This Day in Music Spotlight: Sid and Nancy’s Tragic Demise
October 12, 1978
Special thanks to ThisDayinMusic.com.
Just before lunchtime on October 12, 1978, the Chelsea Hotel in New York City would become the site of one of rock and roll’s greatest tragedies. Sid Vicious, of Sex Pistols notoriety, and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen had retreated into reclusive heroin-fueled oblivion as Vicious’ rock and roll persona finally caught up with him and all around him.
Vicious was the toast of New York’s punk scene. The motorcycle jacket, the chains, the skinny heroin frame and that post-Elvis lip snarl had made Vicious the best-known of the anti-social Sex Pistols. Sid and Nancy were the punk John and Yoko, except rather than propagating peace and love; they chose a darker, drug-laced existence to make their mark in rock and roll mythology.
When a hotel worker went into Room 100 of the Chelsea Hotel he discovered a half-dressed, blood-covered body of a young woman lying on the floor, a deep wound in her stomach. The bed was also covered in blood. The hotel called an ambulance and police searched the room, discovering drugs, drug paraphernalia, a blood-stained hunting knife and Nancy’s boyfriend Sid wandering the hallway in a state of confusion.
Sid’s story of events was inconclusive. According to the crime report, he said they had been in a fight the night before and he’d fallen asleep with Nancy playing with a knife on the bed. When he awoke the bed was wet with blood. He later claimed: “I stabbed her but I didn’t mean to kill her. I loved her, but she treated me like [expletive].”
Vicious was immediately charged with Spungen’s murder and taken to Rikers Island jail. A judge bailed him out for $50,000 a week later, pending trial, and Sid and his mother checked into the Seville Hotel. The next few weeks were a blur of detox clinics, methadone treatment and more jail time for fighting Patti Smith’s brother at a gig. By February, his life in tatters, but his rock and roll legacy almost complete, Vicious finally took his last heroin hit and overdosed. He was still only 21. His ashes were spread over Nancy’s grave at the King David Cemetery in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.