SEX PISTOLS 'God Save The Queen' (Virgin) 1977
IF YOU had to reduce punk rock to one single, this would be it. Every second of God Save The Queen is graven in stone: it's impossible to imagine it sounding any other way. Infuriated by the Bill Grundy scandal and the World War II retro of the Queen's Jubilee, everyone involved with the Sex Pistols concentrated on making this single count: from the video to the graphics to the timing of it's release, everything was perfect. None of this would have mattered if the record hadn't showcased a great rock group at the height of it's powers. From the opening, patented Sex Pistols fanfare - an accelerating guitar/drum figure - through the ringing verses, right down to the closing terrace chant of "no future", God Save The Queen is a masterpiece of wildness and discipline, tension and release. This iconic confidence belies a troubled gestation. Written in autumn 1976, No Future, as it was first known, was first demo'd in January 1977. With crisp, full production from Chris Thomas and some judicious editing - bye bye "God save Windolene" - God Save The Queen was retitled as an alternative national anthem and selected as the group's first single under their new A&M contract. When they were sacked and all but a few pressed-up copies destroyed, the pressure was on to get the record out by the time of the Jubilee celebrations in June 1977. Quickly signed to Virgin, the Sex Pistols faced a struggle to get heard at all. Banned by the BBC and the commercial media, God Save The Queen nevertheless sold enough to reach Number 1 in Jubilee Week and was only kept off the top of the charts by a piece of craven manipulation on the part of the British Phonographic Institute. What were they all so worried about? Three minutes, 17 seconds of the toughest, most concise hard rock ever to be recorded, with no flab, not a note out of place. This was meant to hurt, and it did: every word written by Lydon was a gold-plated bullet shot right at die heart of the British Establishment. A scandalised international media zeroed in on the sarcastic insults directed at the Queen (even if "she's not a human being" was, and is, a reasonable comment) but ignored the deeper point: "it made you a moron". Here was the reality of 1977, direct from 'the flowers in the dustbin': "There is no future in England's dreaming." Backed up by the hundreds of thousands who rushed out to buy this one - yes, the only - anti-Jubilee protest of any substance, the Sex Pistols opened up a gap in perception that radicalised a generation. By daring to tell the truth when their whole world was lying, these four young (all 20/21) Londoners became 20th century heroes.
(Jon Savage October 2001 Q Magazine)
"I thought about it for weeks, and then it came out in one go.
In the kitchen at the squat, just like that."
Johnny Rotten, 1989