“God Save the Queen” by The Sex Pistols

Queen Elizabeth II, during her reign was sort of like the president of England if you will. Owing to this, she was therefore not beloved by all of her constituents. So even though the vocalist in this song refers to her as “no human being” and what have you, the general implication is that this song isn’t particularly anything personal. In other words, the Queen is the personification of the British system. So if someone in England has beef with the establishment, then it’s likely they won’t think too highly of her neither.

And so it has been ascertained concerning this song. Countries like the United Kingdom traditionally value free speech, so it is more or less common to hear certain musicians therein occasionally bringing it to the man.

Indeed, even though the Queen endures a couple of tongue lashings in the lyrics, though the wording of this song is pretty ambiguous. This isn’t necessarily like, say the Pet Shop Boys’ 1986 track “Opportunities“, which seemed to speak more specifically to the era of British history in which it was dropped. In this case, the Sex Pistols pretty much go about presenting the imperial system, if you will, as being rotten at the core or from its inception even. 

And the band is basically calling on their countrymen to open their eyes and take a more critical look at the powers that be, instead of just going along with the flow of sweatin’ the monarchy. In fact the title of this song is, as you probably already know, directly derived from the United Kingdom’s national anthem. But in utilizing such what the vocalist is actually doing, in context, is mocking individuals like those mentioned above, who ‘love the Queen’ while simultaneously ignoring some of the less-than-ideal aspects of her system.

In Conclusion

In the end, the way Johnny Rotten seems to perceive things is something like the monarch is chillin’ alright, though at the expense of the masses. Or viewed from a different lens, the power lies in the people, not in the rulers. But since the people have given themselves over to this ‘dream’, i.e. idolizing royal rule, then it’s as if their “future” has already been compromised.

"God Save the Queen"

Release of “God Save the Queen”

During Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, British band, The Sex Pistols, released “God Save the Queen” as a single on May 27 of 1977. The song featured on the band’s “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols” album. 

Controversy

This Sex Pistol classic was extremely controversial and was therefore refused airplay by the BBC. Both its lyrics and cover were perceived to be an attack on the British monarchy. It honestly created almost the same backlash The Smiths’ iconic anti-monarchy song “The Queen Is Dead” created in the mid 1980s.

But despite all the controversies surrounding it, “God Save the Queen” was a commercial success. It peaked at No. 2 in the UK.

It’s inability to rise to number 1 in the UK created even more controversy. And why? Because it gave birth to claims that the UK Official Charts had been fixed, preventing the song from taking the No. 1 spot.    

Who wrote “God Save the Queen”?

This anti-monarchy anthem was penned down by all four members of the Sex Pistols. Owing to this, the writing credits look like this:

  • Steve Jones
  • Paul Cook
  • John Lydon (Johnny Rotten)
  • Glen Matlock

It was co-produced by Chris Thomas and Bill Price.

Covers

Over a dozen prominent cover versions of “God Save the Queen” have been released over the years. Notable amongst them include:

  • The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (1987)
  • Public Image Ltd. (1992)
  • Kapanga (2000)
  • Def Con Dos (1991)
  • Cornelius (1997)
  • Atari Teenage Riot (1995)
God Save the Queen

Sex Pistols’ “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols” Album

The above-mentioned album was released on the 27th of October, 1977. Interesting to note is that this project holds the distinction of being the only studio album of Sex Pistols’ entire career.  

Recording took place at the Wessex Sound Studios in London, with the aforementioned C. Thomas and B. Price as its producers.

The album debuted at No. 1 in the UK. It peaked at No. 106 and No. 9 on the Billboard 200 and the Dutch Albums Top 100 respectively.

Accolades

Despite the album’s controversies, it received a ton of positive reviews from music critics.

American rock band, Nirvana took inspiration form the album for the title of their second studio album, “Nevermind”. Kurt Cobain of  Nirvana, went on to list this legendary Sex Pistols’ album amongst his top 50 albums.

In 2006, this album was named the 4th greatest British album of all time by NME. In the same year, Time magazine included it in their selection of the best 100 albums of all time.

In 1987 it was second behind “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, an album by The Beatles as the best album for the last 20 years. In 2020, Rolling Stone ranked it No. 80 on the list, “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.

NOTE

In all, this iconic album birthed a total of four singles. “God Save the Queen” was the second of these four singles. It was also the album’s most outstanding track.

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