The Sex Pistols God Save the Queen still has the power to inspire like nothing else

By Angela Lovely

Modified union flag.

Jamie Reid's Sex Pistols union flag and Queen.

For a collector's item it is a pretty poor offering, much like the original album Never Mind the Bollocks that featured it in 1977. There was little on the album cover to tell you about the band; no notes, no snippets of information; just a cardboard cover that looked home made with a track listing. It was as interesting as a brown paper bag but iconic at the same time.

7 inche picture disc.

Sex Pistols – God Save The Queen (2012 Remastered Version) c/w Did You No Wrong (2012 Remastered Version).

Today the Sex Pistols anti-monarchy anthem is re-released as a 7 inch picture disc with Jamie Reid’s union flag featuring an image of Queen Elizabeth II with the words God Save the Queen. There is also a campaign to get it to number 1 in the UK music chart by downloading the mp3 version of it from various vendors. The chart results will be announced on Sunday 3 June. True to form, John Lydon has distanced himself from the campaign.

Sister Ray in Soho’s Berwick Street had already sold over a 100 copies of the 7 inch picture disc by lunchtime today and they told me there had been a lot of interest in the re-issue. The shop however was displaying no marketing material. And when I asked they told me they hadn’t been sent any. In nearby Hanway Street JB’s Records still do a good trade in the Sex Pistols records, though they are not selling the commemorative re-issue of God Save the Queen.

In 1977 God Save the Queen went to number one in the music chart but the BBC refused to admit it at the time.

Nowadays more music sells on line and it is these sales that go towards making up the official UK music chart.

It costs 99p to download the mp3 but for someone who came of age during the punk movement I feel even more short-changed with a sound file on a computer than I did for the Sex Pistols album cover. Especially when it is so readily available on Youtube.

In Fitzrovia’s Colville Place the Movie Poster Art Gallery are preparing a window display that’ll feature Jamie Reid’s famous artwork. Reid’s images of Queen Elizabeth either with a safety pin through her lip or stuck to a modified union flag has stood the test of time just like the lyrics and the energy of the electric guitar in the Sex Pistols alternative national anthem.

The current republican movement in the UK is limp by comparison. There will be a Jubilee Protest on Sunday 3 June at the Tower Bridge end of the Thames Pageant route, where banners and placards will be displayed and speeches will be made.

Door way of club.

The 100 Club on Oxford Street became a focus for the punk movement.

But nothing stands out like the sentiment and angst set out by the Sex Pistols in 1977. In 1976 the Sex Pistols had played the 100 Club in Oxford Street and caused consternation in the small Welsh town of Caerphilly. Televisions screens were smashed not by the group or their fans but by TV viewers who reacted in moral outrage to what they heard on the now infamous Bill Grundy show.

The Sex Pistols were regulars at the 100 Club which became a focus of the punk movement. Sid Vicious had played drums for Siouxie And The Banshees there and he was also fined £125 at Wells Street magistrates court for throwing a glass at the Sex Pistols (when Glen Matlock was playing bass for them) at the club.

In nearby Tottenham Court Road “both Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicous were supporting themselves working at the first Fitzrovia branch of the Cranks health food restaurant, on the top floor of the furniture store, Heals,” wrote Mike Pentelow and Marsha Rowe in Characters of Fitzrovia. Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren later lived at Scala Street in Fitzrovia.

Union Flags hanging in Oxford Street.

The flag-waving is more a celebration of a public holiday than a love of the monarchy.

All over London there is Jubilee bunting. The image of the union flag in this context holds a less jingoistic image than when waved in times of war, international sporting events or when carried by the far-right groups that stain our country. The flag-waving is more a celebration of a public holiday than a love of monarchy.

Modern Britain is a seventeenth-century state running nineteenth-century capitalism. Where’s the written constitution? Why is the UK a constitutional monarchy?

It is easy to forget that in the middle of the seventeenth-century there was actually a civil war in Britain. Significantly this period of armed struggle between republicans and monarchists ended in compromise. And more significantly it ended before liberalism matured enough to give us written constitutions.

Modified picture of the Sex Pistols.

Hanging around with the Queen.

The tensions that gave the United States of America independence from the United Kingdom and which tore France apart occurred during not only the industrial revolution  but after the rise of Thomas Paine and other liberal thinkers. It was this dual revolution which Britain was both part of but also denied of. For Britain’s republicans it was too late. The industrial middle-classes were already building manor houses to emulate the landed gentry they had so much wanted to overthrow. What chance did the working class have after not even the middle-class had succeeded in revolt? Marx had said that the middle-class was a revolutionary class. But as a republican class it had failed.

In Rotten’s lyrics there are echoes of the pre-enlightenment sentiments of Gerrard Winstanley his diggers and the Levellers; but there’s also a sympathy and a pathos for the working class. God Save the Queen was an attempt to turn the world upside down: a stab at the existing order, a counter-cultural anthem. And 35 years later, sadly, there is still nothing to match it.

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
there’s no future
there’s no future for you

God save the Queen
we mean it man
we love our queen
God saves

God save the Queen
‘cos 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 for you
no future for me

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