God Save the Queen
Writer(s): Glen Matlock, John Lydon, Paul Cook, Steve Jones (see lyrics here)
Released: May 27, 1977
First Charted: June 4, 1977
Peak: 1 CL, 1 CO, 2 UK, 6 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.25 UK
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 16.36 video, 74.82 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
The “spitting, screaming and spiky Sex Pistols” LW were at the forefront of the punk movement, whose "real legacy was in sweeping away the old guard, bring[ing] music back to the people, [and] allowing even those who only knew three chords on the guitar to make records." LW It gave its audience an escape from “the bombast of supergroups like Yes, the overindulgence of progressive rock bands like Pink Floyd, and the allegedly cocaine-fueled nonsense of the Eagles.” LW They
Their first single, “Anarchy in the UK,” was full of “crashing guitar chords and snarling lyrics [that] gave their music energy and a freshman that people were crying out for.” LW It soared to #1 on the UK charts and its follow-up, “God Save the Queen,” climbed to the runner-up position behind position behind Rod Stewart’s double-A-sided single “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” / “The First Cut Is the Deepest.” There have been rumours that “God Save the Queen” actually outsold Rod Stewart, but was kept out of the #1 spot because it might offend people. WK
It has also been reported that the song was banned by the BBC. While they certainly made programming decisions about what to play and not to play, they didn’t ban records. There were also some major retailers who refused to stock the song, but that only made it more marketable because of the taboo associated with the song. SF
It was released during Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, which marked the 25th anniversary of accession to the throne. The celebration was “a nonsense and an insult” LW for those “who lived on [Prime Minister Margaret] Thatcher’s breadline.” LW The band has said it wasn’t written specifically in response to the jubilee, but it certainly helped raise their anti-establishment profile. Member Paul Cook said, “We weren’t aware of it at the time. It wasn’t a contrived effort to go out and shock everyone.” WK
The lyrics were anything but celebratory. The song, originally called “No Future,” was about resentment towards “the stifling rule of the old-fashioned royal monarchy” SF and sympathy for the English working class. Lead singer John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, said, “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.” WK The song became “an anthem for the punk movement.” SF
First posted 10/7/2021; last updated 11/22/2022.