“Remembering the real Sid Vicious by Teddie Dahlin
The first time I met Sid Vicious, he was asleep.
I was a bilingual sixteen-year-old and had been asked to help with translations on the Norwegian leg of The Sex Pistols’ Scandinavian tour in July 1977. The promoter and I entered the Phoenix Hotel in Trondheim at midday. It was a sunny day, but not really warm. The Pistols had played a gig in Oslo the previous night and driven up to Trondheim in a white van, which was now parked outside. We were 15 minutes late, and they had gathered impatiently in the reception area waiting for us. The Phoenix hotel was a sleazy, run down place and was known as the local knocking shop and not a place I’d ever set my foot in before. There was a red sofa in the lobby and lying on it was a guy I’d never seen before. He had a black leather jacket on that looked like it was a size too small for him and new Levis 501 jeans. I knew they were new because they were dark blue, as the colour hadn’t bled out of them yet. His t-shirt had crept up to reveal a flat, hairy stomach and he was wearing a heavy padlock on a thick chain around his neck. His short, dark hair stood on end and looked strange to me, since most guys wore their hair long at the time.
He was snoring lightly and I went to sit at his feet whilst the promoter checked everyone in to the hotel. John Lydon and Steve Jones started an argument about who got the only available suite and I’m sure they were going at it for a good 20 minutes. I was bored so I lit up a cigarette and waited. Suddenly the sleeping guy opened his eyes and looked straight at me. He seemed dazed, like he was trying to work out where he was and who I was. He was staring at me intensely and it made me smile. He sat up and smiled at me and I instantly liked him. He pointed to my cigarette and said “Can we share that?”Â
We started talking like we’d known each other for a long time. You know how you sometimes just connect with someone straight away? We just clicked. He told me he’d spent the night nodding in a chair in Oslo because Steve had brought a girl up to a party in his room and taken his bed. He’d decided to sleep in the van on the drive to Trondheim, but couldn’t get comfortable. I took another cigarette out of my handbag and offered him one, which he accepted. He stared at me again when he offered me a light and I found his attention a little too intense because he wasn’t actually looking at where he was putting the flame; it was as if he was using it as a means to examine my face in more detail. The way he was waving the lighter around, I remember thinking I had to be careful my nostrils didn’t catch fire.
A journalist came over to us and started asking Sid a lot of questions in bad English. I tried to help by translating, but Sid wasn’t completely awake and kept misunderstanding the questions and answering them wrongly with hilarious results and we were both laughing hysterically. The journalist later wrote that Sid Vicious was unconscious in the hotel reception when The Sex Pistols arrived and was too drugged up and incoherent to make any sense. Of course I didn’t know it was Sid Vicious I was talking to at the time. The journalists comment is typical of what has been written about Sid later. He would do crazy stuff like burp loudly when we went out to a restaurant to have dinner, but it was more of a show he put on and he knew that people expected him to be outrageous. It made good headlines. It’s funny how the journalists loved to exaggerate anything he did. There was even one article in a Norwegian newspaper that wrote the Sex Pistols had swastikas tattooed in their foreheads.
He introduced himself to me as John, but told me to call him Sid. He’d only recently taken that name and kept forgetting he was Sid and we would have to shout ”ËJohn’ to him to get his attention at times. Sid had joined the band a few months earlier and was playing on a trial basis. Rat Scabies had asked Sid to audition for the lead in The Damned. This was the job he really wanted, but Rat had sent a message with a mutual friend stating the time for the audition. Sid was furious when the job was given to David Vanian because Sid didn’t turn up for the audition. The mutual friend was obviously a better friend to Vanian and didn’t give Sid the message.
We hung out all day whilst we were rigging and doing the sound check and I noticed what a sweet guy he really was and we couldn’t stop talking. It was as if we both sensed that our time together would be short and we tried to cram as much into it as possible. No one did any drugs or drank any alcohol during the day. We had a crate of coke (the fizzy drink) on the stage of the Student Union where the sold out concert was to take place later that evening. The Swedish tour master, who drove the van, was with us for a while. He had big lips and would talk a lot and we called him Bollocks-chops behind his back.
Sid and I sat to one side to be alone while Roadent the roadie and Boogie (John Tiberi, the English tour master) rigged up the instruments, helped by John, Paul and Steve and a few of the local roadies. Roadent refered to them as the ”Ëyokel roadies’ and would have us in stitches with his quirky comments. Pauls drums kept moving around on stage and we had to duct tape them to the floor. It’s amazing how much duct tape you need for a gig. Steve duct taped the seat of his orange boiler suit and hoped to start a trend, like the safety pin thing. Sid had a good head on his shoulders and there was nothing of the self-destructive caricature of popular myth about him. He had a very easygoing nature and likeable personality. I told him I couldn’t stand people who got arrogant just because they had been on TV and were so far up their own arses, they were practically inside out and he agreed. As we got to know each other, it quickly became apparent that we liked each other and Sid made a great effort to charm me, which wasn’t difficult. I fell in love with him like only a teenager can and he told me he felt the same way.
Later that night we were at the after party at the Phoenix hotel and there was a girl there who wouldn’t leave Sid alone. I wasn’t used to anyone being so blatantly obvious and who didn’t seem to care that Sid had his arm around me. We didn’t have push up bra’s back in 1977, but this girl wore a boiler suite and had the zip open revealing her boobs, which were pushed up almost under her chin. She looked like she was trying to smuggle two bald guys in to the party. She was very pretty and I watched as she flirted and was surprised to see that Sid was not the least bit distracted by her. She kept tossing her hair and shoving her chest in his direction and laughing throatily like a donkey with asthma. I found the behaviour a little unnerving, but Sid said “You’ve got absolutely nothing to worry about with those girls. I’m not interested. They don’t know me. They just want to fuck someone in the band. It’s pointless.”Â He was more interested in talking to people and learn about their lives and told us funny stories about his life in London. We had a cassette player in John’s suite and only one cassette ”ËABBA Greatest Hits’. It was blasting out loudly all night and they would all sing along to the lyrics. Sid loved ABBA.
Later that night I caught Sid shooting speed. I was shocked. At first I thought it was heroin as this was the only drug I had heard of that you inject, but he became very hyper and I’ve later learned it was speed. I decided to leave the after party and Sid was apologetic and asked me not to go, but if I had to go, would I come back the next day since he had a day off. I said I would if he promised me to not do any drugs. He agreed and he didn’t take anything else. I would have noticed if he did and he knew I would leave immediately.
It wasn’t until a little later that I learned about Nancy, Sid’s girlfriend. Steve Jones told me about her and I confronted Sid. I was angry with him for not telling me about Nancy and I was fuming like an Aberdeen Angus. He said “It’s not that kind of a relationship. It’s not exclusive.”Â He told me they had just had a huge fight when she brought a guy back to where Sid lived when he was out one night. It was his worst enemy and he thought Nancy found some weird satisfaction in sleeping with this guy in Sid’s bed. Sid said he didn’t care who Nancy slept with, but he was furious that she had slept with him in Sid’s bed. To him this was a betrayal far worse. He was ready to end the relationship that had been an on/off thing for a few months. I believed he was telling me the truth. He wanted me to go with him on the rest of the tour, but my parents wouldn’t allow it and they hid my passport and took away my allowance. So we agreed that I would square things with my parents and come after him to London the following week. We made a childish pact, as I was very insecure. He was the big pop star and I was just a kid barely out of school. So Sid and I agreed that I should mark him to send a message to Nancy that he was mine and not hers. It was silliness really, but I made two large dark love bites on his neck. It was his way of reassuring me that he was indeed serious.
As we made our farewell outside the Phoenix hotel Sid asked me once again to just go with him to Sweden. To get into the van and take off and not look back, but I couldn’t. My parents would be hurt and they would just come to Sweden and bring me back and they would most certainly make a lot of trouble for Sid. I had to let him go.
Sid had gotten in to a fight at the after party at a club with a guy who mooned us. His lip had split and his nose bled on to his t-shirt. He had a whole stack of t-shirts Malcolm (McLaren) had given him to wear from Vivienne Westwood’s shop. The day he left Rodent had been nagging him to get ready, as they were loading the van so they could leave. Sid absent-mindedly took the dirty t-shirt from his bag. By the time he noticed it was too late and he had to travel in a bloodstained t-shirt for his flight to Stockholm. The Sex Pistols flew from Trondheim to Stockholm Arlanda airport in a little plane that was owned by a rich friend of Bollocks-chops. Steve didn’t like flying so he and Bollocks-chops drove the van with all the luggage and instruments to Sweden. When they arrived at Arlanda and were going through customs Sid and Rodent suddenly saw Agnetha and Annifrid of ABBA sitting in a lounge. Sid walked straight over to them and said
“Oi, are you ABBA?”Â
They answered that yes indeed they were.
“We are the Sex Pistols and we like your music”Â he said.
They told Sid that they were on their way to London with British Airways and Sid told them that they had just arrived in their private jet from gigs in Norway.
Although Sid sent me messages to get myself over to London that autumn, I never got to see him again. The drugs took their hold on him and he was slowly spiralling out of control, egged on by Nancy. I felt useless in Trondheim, but without my passport there was nothing I could do. I was under the control of my parents and they would not accept that I wanted to go to London to be with a drug addict punk musician, strangely enough. Sid sent me the last message in November 1977, saying that there was another Scandinavian tour planned straight after the tour of the US and he was excited about it and wanted to see me. “Tell her I’m coming back. Tell her to meet me in Stockholm and not to let me down this time”Â
I was elated but of course all that would be cancelled.
I look back at what happened during that time in a book I have written called A Vicious Love Story, which is published by Little Acorn publishing Eileen Polk (DeeDee Ramones ex girlfriend and good friend to Sid and his mother) has written most of the last chapter for me about Sid’s last days in New York. It gives a rare first hand view of a young man in the eye of a media storm. They were the group that would tear up the rock and roll rulebook. But as people, they were just four really nice and very intelligent individuals labouring under great expectations, which finally made Sid fall apart. Let there be no doubt; I regret dearly that I didn’t just get in to that white van and go with him. I don’t know if it would have made any difference to what happened to him later, but at least we would have had a little more time together.
He touched my life for a little while and I am very happy I had the opportunity to know the real Sid Vicious, who was just a guy called John.