Sid Vicious Sings Paul Anka’s “My Way” in His Own Spectacular Way

A film that began its life as a script called Who Killed Bam­bi?, writ­ten by Roger Ebert and Russ Mey­er, The Great Rock and Roll Swin­dle (trail­er below) became a far­ci­cal caper star­ring the Sex Pis­tols minus their lead singer. John­ny Rot­ten had quit the band at this point and appears only in archival footage. Most­ly The Great Rock and Roll Swin­dle was a vehi­cle for Mal­colm McLaren to sell him­self as the guru of punk and the dri­ving force behind the band. Direct­ed by Julien Tem­ple (who also made the far supe­ri­or Sex Pis­tols doc, The Filth and the Fury), Swin­dle is also notable for almost launch­ing a Sid Vicious solo career, and it might have worked, were it not for his epi­cal­ly destruc­tive flame-out in 1978.

The film saw release two years lat­er, and pro­duced a sound­track album, which I remem­ber find­ing in a used record bin—pre-Google—and think­ing I’d dis­cov­ered some long lost Sex Pis­tols album. One lis­ten dis­abused me of the notion. Some of album is a snap­shot of the band’s sham­bol­ic final days, but most of it is devot­ed to “jokey mate­r­i­al” from the movie and most of that is pret­ty ter­ri­ble. The sole excep­tion is Sid’s ver­sion of Paul Anka’s “My Way” (top), a sneer­ing piss take on the song Sina­tra made famous. After some obnox­ious faux-croon­ing, Sid tears through song with punk aplomb. All­mu­sic apt­ly describes the per­for­mance as “inar­guably remark­able” yet show­ing that Sid was “inca­pable of com­pre­hend­ing the irony of his sit­u­a­tion.”

The moment of the per­for­mance itself is bathed in sad irony. I’ve always thought it showed that—had he just a lit­tle more instinct for self-preservation—we might have some­day seen Sid Vicious record­ing an album’s worth of brat­ty takes on the Amer­i­can Song­book, but prob­a­bly at McLaren’s behest. What more he might have had in him is any­one’s guess; in life he seemed unable to rise above the role McLaren assigned him in the film “Gim­mick.” But he made it look good. Those famil­iar with Alex Cox’s defin­i­tive por­trait Sid and Nan­cy will of course remem­ber Gary Oldman’s recre­ation of Sid’s “My Way” (above). Con­vinc­ing stuff, but no sub­sti­tute for the real thing.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Sid Vicious and Nan­cy Spun­gen Take Phone Calls on New York Cable TV (1978)

Watch the Sex Pis­tols’ Very Last Con­cert (San Fran­cis­co, 1978)

The His­to­ry of Punk Rock

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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