God Save the Queen

God save the Queen
The fascist regime,
They made you a moron
A potential H-bomb
God save the Queen
She ain’t no human being
There is no future
IN England’s dreaming

Don’t be told what you want
Don’t be told what you need
There’s no future
No future
No future for you

God save the Queen
We mean it man
We love our Queen
God saves

God save the Queen
Cause tourists are money
And our figurehead
Is not what she seems

Oh God save history
God save your mad parade
Oh Lord God have mercy
All crimes are paid

When there’s no future
How can there be sin
We’re the flowers
In the dustbin
We’re the poison
In your human machine
We’re the future
You’re future

God save the Queen
We mean it man
We love our Queen
God saves

God save the Queen
We mean it man
There is no future
In England’s dreaming

No future no future no future for you
No future no future no future for me
No future no future no future for you
No future no future for me

With the Sex Pistols signed to A&M the next move was to release the single ‘God Save the Queen’, it would be a hit hit and the record label would be happy and everyone would live happily ever after. Except of course this didn’t happen.

The recording of ‘God Save the Queen was as fresh as could be having just been recorded along with a handful of new tracks earlier in the month. New recruit Sid Vicious was regarded as unfit for purpose although he did apparently manage the bass line for another track ‘bodies’ which is, in itself, some sort of minor musical miracle. Luckily Steve Jones was up to playing the root note of the chords he was churning out so the bass problem was solved.

It is probable that ex bass player Glen Matlock provided most of the musical input for GSTQ but this is Johnny’s show. As I wrote last week the lyrics are full of great one liners, any one line taken is isolation pretty much grabs you round the throat and demands attention. Due to my lyrical blindness a couple of lines have escaped me for 40 years ‘God save your mad parade’ being one which is why, unusually, I’ve printed the whole thing above, I would hate you to miss out as I did.

The song was originally entitled ‘No Future’ and that essentially the message. Rotten was setting out a manifesto which distanced himself from the mass of the establishment who practically worshipped the royal family, but these are the people for whom there is no future, England was finished.

There’s a school of thought which I’ve subscribed to myself in the past, that the Pistols were a bit sluggish, take away Rotten and you are left with a heavy rock guitar band. After The Ramones hit Britain there a general move to speed things up musically which the Pistols resisted. The consequence of this however is that 40 years later their ferocious rock chug sounds far less dated. GSTQ is a fantastic rock track which is now being relocated alongside ‘Alright Now’ or ‘Layla’ or ‘Paranoid’ or ‘Silver Machine’ or ‘Highway to Hell’ or whatever in our psychic jukeboxes.The Pistols had also invested in a proper producer namely Chris Thomas who had worked with,gasp, The Beatles in the past. There was an attention to detail that was lacking in the production of The Dammed or The Clash which means the recording have more than withstood the test of time.

But back in 1977 musical considerations aside, this really was an incendiary piece of work. As Rotten sneered ‘we love our queen’ and if, for any reason we don’t subscribe to that there are still huge sections of the establishment who will try and crush us. It may be an hallucination but I’m sure that the national anthem was played when television closed down for the night (yes really, it did before midnight). It was certainly a reality that it would be played at the cinema at some point during a performance. You were expected to stand on this occasion (not in your own house) and if you didn’t one risked being pelted with mint imperials from some old bloke a few rows back. There was one member of parliament Willie Hamilton whose only claim to fame was to criticise the royal family, He was treated as a crank by all the media but at least I remember his name. Otherwise the Royals were treated as deities, it was certainly easier to admit to not believing in God than criticising the royals.
So here were this bunch of weird looking people who were willing to swear on television, about to release a song that had the same title as the national anthem, it wasn’t going to end well although as far as I was concerned it did.
This was some point further in the future than we might have anticipated however. The song was recorded and some initial pressings were made but things were not to be.
A couple of days after signing the contract a bunch of the pistols supporters, which may or may not have included Sid Vicious, were out on the town drinking when they ran into Old Grey Whistle Test presenter Bob Harris, the very man who had whispered ‘mock rock’ at the New York Dolls a couple of years previous. Harris was out relaxing with one of his engineers after a hard days work and probably didn’t want to be accosted by a bunch of pissed up punks demanding that he play the new single on his show. The Old Grey Whistle test was an album show so it was going to miss out on a lot of new exciting British music but was able to showcase Dan Fogelberg or Jesse Colin Young whenever it wanted. Not wanting to get into the finer points of scheduling the punks set about the two staff members until a posse of Procol Harum roadies stepped in to protect them.
It was a surreal encounter but a serious one. The engineer was actually quite badly hurt and taken to hospital. Harris’s manager complained to the record company and as well as Harris he represented some heavyweight artists. Some of the Pistol’s new label mates were also less than happy about the signing. There was also the very real issue that a well like and respected presenter had been attacked in public. A&M wavered briefly then crumbled sacking the band and leaving a small quantity of singles that had already been produced.

‘God save the Queen’ on A&M is now one of the all time collectable singles.
After this things got distinctly out of hand public opinion, not the upper classes but the solid working classes were to turn against the band to the point where the band would be in almost permanent physical danger. Being punk was a risky business at the best of times but now the likes of Rotten were recognisable public figures. Both Rotten and Cook were physically attacked in public, Rotten in particular had to go into semi hiding for a while while the band waited for Mclaren to find another record company willing to take a risk.
Of course ‘God save the Queen’ would now not be released for a couple more months bringing us ever closer to the Queens Jubilee when we could celebrate 25 years of her reign, and then buy the record.
But that’s another story
And here’s a great single

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