44. The Sex Pistols – God Save the Queen (1977)

In 1977, England celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of Elizabeth II’s reign. In honour of the Silver Jubilee, the Sex Pistols wrote a new national anthem for the country.

Forget Romeo and Juliet — this is something you should learn by heart. And so everyone stand up, hats off, hands over your hearts, and all together now:

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

Don’t be to-old what you want and
Don’t be to-old 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
God save his-to-ry, 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, your 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, and 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, no future, for you

All right, as you were.

The song would be notable for its poetry alone, of course — I’m not sure Leonard Cohen could do much better than “When there’s no future, how can there be sin? / We’re the flowers in the dustbin” — but historically and politically, the song was a phenomenon, galvanizing thousands of isolated disaffected youths into a genuine movement of disaffected youth. The song opened up a gash in a nation that had been bloated by nostalgia and tradition, corrupted by capitalist false consciousness, and tranquilized by escapist fantasy. And once the national pimple was popped, the pus began to run. (OK, that was a little gross, I admit, but it’s clearly where the metaphor was headed…)

Anyways, here’s a little documentary about the impact of the song, hosted — I can hardly believe it — by Princess Leia. It’s just a few minutes long and it will teach you important things about England, so no skiving off!

Pistols

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One thought on “44. The Sex Pistols – God Save the Queen (1977)

  1. k- says:

    Great music video and fairly good documentary clip. But whenever McLaren and Matlock are presented as the only voices representing the Pistols, you know there is some one-sided myth-making and grandstanding going on.

    Also, Rotten/Lydon’s autobiography is fantastic, if only for the way it tries to deal with contested historical narratives and memory as a form of fiction.

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