A Sex Pistols photographer shares the secrets of the most iconic images
- Dennis Morris’ classic Sex Pistols photographs are on display in London.
- Morris was the official photographer of the punk pioneers of the 1970s.
- The immersive show – SID: Superman is Dead – also features a recreation of a destroyed hotel room bassist Sid Vicious in 1977.
Dennis Morris was the Sex Pistols’ official photographer, taking some of the most iconic images of the punk pioneers of the 1970s.
More than 40 years after the band rose to fame, an exhibition of classic Morris photographs reveals the chaos and violence surrounding the band to a new generation of fans.
The immersive show – SID: Superman is Dead – also features a recreation of a destroyed hotel room bassist Sid Vicious in 1977.
The floor surrounding an unmade bed is littered with glass from shattered pictures, pages torn from a Bible and a destroyed television.
Drug paraphernalia covers a bedside table.
“You read about Sid Vicious, and you would think he was really a violent person, but he was actually quite a gentle person, very shy,” Morris told AFP at the central London gallery which organized the exhibition.
Vicious embodied the “live fast, die young” mantra and died in New York at the age of 21 of a drug overdose.
Months earlier, he had been accused of stabbing his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, to death.
“When he took heroin, he completely changed, he became a completely different person, and it was awful, he broke down,” Morris said.
Photographs of the Sex Pistols, by Dennis Morris, are seen at the ‘SID: Superman is Dead’ exhibition and of the Sex Pistols at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Wall of Fame Gallery in London.
Photographs of the Sex Pistols, by Dennis Morris, are seen at a ‘SID: Superman is Dead’ exhibition and of the Sex Pistols at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Wall of Fame Gallery in London.
Photographer Dennis Morris explains an installation of a ransacked hotel room by Sid Vicious during his ‘SID: Superman is Dead’ and the Sex Pistols exhibition at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Wall of Fame Gallery in London.
In Morris’ original photograph of the hotel scene recreated for the exhibition, Vicious is seen half-naked lying between two beds while an unidentified person – “probably a fan” – is curled up asleep on one of them.
“One night Sid went absolutely crazy and completely destroyed his room,” he said.
“My room was next to his, and finally, when the commotion died down, I pushed open the door to his room, and there was utter devastation.”
Morris, 62, originally wanted to be a war photographer but made a name for himself photographing reggae legend Bob Marley.
One of the aims of the installation was to give a sense of “the energy and violence of punk”.
The Sex Pistols anti-monarchy tirade in 1977 God Save the Queen coincided with the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II and provoked strong reactions.
Singer John Lydon – aka Johnny Rotten – and two producers were attacked with a razor.
At other times, Morris recalled being “chased down the road” by pro-monarchists when they spotted Lydon.
“With Sid I found my war…they came out against the Queen, and there was this reaction which was shocking because people were getting quite violent at times,” the British photographer said.
“It got pretty scary, but for me it was really an opportunity to live my dream (of documentary photography). I was there 24/7.”
Respect for the queen
Lydon – now 66 and a US citizen – recently said he attended a street party for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this month.
He said his dislike of the monarchy as an institution was stronger than ever, but he “completely respects” the 96-year-old head of state.
Whether Vicious would have changed his mind will never be known, but Morris said he also developed a “deep respect” for the Queen.
“She’s held on through the generations, despite coming on at a very young age, and that’s a really hard thing to do,” he added.
“I’ve never really been against them (the royal family), but over the years I’ve grown.
“None of us were against it; in fact it was just something that was said to create a reaction. All of our parents had a picture of the Queen on their wall or of Jesus; it’s like that…we were just rebelling.”
Sid was ‘innocent’
Morris strongly believes that Vicious had “star quality”, but his damaged background made an untimely death almost inevitable.
“His problem is that when he was 14 his mother gave him heroin. And it was his mother who gave him the heroin that killed him,” he said. -he adds.
After being released on bail from New York’s infamous Rikers Island prison following Spungen’s death, he was terrified of returning, he said.
“Because of his reputation, he was raped many times, so when he got out on bail he told his mum, ‘I just can’t go back to jail, I just can’t do it. so she came out and scored and that’s what killed him.”
Spungen was found in the couple’s room at the Chelsea Hotel in New York with a life-threatening abdominal wound. Morris, however, remains convinced that Vicious was innocent.
One of her favorite photographs is of the couple backstage, in which Nancy is seen talking animatedly to a docile-looking vicious.
“He would never have done that,” he said.