God Save the Queen (Sex Pistols song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"God Save the Queen"
An monochrome image in blue of Queen Elizabeth II with her eyes and lips blacked out, reading out the title of the single and the band's name respectively.
Single by Sex Pistols
from the album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols
B-side"No Feeling" (A&M release)/"Did You No Wrong" (Virgin release)
Released27 May 1977 (1977-05-27)
RecordedOctober 1976
March 1977
StudioWessex, London
GenrePunk rock[1]
Length3:20
LabelVirgin, A&M
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Chris Thomas, Bill Price
Sex Pistols singles chronology
"Anarchy in the U.K."
(1976)
"God Save the Queen"
(1977)
"Pretty Vacant"
(1977)
Music video
"God Save the Queen" on YouTube

"God Save the Queen" is a song by the English punk rock band the Sex Pistols. It was released as the band's second single and was later included on their only studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. The song was released during Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee in 1977.

The record's lyrics, as well as the cover, were controversial at the time; both the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the Independent Broadcasting Authority refused to play the song, including a total ban of its airing by the BBC.[2] The original title for the song was "No Future", with the lyrics themselves being a general expression of the band's view of the monarchy or any individual or establishment commanding general obligation.[3]

The song reached No. 1 on the NME charts in the United Kingdom, and made it to No. 2 on the official UK Singles Chart as used by the BBC. This led to accusations by some that the charts had been "fixed" to prevent the song from reaching No. 1.[4]

Background[edit]

The song's title is taken directly from the British national anthem. At the time, the song was highly controversial for its equation of Queen Elizabeth with a "fascist regime" and for the lyric "there is no future in England's dreaming". According to Glen Matlock, who had co-written the song—although he was no longer a member of the band by the time it was released—the bass was inspired by the Move's "Fire Brigade". Guitarist Steve Jones stated that when Matlock first played him the song it did not sound like 'God Save the Queen': "It was like 'Love Me Do' or something".[5]

Although many believe it was created because of the Silver Jubilee, the band have denied it, with Paul Cook saying that "it wasn't written specifically for the Queen's Jubilee. We weren't aware of it at the time. It wasn't a contrived effort to go out and shock everyone."[6] Johnny Rotten has explained the lyrics as follows: "You don't write 'God Save the Queen' because you hate the English race. You write a song like that because you love them, and you're fed up with them being mistreated."[7] He intended to evoke sympathy for the English working class and a general resentment towards the monarchy.

On 7 June 1977, the Jubilee holiday, the band attempted to play the song from a boat named the Queen Elizabeth on the River Thames, near the Palace of Westminster. After a scuffle involving attendee Jah Wobble and a cameraman, 11 people, including Malcolm McLaren, the man who organised the concert, and several other members of the band's entourage, were arrested when the boat docked.[8]

Release and reception[edit]

The single was released on 27 May 1977, and was regarded by many of the general public as an assault on Queen Elizabeth and the monarchy. During the media furore over the single, Lydon and producers Bill Price and Chris Thomas were subject to a razor attack outside a pub in Highbury, London.[9]

Agreeing with the apparent anti-Windsor message, American postmodern author William S. Burroughs sent a congratulatory letter to the Sex Pistols following the release of the song.[10]

Before the group signed to Virgin, a small number of copies of "God Save the Queen" had been pressed on the A&M label. These are now among the most valuable records ever pressed in the UK, with a resale value as of 2006 of between £500 and £13,000 a copy, depending on condition of the disc.[11] The highest recorded sale price of $22,155 was achieved at auction in 2006 by UK collector Marshal Peters who sold a copy of the single complete with its A&M card envelope, of which only nine copies are known to exist.[12] The B-side of the A&M single was "No Feeling", an early rough mix or performance of "No Feelings". (A later version was released on the Pistols' debut album.) Record Collector named the A&M single the most collectable record of all time.[citation needed]

Censorship and chart controversy[edit]

Upon its release, the song was banned from both the BBC and radio stations regulated by the Independent Broadcasting Authority with Radio 2 controller Charles McLelland saying the song was "in gross bad taste".[13] Additionally, the major retailers Boots, WHSmith, and Woolworths all declined to sell the record.[14] Nevertheless, it peaked at No. 2 (below Rod Stewart's "I Don't Want to Talk About It" released as a double A-side budget single along with "The First Cut Is the Deepest") on the official UK Singles Chart used by the BBC; it did so during the week of the Silver Jubilee's official observation.[4][15][16] On the singles chart displayed in branches of WH Smith, the single's position at No. 2 was represented by a blank line.[17]

However, various sources state that it was indeed the highest-selling single of the week,[18][19] and it has been suggested that the song was deliberately blocked from reaching the top spot on the "official" BMRB chart. According to a 1998 article in The Independent, for one week compilers "decreed that shops which sold their own records could not have those records represented in the chart", and thus sales from Virgin Megastores were not counted.[20] Virgin had few doubts that theirs was the higher-selling single; the company's sales total out of stock exceeded the officially cited sales for the Rod Stewart single.[21] The NME magazine chart did in fact place the single at number-one during the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II.[14][22] In 2001, the BBC described the song as having "reached number one in the UK".[23]

Legacy[edit]

"God Save the Queen" was featured on Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, the band's only album, and several compilation albums.

Rolling Stone ranked "God Save the Queen" number 175 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time[24] and it is also one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.[25] It was Sounds magazine's Single of the Year in 1977.[26] In 1989, it was eighteenth in the list of NME writers' all-time top 150 singles.[27] Q magazine in 2002 ranked it first on its list of "The 50 Most Exciting Tunes Ever..."[28] and third on its list of "100 Songs That Changed the World" in 2003.[29] In 2007, NME launched a campaign to get the song to number 1 in the British charts and encouraged readers to purchase or download the single on 8 October. However, it only made number 42. In 2010, the New Statesman listed it as one of the "Top 20 Political Songs".[30]

In 2010, the song was ranked among the top 10 most controversial songs of all time in a poll conducted by PRS for Music.[31]

In 2002, the song was re-released to coincide with the Queen's Golden Jubilee, whereupon the single charted in the top 20. In 2012, it was announced that the single would be re-released on 28 May 2012, coinciding with the 35th anniversary of the original release and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.[32] Lydon has voiced his disapproval over the re-release and the campaign, saying in a statement: "I would like to very strongly distance myself from the recent stories and campaign to push 'God Save the Queen' for the number one spot... this campaign totally undermines what The Sex Pistols stood for."[33] The 2012 re-release peaked at no. 80 in the singles chart.[34] Rights holder UMC re-released the record for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee in 2022, with 1,977 vinyl copies having the same tracks as the original A&M version and the rest labelled as a Virgin release.[9] The record sold 5,712 vinyl copies and became the number one single on the Official Physical Singles Chart Top 100 of 10 June 2022 to 16 June 2022,[35] with a chart placing of number 57 in the main chart when the 279 downloads were added.[36]

In recent years, Lydon has moderated his views on the royal family. In 2001, he stated: "Is the Queen a moron? I probably think so. That women has her precious little to do with her so-called subjects, other than ignore the hell out of us.... We're just there to prop up her tiara".[37] The following year, he denied he was an anti-monarchy in an interview on Richard & Judy: "I was never pro them or anti them. I just think if we're going to have a monarchy it may as well work properly. I mean, we pay for it, after all".[38] Despite his previous 2001 comments about the Queen, Lydon stated on Piers Morgan Live in 2015: "I never said I didn't [love the Queen], I just don't like the institution".[39] In another interview with Piers Morgan on Piers Morgan Uncensored in 2022, the year of Platinum Jubilee, Lydon further expressed his respect for the Queen: "I'm [not] completely dead against The Royal Family as human beings. I'm actually really really proud of the Queen for surviving and doing so well. I applaud her for that. That is a fantastic achievement. I'm not a curmudgeon about that. I just think that if I'm paying my tax money to support this system, I should have a say so on how it's spent".[40][41] Guitarist Steve Jones and bassist Glen Matlock also expressed their views on the monarchy in 2022. Jones stated: "I’ve never had any connection to the monarchy, to be honest. It meant nothing to me, still doesn't. So to me ['God Save the Queen'] was just a laugh, it was a giggle".[42] While Matlock stated in an interview with Good Morning Britain: "I've nothing personal against the queen, lots of people love and respect her, but I do think she's a bit of a sop to what's going on".[43]

Use in other media[edit]

The song could be heard during Journey Along the Thames, a two-minute film directed by Danny Boyle and played at the beginning of the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, an event opened by the queen, and held during her Diamond Jubilee. A camera traverses the route the band took in the boat the Queen Elizabeth, between Tower Bridge and Westminster, as the song plays. [44]

On 3 November 2016, Andrew Rosindell, a Conservative MP, argued in an early day motion for a return to the broadcasting of the national anthem at the end of BBC One transmissions each day (the practice had been dropped in 1997, due to BBC One adopting 24-hour broadcasting by simulcasting BBC News 24 overnight, rendering closedown obsolete),[45] to commemorate the Brexit vote and Britain's subsequent withdrawing from the European Union. At the evening of the same day, BBC Two's Newsnight programme ended its nightly broadcast with host of that night Kirsty Wark saying that they were "incredibly happy to oblige" Rosindell's request, and then played a clip of the Sex Pistols' similarly-named song, much to Rosindell's discontent.[46]

Chart performance[edit]


Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[52] Silver 250,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Cover artwork[edit]

The single's picture sleeve, featuring a defaced image of Queen Elizabeth II, was designed by Jamie Reid and in 2001 was ranked No. 1 in a list of the 100 greatest record covers of all time by Q magazine.[53] A photograph of the image is held by the National Portrait Gallery, London.[54]

Cover versions[edit]

Motörhead version[edit]

"God Save the Queen"
God Save The Queen MH.jpg
Single by Motörhead
from the album We Are Motörhead
B-side"One More Fucking Time/God Save the Queen (Enhanced Video)"
Released2000
RecordedJune–August 1999
StudioKaro Studios, Brackel, Germany
Length3:19
LabelSteamhammer
Songwriter(s)John Lydon / Steve Jones / Glen Matlock / Paul Cook
Producer(s)Motörhead, Bob Kulick, Bruce Bouillet, Duane Barron
Motörhead singles chronology
"Born to Raise Hell"
(1994)
"God Save the Queen"
(2000)
"We Are Motörhead"
(2000)
Music video
God Save the Queen on YouTube

A cover version by the English heavy metal band Motörhead was released as a single in 2000 to promote their album, We Are Motörhead.

The cover art gives further reference to the Sex Pistols by using the same cut-out words to form the title as the Sex Pistols' single cover.

A performance of the song recorded during the band's twenty-fifth anniversary concert at Brixton Academy, on 22 October 2000, appears on their 25 & Alive Boneshaker DVD.

Single track listing[edit]

  1. "God Save the Queen" (Paul Cook, Steve Jones, John Lydon, Glen Matlock)
  2. "One More Fucking Time" (Lemmy, Phil Campbell, Mikkey Dee)
  3. God Save the Queen (Enhanced Video)" (Cook, Jones, Lydon, Matlock)

Personnel[edit]

  • Phil "Wizzö" Campbell – guitar, vocals
  • Mikkey Dee – drums
  • Lemmy – bass, lead vocals

The SCTV satire[edit]

On the 18 March 1983 episode of SCTV in the Mel's Rock Pile segment, Mel Slirrup (Eugene Levy) has a tribute to punk rock featuring a number by the band the Queenhaters—Martin Short (lead singer), Andrea Martin (lead guitarist/back-up vocals), Eugene Levy (rhythm guitarist), Joe Flaherty (bass), and John Candy (drummer)—performing "I Hate the Bloody Queen", a sound-alike song that almost matches the original it is spoofing, with references to the Falklands War ("I'd like to drown the Queen/Off the coast of Argentine/Throw her off a battleship/With her Falkland war machine!") and the problems that Princess Diana was, and would be soon having with her in-laws ("I feel sorry for you, Lady Di/Having a mother-in-law like that!"). This spoof of the Sex Pistols "God Save the Queen" even has its own cover version by Mudhoney on the tribute album Oh Canaduh! 2.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bradley, Michael (15 March 2016). "The 10 best punk rock singles, by The Undertones' Michael Bradley". TeamRock. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  2. ^ "May 31: The BBC bans the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen"". History.com. 1 April 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  3. ^ Grow, Kory (27 October 2017). "Sex Pistols Break Down 'Never Mind the Bollocks' Track by Track". Rollingstone.com. Retrieved 24 December 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Bragg attacks Pistols' royal views". BBC News Online. British Broadcasting Corporation. 27 May 2002. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  5. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "The Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks". YouTube.
  6. ^ Lydon, John (1995). Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs. Picador. p. 234. ISBN 0-312-11883-X.
  7. ^ John Lydon (2007). "Sex Pistols Vinyl Reissues 2007: God Save The Queen". John Lydon.com. Retrieved 29 January 2008.
  8. ^ Allan Jones (2007). "The Sex Pistols' Jubilee Boat Trip". Uncut.co.uk. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  9. ^ a b Savage, Mark (3 May 2022). "Sex Pistols to re-release God Save the Queen ahead of Jubilee". BBC News. Retrieved 4 May 2022.
  10. ^ "Dead Mentors Talk: The pop world of Ballard and Burroughs -". 3:AM Magazine. 14 January 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  11. ^ "Ebay auction results 2006". Popsike.com.
  12. ^ "There is a future after all...Sex Pistols single sells for $22,155". Isleofwrite.com.
  13. ^ "Sex Pistols to re-release God Save the Queen ahead of Jubilee". BBC News. BBC News. 3 May 2022. Retrieved 14 November 2022.
  14. ^ a b c Ascherson, Neal (2 June 2002). "Is the UK OK?". The Observer. Retrieved 8 August 2010.
  15. ^ "God Save the Queen: The Sex Pistols take on charity track". ITV News. 19 April 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  16. ^ Hall, James (27 May 2017). "God Save the Queen at 40: how the Sex Pistols made the most controversial song in history". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  17. ^ "God Save The Sex Pistols - God Save The Queen Press Cuttings Page One". www.philjens.plus.com. Retrieved 31 July 2022.
  18. ^ Donovan, Patrick (3 June 2002). "Melbourne & punk: 25 years on". The Age. Retrieved 8 August 2010.
  19. ^ Munckton, Stuart (2 August 2000). "When the oppressed express themselves". Green Left Weekly. Retrieved 8 August 2010.
  20. ^ Leigh, Spencer (20 February 1998). "Music: Charting the number ones that somehow got away". The Independent. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  21. ^ Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, St. Martin's Press, 1991, pg 364-365
  22. ^ Murthi, R. S. (9 May 1993). "Infectious Rage of Punk". New Straits Times. p. 17. Retrieved 8 August 2010.
  23. ^ "Sex Pistols cover tops chart". BBC News. 14 March 2001. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  24. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time: Sex Pistols, 'God Save the Queen'". Rolling Stone. 11 December 2003. Archived from the original on 15 June 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  25. ^ "500 Songs That Shaped Rock". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  26. ^ "Sounds Single of the Year 1977". Rocklist.net.
  27. ^ "NME Writers all time top 150 singles". Rocklist.net.
  28. ^ "Q 50 Most Exciting Tunes Ever". Rocklist.net.
  29. ^ "100 Songs That Changed The World". Rocklist.net.
  30. ^ Smith, Ian K (25 March 2010). "Top 20 Political Songs: God Save The Queen". New Statesman. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
  31. ^ "Smack my Bitch Up Voted Most Controversial Song". Mirror UK. 24 November 2010.
  32. ^ "Sex Pistols announce plans to re-release 'God Save The Queen'". New Musical Express. 16 April 2012. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  33. ^ "John Lydon criticises Sex Pistols Jubilee re-release". BBC News. 17 April 2012. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  34. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100 | Official Charts Company". Officialcharts.com. 7 October 2016. Archived from the original on 23 November 2012. Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  35. ^ "Official Physical Singles Chart Top 100: 10 June 2022 - 16 June 2022". Official Charts Company. 10 June 2022. Retrieved 11 June 2022.
  36. ^ Jones, Alan (10 June 2022). "Charts analysis: Harry Styles' As It Was becomes longest-running No.1 since Ed Sheeran's Bad Habits". Music Week. Retrieved 11 June 2022.
  37. ^ "Why God Save the Queen Was Banned the Sex Pistols Channel". YouTube.
  38. ^ "Bragg attacks Pistols' royal views". 27 May 2002.
  39. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "John "Rotten" Lydon (The Sex Pistols) - Piers Morgan's Life Stories - FULL INTERVIEW - 2015". YouTube.
  40. ^ ""Harry, GO WORK IN MCDONALDS!" John Lydon on the Royal Family | PMU". YouTube.
  41. ^ "John Lydon issues warning about Prince Charles on Piers Morgan Uncensored". 13 May 2022.
  42. ^ "Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones: 'The monarchy means nothing to me'". Independent.co.uk. 5 June 2022.
  43. ^ "Former Sex Pistol's Star: Glen Matlock on 'God Save the Queen' Rerelease | Good Morning Britain". YouTube.
  44. ^ Olympics (28 July 2012). The Complete London 2012 Opening Ceremony London 2012 Olympic Games (Video). Olympics. Event occurs at 11m18s.
  45. ^ Hughes, Laura (3 November 2016). "Tory MP calls for BBC 1 to mark Brexit with national anthem at the end of each day". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  46. ^ Robb, Simon (4 November 2016). "BBC just trolled a conservative MP brilliantly with God Save the Queen". Metro. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  47. ^ "Sex Pistols – God Save The Queen". Top 40 Singles.
  48. ^ "Sex Pistols – God Save The Queen". VG-lista.
  49. ^ "Sex Pistols – God Save The Queen". Singles Top 100.
  50. ^ a b c d "Sex Pistols". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  51. ^ "Indice per Interprete: S". HitParadeItalia (it). Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  52. ^ "British single certifications – Sex Pistols – God Save the Queen". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 16 June 2022.
  53. ^ "Sex Pistols cover tops chart". BBC. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  54. ^ "Queen Elizabeth II ('God Save the Queen') - National Portrait Gallery". Npg.org.uk. Retrieved 24 December 2021.

External links[edit]