Single Review: Sex Pistols – God Save The Queen
Never mind the Jubilee, here’s the Sex Pistols! The legendary punk pioneers released this single to coincide with Queen Elizabeth II silver jubilee in 1977 and now this review will go live on the Queen’s diamond jubilee thirty five years later. God Save The Queen is a satirical, raw song about power in 1970’s Britain and the reverence shown to the Queen.
It caused a major scandal with printing presses refusing to print it, the BBC banning it and the organisation who monitor chart sales lying to keep it from topping the UK charts.
It can be argued that this single and the band’s classic debut album have had the biggest effect on music ever. Genres like grunge, hardcore, post-hardcore, speed punk, crust punk, skate punk and possibly even metal would not exist without The Sex Pistols. They put forward the idea that anyone can buy a instrument and begin playing, without lessons or technical ability. This idea would be continued by bands like Blink 182 and Nirvana who were inspired by the Sex Pistols. Going back to the 70’s, bands like The Clash, The Ramones, The Exploited, The Damned would never have got out of their pub rock/cover band roots without The Sex Pistols. When Joe Strummer saw the Sex Pistols live, he knew his pub rock band was doomed, so he quit and started The Clash. That’s part of the incredible effect this band have had.
The riff is rubbish, the drums mind numbingly simple, but that’s where the appeal of the band comes from. Lead singer Johnny Rotten’s vocals are the main attraction here. The self-professed ‘poor singer’ yells, talks, spits and droans his way through the track. I love his vocals, the way he pronounces and enunciates some of the words like “martyrs” is brilliant. The track just oozes punk attitude. Rotten never actually gets angry it just sounds like he’s sneering the whole way through the track, the riffs never pick up speed like other tracks on the album, they keep it at a lazy pace, as though the Queen isn’t worth putting the effort in for. But then again, Rotten doesn’t need to yell to offend people. “God save the Queen, she ain’t no human being, there ain’t no future, in England’s dreaming” This is a direct tongue-lashing aimed at the older generation, telling them that they’re not going to grow up like them. Rotten is clearly trying to get an anti-regime idea across to his listeners, something the fans would take on as a punk ideal. It’s hard to pick up whether this track is genuine or whether it’s just a massive wind up for the elders. Either way it achieved both aims. Widespread anarchy and very angry parents.
During the period between the 50’s to the 80’s, each new generation tried to be as different from their parents’ generation as possible. I was also taught that in History lessons when we were learning about the hippies in 60’s America. I would argue that as a generation that grew up in the 70’s, they would see their parent’s obsession with the Queen during her Coronation in the 50’s, and so made their music and lifestyle choices the polar opposite. Rotten said that he was sick of people telling him he was or would be nothing purely because of where he came from and how poor his education was. Our historical retrospective on God Save The Queen shows how wrong they were. I give this single 8 out of 10. I owe a lot to this single and album even if they were 20 years before my time.