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How The Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen shocked society… as track is re-released

It was supposed to be a period of celebration, when Britons paid homage to the Queen after her 25 years on the throne.

But Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 ended up being remembered for something more outrageous: the anthem for chaos and anarchy that was the Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen. 

The song, which included lyrics that branded the Queen ‘not a human being’ and saying the monarchy was a ‘fascist regime’, was banned by the BBC and other broadcasters after shocking polite society. 

Now, despite the avowed anarchist aims of the punk rocker band members John Lydon, Paul Cook, Steve Jones and Glen Matlock, who was later replaced by Sid Vicious, the surviving stars are re-releasing the track to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. 

Thousands of vinyl singles have been pressed ahead of next month’s celebrations, which mark Her Majesty’s 70 years on the throne. 

When it was first released, the song, which featured a defaced image of the Queen on its cover, reached number two in the UK singles chart despite the broadcasting ban and was only denied top spot by Rod Stewart’s I Don’t Want to Talk About It. 

Rumours have persisted ever since that the charts were manipulated to keep the song from number one. The band are now hoping that it could finally top the charts with the re-release.

Although Vicious – whose real name was Simon John Ritchie – died aged 21 in 1979, Cook, Jones, Matlock and especially Lydon have continued to be high-profile and have made millions from their still-popular songs. 

Matlock said he lost out on royalties and appearance fees that were worth ‘somewhere in the low millions’ when he left the band, but the performer was part of their lucrative reunion tour in 1996. 

He claimed that each member earned £35,000 profit ‘per person per show’ and said there were ‘the best part of 100 shows’, meaning each member earned around £3.5million from the tour. 

The band also performed in 2002 to mark the the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and embarked on tours in 2003 and 2007.  

Lydon, 66, who went by the name of Johnny Rotten in the band, has also famously fronted TV adverts for butter in recent years.

It was supposed to be a period of celebration, when Britons paid homage to the Queen after her 25 years on the throne. But Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 ended up being remembered for something more outrageous: the anthem for chaos and anarchy that was the Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen. Above: Sex Pistols band members Sid Vicious, John Lydon and Paul Cook are seen performing on a boat on the Thames in June 1977

The song included lyrics that branded the Queen 'not a human being' and saying the monarchy was a 'fascist regime'. Above: Her Majesty with Prince Philip and earl Mountbatten of Burma on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in 1977

The song included lyrics that branded the Queen ‘not a human being’ and saying the monarchy was a ‘fascist regime’. Above: Her Majesty with Prince Philip and earl Mountbatten of Burma on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in 1977

When it was first released, the song, which featured a defaced image of the Queen on its cover, reached number two in the UK singles chart despite the broadcasting ban and was only denied top spot by Rod Stewart's I Don't Want to Talk About It

When it was first released, the song, which featured a defaced image of the Queen on its cover, reached number two in the UK singles chart despite the broadcasting ban and was only denied top spot by Rod Stewart’s I Don’t Want to Talk About It

The Sex Pistols first burst onto the British music scene with their 1976 single Anarchy in the UK. 

The song immediately received criticism for endorsing anarchy, a point that was taken up by the band’s manager when he said the track was a ‘call to arms to the kids who believe that rock and roll was taken away from them. It’s a statement of self rule, of ultimate independence.’

Released in May 1977, God Save the Queen was given the same name as the UK’s national anthem, a fact that was deemed in itself to be offensive. 

The song was co-written by all four of the band’s original members and was intended to create resentment towards the monarchy, whilst generating sympathy for the English working class. 

It was released amid a backdrop of economic crisis and industrial decline in the late 1970s. 

Despite the timing of its release, Cook later insisted that it was not ‘written specifically for the Queen’s Jubilee’ and claimed that the band were not even aware of the celebration. 

However, while the Silver Jubilee celebrations were in full flow in London on June 7, 1977, the band hired a boat called the Queen Elizabeth to perform on as it sailed down the Thames. 

It was a gesture that mocked the Royal river procession that followed a few days later. When it docked, several members of the band were arrested.

At the time, the group were dropped by their record label A&M and the band released the single through Virgin after signing a new deal. 

Despite the avowed anarchist aims of the punk rocker band members John Lydon, Paul Cook, Steve Jones and Glen Matlock, who was later replaced by Sid Vicious, the surviving stars are re-releasing the track to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee

Despite the avowed anarchist aims of the punk rocker band members John Lydon, Paul Cook, Steve Jones and Glen Matlock, who was later replaced by Sid Vicious, the surviving stars are re-releasing the track to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

Before their TV ban, the Sex Pistols and several other singers were invited onto the hugely popular ITV show Today, which was presented by Bill Grundy

Before their TV ban, the Sex Pistols and several other singers were invited onto the hugely popular ITV show Today, which was presented by Bill Grundy

The Today interview has been recreated in director Danny Boyle's upcoming TV series about the band. A still image released by Disney this week showed actors including Anson Boon and Toby Wallace recreating the moment

The Today interview has been recreated in director Danny Boyle’s upcoming TV series about the band. A still image released by Disney this week showed actors including Anson Boon and Toby Wallace recreating the moment 

Grundy's interview with the Sex Pistols provoked a storm in the days that followed. The story featured on the front page of the Daily Mail

Grundy’s interview with the Sex Pistols provoked a storm in the days that followed. The story featured on the front page of the Daily Mail

The song was banned by the BBC and commercial radio stations, with the then controller of Radio 2, Charles McLelland, saying it was ‘in gross bad taste’. 

Many retailers, including WH Smith and Boots, refused to stock the single and one shop even blanked out the title in its chart countdown to avoid offending the Queen. 

The incendiary lyrics of the Sex Pistols’ hit God Save The Queen 

The first three verses of the 1977 hit typified the message that the song was trying to get across. 

They said:  

‘God save the queen 

The fascist regime

They made you a moron

A potential H bomb

 

‘God save the queen

She’s not a human being

and There’s no future

And 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’

 

The Pistols were also banned from television and many councils stopped them from playing concerts. 

Despite the attempts to clamp down on its popularity, God Save the Queen was only denied top spot on the UK singles chart by Rod Stewart’s hit.

Labour MP Marcus Lipton typified the outrage of established society. 

‘If pop music is going to be used to destroy our established institutions, then it ought to be destroyed first,’ he remarked at the time.

Following the song’s release, Cook was attacked outside Shepherd’s Bush Tube station by men armed with knives and an iron bar, whilst Lydon and producers Chris Thomas and Bill Price were targeted outside a pub in Highbury, north London. 

Yet many young people were huge fans of the punk band and their anti-establishment views. 

One, writing to the Daily Mail in 1977, said: ‘The emergence of punk rock, or new wave, has at least given many kids like myself a music we can all our own. 

‘Through it, we can tell our elders what we really think – and the evidence is that they are frightened of what they are hearing.’ 

Before their TV ban, the Sex Pistols and several other singers were invited onto the hugely popular ITV show Today, which was presented by Bill Grundy. 

The discussion infamously descended into chaos when Grundy appeared to provoke the band members, and many of them ended up swearing. 

The interviewer sparked fury when he said to singer Siouxsie Sioux: ‘We’ll meet afterwards, shall we?’

Pistols guitarist Steve Jones said: ‘You dirty b******! You dirty f*****! What a f****** rotter!’ 

Grundy also asked Lydon to repeat the word ‘s***t’ that he had uttered off camera. When Lydon did so, he added: ‘Keep going. You’ve got another five seconds to say something outrageous.’

The exchange then continued with Grundy being branded a ‘dirty b*****d’, a ‘dirty f****r’ and a ‘f*****g rotter’, with the presenter encouraging the band members after each insult. 

The interview led to hundreds of complaints. Today was later cancelled and Grundy was dropped from prime-time TV. The interviewer’s career was effectively ended by the saga.

Queen had initially been booked to appear on Grundy’s show but then pulled out when Freddie Mercury got toothache. The Sex Pistols were then called on as last-minute replacements. 

The Sex Pistols are seen in 1979. From left to right: Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten (John Lydon), Steve Jones and Paul Cook

The Sex Pistols are seen in 1979. From left to right: Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten (John Lydon), Steve Jones and Paul Cook

English lead singer, songwriter, and musician John Joseph Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, drummer Paul Cook, bass guitarist Sid Vicious, born John Simon Ritchie, and guitarist Steve Jones, members of punk group the Sex Pistols

English lead singer, songwriter, and musician John Joseph Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, drummer Paul Cook, bass guitarist Sid Vicious, born John Simon Ritchie, and guitarist Steve Jones, members of punk group the Sex Pistols

John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten pictured with Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McClaren leaving a police station in the west end of London in 1977

John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten pictured with Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McClaren leaving a police station in the west end of London in 1977

Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon, also known as 'Johnny Rotten' poses for photographs outside the Rolls building in London, Britain, 22 July 2021

Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon, also known as ‘Johnny Rotten’ poses for photographs outside the Rolls building in London, Britain, 22 July 2021

Paul Cook, former drummer of iconic punk rockers the Sex Pistols, leaves the High Court Rolls building in central London

Paul Cook, former drummer of iconic punk rockers the Sex Pistols, leaves the High Court Rolls building in central London

Matlock is seen performing at the Labour Live festival in 2018. The guitarist left the Sex Pistols in 1977 and was replaced with Sid Vicious

Matlock is seen performing at the Labour Live festival in 2018. The guitarist left the Sex Pistols in 1977 and was replaced with Sid Vicious

The Sex Pistols announced the re-release of God Save The Queen on their Twitter account, saying that 'one of the most sought after vinyl records in history' is returning to the shelves

The Sex Pistols announced the re-release of God Save The Queen on their Twitter account, saying that ‘one of the most sought after vinyl records in history’ is returning to the shelves

Speaking of the run-up to the interview, Matlock previously said: ‘We very nearly didn’t do it. This big limousine turned up outside this place. [Being] punk rockers we were like: ‘We’re not getting in that thing.’

‘Then this phone call came through from [their manager] Malcolm McLaren saying: ‘If you don’t do it your wages will be stopped this week.’ We were all in the car like a shot.’

After the interview aired, Mr Grundy worried that he had helped to create ‘a cult for these creatures’. 

‘It frightened me to discover that after the programme their records were complete sell-out,’ he said. 

The presenter said he would have been ’embarrassed and offended’ if his children had seen the programme and added that it was not his decision to have the group on his how.  

‘People were deeply offended and if my children had seen the programme I would have been embarrassed and offended for them.’ 

The Today interview has been recreated in director Danny Boyle’s upcoming TV series about the band. 

A still image released by Disney this week showed actors including Anson Boon and Toby Wallace recreating the moment. 

It was announced yesterday that, 4,000 copies of the punk anthem will be re-released through Virgin, and 1977 copies of the rare A&M version will also be available.

The A&M version will include a B-side to the record of original release No Feelings, while the Virgin edition will have Did You No Wrong.

Both versions will recreate original artwork, with the A&M edition featuring its generic company sleeve and pressed on silver and platinum vinyl, while the Virgin single has Sex Pistols artwork designed by Jamie Reid.

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk