God Save The Queen: why was Sex Pistols song banned by the BBC, what are the lyrics and is it anti-monarchy?

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The Sex Pistols song was banned by the BBC in 1977 after it was dubbed ‘bad taste’

The Sex Pistols have announced that they are re-releasing their song God Save the Queen for the Queen’s platinum jubilee.

The British punk rock band caused controversy when they first released the song in 1977, the same year as the Queen’s silver jubilee.

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At the time, the hit was banned by the BBC and heavily criticised for its anti-establishment lyrics.

The history of the band is also set to be portrayed in new Disney Plus series Pistols, which launched on 31 May.

Here’s everything you need to know about who the Sex Pistols are and why their song was banned.

Who are the Sex Pistols?

The Sex Pistols are hailed as creating the British punk rock movement in the 1970s.

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The Sex Pistols outside Buckingham Palace in 1977 (Pic: Getty Images)The Sex Pistols outside Buckingham Palace in 1977 (Pic: Getty Images)
The Sex Pistols outside Buckingham Palace in 1977 (Pic: Getty Images) | Getty Images

They formed in London in 1975, with the original band consisting of: singer Johnny Rotten, guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook, and bassist Glen Matlock.

Sid Vicious joined the band, replacing Matlock in 1977.

Their first album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols was released in 1977 and included hit singles like Anarchy in the UK.

The band were short lived, calling it quits in January 1978 after touring the US. Reasons behind the split included government bans in the UK and Vicious’ spiralling drug problem.

Vicious died from an overdose in New York on 2 February 1979.

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At the time he was a suspect for the murder of his girlfriend Nancy and was out on bail.

Why was Sex Pistols song banned?

The song was banned by the BBC and multiple radio stations after BBC Radio 2 controller Charles McLelland labelled it as “bad taste.”

The Sex Pistols song God Save The Queen was released in 1977 (Pic: AFP via Getty Images)The Sex Pistols song God Save The Queen was released in 1977 (Pic: AFP via Getty Images)
The Sex Pistols song God Save The Queen was released in 1977 (Pic: AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

It was written by all four bandmates, set against the economic crisis of the late 1970s.

The band insisted that the song was not “written specifically for the Queen’s Jubilee”, with drummer Cook saying the band were not aware it was even the Silver Jubilee at the time.

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The song came number two in the UK charts, losing out to Rod Stewart and rumours persist that it was blocked from reaching the top spot.

Comments from Labour MP Marcus Lipton reflected the outrage at the time.

Lipton said: “If pop music is going to be used to destroy our established institutions, then it ought to be destroyed first.”

What are the lyrics of God Save the Queen?

The lyrics of God Save the Queen represent the current angst of the punk movement at the time.

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The track was originally entitled no future, and written to reflect on the growing economic crisis.

However, there are lyrics that directly called out the Queen, which caused outrage in society at the time.

Here are the full lyrics for the Sex Pistol’s God Save the Queen:

God save the Queen, a fascist regime

They made you a moron, potential H-bomb

God save the Queen, she ain’t no human being

There is no future, in England’s dreaming

Don’t be told about what you want

Don’t be told about what you need

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, Tourists are money

But our figurehead, is not what she seems

God save history, God save your mad parade

Oh Lord, 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 the human machine

We’re the future, we’re the future

God save the Queen, we mean it, man, we love our Queen God saves

No future, no future, no future for you

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Is it anti-monarchy?

The single was interpreted as an anti-monarchy protest song.

However in a recent interview with Piers Morgan for TalkTV, John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten explained that the song was, “anti-royalist, but it’s not anti-human”.

He added: “I’ve got to tell the world this. Everyone presumes that I’m against the royal family as human beings, I’m not.

“I’m actually really, really proud of the Queen for surviving and doing so well.

“I applaud her for that, and that’s a fantastic achievement. I’m not a curmudgeon about that.”

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