambourine. They would play Alice Cooper covers, and people gave them money to be quiet. Once a man gave them "three bob" (three shillings, i.e. 15p in decimal currency) and they all danced.
According to the band's photographer, Dennis Morris, Ritchie was "deep down, a shy person." However, he did assault NME journalist Nick Kent with a motorbike chain with help from Jah Wobble. On another occasion, at the Speakeasy (a London nightclub popular with rock stars of the day) he threatened BBC DJ and Old Grey Whistle Test presenter Bob Harris.