I never was a Punk
I never shot junk
I never even tried it
The counterculture passed me right by

Oingo Boingo, "On the Outside"

The above quote sums it up for me. I was never really a punk rock fan. I appreciated the rebelliousness of it, but my own tastes ran to more complicated music. Frank Zappa provided more than enough outrageousness, but he backed it up with brilliant composition and instrumentation.

All these rock-and-roll writers are the worst kind of sleaze
Selling punk like some new kind of English disease
Is that the wave of the future?
Aw, spare me, please

Frank Zappa, "Packard Goose"

I remember hearing about Sid Vicious and The Sex Pistols. Punk never really reached the suburbs of Virginia where I grew up. I was still listening to Prog acts Sid would have spit upon.

"Sid Vicious was an asshole who killed his girlfriend" That's the way I heard it. It all seemed pretty tawdry and nasty to me. Not something I was particularly interested in. The Tubes were about as punk as I got.

I was a punk before you were a punk
You don't believe me? Just step outside and see me!
I was a punk before you were a punk
You want some action? I'll put your ass in traction!

The Tubes, "I Was a Punk Before You Were a Punk"

Later I came to appreciate some punk music. I never took to the Pistols. For my money the best punk album of all time is Blank Generation, from Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Hell was closer to a beat writer, like Patti Smith, than a bleeding anarchist. I also think Richard Hell should have the reputation Sid Vicious has. Hell was there first, with the look and the punk uniform. But Richard Hell's life wasn't a tabloid circus.

While certainly no aficionado of the genre, I think X is a great punk band. I like Bad Brains. Not a whole lot else, really.

People have claimed Punk is Dead for years and years. Me, I think when they started hyphenating pop with punk, the genre starting to smell funny. The whole movement is fifty years old.

All that said, I like to read about the early days now and then. I wanted a break from the run of novels I usually read, so I took a spin with Alan Parker's Sid Vicious: No One is Innocent.

I've seen The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle and The Filth and the Fury. I've read the gargantuan biography of Malcolm McLaren. So I'd been through a lot of this material before.

Alan Parker is more suited to write about Sid and the Pistols than most. He spent time with the surviving principles and he has been involved in punk for a long time.

Parker is definitely a Sid Vicious apologist. He is convinced that Sid is innocent of murdering Nancy Spungeon and also of assaulting Todd Smith. No one will ever really know about Nancy. I think it's certainly likely that Vicious did not do it. There were numerous unsavory characters at the Chelsea Hotel, where the murder took place. Sid and Nancy supposedly had cash on hand, having just been paid for his "My Way" single. There was plenty of motive and opportunity.

For what is a brat, what has he got?
When he wears hats and he cannot
Say the things he truly feels
But only the words of one who kneels
The record shows I've took my blows

Sid Vicious, "My Way

While, yes, much of Sid Vicious: No One is Innocent is familiar territory, I enjoyed the book. Parker brings a lot of intimate perspectives on the life of Sid Vicious and the early punk explosion.

My original impressions of Sid still hold. He was a sad human being suicide machine. Other than a lot of antisocial behavior and a sordid reputation, he didn't really bring a lot to society. He couldn't play the bass, he could barely stand upright at the few shows he did, and he brought misery to those around him. Not that he, or his devotees, would gave a damn what a bookworm like me thinks.

Still, Sid Vicious is a fascinating individual, and I doubt there is a better book about him than this one. If you are interested in the whole ordeal, I'd say Sid Vicious: No One is Innocent is the one to read.

Many people idolize Sid Vicious, but I'm not one of them. I think there was decency in him, but to me his behavior was that of a spoiled child. Heroin is one of the dumbest things a human can do. However, I do sympathize. I consider his upbringing, with a mother who did hard drugs. Sid assumed the role of punk archetype, and became a lit fuse burning toward inexorable detonation.

Ashes to ashes
and dust to dust
Easy come, easy go
Ain't no big fuss

The Cramps, "I Ain't Nothin' but a Gorehound"

Written by Mark Sieber

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