This song is about rebelling against British politics. A lot of young people felt alienated by the stifling rule of the old-fashioned royal monarchy, and the Queen (Queen Elizabeth), was their symbol.
"It was expressing my point of view on the Monarchy in general and on anybody that begs your obligation with no thought," lead singer John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) told Rolling Stone. "That's unacceptable to me. You have to earn the right to call on my friendship and my loyalty."
The British national anthem is called "God Save The Queen." This mocks it in a big way, which did not go over well with English royalty.
Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren released this to coincide with The Queen's Silver Jubilee, a celebration commemorating her 25th year on the throne. The Sex Pistols and their fans detested the monarchy and this celebration.
The Queen's Silver Jubilee took place on June 7, 1977. On that day, The Sex Pistols attempted to play this song from the Thames river, outside of Westminster Palace. It was a typical Malcolm McLaren promotional stunt, as they played up how the band was circumventing a "ban" by playing on the river instead of setting foot on ground. The performance never took place, as they were thwarted by authorities.
This was originally called "No Future." The band played it live and recorded a demo version with that title, but changed it when lead singer Johnny Rotten got the idea to mock the British monarchy.
This became an anthem for the punk movement in England. It expressed the anger young people felt toward the establishment.
In the UK, this outsold the #1 song at the time, Rod Stewart's "I Don't Want To Talk About It," but it mysteriously and controversially stayed at #2.
The Sex Pistols were signed to A&M records when they recorded this. They dropped the band just as this was released, pulling all the singles. The ones that slipped through became valuable collectors items. In 2011 Record Collector magazine compiled its Top 50 most collectable records, and top of the list came the A&M release of this song - if you happen to have a copy the good news is it worth $12,000 (£8,000).
This was released on Virgin Records, the third label to sign The Sex Pistols (EMI and A&M both dropped the band because they were too much trouble). It was released as a single in May 1977, but the album did not come out until December, as they had many problems recording it.
Bass player Sid Vicious joined the band shortly before this was released - it was one of only two songs he played on. Original bassist Glen Matlock was far more competent musically, but clashed with his bandmates, leading to his departure.
Popular belief is that this song was "banned" by the BBC and most other broadcasting outlets. In truth, the BBC didn't ban records, but made programing decisions based on its standards and enforced certain rules, like barring product mentions. The BBC's Radio 1 did exclude the song from their playlist, and some major retailers (including and Woolworth's and WH Smith) refused to stock it, but by labeling it taboo the song became even more marketable, and it sold an amazing 150,000 copied the first week it was released.
The working title for the album was "God Save The Sex Pistols."
A month after this was released, some members of the band were attacked by men who supported the British monarchy. Johnny Rotten's hand was permanently damaged.
The cover of the single showed a picture of The Queen with a safety pin through her lip, serving to anger the establishment even more. The cover was designed by Jamie Reid, who went to Croydon College of Art with Malcolm McLaren. The lettering was designed to look like a ransom note, an idea that would be copied in many forms of design, but especially among future punk bands.
Suggestion credit: Bertrand - Paris, France
Motorhead covered this on their 2000 album We Are Motorhead. The album cover is a tribute to the Sex Pistols original single.
This was re-released in England in 2002 to coincide with The Queen's Golden Jubilee, which celebrated Queen Elizabeth's 50th year on the throne.
At the 2008 Biennale of Sydney, which is a 12-week contemporary art festival, the Swiss artist Christoph Buchel presented an exhibit called "No Future." He turned the gallery into a rehearsal space for a Punk band with all the members over the age of 80. The band rehearsed this song.
Speaking with Official Charts.com in a 2012 interview, John Lydon (formerly Johhny Rotten) claimed that he did not intend to attack the Queen's Silver Jubilee with this song. He said: "I wrote a record. It wasn't about a specific moment in time or history - I wrote a record about a subject matter that mattered to me, in a personal way, and then all this situation enveloped and unfolded. I never did it as an act of spite against the Jubilee. I don't think that's been quite completely understood."
Sex Pistols lead singer John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, had the song on his mind long before he brought it to the band or even committed it to paper. He explained in an interview with Daniel Rachel (The Art of Noise: Conversations with Great Songwriters): "'God Save the Queen' was running around in my mind for months, long before joining the Sex Pistols; the idea of being angry, of the indifference of the Queen to the population and the aloofness and indifference to us as people. I had to work on building sites to get the money to go to college because I wanted to further my education and yet I was taxed to f--k. Why am I paying for that silly cow who couldn't give a s--t about me? Along come the Pistols and just one morning over baked beans I wrote it down in one go on Mum and Dad's kitchen table."
Nancy from Baltimore, MdI don't really like this kind of music, but this song is really good.
Mike from Matawan, Nj"....although druggies and drinkers and girlfriend beaters, they were HAWT!"
I wonder if you'll feel the same way when you grow up. Maybe it's your karma to have a boyfriend like that.
BTW, it was Sid who was the druggie and the girlfriend beater.
Tay from San Deigo, CaI love the song & i find it hilarious how they mock the country's anthem. they even played this song on a boat passing Buckingham Palace.
Jess from Townsville, AustraliaZOMG Johnny Rotten && Sid Vicious...although druggies and drinkers and girlfriend beaters, they were HAWT!
Dave from Sterling, FlJohn Lydon was pretty cool ,It was like trying to be as horrible as possible,which is good.
Brad from Long Island, NyActually Kane, sid died almost 2 years after the band split, he wasnt that important to them musically as he couldnt really play when he was sober anyway. The Pistols induction into the rock and roll hall of fame is hilarious. Johnny (I think he wrote the note) hand writes a one page diatribe as to why the pistols would never show up to Comparing the rock hall to "urine in wine," "We're not coming. We're not your monkeys and so what?..... true punks to the end
Nady from Adelaide, AustraliaSid Vicious had wayyy serious problems....hot though
Musicmama from New York, NyTo me, this is the best punk song besides the Dead Kennedys' "Kill The Poor." Both songs are great examples of how the essence of satire is verisimiltude. After I heard "God Save The Queen," I realized that in some way, punk had more in common with old-style jazz: It broke with what the tastemakers said was "fine" music because it was born of harsh experience. Although this song seems to be an act of rebellion, which we associate with youth, it takes an older soul (as jazz does) to come up with this than with all but that very rare rock-n-roll song.
Ed from Phoenix, AzThere is/was a great punk band from LA in the 80's named "Mad Parade" who took their name from a line in this song "God save your mad parade". Pretty cool...
Kane from Vancouver, WaPretty much, it seems that all The Sex Pistols song were mainly about how to practice nihilism successfuly and how they all felt like crap being pushed around all the time. Jonny was TRYING to offend all the people he thought was keeping him from being someone. In the end came Sid's death and the end of the band.
Josh from New London, MnThe thrash metal band Anthrax covered this on their Armed and Dangerous album, excellent song!
Nathan from Bruges, BelgiumOf course they were a little bit anarchistic, but not extremistic. Great song, by the way (but I still prefer The Beatles).
Nathan from Bruges, BelgiumDid you know the image of The Sex Pistols was all set up by their manager (McLaren)? He said: "Punk is only a manner to sell trousers."
Spencer from Mcbride, Canadathis is an awesome song...I wish they wouldnt have been arrested so they could play this on the river for the queen hahaha
Pete from Nowra, Australia"well may they say God say the Queen , because nothing will save the Governor General"...sorry just had to say that........ now where was everyone ...
Nathan from Defiance, OhThe Sex Pistols should be famous just for having the balls to mock royaltly let alone making good music.
Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScIt seems sort of laughable today how much hysteria surrounded the sex pistols. I mean to have the song and artist sensored from the charts? That's actually pretty funny! That songfact that says Glen matlock was fired from the band because he was too nice, is also funny!
Matt from Toronto, CanadaSince the song was banned from pretty much all radio stations, in an effort to promote the song, the band set up on a boat and followed the queen's boat in her Silver Jubilee parade on the Themes river. They played this song at full blast and eventually got arrested, but it worked like a charm and helped bring it to number 1.
Richard from Bastrop, TxI'd heard about the Sex Pistols for a few months before I heard this song, just like I'd heard about the Beatles for a few months before they appeared on Ed Sullivan. I first heard it on the radio in Chicago in the Spring of 1977. It totally, irreversibly blew my mind! The guitar intro came on and I just stared at the radio with my mouth open, and then the lyrics blasted out (obviously I knew what the song was immediately) and I was in heaven! I thought right then, and still think, it's one of the greatest rock 'n roll songs ever recorded. (I've never understood these geeks who say the Sex Pistols couldn't play!) I immediately jumped on the bus and went to the reocrd store and bought it as a single, along with White Riot and 1977 by the Clash, whom I'd heard about but never acutally heard. The next year and a half in Chicago was complete Punk Pandemonium, and rock 'n roll hasn't been the same since. What's more, I think Never Mind the Bollocks is the greatest rock 'n roll record ever recorded, by far.
Lazer from Buffalo, NyI heard that Glen Matlock left the band because his mother thought the lyrics were to vulgar.
Megan from Portsmouth, Englandi still do feel alienated by the monarchy. sex pistols, were r they wen ya need em.
Dave from Cardiff, WalesThe Sex Pistols split up not long after the release of this song. John Lydon went on to form Public Image Ltd. in 1978 with Jah Wobble (he of Jah Wobble and his Inavaders of the Heart fame in the 1990s), and so went on to further success during the 1980s. PIL had 11 hit singles in the UK before disbanding in 1992. Lydon subsequently featured on Leftfield's 1993 hit "Open Up", before briefly reforming the Sex Pistols in 1996, but the reunion did not last long.
Spyder from Someplace, MdThe blank spot on the charts was because of the uproar the Sex Pistols had made, remember at the time it was unheard of for anyone to do anything this blatant. I believe they hold the distinct honor of having the only song at #1 where the name of the song and the artist were both censored from the charts :)
Si from London, EnglandThe title was actually "No Future" but this was changed to "God Save the Queen" when the release date was found to be close to that of the queen's silver jubilee in 1977.
The irony, of course, is that the song doesn't actually insult the queen at all, it actually attacks the government of the UK. The newspaper hysteria of the time, stating that the song "calls the queen a moron" was incorrect. If you listen to the lyrics, they actually say "your fascist regime, they MADE YOU a moron".
John from Seattle, WaThe band was dropped from EMI after a public uproar because Steve Jones said "f--k" during an interview on the Bill Grundy talk show. Siouxsie Sioux was one of the groupies on the set with them. The band was later dropped from A&M, reportedly, after either Jones or Paul Cook threw up on an old woman at Heathrow airport.
Chad from Huntington Station, Ny"In the UK, this outsold the #1 song at the time, Rod Stewart's "I Don't Want To Talk About It," but it mysteriously and controversially stayed at #2." - actually there was a blank spot where no. 1 was supposed to be on the british charts. Rod waqs shown as no.2