As Danny Boyle Pistol’s Disney Plus Sex Pistols series begins former Tunbridge Wells classmates to reveal a real Sid Vicious

While Danny Boyle’s new TV miniseries Pistol is set to explode on our screens today, John Nurden is trying to figure out what turned out to be a scary Tunbridge Wells schoolboy Simon John Ritchie in Sid Vicious, arguably the most heinous member of punk rock band Sex Pistols. .

According to reports from former classmates, Sid Vicious, the drug-fueled bass player of punk pioneers the Sex Pistols, was a cat at school. So what went wrong?

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

In those days Simon Ritchie, as he was then known, was gentle and timid.

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

That was back in the late 1960s when the pre-Pistol attended Sandown Court Secondary Modern School in Royal. Tunbridge Wells.

At first glance, one would be surprised to learn that Britain’s first rock rebel would spend time in a city always considered a bit chic.

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

It opened in 1960 and looked a bit of a space age with its colorful doors, trendy teachers wearing polo-collar sweaters and an impressive glass and concrete design standing on a large campus in Blackhurst Lane off Pembury Road.

Over the years, it was rebranded as Tunbridge Wells High School and in 2009, after extensive renovation, it reopened its doors as Skinners’ Kent Academy, perhaps to shake off its infamous claim to fame as the place that created Sid Vicious. .

Margaret Willingham recalled: “My late brother used to tell me about Sid being in his class. He said he was very quiet at school. What happened I don’t know!”

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

“His academic achievements and conduct were not insignificant for the modern high school whose reputation was somewhat thwarted by the Disgusted Tunbridge Wells element.

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

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

Not all encounters took place at school.

Mike Sawyer tells me: “I saw him sitting on the stairs outside an apartment on Lime Hill Road where he took a cigarette from me.

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

“I was 13 at the time. I remember he was a little awkward back then but he still didn’t look like a punk.”

Peter Bathurst confirmed: “He lived on Lime Hill Road. Simon and I had a fight after school once. But he had a few. We accepted OK.”

Simon John Ritchie, also known as John Beverley but more widely remembered 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 dropped out of school and joined the British Army where she met Ritchie’s father, a guard at Buckingham Palace and a semi-professional trombonist on the London jazz scene.

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

But Ritchie Senior never showed up and, it is reported, never provided any financial support as well.


To make ends meet, Anne reportedly sold marijuana.

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

Its houses were named after planets like Jupiter, Neptune, Saturn and Mercury and it even boasted its own “zoo”.

Former students remember that their exercise kennels were eaten by the resident goats, that they dared to touch the electric fence around the pig pen or put on beekeeping costs to help at the beehives.

Others say they were afraid to visit the Tower Lodge “sin bin” because it was reportedly haunted.

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

Older boys were allowed to play ska in the hall at lunch and even learned to “clock” and “direct” cars in engineering classes.

Popular topics included sports, food technology, drama and photography.

Punch-ups were scheduled at 4pm at the swing gates.

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). At that time, he began using the name John Beverley.

The Grand Burstin in Folkestone featured in Danny Boyle's Pistols series.  Image: Beau Goodwin
The Grand Burstin in Folkestone featured in Danny Boyle’s Pistols series. Image: Beau Goodwin

By 1973 he had entered Westminster Kingsway College, then known as Kingsway College of Further Education, a community and vocational school for “students with disabilities”.

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

The four, who were known locally as The Four Johns, drop out of school and began crouching in sad places where they ended up giving each other nicknames.

Legend has it that Lidon christened his companion “Sid Vicious” after he was bitten by his pet hamster Sid.

The newly named Vicious nicknamed Wardle, Jah Wobble.

Danny Boyle filming a pistol on the Dover coast.  Image: Stuart Brock
Danny Boyle filming a pistol on the Dover coast. Image: Stuart Brock

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

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

According to Lydon, he and Vicious took up busking, with Vicious on a tambourine. They would play 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 “thrown out of the band” because “he liked the Beatles” and had him replaced by Vicious who had since learned to play bass and also spent time at Ashford Remand Center after blinding a woman into one. an eye with a broken beer glass during a performance of The Damned.

The excursion bus
The Sex Pistols’ “Nowhere” tour bus spotted Deal

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

A&M dropped them the next day. Virgin stepped into the gap.

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

The band released their only album Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols on October 28 featuring the controversial and banned song God Save The Queen. It went straight to the charts at number one and turned gold the following month, then spent 48 weeks in the top 75.

But within months and after a series of tours the band imploded.

Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, one of the pictures exhibited at the Skabour exhibition in Folkestone.  Image: Richard Mann
Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, one of the pictures exhibited at the Skabour exhibition in Folkestone. Image: Richard Mann

In October 1978 Vicious and Spungen booked room 100 of the Chelsea Hotel in New York under the names of Mr. and Mrs. John Ritchie and held a party. The next morning, Spungen was found dead on the bathroom floor with a knife wound to her abdomen and Vicious wandered around the hall. He died the following January from an overdose,

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

Starring 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.

Filming continued despite Lydon refusing to help. He even went to court to try to ban the use of Sex Pistols songs.

Director Danny Boyle said: “This is a time when British society and culture have changed forever. or followed them. “

Pistol is at Disney Plus from Tuesday, May 31st

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