El Sid: Saint Vicious

David Dalton, Author St. Martin's Press $21.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-312-15520-9
""Sid couldn't play his instrument, he couldn't sing, he was a mess. He was weedy, goofy, gullible, and psychopathic.... He was perfect,"" writes rock biographer Dalton (Living with the Dead) as he introduces Sid Vicious, the late Sex Pistols bassist. Born John Simon Ritchie, Vicious was renamed by Pistols front man Johnny Rotten in honor of the singer's hamster and a Lou Reed song. Recruited into the band in February 1977, Vicious stepped into the middle of the white-hot media frenzy of the U.K. punk rock explosion, and became the movement's apotheosis even as it destroyed him. When he died of a heroin overdose in New York City in 1979 while under suspicion in the stabbing death of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, he was 21. Don't expect this volume to supply many new facts about Vicious's life. Dalton's aim is not so much to write a biography as to capture the punk milieu and to parse Vicious's larger-than-life persona; but he stumbles in both attempts. The Sex Pistols story is jumbled among a series of overblown sociological analyses and, most awkwardly, boxed-off monologue-like passages told in the voice of Vicious. It's impossible to tell which parts of the story are real and which are speculation, but Dalton clearly has a feel for punk and there's some lively writing in the book. There are also several passages lifted, in lightly rewritten form, from England's Dreaming, Jon Savage's classic 1992 account of the punk era. In his acknowledgments, Dalton mentions ""all of the stuff I nicked from"" Savage. Maybe he should have nicked more, as the book , overall, is a maladroit affair. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/1997
Release date: 08/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-312-18713-2
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