On this day in 1979, Sex Pistols member Sid Vicious dies of a heroin overdose in New York. His death came just one day after he was released from prison on bail after his arrest on suspicion of murdering his girlfriend.The Sex Pistols were formed in 1975 by Malcolm McLaren, owner of a counterculture boutique in London who wanted to create a band that would challenge norms of acceptable behavior. Accordingly, the Sex Pistols’ live performances were fraught with foul language and a rebellious energy that drew a large following even before they released their first single, “Anarchy in the U.K.,” in 1977.
Vicious had been one of the Sex Pistols’ most devoted fans when he was invited to replace the band’s bassist, Glen Matlock, in March 1977. Later that year, the group released its only album Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols, which laid the foundation of punk music. But an earlier single, “God Save the Queen,” mocking Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, had been banned from airplay in the United Kingdom. No concert hall in England would book the group, so the Sex Pistols began touring in the United States, producing concerts that often turned violent. Vicious himself was renowned for vomiting on stage. Members of the group cursed on national television during a promotional campaign and were dumped by more than one record company for their irreverence. Nevertheless, the group amassed a variety of hits in the United States and England, including “Pretty Vacant,” “Something Else/Friggin’ in the Riggin’,” and “C’mon Everybody.”
In January 1978, the band announced its breakup. Vicious began performing solo, but heroin abuse doomed his musical career. In October 1978, Vicious was arrested for stabbing his girlfriend, 20-year-old go-go dancer Nancy Spungeon, to death in their Chelsea Hotel room. Though he initially denied killing her, the district attorney’s office later released an alleged confession. On February 2, 1979, the day after Vicious was freed from jail on bail, he attended a party at his new girlfriend’s house, injected a lethal dose of heroin, and died. In 1986, a critically acclaimed film, Sid and Nancy, starring Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb, portrayed the couple’s tumultuous relationship onscreen.