The Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious Sings Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”: Is Nothing Sacred?

In the great gar­den of fork­ing paths and alter­na­tive time­lines there are two oth­er ver­sions of The Great Rock n’ Roll Swin­dle that Julian Tem­ple nev­er direct­ed. One would have been direct­ed by Gra­ham Chap­man of Mon­ty Python fame, but “he behaved glo­ri­ous­ly bad­ly to Mal­colm (McLaren)” accord­ing to John Lydon many years lat­er. The oth­er was to be writ­ten by film crit­ic Roger Ebert and direct­ed by bux­om beau­ty lover Russ Mey­er (who Lydon called “shab­by” and “a senile old git.”) But you do have to won­der what the hell either of those films might have been like.

Would either of them con­tained the above clas­sic scene–probably the only scene worth the price of admission–where Sid Vicious both mur­ders the clas­sic “My Way” and sev­er­al rich peo­ple in the front row.

Killing sacred cows has long been a part of the West’s sense of humor, long before punk. Spike Jones and his City Slick­ers reg­u­lar­ly destroyed clas­sic warhors­es like The Blue Danube and The Nut­crack­er. The Bon­zo Dog Band in the UK took on “The Sound of Music” and left no sur­vivors. And the Res­i­dents lov­ing­ly destroyed pop music of the ‘60s on Third Reich ‘n’ Roll and their cov­er of the Rolling Stones’ “Sat­is­fac­tion.” When it comes to pop cul­ture, noth­ing is sacred. Not even Frank Sina­tra.

By the time Tem­ple joined the McLaren’s film project, Lydon was not speak­ing to his man­ag­er. And when they got close to shoot­ing the “My Way” sequence in Paris, Sid Vicious didn’t want to take part. Julien Tem­ple remem­bered:

I would go to the stu­dio every night and come back to report to Mal­colm that the guy did­n’t want to do the song. Sid would spend all the time in the stu­dio try­ing to learn the bass. We would have to come back and tell Mal­colm we had wast­ed anoth­er night’s mon­ey. Mal­colm grew tired of it. He picked up the phone and start­ed scream­ing at Sid about what a use­less junkie he was and so on. Mean­while, Sid had giv­en the phone over to Nan­cy and while that was going on, sud­den­ly the door of Mal­colm’s hotel room flew off its hinges. Sid crashed into the room wear­ing his swasti­ka under­pants and motor­bike boots. He dragged Mal­colm out of bed and start­ed hit­ting him. Then Sid chased a naked Mal­colm down the cor­ri­dor intent on beat­ing the shit out of him.

Now, that might have been a more inter­est­ing scene than the the­ater mas­sacre, but who knows? McLaren want­ed every­thing in the film to be big­ger than life and to his cred­it, this pum­mel­ing of a cover–which had a sec­ond life as the end­ing song to Mar­tin Scorsese’s Good­Fel­las–is still a prop­er two-fin­ger salute. But in a twist, it would be Sid Vicious and the flame of British punk that would be quick­ly snuffed out upon its release. Vicious died Feb­ru­ary 2, 1979.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch the Sex Pis­tols Play a Gig on a Thames Riv­er Barge Dur­ing the Queen’s Sil­ver Jubilee, and Get Shut Down by the Cops (1977)

When the Sex Pis­tols Played at the Chelms­ford Top Secu­ri­ty Prison: Hear Vin­tage Tracks from the 1976 Gig

Watch the Sex Pis­tols’ Christ­mas Par­ty for Children–Which Hap­pened to Be Their Final Gig in the UK (1977)

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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