Amid complete chaos, ‘God Save The Queen’ by the Sex Pistols was released on this day in 1977 and heralded as “punk’s crowning glory”.
The band had several tumultuous months in the build-up to the release. Glen Matlock was fired by the band and replaced by Sid Vicious on bass. A&M Records signed the band in March only to break the contract a week later when they got drunk and wreaked havoc on the label’s offices. Workers in the pressing plant where the record was being made threatened to strike because of the song’s lyrics. This, however, was only the beginning of their problems.
Eventually, in May, the band signed with Virgin Records and the single was released to widespread public outcry. Several major record stores refused to stock the record. The BBC and most independent radio stations refused to play it. In light of all the censorship, Johnny Rotten was quoted as saying, “We are the only honest band that’s hit this planet in about two thousand million years.”
The single sold well but only reached Number 2 in the UK charts (behind ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About It’ by Rod Stewart). To this day, there is still controversy over why the song never reached Number 1, despite having the sales to do so. However, Rolling Stone rated it as the top song of 1977 and it continually appears on every single ‘Greatest Songs Of All Time’ lists around the world.
One thing is for certain, the song and all of its controversy went a long way towards achieving the band’s goal, which was in Rotten’s words, “To destroy everything”.