Back in the mid-1970s, punk rock rose up in opposition to everything the music industry had become and John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, lead singer of punk’s leading group, The Sex Pistols, was the anti-rock star.
There were few people he would have despised more than the overpaid, aging singer of rock’s biggest band, the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger.
But in 1978 when Lydon’s friend and bandmate John Simon Ritchie, better known to the world by his nom-de-punk Sid Vicious, was charged with murdering groupie-turned-girlfriend Nancy Spungen, Lydon’s view of Jagger did a 180.
That’s because, as Lydon has now revealed, Jagger — now Sir Mick Jagger, but then still just Mick — acted behind the scenes to fund a legal defense team for Sid Vicious.
Vicious is pictured at right. In the image below, Jagger is on the left.
“I heard Mick Jagger got in there and brought lawyers into it on Sid’s behalf because I don’t think Malcolm lifted a finger,” said the now 57-year-old Lydon, referring to Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, who died of cancer at age 64 in 2010.
Lydon had feuded with McLaren since the Sex Pistols heyday from 1976 to 1978.
“He (McLaren) just didn’t know what to do. For that, I have a good liking of Mick Jagger. There was activity behind the scenes from Mick Jagger so I applaud him. He never used it to advance himself publicity-wise,” Lydon said in an interview with Glasgow, Scotland’s Daily Record newspaper.
Sadly, Vicious was never able to put his lawyers to much use. After he was released on bail, he died of a heroin overdose less than four months after Spungen was killed in New York City’s Chelsea Hotel on October 12, 1978.
“Her death is all entangled in mystery. It’s no real mystery, though,” said Lydon. “If you are going to get yourself involved in drugs and narcotics in that way accidents are going to happen. Sid was a lost case. He was wrapped firmly in Malcolm’s shenanigans.”
After the death of Vicious, the murder of Spungen was never solved. A 2009 documentary, Who Killed Nancy?, contends that Vicious was incapable of committing the murder, being unconscious in a drug-induced stupor when it occurred.
Spungen’s killing may have been the result of a drug robbery, committed by a mysterious addict named Michael, the film suggests, though it reaches no definitive conclusion.
Vicious was 21 and Spungen 20 at the time of their respective deaths. Their relationship was the subject of the fictionalized 1986 film Sid & Nancy, which depicts Vicious — portrayed by Gary Oldman — stabbing Spungen while in a drug-induced haze.