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Music

Jerry Only of Misfits met Sid Vicious the night he died

Before Slipknot, before GWAR, even before GG Allin, there were Misfits. Almost singlehandedly, they established the horror punk genre, and along with bands such as The Damned, The Cramps and T.S.O.L., they paved the way for a blistering musical style and, perhaps more importantly, a stark aesthetic that worked to enrich their unique musical content. They showed that music didn’t have to be just music; it could be so much more.

The New Jersey band were formed in early 1977, by frontman Glenn Danzig and drummer Manny Martínez, before bass player Jerry Only joined shortly after. They quickly began performing at New York’s home of all things punk, CBGBs, and over the next six years, the band’s personnel would frequently change, with Danzig and Only being the two original members. 

There are many wild tales from the days when Misfits were at their creative zenith. However, perhaps the most significant comes courtesy of Jerry Only. 

The story goes that on February 1st, 1979, Only was invited to party in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, and it was here that he was introduced to the notorious former Sex Pistol, Sid Vicious. Famously, Sex Pistols imploded a year before after an ill-fated show at The Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, and now, Vicious had found himself in the big apple attempting to launch a solo career.

Interestingly, the day Only met Vicious, the former Pistols man had been released from Riker’s Island jail on bail for the alleged murder of his partner Nancy Spungen. She had been found stabbed to death in their room at New York’s historic Hotel Chelsea in October 1978. 

“I was one of the first people at the party, so I ended up making bolognese sauce with his mom, Anne Beverly,” Only told Metal Hammer. “Then a bunch of his buddies rolled in, and all they did was get high.”

“When you went into New York, everybody was shootin’ dope,” he recalled. “It was a heavy narcotic scene. I wasn’t about that. That’s why we came up with the horror thing. We loved horror films, sci-fi, B-movies. We weren’t drug-shootin’ beatnik Bowery Boys.”

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Watching the excessive scenes unfold, Vicious began to succumb to the heroin, nodding out. Only said: “I had to smack Sid round a couple (of) times. I said, ‘This is ridiculous’ and his mom said, ‘Well, it happens all the time.’ I said, ‘It shouldn’t happen at all!’ I got outta there and left them to it.”

The following day Only was driving back from New Jersey to Connecticut to pick up some parts for his dad’s machine shop when he heard the breaking news; Sid Vicious was dead. He had died at that same party. 

“I couldn’t believe it,” he remembered. “I was the only person in New York who had a car – my mom’s old brown station wagon – and I was like the undertaker for the kid. I drove his mom to the coroner, took her to the cemetery where Nancy was, helped her put Sid’s ashes on her grave.”

As is the case when a prominent celebrity dies, the rumour mill began to turn. There were whispers spreading that Vicious had committed suicide, unable to cope with the guilt he felt about Nancy’s death, but this wasn’t true. Forced into a detoxification programme whilst in Riker’s Island, Vicious’ tolerance for the drug had been significantly reduced, meaning that he could not take the drug in such copious amounts as he had done before. In reality, it was this that killed Vicious.

“At first people thought he’d killed himself, but the drugs were just too pure – the coroner had never seen anything like it,” Only concluded. “It was such a waste – he had all the potential in the world. Sid was outgrowing the Sex Pistols… he had just done My Way – he could (have) been the new Frank Sinatra if he’d just stayed alive.”

It’s one of music’s biggest tragedies that Sid Vicious passed away so prematurely. He was the product of his environment, and it seems as if fate was always conspiring against him, even if he has to take a large chunk of responsibility for the mess he found himself in towards the end of his life. As for Jerry Only, he’d go on to have a stellar career and become a punk legend, and I’d wager that he counts his lucky stars he got out of that party when he did.

Listen to Misfits ‘Where Eagles Dare’ below.