In London, an exhibition on the Sex Pistols and the “violence of punk”

In London, an exhibition on the Sex Pistols and the “violence of punk”


Dennis Morris, the group’s photographer, exhibits his photos of singer Sid Vicious in London all summer long. Sex, drogue, punk, the exhibition looks back on the short life of someone who marked a genre and a generation.

To tell about “the energy and violence of punk”: the Sex Pistols’ official photographer Dennis Morris is exhibiting some of his most famous shots in London this summer featuring legendary bassist Sid Vicious. This exhibition «SID: Superman is Dead»which runs until July 15 in the center of the British capital, has as its protagonist Vicious, who died at the age of 21 of a heroin overdose four months after being charged with the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen .

“When he took heroin, he changed completely, he became a totally different person”remembers to AFP Dennis Morris, who photographed the bassist in the late 1970s. The exhibition, more than 40 years after the images were taken, wants to reflect the“intense personality” behind the character. “You read about Sid Vicious and you think he was quite violent, but he was actually quite tender, very shy”he points out.

In particular, she recreates the setting of a photo of Dennis Morris: a hotel room ransacked by Vicious during a tour in 1977, with an unmade bed full of food wrappers, a floor littered with glass and torn pages. a Bible, and a bedside table covered in drugs. In the photographer’s original shot, Sid Vicious is half-naked, lying between two beds while another person, unidentified but “probably a fan”is rolled into a ball in one of the beds. “One night Sid got completely out of control and completely destroyed his room”says Mr Morris, 62, also known for photographing reggae legend Bob Marley.

“My room was right next to his and when the noise finally stopped I opened the door and it was complete chaos”explains the photographer who wanted to recreate the scene to transcribe “the energy and violence of punk”.

God Save The Queen

This violence culminated after the release of the anti-monarchist tube «God Save The Queen» – in which the Sex Pistols brand the royal family as fascists – which resulted in the band’s lead singer John Lydon and two producers being attacked with razors. Denis Morris remembers “being chased in the street” by pro-monarchists as soon as they saw the singer.

“It became quite scary but for me it was above all an opportunity to live my dream (to do documentary photography). I was there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”he says.

Like John Lydon, would Sid Vicious have ended up toning down his anti-monarchist rhetoric if he was still alive? The Sex Pistols singer, now 66, recently claimed he disagreed “as always” the monarchy but that he respected the queen’s “sense of dignity”.

“None of us were really against it, it was just something we said to create a reaction. All our parents had a picture of the queen on the wall, or of Jesus, it was like that (…) We were just rebels”says Dennis Morris, who claims to have a “deep respect” for the queen.

Died at 21 Sid Vicious became the idol of a Punk generation. CARLOS JASSO / AFP

a superstar

For the photographer, Sid Vicious had enough to become a “mega star”although his early death was inevitable. “They really had them, the qualities of a star. His problem is that his mother gave him heroin when he was 14 (…) it killed him”, says Morris. After his release on bail following the murder of Nancy Spungen, who was found stabbed in their New York hotel room, Vicious was terrified of returning to prison, says the photographer convinced of the bassist’s innocence .

“Because of his reputation he was raped many times so when he got out of prison he told his mother «I can’t go back to jail, I can’t»and she went to buy drugs and that’s what killed him”, assures the photographer. The bassist died four months after Nancy Spungen and the trial never took place.

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