As Danny Boyle’s new Pistol TV miniseries is about to burst onto our screens today, John Nurden tries to find out what turned shy Tunbridge Wells schoolboy Simon John Ritchie into Sid Vicious, probably the most obnoxious member of punk rock band The Sex Pistols. .

According to accounts from former classmates, Sid Vicious, the drug-addicted bassist of punk pioneers the Sex Pistols, was a kitty in school. So what was wrong?

Sex Pistol Sid Vicious when he was single Simon Ritchie at Sandown Court Modern Secondary School, Tunbridge Wells

At that time, Simon Ritchie, as he was known then, was soft-spoken and shy.

Lin Cousins, then Linda Nicholls, recalled: “Simon was in one of my classes sitting in front of me and I kicked him in the neck with my ruler. I always blamed myself for the way he turned out. He was a quiet boy.”

It was in the late 1960s when Pre-Pistol attended Sandown Court Secondary Modern School in Royal Tunbridge Wells.

At first glance, one would be surprised to learn that Britain’s number one rock rebel would have spent time in a city still considered a bit upscale.

But Sandown Court was what pedagogues like to call a “challenge”.

It was opened in 1960 and looked a bit like space-age with its colorful doors, fashionable teachers wearing turtlenecks and impressive glass and concrete design standing on a large campus at Blackhurst Lane near of Pembury Road.

Over the years it was renamed Tunbridge Wells High School and in 2009, after a major transformation, it reopened as Skinners’ Kent Academy, perhaps in a bid to get rid of its infamous claim to fame as the place that created Sid Vicious. .

Margaret Willingham recalls: “My late brother used to tell me about Sid’s presence in his class. He said he was very quiet at school. I do not know what happened !

Andy Bush added: “He was in my brother’s year at Sandown Court, which I also went to. I don’t think he was there in all five years.

“His academic performance and behavior were not unremarkable for the modern high school whose reputation was somewhat frowned upon by the Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells element.

“I now live and work in Sheppey. Tunbridge Wells seems a million miles away now.”

Lime Hill Road, Tunbridge Wells, where Sid Vicious had a cigarette.  Image: Google
Lime Hill Road, Tunbridge Wells, where Sid Vicious had a cigarette. Image: Google

Not all meetings took place at school.

Mike Sawyer tells me: “I saw him sitting on the stairs outside a flat in Lime Hill Road where he snatched a cigarette from me.

“He accused me of being too young to smoke and told me I had to give them all to him. But I compromised and just gave him one.

“I was 13 at the time. I remember he was a little scruffy then, but he didn’t look like a punk yet.”

Peter Bathurst confirmed: “He lived in Lime Hill Road. Simon and I had a fight after school once. But he had a few. We got along fine.”

Simon John Ritchie, also known as John Beverley but better known as Sid Vicious, was born in Lewisham to John and Anne Ritchie on May 10, 1957.

Despite his death in 1979 at the age of 21, he remains an icon of the punk subculture.

His mother Anne had dropped out of school and joined the British Army where she met Ritchie’s father, a guard at Buckingham Palace and a semi-professional trombone player on the London jazz scene.

Shortly after Ritchie’s birth, he and his mother moved to Ibiza where they expected to be joined by his father.

But Ritchie Senior never appeared and, according to reports, never provided financial support either.


To make ends meet, Anne allegedly sold marijuana.

With the help of the British High Commission in Spain, she returned to England and settled in Tunbridge Wells where she enrolled her son, still known as Simon, at Sandown Court School.

Her homes were named after planets like Jupiter, Neptune, Saturn and Mercury and she even had her own “zoo”.

Former students remember having their notebooks eaten by the resident goats, daring to touch the electric fence around the pigsty or donning beekeeper outfits to help with the hives.

Others say they were afraid to visit Tower Lodge’s “sin bin” because it was said to be haunted.

Vintage cars in King Street, Deal, ready to be used in Danny Boyle's Pistols TV miniseries
Vintage cars in King Street, Deal, ready to be used in Danny Boyle’s Pistols TV miniseries

Older boys were allowed to play ska in the hall at lunchtime and were even taught how to “sync” and “wire” cars in engineering classes.

Popular subjects included sports, food technology, theater and photography.

Punches were scheduled for 4 p.m. at the swinging doors.

In 1965 Anne married Christopher Beverley, who died six months later of kidney failure. She then took her son to Bristol and Clevedon, Somerset, where he attended Clevedon School.

In 1971 the couple moved to Stoke Newington in Hackney, east London, where John attended Clissold Park School (now Stoke Newington School). Around this time he began to use the name John Beverley.

<a class=Folkestone‘s Grand Burstin featured in Danny Boyle’s Pistols series. Photo: Beau Goodwin” data-root=”/_media/img/” data-path=”8851BV6W360689YX8NL9.jpg” data-ar=”1.33″/>
Folkestone’s Grand Burstin featured in Danny Boyle’s Pistols series. Photo: Beau Goodwin

In 1973 he joined Westminster Kingsway College, then known as Kingsway College of Further Education, a community and vocational school for “special students”.

It was there that he met fellow student John Lydon, later Johnny Rotten, who introduced him to his friends John Gray and John Wardle.

The four, who were known locally as The Four Johns, dropped out of school and began squatting in dingy places where they came to call each other nicknames.

Legend has it that Lydon christened his companion “Sid Vicious” after being bitten by his hamster Sid.

The new Vicious nicknamed Wardle, Jah Wobble.

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Danny Boyle filming Pistol on the Dover seafront. Photo: Stuart Brock

It was guitarist Steve Jones who turned Lydon into Johnny Rotten.

The group began hanging out on King’s Road in Chelsea where they discovered the bizarre SEX clothing store run by music entrepreneur Malcolm McLaren and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.

According to Lydon, he and Vicious started playing in the street, with Vicious on tambourine. They were playing Alice Cooper covers until people gave them money to quit.

In 1975 Lydon joined Jones, Glen Matlock and Paul Cook to form the Sex Pistols.

In February 1977 McLaren announced that Matlock had been “kicked out of the band” because “he liked the Beatles” and had him replaced by Vicious who had since learned to play bass and had also spent time at Ashford Remand Center after blinding a woman in one eye with a broken beer glass during a performance of The Damned.

The tour bus
The Sex Pistols’ ‘Nowhere’ tour bus spotted at Deal

In March, the Sex Pistols were signed to A&M Records and in celebration ransacked the company’s offices and went to a private party where Vicious stuck a broken bottle in the face of a sound engineer from the company. BBC.

A&M dropped them the next day. Virgin rushed into the breach.

Vicious, now focused on heroin, played his first gig with the Pistols on April 3, 1977 at The Screen On The Green. The same year, he met the American groupie Nancy Spungeon, also a drug addict. The couple became inseparable. It was the beginning of the end.

The group released their only album Never Mind The Bollocks, Here The Sex Pistols on October 28 with the controversial and banned song God Save The Queen. It went straight up the charts to number one and the following month went gold, eventually spending 48 weeks in the top 75.

But in a few months and after a series of tours, the group implodes.

Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, one of the photos featured at the Skabour exhibition in Folkestone.  Photo: Richard Mann
Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, one of the photos featured at the Skabour exhibition in Folkestone. Photo: Richard Mann

In October 1978, Vicious and Spungen booked room 100 at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City under the names Mr. and Mrs. John Ritchie and threw a party. The next morning, Spungen was found dead on the bathroom floor with a knife wound to her abdomen, and Vicious was wandering the hallway. He died the following January of a drug overdose,

The new Pistol TV mini-series is based on guitarist Steve Jones’ Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol and was filmed in parts of Kent, including Deal.

It stars Louis Partridge as Vicious, Anson Boon as Lydon, Toby Wallace as Jones, Jacob Slater as Paul Cook, Christian Lees as Glen Matlock, Emma Appleton as Nancy Spungen, Thomas Brodie-Sangster as McLaren, Talulah Riley as Dame Vivienne Westwood , Sydney Chandler as Chrissie Hynde and Maisie Williams as punk icon Jordan.

The shooting took place despite Lydon’s refusal to help. He even went to court to try to have the use of Sex Pistols songs banned.

Director Danny Boyle said: “It was the moment when British society and culture changed forever. It was the tipping point of British street culture where ordinary young people took the stage and vented their fury and their fashion and everyone had to watch and listen. Everyone either feared them or followed them.”

Pistol is on Disney Plus from Tuesday, May 31