El Sid: Saint Vicious
by David Dalton
St. Martin’s Press
Don’t pick this book up if you want to learn anything new about Sid Vicious. But if you enjoy reading a “fairy tale” about how a kid that had nothing going for himself, including music ability, suddenly finds himself riding the crest of the iconoclastic wave that destroyed the residue of the sixties, check it out.
David Dalton is a “rock biography” writer, and often it’s apparent that his sympathies, unlike the punk movement, lie with rock ‘n’ roll. Otherwise, El Sid is a fun and easy read, despite the cornball title. Dalton paints a montage of Sid’s life, basically by doing a good job of concisely compiling already existing media about the tragic bass player for the Sex Pistols and the world around him. It’s a great primer to Sex Pistols and the period in which the rock ‘n’ roll gave way to punk.
The only thing that Dalton offers us that is new is “Sid’s diary” scattered throughout the book in bold press. The “diary” is not actually written by Sid but is a fictional diary of “what would Sid say about this part of his brief life,” including a horrid attempt at capturing Sid’s trademark cockney accent. This aspect of the book is horrible and somewhat blasphemous for those of us who grew up with a strong identity with Mr. Vicious. What’s even worse is that Sid never had the often multisyllabic vocabulary or even the insight inferred in the “diary.”
However, it is my belief that El Sid represents a “coming of age” in our memories of Sid Vicious. His life was only brief enough to be documented in a methadone and piss-stained pamphlet, versus a book. The fact that we can write and read so much about a blurb in music history is a testament to our strong sympathy and identity with this late piece of white trash. Sid’s suddenly become a metaphor. St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010