Notoriety and Infamy Come to the Suburbs
Hudson County often resonates with a background energy that flows from its proximity to New York City. It is this proximity that often shapes our opinions, interests and even our musical tastes. In essence we could even say that Hudson County is an extension of New York and one that has seen its fair share of celebrities that have crossed the Hudson, perhaps in search of quieter ambiance or for a taste of the “normal” life. Anyone who was alive in the 1970s and 80s can attest to the grandiosity and debauchery that permeated the New York city nightlife. There was a perceived invincibility that shielded us from the politics of the time and instead gave us the opportunity to escape to a place where we could be ourselves. For the young people of the time, there was little if any political upheaval. There was no black or white nor gay or straight; there was simply us; we the people free to express our most intimate personas in whatever fashion pleased us. It was in this ambiance that the energetically raw punk band The Sex Pistols pounced on New York City and changed the face of music by shredding the status quo. With origins in the working-class towns of England the Sex Pistols were the epitome of a restless youth that was disenfranchised and lost in a sea of economic depression. Specifically, it was their bassist, Sid Vicious, who would eventually leave his mark, however dark, in the history books of music.
If you didn’t know Sid Vicious as the bassist for the Sex Pistols you most certainly would have recognized him from his wild antics that were fodder for the police blotter and nightly news. Unleashed in the streets, saying that the young bassist was uncontrollable would be putting it mildly. Already notorious for his riotous ways and extreme drug use, Vicious had already become synonymous with the depravity that many had assumed would befall punk movement of the era. Struggling to make their mark, the punk generation had already made inroads in the music and fashion industries. But the punk movement was not without competition. Although disco had become a staple of the New York night life by the time the Sex Pistols had arrived in New York, it was the disco genre’s association with a better class of depravity that made it almost acceptable and relegated the punk movement to the status of social lepers; whereas Sid Vicious languished in a deep puddle of drug induced fog, the disco scene was the runway for the celebrity elite the likes of which included Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger and Calvin Klein just to name a few.
Yet the events of 1979 that would transpire on a chilly October day in 1978 revealed just how disturbing the life of Sid Vicious had become. In an apparent drug-fueled fury it is alleged that Vicious stabbed his girlfriend Nancy Spungen once and ended her life. Although their relationship had been a tumultuous one, no one had ever imagined that Vicious was capable of committing such an atrocity. As if to live up to his name, Sid Vicious had managed to become both infamous and gave further credence to the darkness that often enveloped the punk movement movement of the time. But Sid Vicious wasn’t done once he killed his girlfriend. Not only would he make an exit from this earth in true punk style, he would also never stand trial for Nancy Spungen’s murder. On February 2nd, 1979 Vicious overdosed on heroin in his New York apartment thus closing one of the saddest and most tragic chapters in music history.
Although apparently quiet in life, Sid Vicious still left his mark on our community here in North Bergen. On February 7th, 1979 Sid Vicious (born John Simon Ritchie), was cremated at Garden State Crematory in North Bergen, NJ. It was here that the 21-year-old tragic figure of the punk rock movement would rest briefly until his cremated remains were handed over to his mother for final burial. Looking back on those times and as a budding bass player myself it was easy to miss the stories of the murder on the nightly news. Sid Vicious was not a musician by any means; it is said that he could only play three notes. Yet somehow, it is a tragic story that warranted a film titled Sid and Nancy with Gary Oldman in the title role. Unlike the dust that Sid Vicious had raised in life, his death was easily forgotten and without any fanfare. Yet he did leave his mark and managed to visit us in North Bergen for a brief moment in 1979. Obviously not under ideal circumstances.