Destiny is a Motherfucker: Tales from a Sex Pistol

The triumph of ‘My Way’ gave way to the death of Sid Vicious

By Steve Jones

My promotion into the junkie premier league came in the latter stages of filming The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle. If babysitting Sid through the recording of ‘My Way’ in Paris wasn’t going to put me off the dope, I guess nothing was. That trip was beyond a fucking nightmare.

So Sid’s off to Paris with Nancy, and he’s got six big bottles of methadone he’s taking over with him. I guess he’s getting it legally now because he’s trying to kick — that old routine. Anyway, they’re filming over there and I’ve somehow got pulled into the mix to go over and be the musical director in this little studio with these French session guys. At that point, being around him and that bird ranked a little below hell on earth as a place you’d want to be.

To be fair to Sid, he was totally out of it, and methadone is a nasty fucking drug. I heard the Nazis came up with it, although I don’t know if that’s true. Either way, because you drink it in liquid form, it doesn’t have such an immediate impact, but it lasts way longer. As a result, it’s actually harder to kick than heroin is.

Anyway, while Sid was busy climbing the walls, I got these guys to cut the track. I think the original plan was for him to do it slow all the way through, but once we realized that probably wasn’t going to happen, speeding it up was the only way to go. The way the twiddly bit goes into time with the bass player came out all right in the end, and to his credit, Sid did kind of turn up for the vocal.

When I took the masters back to England, I was actually quite proud of what turned out to be my first credit as a producer. These days I always get a chuckle out of the end of the movie Goodfellas, where my name is the last word you see on the screen.

I still don’t think I’ve ever been fucking paid for producing ‘My Way’ to be honest, but it felt good to be doing something new. Once Malcolm McLaren had got some guy to write out string charts and they’d put the orchestra on, it sounded pretty good. Unfortunately, I’d started to go downhill with the smack myself by then, so I wasn’t as interested as I should’ve been. I kind of came off it for a while when I got the call to go over to San Francisco and work with The Avengers and Joan Jett, but I was smoking a lot of weed and drinking too much to fill the hole when I was out there, to the extent that I might as well have been on fucking heroin half the time.

I was actually working with The Avengers when I got the call to say that Sid had died. Obviously Nancy had gone ahead of him to see if she could find a connection in the afterlife. I know that will sound dark, but it was a dark time. I’ve got no inside knowledge of what happened to either of them, but it was fucking grim.

When I was told that Sid had died, I didn’t have a lot of feelings about it. I didn’t have a lot of feelings about anything at that stage, to be honest, so when some guy from Rolling Stone called me up, I just said the first thing that came into my head, which was ‘Well, at least we’ll sell some records now.’

In hindsight it was probably a stupid response, and I could tell that the guy was shocked. But it was also a very Sex Pistols thing to say, which in a strange way — as the idea of the band meant as much to him as it did to any of us — was maybe what Sid would’ve wanted. Later on, I did feel sad about what happened, especially through talking to his mum, who I got on with pretty well.

Photos by Davis Factor

Sid was not an idiot, he was quite an intelligent bloke, but once he was in the band the logic of his situation pushed him down a very dark track. As I’ve said, if we’d called him Sid Kind or Sid Gentle, he might’ve tried to live up to that instead, but I don’t suppose he’d still be on so many T‑shirts.

I think John carries a lot of guilt to this day over Sid’s death, even though it’s buried so deep in his head he doesn’t always recognize that’s what it is. But I don’t think Lydon deserves any more of the blame for what happened to Sid than anyone else does. It was his own responsibility how he chose to fuck up his life. Sometimes destiny is a motherfucker and that’s all there is to it.

With Sid’s death, it was finally clear to everyone — even Malcolm—that the band was over. Did it feel weird not to be a Sex Pistol any more? Well, you’re always associated with it, and I guess my image of myself at that point was that I still had to act a certain way, even if I didn’t really want to.

My time in the band felt so close that I didn’t know yet who I was going to be if I wasn’t going to be that. It wouldn’t be till the mid/late Eighties—when I’d gone to L.A. and got sober and let my hair grow long and started riding motorbikes and writing mellow songs—that I’d begin finding another way to be.


Excerpted from Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol by Steve Jones with Ben Thompson. Copyright ©2017. Available from Da Capo Press, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc. Order online via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine retailers.

Special Thanks Charles J. Moss