A couple of years later I was visiting an aunt of mine in the Midlands. Steeleye Span were playing in town that evening and, for old times' sake, I went to their concert. It was the night Elvis Presley died but that isn't why I remember it. I remember it because the concert I didn't go to that evening was one of the dates of the last (real) Sex Pistols tour in the UK. I didn't go because they were performing under a different name to avoid being banned, and I couldn't have read my NME closely enough that week; I'd slipped out of the loop. In those years, I saw pretty much everyone on the punk and post-punk scene, from X-Ray Spex and Siouxsie and the Banshees to the Buzzcocks and Generation X to Wire and the Gang of Four, but I still regret missing the Pistols for Maddy Prior.
I was in Portugal when Sid Vicious OD'd on heroin, two months after the death of Nancy Spungen. A voice on the BBC World Service announced that Mr Sidney Vicious had been found dead at the age of 21, etc. I wanted to shout out that Vicious wasn't his real surname but found myself crying instead. It was a low point in my life and it felt as though something messy and possible, some sort of dirty inchoate hope for a different sort of future, had been definitively stifled. By the time I was back in Britain, the world had changed, or mine had, and I found myself wearing a suit and working for a medical publisher's near Tottenham Court Road. The man I was working with, it turned out, had shared a flat with Malcolm McLaren and an actress, I think a midget, who'd worked in The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle. He shook his head when I asked him what it had been like. When I insisted, he mouthed the word 'drugs', and shook his head a second time.
And that slight degree of separation was as close as I got to McLaren, apart from buying his music when a lot of other people had probably stopped. Which doesn't quite explain the sadness I felt this morning when I read that he was dead. It's not like the death of Sid Vicious, but something has gone, a smidgeon of naughtiness and fuck-you-allness that won't come back easily or be found in quite the same guise as it was in McLaren's joyfully sleazy post-situationist stance, and a wide-open and essentially generous eye for the main chance in a world that tends to seize its opportunities, and then close them off, in a meaner and somehow more self-interested way than he did.